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AofA People: Julie Williams – Dog Groomer, Reiki Master, Coach


9 Minute Read

Julie Williams, 61, runs a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends, is a Reiki Master teacher and the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions.

Age (in years)  

61

Where do you live? 

Stockport, Greater Manchester

What do you do?

I run a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends with my partner Steve. We cover our local area. I’m also a Reiki Master Teacher, combining the Reiki with basic animal communication, I’ve developed a new modality for rehabilitating groom-phobic dogs that’s proving quite successful.

I’m the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions to collaborate with clients to find a connection to the wonder and fabulousness of the soul that they came here with.

I do Shamanic journeying, talk to trees, worship the moon, connect in ritual and gifting with Mother Earth daily, where I receive “downloads” of wisdom.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

It’s great. I feel so much more confident and brave to be myself, to dare to do new things, than I did when I was younger.

I had a hysterectomy at 43, so I went on the menopause, closely followed by a couple of bereavements,  redundancy and a relationship breakup, culminating at 44 with burnout from the corporate world. At that point, I realised that self care and genuine happiness was more important than ambition, acquisition and consumerism.

I got rid of everything that cost money to run and took four months off to recover. I took an evening job so I could go out in the sun, a dog and a bike. I read and read and read, philosophy, self-help books, spirituality, and basically self-healed.

I met my partner eight years ago, we set up a business together. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do any of that when I was younger.

I embarked on a series of therapy sessions at the age of 60 and regret I didn’t do it earlier. I had been on a spiritual path for 20 years prior to that, and I think the three things together – reaching 60, therapy and the spiritual journey – all clicked at the right time. Before that, I was scared to put my head above the parapet, to be vulnerable and authentic, so I wore my mask of “everything’s fine”, when often it wasn’t.

So what’s it like to be my age? It’s fabulous.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Much more happiness and laughter for sure. Wisdom and courage too.

I have my loving partner, the first relationship I’ve had where I believe we are both really equal.

I have in my life my three beautiful grandchildren who are teenagers now as well as two beautiful step grandchildren, three gorgeous stepdaughters, three lovely terriers, the business, the grooming modality, the new coaching business, lovely silver streaks in my hair and a much more solid sense of self-love and joyful entrepreneurship, leading to personal satisfaction.

I also have The Silver Tent. This is an international online community for women over 50, started three years by the visionary Francesca Cassini. There are nearly 7000 women in the group, and it’s a veritable cauldron of wisdom, creativity, projects and collaborations between women from all over the world. I’ve made some amazing friendships there and learned so much.

What about sex?

Yes, it’s great, really caring and nurturing. Not as often as when I was younger, as I might have had a somatic response to historical trauma during therapy. This diminishes as time goes by, and I’m getting back to my enthusiasm for sex.

And relationships?

I’m happily co-habiting with my life and business partner of eight years, Steve.

I reconnected four years ago with my dad from whom I was estranged for about 25 years. It went great at first, then “stuff” came up, therapy helped, and dad has been really supportive, compassionate and open. I’ve only just recently tentatively reconnected with my mum, our estrangement wasn’t total, yet our relationship was always difficult. She’s recently become quite poorly, and I’m starting to visit again. My own ability to respond rather than react, learned with the benefit of aged wisdom is softening our interactions. I’m hoping we can continue to see each other regularly.

My relationship with my 40-year-old son is, for me, a deep and open one. We have discussed issues arising from his childhood, my healing as he was growing up wasn’t that fast, and there were times where my inappropriate behaviours impacted on him. I have apologised and acknowledged my part, and he is very compassionate, intelligent and able to understand and forgive. He is an excellent father to his three children and a devoted partner to their mum. I’m very proud of him.

My relationship with my teenage grandchildren is as it is whilst they are discovering themselves. Contact isn’t as often as when they were younger, and I do miss them a little. I support their lives 100% and cherish the time when we can get together.

I have made some beautiful treasured friendships through the Silver Tent, which I hope will go from strength to strength, to even include working collaborations. There have been a few physical meetups that have been wonderful, online is great but face to face is far better. My partner and I recently met socially with one woman and her husband, we had a great time. This is a new experience for us.

How free do you feel?

In my heart I’m totally free and I enjoy my newly found self-sovereignty. I’m enjoying being free from a lot of the negative emotional burden I used to carry. I really do feel free to be me, I’m blessed to be loved enough to experiment and try new things too.

Yet I’m a Capricorn and ruled by earthy Saturn, so I do nod to the need to have an income, a roof over my head and security. Consideration of those things doesn’t mean the opposite of freedom to me, it means I’m free to recognise my needs and own them.  

What are you proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve learned to truly love myself, to do the inner work, which will continue until I’m no longer on this earthly plane. Also I’ve learned to stay strong in my own vision, a big one, as I used to put other people’s needs first to the detriment of my own.

I my really proud of my son and daughter in law and their family. Things were difficult for my son from the start as his father abandoned us when I was pregnant at 21, I married someone else, and that didn’t work out, my dad wasn’t around, so my son has never really had a male role model to learn from. Yet he has worked so hard to be a great and balanced partner and father to his three children, and he is amazing.

I’m proud of my relationship with my partner. We have learned to consciously co-create, both of us coming together in later life with a lot of personal baggage. We work through the difficulties of being together all the time, at home and at work, we work hard at it, and we make mistakes: we laugh and love a lot too.

I’m proud to have had the courage to start our grooming business and make a success of it. And I’m proud that I’ve brought together my skills that I love doing, my abilities and drive to create two new modalities that I’m bringing into being.

I’m proud of never giving up.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by the beauty and sheer joy of love and life, believing that there are so many wonderful experiences and discoveries yet to come for me and my loved ones in this life.

I’m inspired to be a strong role model for my grandchildren, this is very, very important. I’d like to say that my legacy will be to tell them to grasp the nettle and just do it, yet more importantly, it’s to show them the example that they are magnificent, very much loved, and perfect just as they are.

I’m inspired to share my story, to show that someone who had hidden, felt isolated and buried themselves under traumatic memories, can learn to balance the light and dark, and to love those two equally. For all our  experiences are what makes us our unique and wonderful selves.

And I’m inspired by the Silver Tent. I’m a passionate supporter of it. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that Western women will change the world if so, those of us over 50 in the Tent are making a really good attempt at it.

When are you happiest?

It’s difficult to single out one thing.

I love seeing my family happy and I’m happy working, laughing and loving with my partner. I’m happy when I meet up with loved ones and friends, laughing and hugging.

I’m happy walking in nature with my dogs, particularly communing with trees. I’m happy when I do my daily practice, an earth based ritual and offering, I receive from it such wisdom.

I’m happy working with dogs, I love Reiki and connecting to energy, particularly when dogs respond to the energy.

I’m happy when I create something that others enjoy. I’m happy when I coach someone and they benefit from my service.

I’m happy connecting with the women in the Tent and seeing new projects happen, friendships forming, new skills being taught and shared.

If I had to choose a when I’m happiest, I’d say very early in a morning when I sit quietly with my coffee thinking about my daily gratitude practice. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on my blessings, which are many.

And where does your creativity go?

I write – poems – and I’ve tentatively started writing a book. I’m restarting my blog that’s been neglected for a while. When I was a child, I loved reading and I wrote short stories. This was abandoned due to other distractions, career and so on, and I’ve recently returned to it.

I’d love to paint abstract pieces. That’s on my list for when I slow down a little.

I’ve also created the service modalities, so I suspect work and play overlap in my life. Work as play, play as work.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Connecting to my inner spirit and doing what brings me joy. Being kind rather than right.

Remembering that everyone has a beautiful soul inside, no matter how deeply they bury it. And remembering that it’s all about love.

And dying?

It’s a journey beyond the veil.

I’ll sign up for another incarnation please.

Is it appropriate to write your own son’s dating profile?


1 Minute Read

Michele Kirsch, learns the hard way, that it is not.

The son has done a mutual and amicable break up with his girlfriend of six years. He is only 21 so she was the main one, probably the only one. When I ask why they split up – I refrained from hysterically crying, saying how much I loved her, how he would never find someone who looked as much like Mila Kunis as she does, how she was the ultimate package deal: beauty, brains, personality and manners, asking him if he was clinically insane, that if so I would draw on my pension early to pay for psychological treatment, or ghostwriting love letters from him to her saying it was all a hideous mistake, and would she marry him and have babies with him – yes, I did NOT do all that stuff, because he just might not have appreciated my making his break up all about Me, Me, Me, cos kids today, ay, they don’t like a drama. So, I have to accept it, that my head-turningly-gorgeous son (this is not my prejudice, he actually turns heads when he walks into a room) has decided, in an outrageously mature fashion, that they had grown up together and as the way of these things, had also grown apart.

Now I have a history of trying to intervene in his love life, from the age of 11 (him not me, though you could be mistaken) when he fell for a girl called Clementine. It was Valentine’s Day, and after I got him some flowers for her from a Tesco Metro – ‘Mum take the Tesco thing off, I don’t want her to think I am cheap’ – and we jointly stalked her house, and he was just going to leave the flowers with a ‘Be my Valentine’ card and run away. I said, ‘No, son, you want to do a GRAND GESTURE’ – so in chalk, we wrote outside the house, on the pavement – ‘Be my Clementine’. I thought it was ever so original and clever, and we decided against tossing clementines around her path, because we could only get satsumas, and maybe she hated citrus fruit or had a fatal allergy to them.

I never found out if the flowers were received, or if the chalk message was rubbed away in embarrassment. Clem wound up going out with a friend of his, and my boy met his lovely gal when he was in his mid-teens. I think he did. I was drunk off my arse for most of his teens so it is a little foggy.

So anyway, fast forward to…not that long ago. He comes over to my flat cos we are going to do what we do, which is go for Pho and chat shit for ages. It is by far my favourite thing to do. He mentions he has joined a dating app, not the really popular one Tinder but a different one, where you can only potentially hook up if you swipe each other at the same time. I think. I don’t even know what swiping means, except it doesn’t hurt and you do it on your phone and nobody gets pregnant. He shows me some of the girls, and I am shocked and sickened cos they all look EXACTLY alike, like the Kardashians, big arses, small waists, cat’s eyes, virulent lippy, eyebrows shaped by people who do not understand eyebrows, and wait it gets stranger. They are all 22 and all either philosophers or curators or anthropologists. Weirder still, they all pose with their friends who look just like them, and they do some strange photoshop thing to put on kitten ears and kitten noses and whiskers. And I’m like, ‘I don’t get it, so all these kitten women are curators and when you go out with them, you get the friend as well?’. Oh yeah, and lots of them are holding bottles of Prosecco aloft.

I do not understand any of it, so I say, OK, have you swiped any of these girls? Did you meet any, and do they actually have kitten faces and strange brows, and he goes no, he has not really swiped any cos yes, they do all look a bit modified, a bit altered, a bit samey, but the thing that really gets to him is that they all have these fancy pants jobs, and he works in construction, though he was a model til he decided he hated it because he did not want to be judged for his looks. So I say construction is a noble job, honest, everyone needs something constructed. But he feels it is not really impressive enough, and he does not buy my line, ‘Oh, I know these curators, they like a bit of rough’ so he feels that his profile does not really do him justice. I say, lemme look at what you’ve written. (Voice inside screaming – don’t interfere, it’s his date, not yours, but other voice goes, interfere. It is in your genes.) He has a lovely photo, a modelling one I think. So I go ‘Great pic’ but then the first thing he writes is – ‘This is an old photo’ and I explode: ‘You can’t put that! It is only a year old, maybe two, but you look exactly like that, maybe better. If you put ‘old pic’ they are going to think you are 75, bald fat and have halitosis and those strange hairs that grow out of old men’s nostrils and ears.’ He is not convinced. He also does not want to say he is in construction cos it sounds boring. And I’m like ‘no, everyone loves a builder. If you were a curator as well you would just talk hi falutin boring art shite all day and it would be a passionless relationship. You would have to go to galleries and museums, not clubs or festivals, with a clever kitten woman. NO!’.

And I realize that I have to let him go out there and meet these kitten women and make his own mistakes. He rejects my profile rewrite – ‘Can strangle a giraffe with my bare hands, if needed, though I love animals…particularly cats’ even though I protest it shows brute strength and sensitivity all in one phrase. And what do I actually know about dating in the modern world? Nothing. What do I know about my son? Enough to know that he’s smart enough, charming enough and gorgeous enough to make his own way in the world of dating. The stuff I find funny (OK, you meet one of these kitten ladies and find out that she does not have kitten ears and nose, and you look at her in horror and go, “But your ears and nose looked so different in the photo… this is really false advertising. I loved those damned ears and nose…”) leaves him cold. We abandon the app and go out for Pho, and I count my blessings. He’s happy and healthy, I am sober, and life is very sweet right now. He will meet his sweetheart, one day, and I will love her as much, if not more, than the last one.

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