Watching the birds at the feeder in my garden, the busy sparrows with their young family waiting in the nest, I got to pondering whether this was a good thing that we humans provide such easy food for them. Their lives have got so much easier since the need to forage for food has become less of a necessity to survive and thrive into the next generation. How far are we influencing them, their numbers and longevity? Or is it only right, as we thrive, that we share the vibe around; perhaps this is their time.
Whatever the aggravations and even irritants of modern life may be, I never cease being grateful for the advantages of living in a time when food is readily available and in which I have choices, endless choices, about what to eat and how to live my life. I see a long winding road ahead of me when, I know, many of my ancestors would have already left by this time of my life. As a soul, I feel this opportunity most profoundly too.
I awe myself with just thinking of the countless lifetimes that I amassed great wisdom, increasingly ripe for my senior years, only to succumb to disease, poverty or worse. So many lives cut short in our prime…we women are feeling that rising up in our DNA in these times. There is an itch that happens at menopause and it is all about wanting to take hold of the opportunity we have been waiting for across many lifetimes cut short or when circumstances were less ideal to be all we wanted to be. We are ripe once again to claim all that a mature woman is about; shedding responsibility and unnecessary ties in order to focus on her great gifts, all the accumulated wisdom of ages, which opens like a treasure trove as she lays down family responsibility to become her most empowered self.
Only the itch is real….very real; and it can drive you crazy. Not only do I become systemically dry as though all the moisture has been sucked out of me by a giant drinking straw but I HURT during the second halves of my cycle these days. Yes, I still have a cycle but it feels like it is running on empty. Of course, this happens just as the increased sensitivity of those forthcoming “wisdom years” switch on and I feel more than ever, especially in those second two weeks of my month building to the full moon. The combination of subtle sensitivities that seem to feel literally everything (and then some) with a nervous system that feels ragged and frayed is profound for me and, I suspect, many other women too. It can present as heat and flame, as irritation (internal…external, it’s all the same), as burning skin, as dryness, as itchy scalp, as straw-like hair, as inflammation, as all over pain, as joint aches and weakness, as electric nerves, as intercostal tightness, as back and neck pain, as spongy or spasming ligaments, as stomach soreness, as migraines, as optic nerves that make vision blurred and achy, as chronic dehydration and fizzing tongue, as over-reaction to environmental smells and noises, as constipation, as neuropathy, as dizziness and flashes of multi-dimensional insight that confuse, as bizarre food cravings or no appetite at all…these are just some of some of what I know from personal experience.
These are all versions of this metaphorical (you could even say, metaphysical) “itch” which – in physicality – presents as the chronic dryness that is generated when hormones are in transition. Really, its transformation underway…a metamophosis…and in making it mundane, by denying it or even making it seem like a problem, a curse, we fight back against what is really like a spreading of wings from the chrysalis; bewilderingly, disorientingly beautiful. Our culture has done terrible things to downplay the stage of her life that is all about female empowerment and there is a minefield of superstitious beliefs and misinformation around it; no wonder we hurt and struggle our way through it.
In its depths, it has sometimes made me wonder whether this dried-out, over-sensitivity and pain is what lies in stall every day for my body post-menopause but I don’t think that it is. I suspect that the body finds a new equilibrium once it stops trying to run an old cycle, all about reproduction, that is now a learned pattern but for which it no longer has the resources or the use. While reproductive organs continue to act as though there is an egg, it’s as though they dredge the bottom of the barrel each month to prepare “a nest” that is no longer needed in the womb. Once they catch up and realise that those days are over, I suspect they won’t have to work so hard at this monthly whip-around to gather resources that my body can’t provide any more, leaving cells and organs depleted of what they most need to run optimally. I won’t need to supplement so hard or to brace myself for two weeks of dipping into pain. In other words it will get easier once the decision has been made that menopause is here now…since, like any decision, it is the making of it that comes as relief, the hesitating that creates anxiety and friction.
Really, its nothing; just a phase we go through; all consuming though it can feel, like a mini-death to some. Just think what a caterpillar goes through as it digests itself inside the chrysalis, before emerging…with wings. To do this, it has to “imagine” itself on the other side, forming so-called imaginal cells in the soup of its own disintegration, which (as far as we can describe it) seem to hold the intention of the new butterfly-shape it is taking before it is even created and use the “food” of its old life to grow; and we do this every time we imagine all the good stuff that lies ahead of us in our lives, building upon all the experiences we have gathered.
So, as ever, I’m left knowing somehow that the more we embrace menopause, inviting and celebrating it, the easier it gets. When we cheer it in and are grateful for the forthcoming years that we always wanted, so that we can put concerns of the body on the shelf along with all those nurturing skills required of us during the child-rearing years, we can concentrate on ourselves and our own soul’s growth, for self-empowerment. Really, we make such a big deal about self-empowerment like we have to brace ourselves to conquer the world or go on a course to learn about it when, really, it’s all just about becoming our true selves, drawing to us all of the wisdom we have gathered from life and using it to spread our wings fully, in our own beautiful way (whatever that happens to be), guided by joy. We can get down to the business of stepping into ourselves like never before with no apologies, no compromises, no other demands on our free time than this. Quite literally, this is our time, the one we have been waiting for (both the culmination of this lifetime and many others…the combined wisdom of which we tune into more and more during these years) so the sooner we take hold of it with both hands, the easier the transition gets. When we really welcome in those years that lie ahead of us, without fear or the concerns of the past, the temporary discomfort of the transition feels incidental, almost worth it as a rite of passage through to another side, remembering that there is another side of our life to now claim.