Sunday, 2 May 2010
Riding the Storms - a menopausal journey
Ive come to that age now when my body begins to change again as I make ready to initiate into the time of the crone and its a strange sensation sometimes. Thinking about it recently took me back to when I began to change as a young girl, developing hair in odd places, filling out on the hips and developing breasts. I dont remember it being particularly obvious at the time, apart from the weird sensation that I had two bumps appearing on my chest when at one time it had been smooth.
I hadnt had any teaching or support from family regarding periods as I came from a fairly repressed kind of family environment. My mother is a strict evangelical christian and kept things fairly secret about bodily stuff, and when I did finally begin to bleed monthly, it felt more like a dirty secret than a life affirming thing. But thats another story.
Since then, working within pagan and earth based spirituality, I have come to love and appreciate the workings of my body (in all its fantastic and sometimes uncomfortable, messy glory!!) Sometimes I found myself considering it was a nuisance which is emphasised by our society's attitude towards it too. Think about the adverts with their messages that you can still 'live a normal life' using their products when you have your period, coyly pouring blue water on menstrual pads or tampons rather than showing anything remotely like blood!
But then I will remember its a time to slow down and listen to the messages my body has for me. To rest and allow the experiences and lessons life offered to be heard. A time to enter the red tent.
I began a committment to myself to honour that part of myself. I sometimes collected my blood to pour onto the earth. To make that connection to the Earth that nourishes and holds us. (I had the most amazing tomatoes when I used it to fertilise them!) I looked at various ways to collect the blood, from buying pads, to making reusable ones, using a mooncup and sea sponges. Although my life didnt always allow for me to rest for the first day, I would still make time to sit quietly after work, maybe a soothing bath with beautiful smelling oils by candle light. All this led to a desire to really understand my life and connection to everything. And so I like to honour and acknowledge each change and development I move through.
For the last year or so, I have got used to the fact that my monthly bleeds have changed - sometimes waiting for 6 or 8 weeks for it to put in an appearance. Just lately I waited almost 3 months beginning to wonder if it intended to ever show up again at all!! I had noticed some differences in myself too. Quite subtle changes at first, I dont eat any more than usual but find it easier to put on weight, I feel more tired after physical exercise and little things like dryer skin and eyes are another sign of my ride into the menopause.
Finally the other day, I had my very first hot flush. It was a strange sensation and for just a few moments I felt otherworldly. A slight out of body sensation along with a feeling of heat and damp skin. For a brief moment my body raged in a storm. My hair clung to my damp face and a fire raged through me, eventually ebbing away and leaving me a little lightheaded. Had I never been interested in meditation, magick and being in the moment, maybe I wouldnt have found it so interesting, rather than being the 'nuisance' some women feel about it. Similar to my feelings about my periods really.
I believe each step of the development of a womens body is an initiation. The maiden begins to bleed and develops into a woman - taking a step into the initiation of the Mother phase. This is the time it is possible to become a mother in my opinion, rather than actual motherhood. She has always had it within her to give birth, to babies, her life, ideas, projects etc. All with the creative flow within. This gives her the momentum to move with that energy.
And after many years the mother finally releases this outward flow to internalise it and take it within. She initiates into the Wise woman - the Crone. The blood still flows within and the creative juices are concentrated in her. Still possible to create, to have projects and ideas but may be more internally than projected outward. She has all that life experience and wisdom to share with the maidens and mothers that come after her.
Sometimes its not convenient when a flush comes upon me. Maybe its annoying because its getting in the way of what I might be doing that day. It doesnt respect my daily life - I may be at work and trying to get the childrens food ready for lunchtime, or maybe at a meeting. But it is another reminder to slow down, to look at everything around me, at the flowers, at my family, at my life. And to listen to the messages my body is telling me as it points me towards this new initiation experience and to remember to revel in the experience of riding the storms.