The last year or so has been a time of deep transformation for me. I slowed down, and said goodbye to pursuits, people, and ways of being that were no longer feeding my soul. I stripped my life down to the bare bones, spent the whole of a winter on the couch healing body and soul, then emerged, little by little adding flesh to the bones again, fleshing out a more deeply fulfilling and authentic life.
This slowing down and stripping down was not a conscious choice. My body, in its deep wisdom, made the choice for me. I was exhausted and depleted, and not entirely aware that, beneath the surface, I was birthing a new self. My body was rebelling; I felt it was betraying me. Now I understand the primal wisdom of my body was guiding me on a journey of renewal and transformation.
On the full moon last May, my 50th birthday and the day we celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment, I was high in the mountains breathing thin cold air, looking out at impossibly expansive vistas, bathing in sacred hot springs. I was also bleeding, heavily. As we do. What I didn’t know as I celebrated the day was that I was celebrating the day of my last bloods; the first day of my journey into the realm of the wise-woman.
This is one way of telling my menopause story. There are other ways I could tell the story. I could tell the medical story – the un-fun gory details of hitting a wall with my neglected hormonal health, and the difficulty of finding real support within our medical system. I could tell the emotional story – there’s a share of fear, isolation, loss, and sadness alongside the rediscovery, transformation and celebration. I could tell the social/political story – how angry I am about the role society seems determined to foist upon me as a “middle-aged woman,” and how disappointed I have become with our very narrow and sad view of aging. Those stories are all true, and they are also very, very important. Like our birth stories, they need to be shared fully in circles of women, so we can learn from, witness, comfort, teach, and encourage one another.
But the story I really want to tell is bigger. It is a story that encompasses all the other stories, the story that weaves the whole experience together and makes everything make sense, from the celebration on sacred mountaintops to the lonely and excruciating wait for ultrasound results. It’s the story of a sacred initiation.
And this is what I know menopause to be. A sacred initiation into the second half of life – the half of life where we begin to live for ourselves, sometimes for the very first time. The unspoken truth about menopause is not a truth of loss and diminishment, but a truth of freedom, authenticity, emancipation, creativity, juice, and joy. A funny thing happens in that menopausal year – we find ourselves saying, simultaneously “I’ve had enough!” and “I want more!”
Long-neglected dreams resurface and demand fulfillment. The floodgates of creativity – and, yes, sensuality – can break open. Toxic, boring, draining, and otherwise soul-sucking situations and people suddenly become intolerable, and out of the blue we find the gumption to let them go. We embrace “no.” And we embrace “YES.” To our own surprise, we start feeling more beautiful, better about our body, then we have for a long time – maybe ever.
This is what positive, empowered menopause can look like. This is what menopause can look like when we feel heard, supported, empowered, and celebrated in our journey. It is what menopause can look like if we have access to the right information, health and wellness support, role models, and the wisdom and experience of women who have been there.
Menopause hasn’t looked like this in our society before. It hasn’t looked empowering. It hasn’t looked like something worth celebrating. But we can change that. We are on the brink of changing that. Something like 50% of the women in North America will be 50 and over in the next ten years. That is a force to be reckoned with. That is a revolution waiting to happen.
And that is why I am so excited about this work I get to do with Vivid!
This programs includes live retreats (in amazing places) on-line courses, and trainings to prepare other women to lead local menopause circles so the work can reach beyond what I am able to facilitate on my own. This is big, lovelies! We’ve got big, powerful work to do. I hope you will join me.