'Queen of Your Own Life' by Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff

We realized we needed a format for our celebration. We thought about the kind of events that had meaning and significance to us, and how we'd like to create a new event to celebrate entering this next stage of life. Every New Year's Eve Kathy has a big dinner with a lot of candles, good food, great friends and champagne. During the course of the meal a candle is passed around the table and everyone answers these two questions when the candle comes to them: What do you want to let go of or leave behind in the old year that no longer works for you, and what do you want to keep that is still working for you? In those two sentences, often with tears, courage and much laughter, the old year is honored and put to rest and the New Year is welcomed in. We wanted something like those New Year's Eve dinners to help us let go of things from the first half of our lives that were still holding us back and to bring forward the things that we admired about ourselves. So that's what we did. We used the two questions and we called it our Crowning Ceremony.

For the next six nights over dinner we asked each other what we wanted to let go of from the first half of our lives that was no longer working, and what we wanted to keep and take to the second half that was still working. During the day we wandered, saw the sights and marveled at gorgeous Prague. At night over wonderful meals like goose and champagne or sometimes just goulash and pilsner beer, by asking these two deceptively simple questions, we began an adventure that turned into a thorough virtual spring-cleaning of our mental closets. We happily left huge piles of useless old beliefs, about fear, beauty and needing to wear high heels, in booths and under tables in restaurants all across Prague.

During the middle of our Crowning Ceremony week we started to feel that, while we had most definitely enjoyed our youth, the best of life might really be yet to come. By letting go of things like self-doubt, fear of being judged and worry about how to look younger, we were setting ourselves free to admire who we were right now. We were overjoyed to discover that we did admire the women we had become. We were two strong women, who brought with them to the second half of life courage, wisdom and, most of all, the knowledge that they could survive anything with their dignity and humor intact.

At the end of our Crowning Ceremony week, by examining our lives and asking each other these two questions, we felt strong, powerful and positive that this second half of our lives would certainly be the best half. Cindy had left her doubt about being smart enough to compete in the business world with some swans floating in the Vltava River outside a three star seafood restaurant and was taking great pleasure in the knowledge that she was still the courageous twenty-year-old woman who had sold her bike for two hundred dollars, taken the money and moved to New York City. Kathy, leaving behind her fear of not being worthy of love, in an underground gothic café that served beer, absinthe and goulash, was elated to reclaim the sense of humor that had helped her keep a positive outlook on life since she had told her first knock-knock joke at the age of four.

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