And other myths they tell us about middle age, peri-menopause, menopause, midlife crisis. This one is for women, but maybe the men in our lives would benefit from knowing too that their women are NOT going crazy…..we are just trying to be born.
Waiting rooms and clinics
Psychology, counseling and doctors’ offices are full of women between the ages of 30 and 70 who are looking for relief of symptoms that are uncomfortable and that someone (including their inner critic) told them were bad: anxiety, depression, panic, hot flashes, death chills, tremors, headaches, belly aches, body aches and the dreaded of all dreaded symptoms : MOOD SWINGS. Often (but fortunately not always) the Western medical system’s response to these symptoms is to support the myth that because we are experiencing these symptoms, there is something wrong with us – something worthy of medication, hospitalization and sometimes invasive surgeries to remove the offending female parts.
Then there is the whole array of physical changes that take place in the bodies of women over 30 – lines begin to appear on our faces, our hair begins to grey, body parts start to move and our bodies begin to soften. Again, someone told us that these changes are BAD and that as these changes unfold, we become less and less desirable by the day. The Western response – CUT COLOR LIFT SUCK DYE. (or should I say “die?”) And again, we place ourselves under the knife in order that the offending part(s) might be removed, stuffed, uplifted, sucked out.
What someone forgot to tell us is that midlife IS NOT a pathology. These symptoms that we are experiencing are not bad, neither do they signal that something is wrong with us. Instead, what these symptoms are letting us know is that there is something VERY RIGHT going on and something that promises to bring us something incredibly wonderful. The something wonderful that these symptoms are bringing us to is OURSELF! Midlife is the process through which the hormones in our bodies shift from their focus on birthing babies to the very sacred process of BIRTHING OURSELVES!
Making friends with our emotions
One of the reasons we are so uncomfortable with the midlife journey and are therefore tempted to treat it as a pathology, is because we are so dang uncomfortable with our emotions. As women, we have been socialized to believe that in order to be loved, we have to be pleasing, gentle, kind, agreeable, cooperative, submissive, quiet and peaceful. During the childbearing years, the special mix of hormones in our body create a veil. This veil holds our truth in check and allows us to set our own hopes, dreams, visions, passions and needs on the shelf where they gather dust waiting for everyone else’s needs to be met. The catch is that our truth is not really being held at bay, it is just gathering resentment for being silenced and our hopes and dreams that are gathering dust are seething in frustration and impatience because they know that the needs of others will never be fully satisfied. So when our children are viable and the hormonal mix begins to shift, the veil tumbles to the ground and the shelf holding our dreams collapses. In this upheaval, all the emotions that we have held at bay suddenly come crashing in. Let me introduce you to: rage, crying jags, sorrow and depression. Our initial response is to try to contain these feelings, to shove them down, to shut them up. As we try to put the lid on the volcano of emotions that are trying to erupt, they wreak havoc with our innards: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hot flashes, death chills, tremors, migraines, acid reflux, heart palpitations, vertigo, etc. etc. etc. The harder we resist these feelings, the harder they work to get our attention. And as my Buddhist friends say, “What we resists persists.” When these emotions begin to come to the surface, if we desire to remain sane and healthy, we need to make friends with them. Here is a little poem I wrote in support of befriending my emotions:
The Fire Within
There is a fire within that calls to me.
A primordial fire – the burning bush that blazes but does not consume.
It is the fire of inspiration.
The fire that calls us forth, pushing us on.
Beginning as a spark.
Growing as it is fed.
Dying if not nourishment given.
Possessing a hunger that cannot be quenched.
It hungers for
It yearns for time alone to
Requiring and understanding the cleansing power of tears,
the purgative power of anger,
the replenishing power of mourning.
This fire – the Spirit within us.
Tend her well.
Precious and necessary for survival.
Preserve and tend her well
As she thrives, so shall you!
In my upcoming book, Returning – a woman’s midlife journey to herself, I share my own journey of befriending my emotions in the process of BIRTHING MYSELF while giving you tools to do the same. Our emotions want to be known so that they can reveal for us the SELF that is trying to be born in us – the truth that is trying to be known and to be made known. The SELF that is trying to be born is made up of our dreams, our passions, our creativity, our sensuality, our hopes and visions. And…this SELF is not quiet. She is bold, flashy, loud, obvious, insistent, confident, sensual, passionate, sometimes naughty….she is all the parts of ourselves that we have kept silently hidden away….and SHE WANTS TO BE MADE KNOWN. The good news is that most often, SHE does not need to be medicated or surgically removed….she just wants to take off her shoes and DANCE UPON THIS EARTH, and she does not wish to dance alone. So…let’s dance, shall we?
copyright 2013 Lauri Ann Lumby