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

Having declared ourselves Queens of Our Own Lives, we ended our vacation and returned to our homes. We were delighted to find that we both continued to feel empowered by our Crowning Ceremony. Every woman we told about our vacation loved the idea and wanted to have a Crowning Ceremony of her own. We'd had so much fun and gained such strength, we decided that the least we could do was pass it on to our friends. So we began to host gatherings that we continued to call Crowning Ceremonies.

Our first ceremony was with our friend Nancy over coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon in Las Vegas. We bought each of us a crown-shaped rhinestone brooch and made our friend an official You Are Crowned Certificate, which we signed and gave her at the end of breakfast. In keeping with becoming Queens, we had simplified the questions to: What do you want to banish from the first half of your life, and what do you want to keep? The ceremony was fun, low-key and yet transforming for our friend, who realized she needed to banish spending time caring for others who hadn't even asked for her help, so she could be a better friend to herself. Delicious bacon and eggs with good friends and an important life-altering revelation—could there be a better breakfast experience?

The next Crowning Ceremony we hosted was in a hotel room in New York City with several old friends, over glasses of wine and a large fruit plate. We went around the room and these women, whom we had known for more than twenty years, freely shared their answers to the two questions. One friend banished the feelings of being inadequate and yet another banished the need to be perfect, and we all decided that we wanted to keep our lifesaving senses of humor. We laughed, cried, ate pieces of unripe fruit that you can find only on bad fruit plates and made already good friendships even stronger. We soaked in the warmth, comfort and peace of being in a community of trusted women who, also at the midpoint in their lives, were ready to give themselves the gift of being Queens of Their Own Lives.

Each Crowning Ceremony we hosted became larger, with friends wanting to bring friends and those friends wanting to bring friends. Soon there were more strangers than friends at the celebrations. Yet, at the end of each gathering, all the women present felt the same sense of warmth, comfort and peace that we had felt at our intimate gatherings with old friends. No matter what age or level of education, whether out in the business world or working at home in the business of caring for their families, the women at these ceremonies were amazed and surprised by the revelation that they were not alone—they all had a common longing: to be given the permission to celebrate, with joy and in a community, this transition to not a crone but a mature, valuable, beautiful, strong woman.

We're not therapists (although we did both work as secretaries at the New York County District Branch of the American Psychiatric Association). We're simply two women who in more than thirty years of friendship have developed some commonsense tools and strategies to prepare ourselves to live the second half of our lives in grace, filled with the excitement of what is yet to come and the knowledge that we are beautiful just the way we are. If you're also longing for this, then we invite you to come with us on the journey.

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