Catherine is a wise, old soul, whose heart is too big for her tiny body. Stunning on the outside and in; Catherine epitomizes the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.
Catherine is kind and generous. I am proud to call her a friend, a collaborator, and a mentor. I met Catherine through social media. I began to follow her Instagram account and found myself resonating with what she shared. We began with the occasional comment and blossomed into a full-fledged friendship. My smile could not be wider or brighter as I share Week 43 of my Share Your Story Series: Catherine Grace O’Connell.
KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?
CATHERINE: Goodness, how much time do you have? Seriously, sister, absolutely everything is new and surprising. It seems that a day doesn’t go by that I don’t try something new. My life has changed so dramatically over the past five years, that I’m not the same person. This new Fierce me is unstoppable and relentless in many ways. She’s also more peaceful and grounded in other ways. My introverted side dominated the first half of my life and my extroverted side is definitely in the driver’s seat for the second half. This life has been a wild ride. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m grateful for the woman I am today.
KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?
CATHERINE: To be honest, there is no typical day. Every day is unique. The constants in my life are my work, yoga, meditation and eating healthfully according to the 80/20 rule – mostly healthy with a lot of fun added in. My work is ever changing. Some days, it means photo shoots or traveling for work. Other days, it’s brand collaborations or planning events. I also do a lot of research on my show guests so I’m super prepared for the interviews. We do everything in house when it comes to our business – well, five businesses today! There’s a lot to be done when you have founded a global community and movement to empower women at Midlife and Beyond to see aging in a whole, new way! It’s me and my business manager who is also my photographer and producer on the back end. We work full time, usually every day of the week. We are both closing in on 59 and are completely self taught in our latest Midlife reinvention. It’s amazing the stories we tell ourselves and how they impact the trajectory of our lives. I lived the first half keeping myself very small and buying into all the stories I was told. That “me” wouldn’t dare do the things I’m doing today. Now, I live by a new set of rules. My rules and my life my way. And, I say “YES” to almost every challenge that comes my way – even the ones that scare the daylights out of me. In the end, this life is about being the best human I can be. It’s about leaving behind a legacy of Modern Midlife women living their lives to their greatest potential. KUEL lives. Fierce lives!
“My biggest struggle is menopause and the resulting insomnia.”
KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?
CATHERINE: Social media can make it seem like everything in life is coming up roses. Sure, some days are like that, but like anyone else, I’m as human as can be. My life is far from perfect. I’m far from perfect. My biggest struggle is menopause and the resulting insomnia. I’m a high energy person. I’ve always had tremendous energy. Menopause has taken a toll on my sleep and that has had a very negative impact. Sleep is the foundation of a healthy life. I do what I can naturally to get a good night’s sleep but it’s an ongoing challenge. I spent the first half of my life with zero self esteem and no self confidence. My second half is vastly different but that doesn’t mean those old voices don’t rise up from time to time. They do. The old stories of “I’m not enough” or the comparison game still play a role, although a much more limited one. The more self aware I become, the more inner work I do, the quieter the voices in my head. Yoga is my salvation. I’m obsessed. I feel so different after a yoga class. I tend to live high up in the clouds. Yoga brings me back to earth. Yoga brings me back to me. I have to work really hard to stay centered and balanced. That’s not my natural state – or, more importantly, the state I spent much of my life in. I had a pretty serious traumatic past and it took a toll. Escaping was easy. I would simply disassociate. Now, it’s more about living life fully rather than escaping. I strongly recommend not buying into what you see on social media. That’s a “frame” and not a life!
KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
CATHERINE: Good question. Moxie on Monday! Seriously, I try to look at everything in a new way now. I used to hate Mondays. Now, I love them. It’s one of my favorite days because I’ve created Moxie on Monday and I have something to look forward to. It’s all about mindset. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change! That’s Wayne Dyer wisdom and I do my best to look at life that way. It wasn’t long ago that I was fighting for my life. I barely survived Late Stage Lyme Disease and a Near Death Experience. I had no fear of death. At the time, I prayed to leave. To go into the light. I know it’s beautiful up there. I wasn’t so sure about down here! This universe had a different idea and decided I wasn’t done yet. I didn’t understand it at the time. I do now. I have a mission, a purpose, that’s so much bigger than me. That’s what motivates me. I get down like anyone else. I get frustrated like anyone else. At those times, I have to create some space to allow myself to come back to center. I love nature. I love yoga. I love meditation. I love my friends. I love to be silly. I love my new puppy. And, I adore the beach. Those things help me come back to me. That’s what I need when I lose my motivation.
KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?
CATHERINE: I rarely think about aging. I think about age. I think getting older is the best thing in the world. Goodness, I was lost in my 20’s. I had my kids in my 30’s and that became my focus. Without them, I would have felt lost. Yet, I made them my identity. When they grew up, I was lost again. It’s so interesting, this game of life. It’s not an easy game. I’ve had a much easier time with the game of life as I’ve gotten older. Mastering the game of life is mastering ourselves. That’s the essence of Mastering Modern Midlife. I don’t have any intention of influencing you. I wish for you to be your own influence, your own master. Mastery is inside out. It begins on the inside. It begins by unwinding our internal world, those layers we’ve built over time, the layers that don’t serve us – the beliefs and stories that disempower us. Beliefs and stories are created. Anything we create, we can “un-create.” Becoming the woman we’ve always desired to be means “un-becoming” the woman we have been and letting go of those aspects of ourselves that aren’t serving us. I don’t have all the answers but I’m definitely far more enlightened than I’ve ever been. 30 years on this spiritual path has kicked my ass and boy did my ass need some kicking! Age is what we make of it. If we believe our age is our superpower, it is! I do believe that! I also believe we must embrace our age while disrupting the heck out of the aging process. There’s so much new scientific research coming out that shows how our beliefs about aging impact how we age. Positive beliefs lead to positive aging. That’s Age Positivity in a nutshell!
“I’ve been pretty open about my life, about my f#*k ups, about my dark times”
KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?
CATHERINE: It means not being afraid to be true to yourself – not being afraid to show the truth of who you are. Brene Brown is a huge She-ro to me. She’s everything to me. Raw vulnerability is life changing – for you and for the people you are sharing your story with. When we open our hearts and share things we are holding about ourselves in a negative or shameful way, we find that we aren’t alone. Many of those stories, when brought into the light, and seen in a new perspective are naturally healed from the shame. What’s shameful to one person is natural to another. For example, menopause. My mother’s generation never talked about it. It was shameful. Clearly, we feel differently about menopause and are far more open about it. If someone hadn’t begun talking openly about it, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Being vulnerable changes lives! First our own and then, via the powerful ripple effect, the lives of others – many of whom you will never know. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable. I’ve been pretty open about my life, about my f#*k ups, about my dark times – all of it. I do it with purpose. I openly share so that I can give permission to other women to do the same. It’s such a relief to let go of shame. It feels so damn good! It’s best to open up about these things when you’re in a healthy space. That’s the key.
“I’m writing a new story and erasing the old ones, the ones that held me back.”
KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
CATHERINE: FierceCon. FierceCon and FierceCon! Ok…you want me to be serious, sister? I had a very rough childhood. My father was an orphan who was abandoned. He was an alcoholic, filled with rage. I experienced traumatic abuse as a child. That abuse silenced my voice for much of my life. It also taught me empathy and compassion. My heart is overflowing with kindness and compassion for women who have experienced abuse. My divorce was another event. It was extremely contentious. I wanted out from a crazy, abusive situation. I thought divorce would end things. It didn’t. An abusive partner tends to have a hard time letting go. He’s still not letting go 14 years later. I had to learn how to let go from the inside, how to take my power back and how to get him out of my head. Today, I give him virtually no head space – no anger, no energy. I don’t talk about him. He doesn’t exist to me. That was a huge lesson. I can’t control him but I can control his control over me. The third one would be this latest act of mine, this Modern Midlife reinvention. It has kicked my ass. I’ve had to confront every old, disempowering belief that’s reared its ugly head. I told myself so many stories. Now, I’m writing a new story and erasing the old ones, the ones that held me back. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve also had to deal with a lot of meanness out there. The world of social media isn’t easy. Our culture has taught women to compete with one another. I don’t believe in competition amongst women. I believe in collaboration as you know! We believe in collaboration. For some women, they aren’t ready to let go of competition or viewing other women as a threat. Those are the women I’ve chosen to leave behind. I can’t help everyone so I’ll choose to focus on the women I can help.
KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?
CATHERINE: I have a lot of powerful role models in my life. The biggest for me is Oprah. I love her. I love what she stands for. I love how she lifts other women and allows them to stand in their own light. I love Brene Brown. She is my top vulnerability role model. She’s so darn real and relatable. I love Jennifer Anniston. She’s more girl next door. What I love about her is her positivity, her light. It shines so brightly no matter what she is going through. Mother Theresa is a forever hero. I’ve been told I have a lot of sacrificial energy. It was very out of my balance in my life where I was giving too much of myself. I can relate to Mother Theresa. She suffered terrible depression. She gave everything she had and didn’t keep anything for herself. She’s a powerful role model for me who’s teaching me to make sure I don’t give everything I have. I can give enough to help others but keep enough energy for me so I can continue giving and serving. I had to learn to be open to receive. I learned to give but not to receive. That’s changing! And, Princess Diana. I love her. I’ll always love her. What a special human she was. Her heart was gigantic. She reminds me of me in that she refused to be tamed by the monarchy. She had to stay true to herself. I love having a bit of a wild child in me, one that’s finally rebelling after decades of being held back.
KUELLIFE: What is the best advice you’ve been given from another woman?
CATHERINE: Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” It took me a lifetime to live that, to understand the meaning of those powerful words. As a young girl who came through an abusive childhood, what I believed was that I deserved to be abused. That’s all I knew. I repeated my childhood in my marriage, only it was much worse. When I met my ex husband, I thought I could save him. Now, I would know better. Some people choose pain as a way of life, unconsciously, of course. I don’t need those people in my life. I choose to surround myself with people who uplift me, people who respect me and want the best for me. When someone shows me that they don’t respect me or wish to abuse me, I say sayonara. I believe them through their actions, not their words.
KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?
CATHERINE: Oh, I hope not! It’s so much more fun to be a kid at heart. When my kids were young, I’ll never forget this one time we were playing in the pool. A young boy came up to us and asked if I was a “Kid Mom.” We all laughed. I was then and I am now, a kid. I’ve grown up in many ways. I’ve wised up. I’ve lightened up. But, that kid inside of me, “kids” inside of me will live forever in my heart and inspire me to stay silly and never take myself too seriously.
KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?
CATHERINE: A lot. Some days I’m better than others. I love yoga. It’s a lifeline for me. I’m a voracious reader. I love books. Mostly inspirational ones these days. I’ve almost always got my nose in a book or several books at once. I love massages. They are rare for me. In my wildest dreams, I would have them every day. I spend time at the beach. That’s my happy place – watching sunsets, playing in the waves and calling in the dolphins. Now that I have my puppy, Moxie, she’s also a big part of my self care. She forces me to take care of myself so I can have the energy to take care of her. Petting her is bliss. I do a lot to lead a healthy lifestyle. I eat healthfully most of the time but I love a glass of chardonnay a couple times a week. I’ve begun watching shows on Netflix. I was never a big tv person. Now, I’m hooked. I love binge watching shows after a long day of work. It’s a great way to unwind. And, friends are a big part of my life and my self care. I received a karaoke machine for Christmas. It should be illegal as I have the worst voice but I love it. I love belting songs out at the top of my lungs. I’ll never stop singing. It’s such fun!
KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
CATHERINE: I have wanderlust, big time. It’s funny as I’m such a homebody. I wish I could time travel! I have done so little travel in my life. On my bucket list is Bali, Italy, Greece, a safari in Africa and a trip to India. I could easily live in Europe. I adore Paris. I absolutely love people watching! I would like to own a B and B. That way, I could have the amazing women in my community like you come stay with me. I love nurturing people. There would be lively conversation and the most delicious, home cooked meals. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. Meeting Oprah and Brene Brown – major bucket list items! That’s going to happen too!!!