Midlife Mentors – Catherine Rains | Finding Your True Calling
On Collages, Cancer, and Reinventing Your Life in Your 50's
I met Catherine through Instagram about a year ago, and I’ve benefitted from her wisdom and perspectives on life ever since. In a world full of fakes, Catherine stands out as a woman of resilience, empathy, and profound talent. I've come to love and respect her integrity, her bravery and her generous spirit.
Catherine did an interview with another dear friend, Steph Crowder, and it was there that I began to understand what a powerhouse she is. In fact, it was so well received, Steph gave it an encore run in December 2017. If you can spare an hour, must listen to it. I guarantee it'll be an investment in your happiness and peace of mind. It might also help you discover your true calling
During her conversation with Steph, she shared some simple but mind-shifting beliefs.
I wrote about what I learned from Catherine in my post, Three Steps to a Meaningful Life, so rather than go back over them here, I'd urge you to read that post. However, the headline points were:
1. Everything I resist persists.
2. Maybe this moment is my destiny.
Amongst her many revelations was an unexpected yearning to be an artist. As you'll learn in my interview below, and in my earlier post, she's now built a sustainable business with her beautiful art pieces. Even more noteworthy is the loyalty she now enjoys from a growing band of followers who consume her wisdom on social media every couple of days.
Catherine endured hardships that would have most of us on the floor in the fetal position. However, her inspiring outlook on life helped her survive breast cancer, and soon after, the end of a 31-year relationship with her childhood sweetheart.
Catherine not only triumphed but went on to create a fulfilling and purpose-driven life. She is a model of midlife reinvention, and one of the few people whose lives I most want to emulate.
At 58 years of age, she's a beacon of optimism for anyone who fears their time has passed, the doors have closed, and the lights have gone off. What's so invigorating is that within minutes of meeting Catherine, you soon realise she's only just getting started!
My greatest regret with this interview is that we didn't conduct it via video or even audio. In fact, I'm starting to feel this way with all my Midlife Mentors. That will have to change. Sometime in the future, I'll have to invite Catherine to the microphone. Until then, though, I'm supremely grateful to her for sharing some wisdom in this, the fourth edition of Midlife Mentors.
Catherine's Midlife Journey
Do you consider yourself middle-aged, and how do you feel about this moniker?
I’ve never related to this term as I mentally feel as if I’m in my 30’s or young 40’s, rather than my biological age of 58. My age is simply a number, and not a reflection of how old I feel inside emotionally, physically and spiritually.
I know that our culture would label me as middle-aged, or maybe even as a senior, but these labels don’t describe who I really am – a vibrant and continually growing soul.
Is there something you loved to do when you were young that you've since ‘rediscovered' and embraced in later years?
I was always a creative kid – writing stories, putting on plays and creating all types of crafts. However, I was the “unartistic” one in my family because I couldn’t draw or paint – something my parents could do very well.
When I was 33 years old, and in the middle of a successful and stressful career, I rediscovered my childhood passion for creativity, which eventually led me to find my true calling as an artist.
Do you believe middle age (say, 40-65) is different today than it was for your parents? If so, how?
For my father, “middle-age” started in his early 40’s. He thought his best years were behind him and there was little to look forward to. This way of being is just the opposite of how I feel about this time of my life. My father was stuck in a tragic marriage (my mother was severely mentally ill) with two small daughters to raise mostly by himself.
His career was just a way to make ends meet while pursuing all types of art – sculpture, drawing and writing – in his very limited spare time. Eventually, he ended up having multiple affairs as a way to feel alive and loved, but rarely felt fulfilled or happy. Again, all opposite of the life I've lived in my 40’s and 50’s. For me, my 40’s were just the glorious beginning of the best years of my life.
What was the most challenging aspect of approaching middle age? What fears or concerns did you have?
I feel that there is a lot I still want to accomplish, and in a way, it seems like I’m rushing against time. I didn’t feel this even ten years ago (at 48). Back then, I still thought I had my whole life ahead of me. Now, I’m going straight for my dream of not only being a full-time artist but someone that inspires others to pursue their deepest heart’s desires.
Oh yeah, I’d love to sell a ton of art too, but that is not the ultimate goal – just a lovely bi-product when it eventually happens. I intend to give a significant portion of my profits to charity, something I also would not have considered ten years ago. Making a difference in the world through my “work” is my daily intention.
At the end of each year, I list the habits, practices and beliefs I'm going to say ‘yes' to and ‘no' to next year. As a mentor to other mid-lifers, what would be some of your ‘yeses' and ‘nos'?
- Love my husband by BEING with him
- Sleep & wake early (10 pm /5 am), keeping to a daily ritual, focused on what matters most
- Have at least one woman-friend date a week
- Create at least four hours of art each day, Mon-Fri
- Track all my expenses to ensure a long and abundant retirement
- Eat healthy food MOST the time
- Exercise six days a week to be in the best physical shape of my life
- Be kind to all around me
- Be as truthful as I can be in all my interactions, both live and online
- Love my two adult nieces with all my heart
- Make community building a priority
- Be honest about my feelings, both to myself and others I love
- See the world as a place that serves my highest interests and that of everything around me
- Watching/reading about current events, especially politics
- Working a day gig more than 14 weeks each year
- Friends who take, but don’t give
- Participating in negative discussions
- Buying new clothes except on rare occasions
What's a tactic you've used to gain more control over your life? It might be:
For the past three years, up until I quit my job in December 2017, I followed a very structured daily ritual that integrated my passion for art into my daily life. Prior to this time, I had used my day gig as an excuse for why I had created almost no art for ten years.
After I quit my job, I restructured my daily schedule to match my new lifestyle, which ironically looks very similar to the one I followed during the last three years of my full-time job. The big difference is that all the time I devoted to an employer is now focused on growing my art business.
Recently, I have been following the philosophy of focusing most of my time on the ONE THING that is more important than anything else in my art life. This made me look deeper into what was most important NOW and devote half of every “work” day on accomplishing this one thing. When this one thing is accomplished, I’ll then move onto the next big thing on my list.
What's a limiting belief you've abandoned (or reframed) in the last 12 months?
I’ve recently realized that I can only focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking and trying to accomplish EVERYTHING on my list was making me feel like I was always behind. Now I have a list of “it would be nice to do” as a parking lot to accomplish one day.
But the majority of my days are now focused on accomplishing the absolute most important thing on my list, the one thing that would make other things on my list easier – or maybe even unnecessary – once it's accomplished.
What is your dominant cause of anxiety or frustration, and how do you deal with it?
My greatest frustration is being disappointed when people in my life don’t take responsibility for their own lives. As a super responsible person, someone who will support others who need me even when its personally inconvenient, I get frustrated when they don’t stand up on their own when they could. Setting limits on how much I am willing to support others is a daily lesson for me.
How different are your feelings about midlife today versus when you first considered yourself middle-aged?
Since I’ve never considered myself “middle-aged”, I can’t relate to this question. I do remember thinking about how my father faced middle age, and how differently I have approached it. To me, I have another 20+ years of productive, income producing, making-a-difference years ahead of me, and I intend to live each and every one fully!
Did you suffer a midlife crisis? How did it show up for you and what helped you to overcome it?
My “mid-life crisis” began at age 33 when I realized that my stressful career, the one that I was very successful at and had been preparing myself for since college, was something I hated.
At the same time, I had discovered collage as an art form, sold my first piece of art, and my dream to one day be a full-time artist was born. Developing my artistic skills on the side helped me navigate through this time until I could quit my job (the first time) to become a full-time artist in 2000. I later returned to work four years later after a couple of life events required me to be employed again.
After 12 years back on the job, I left for a second time in December 2017 to once again be a full-time artist.
After 40, what event, decision or perceived risk was pivotal for you? How did it manifest and how did you respond?
At age 44, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and soon after my 31-year relationship to my childhood sweetheart fell apart. Rather than feeling like a victim to both of these dramatic events, I learned to say ‘yes' to them both, which taught me how to more effectively live the rest of my life with non-resistance.
As a result, I now surrender and accept with gratitude whatever shows up on my path, especially the ‘bad' stuff, KNOWING that it's ALL for my highest good.
What book would you recommend to a person over 40 who wants to reinvent their life, and why?
The books that have influenced the path to where I now stand are the following:
“Untethered Soul” and “The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer are my all-time favourite books and I have read both multiple times. Both books are all about being present with and surrendering to whatever life gives you, witnessing your thoughts, and separating from them as they are not US and usually not true.
A very close second to these gems is Eckerd Tolle’s “A New Earth”, which has a very similar message and deeply affected my path all during my 40’s.
Many mid-lifers who write to me say they feel lost, unfulfilled and shackled by circumstance (much of their own making). What advice would you offer them?
Feeling lost is a sign for me that I need to dive deep into my soul and profoundly listen to what the sorrow is teaching me. However, rather than leave my current circumstances because I feel miserable, it’s always worked best for me to relax into where I am with deep appreciation and acceptance, especially when I don’t like the scenery before me.
It's only by loving where I currently am that I find a better place to stand. These are the lessons I learned from the teachers in the books I mentioned, as well as from practising these lessons through cancer and divorce, which eventually led me to live my dream as a full-time artist.
Can you think of a way you’ve surprised yourself at an age where many people feel ‘set in their ways’?
Up until the past four months, I have never enjoyed exercise, and especially taking exercise classes. When I used to take a workout class, whether it was aerobics, yoga or weight lifting, I would watch the clock the entire time, waiting for my “sentence” to end. As a result, I avoided these types of experiences and stayed in shape by race-walking instead.
After I left my full-time job, however, a switch flipped in my brain and I suddenly wanted to work my body HARD, and to get myself into the best physical shape possible. Not that I couldn’t do this on my own with walking and weight lifting, but suddenly this didn’t seem enough.
Now I’m taking a variety of physical workout classes, from aerobics to weightlifting to kickboxing, and I'm loving every single minute, in spite of not being physically fit to do it all. It’s just a matter of time before I’ll be able to do everything that the 30-year-olds in my classes can do, and I’m 58!
It's up to us.
The Internet and social media have given us all a platform. Each one of us can be a media company if we want to. And because of that, the online world is awash with shallow plagiarists and self-proclaimed experts who regurgitate platitudes for mass consumption. So when you find someone as authentic and generous as Catherine (indeed every mentor featured in this series), it's refreshing.
But more than that, the time you spend with them (whether face-to-face or through their work) can be transformational. Not in a fuzzy woo-woo way but in a practical and meaningful way.
Catherine Rains is proof-positive that we can each reinvent our lives – not despite our challenges, but through them. More often than not, our true calling is not something to find, but rather, something to acknowledge. It's already right in front of us.
We're not here for long – we know this. So it's up top us to decide how we want to move through this experience called life. I hope that each instalment of Midlife Mentors encourages you to step back a bit and look at what you're doing. To examine how you're thinking. To see that your life (yes, yours!) can be an exciting adventure.
Please, if you haven't done it already, listen to Catherine on Steph's podcast, and read what I learned (and applied) after I heard their discussion. What you'll discover is a woman of immense insight, coupled with a practical ‘apply-it-tomorrow' approach to life. I feel blessed to have met her, and I look forward to following her journey and hopefully, one day giving her a well-deserved hug!It's only by loving where I currently am that I find a better place to stand. I now surrender and accept with gratitude whatever shows up on my path, especially the 'bad' stuff, knowing that it's ALL for my highest good. Catherine Rains Click To Tweet
More of Catherine
Follow Catherine's journey and check out her gorgeous artwork: www.catherinerains.com
Catherine on Social Media
- Midlife Mentors – Michael Yardney | Wealth, Luck & Imposter Syndrome
- Midlife Mentors – Catherine Rains | Finding Your True Calling
- Midlife Mentors – Seth Godin | Entrepreneur, Best-Selling Author & Speaker
- Midlife Mentors – Ken Fife | Starting Over & Living Fully Beyond 70
- Midlife Mentors – Corbett Barr | CEO of Fizzle
Also published on Medium.