As far as I know, it’s a natural part of the evolution of all women. Meno meaning month. Pause meaning stop. Our monthly periods stop. It’s been happening for millennia. Women from all cultures and backgrounds have gone through it just as they went through puberty and the start of menstruation. It’s a fact of life.
But in the modern world we’ve turned it upside-down. It’s something to be shunned. Women moan about it, men hide from it, greetings cards joke about it. My friend tells me she’s fed up with hearing her colleagues grumble about the difficulties of ‘the change’. They harp on about night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, an absence of libido, irritability, rage, anger, tearfulness and depression. They complain bitterly at the lack of sleep, the tiredness, and the dearth of energy. “I can’t do what I used to do,” they lament.
GPs are no better. When I visited my doctor to ask him to test my thyroid, he wearily told me all my symptoms were simply menopause. He wistfully related his wife’s demise, and subsequent resurrection through the power of Hormone Replacement Therapy. “But I don’t want HRT!” I insisted. “I just want to check my thyroid’s ok.”
“You’ll start to look more masculine, you’ll have no energy or vitality, you’ll put on weight and if you’re happy with one orgasm a month, then carry on…” The male doctor’s prognosis. What does he know of female sexuality and sensuality?
“You’re a therapist!” he says, “What would you say to someone who was depressed but refused to take the talking cure? It’s the same! HRT will help you get over it.”
I got up and left the surgery.
“It’s not the same,” I silently protested. “Menopause is a natural part of being a woman which we must all embrace. You don’t need to treat menopause: It’s not a problem!” It dawns on me why there are so many young-looking, skinny fifty-to-sixty-something women in the posh parts of town. All those beauties spinning at the gym with their Barbie-doll figures and age-spotted hands are on HRT! I’ve rumbled them. They’re waging a battle to hold back the years.
To hold back nature.
We don’t yet know the full extent of possible side-effects from HRT. I remember being told by a research scientist, not on any account, to use patches. This mode of delivery is not safe, he told me. I know that HRT has been at the root of many cancer scares and I know that breast cancer and cervical cancer are on the increase. But more than that, I know, deep in my psyche, that it’s not right to mess with mother nature. To upset the balance of creation. We’re not meant to bleed into our dotage.
Do I want to be forever young or do I want to grow up? Menopause is a rite of passage and is seen as such in many cultures. It’s the transition phase for women moving from the ‘mother’ to the ‘crone’. Crone means ‘Crown’. Crowning Glory. Sovereignty. The Wisdom Years. The holding-in of the wise blood. I’ve been the “maiden’, with full red lips and blushing cheeks, peachy buttocks and smooth skin, youthful, headstrong desires and playful appetite. I’ve been the ‘mother’ – the great nurturer and provider. The giver, the organiser, the teacher, the safe harbour. Now it’s time to be Crowned in all my Glorious Goddesshood. It’s time to be wise, to be balanced and most of all to be free. Free of the expectations of others, free of the vicissitudes of the ego, free of the straight-jacket of first impressions. Am I slim enough? Is my body toned enough? Is my face pretty enough? Shallow criteria on which to judge a life: Simply by the cover.
Modern woman has become disconnected from the rhythms of nature. Disconnected from her body. Disconnected from her inherent Wisdom: From her intuitive guidance and from her feminine sensuality.
My friend decides to go ‘cold turkey’. She’s not doing HRT and she’s not doing herbal supplements. No progesterone cream, no red clover or dong quai, no black cohosh. She’s not taking soy isoflavones or flaxseed. It’s life as usual. She swims, she eats, she drinks red wine. She becomes selfish and reclusive for a few months, a bit ratty with her husband and the world. She has a few hot flushes which warm the winter nights and she puts on a few pounds around her belly. You wouldn’t notice. At fifty-something she’s not wearing mini skirts or cinched-in waists. She looks good. Mature. Confident. Her own woman.
Menopause brings up our ‘stuff’. If you haven’t sorted it out by your late 40s, then the middle years are going to throw it into the spotlight. Old wounds, old fears, old psychological issues. If you’ve buried them, they’ll rise like Lazarus. “Know thyself,” said the great philosophers. If you’ve confronted your demons, analysed your childhood, healed, forgiven and forgotten, then you’ll have forged a new path for yourself and there’s nothing to worry about. Menopause is an opportunity to clear out the old and bring in the new. It’s the human equivalent of a chrysalis. You’ll emerge transformed and free, spreading the wings of your beautiful true nature. But first you must cocoon yourself, turn inwards and hunker down till the imaginal cells have shifted. You’re not going to be a chrysalis forever, but to be the butterfly you must go through the pupae stage.
Reconnect with your body. Reconnect with your self. Reconnect with nature. Connect with who you are, what you really want from life – not what you want from others, but what you want from yourself. Take the menopause as a gap between the hectic life of career-woman and mother, constantly feeding the needs of others, and the life of an Elder, revered, serving the community, self-assured and wise. Let nature enfold you then unfold the new. Stay youthful in your outlook. Keep your mind and your spine flexible. Do gentle yoga. Meditate. Paint. Sing. Dance. Play the piano. Walk. Walking’s good. Walk in nature on your own. Eat wholesome food. Laugh with your friends, but for goodness sake, don’t try to hold on to something that you’re meant to let go of.
I have a feeling the more we resist the menopause the longer it takes to pass. The more we embrace it, the quicker we traverse it. Acceptance is the key. Accept this is where you are in your life.
Make slow, sensual, intimate love. You’ve had the quick burgers, now enjoy the exquisite three course meal. In winter, relish the hot flushes. In summer, nakedly spread-eagle yourself on the cool of your bathroom tiles. It may add another dimension to your sex life. Emotions are natural. Let them flow through you. They’re generally ephemeral. Delight in your curves. You’ve denied yourself for too long just to fit into a smaller dress size. Find out what suits you. Beauty is skin deep and the beauty within shines out to the world. Nurture yourself. Be gentle with yourself. It’s natural to have less energy, to be slower as you take time to go within. You may not be as fast, but you’ll be wiser and you’ll be all woman… And you’ll emerge triumphant as a free-thinking, centred, grounded wise-woman.
It’s time to reassess the menopause. It’s a time to pause from the pace of modern life, to withdraw from the external, to nurture self instead of others, to heal, to let go, and to metamorphose into your true Glorious, Gorgeous, Goddess Self.
And remember – as the Sufi’s say: “This too shall pass.”
Bridget Finklaire 2016