Close your eyes now and remember yourself as a child, a girl of maybe 6 or 7. Who do you see? This image passed by on my news feed the other day and I'm sorry I can't find the source but I wanted to share her with you as she landed in my sights just a day after a workshop for menopause: "Transitions". For a while during the day we had explored memories of ourselves as little girls and it seemed so right to see this expressed so beautifully.
When I look back I see a girl is a cotton nightdress whirling like a dervish in the lounge room to the classical music that was my mother’s choice of vinyl. Like a Sufi I would spin for what seemed an age, delighted with the giddy sensation and lost to an internal world of imaginary places and faces rising up from some far off memory. My whirling and twirling was bought to an abrupt end one day when I caught my big toe in the hem of my dress and fell crashing head long into the corner of the glass coffee table; a rude awakening from my revelry.
From time to time I rediscover this wild child as I loose myself in song and dance. If the mood is right and the music invites me I find myself back twirling and spinning, loosing my mind and heart to the vortex the movement creates. I am free again, just a girl dancing in her nightdress expressing something beyond words or logic.
In my work with older women as they move through menopause I invite a reflection for each woman back to her younger self, a time when she was maybe freer to just be. I say “maybe” because all too soon little girls are pulled into the adult world. Family dysfunction; grief; loss all serve to rob many of their childhood. More than ever now, the early sexualisation and maturing of children is truncating childhood. I am grateful that my childhood was filled with hot summer days running free in the suburbs; time to lie under the trees to dream, hours spent drawing and creating without distraction. Time to be bored. Play acting the goddess Athena as my brothers fought off imaginary Cyclops and sirens. As I grow older I am reawakening these experiences again – allowing time to dream and draw and paint and dance and read myths and legends.
Using the “Women’s Wheel of Life” as a map for self-understanding, when a maturing woman entering peri-menopause she sits opposite her young self, the child she once was and always will be. As the demands of family life abate and the hormonal shifts of menopause create a new reality a rediscovering of this younger self is essential. Menopause becomes a time of reclamation – a quest to ask “Who am I?” And with that asking is the secondary question “What do I want?” not just as a desire but as a deeper quest: “How do I want to be in the world?”
Such questing can be misunderstood by others as selfish, as they witness the changes being made. Loved one’s may feel abandoned as old friends and ways of being are reclaimed by the empowered Maga Woman, or stand by amused as a new fire springs a flame to ignite passion for new interests and concerns outside of the immediate family and community. And this change of focus, this return to what is essential and a re-membering of self is what renews a woman.
Menopause used to be politely known as “the change” in years gone by and whilst it might seem arcane now this euphemism speaks of a wiser knowing that menopause is indeed a time of change that is not just physical but deeply psychological and potentially spiritually. The Apache honoured such a woman as a goddess - Changing Woman / Estsanatlehi.
Wise woman Jane Collings explains beautifully in her Moonsong musings the renewal Changing Woman achieved:
“Changing Woman / Estsanatlehi
The Apache called the Earth Goddess by this name, for she never grew old. When her age began to show, she simply walked toward the east until she saw her form coming toward herself. She kept walking until her young self merged with her aging self and then, renewed, returned to her home.”
This myth – this story – remains as guidance for us to find renewal as we age by revisiting our younger self and inviting her into our lives, allowing her a voice once more. Using creative processes and ritual to invoke what may be long forgotten aspects of self are part of the “Women with Spirit” retreats. If you would like to receive more information on up- coming retreats and events please subscribe to our mailing list or feel free to send a message via the contact page.
In the meantime - time for a twirl!