Women reach menopause at many ages (and sometimes surgically), so I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for someone else. I will simply share my story, in the hopes that it will inspire you into your own inquiry and reflection about how your menopause has changed how you think and feel about yourself.
One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of my menopause is that is brought me face to face with my own mortality. Though I had no fantasies about living forever, the reality of my changing body brought the topic of my death to the forefront. Knowing that if I am as long-lived as I would like, I have another 50 years to explore the world in this particular body, gave me a lot to contemplate.
Menopause, like all our other rites of passage is a death. For me, it is a death to the possibility of natural conception, a death to the many ways I have kept myself small and kept my mouth shut when I didn’t toe the party line, a death to acting from duty or fear, a death to the need to be like anyone else but me. And yes, a death to the naive maiden and to the idea of the mother I once wanted to be.
Like many women, I also have aging parents and their mortality has also been on my mind. They are both in good health, but I want to be available to them if needed and so the importance of tending to myself as I navigate this transition is underscored.
Old friendships that were based on fitting in or tiptoeing around the truth fell by the wayside. I gently withdrew from other relationships that met the needs of my old self, but were not expansive enough to embrace all of whom I was becoming.
Wrinkles and gray hair became less easy to hide and eventually, out went the hair color as well as my need to look like my younger self (well, mostly…) Clothes didn’t fit anymore either. I started dressing to hide my expanding waistline and realized I looked like one of the middle-aged women I used to avoid looking at. Now she was in my mirror!
As I grieved the passing of my youth and fertility, I also got clear that I was unwilling to take on anyone else’s story about how menopause is or ought to be. I wanted to fashion my own adventure. Inspired by others, but not limiting or defining my personal journey by another’s experience.
So I bought new clothes and found a new circle of friends (all about 10 years older than me) and set about to explore this new landscape.
Who am I becoming as I release the woman I once was?
What do I want to do with the rest of this precious life?
How do I want to honor and cherish myself and the folk I love?
I will attempt to answer these questions in my next post.