I’m celebrating the fact that I’m now a crone. Not an old, withered, ugly woman. Crone in the sense of a elder woman of the tribe. Crone in the sense that I’ve successfully navigated “the Change”.
We don’t talk a lot about our bodies in this culture, and we certainly don’t talk a lot about our emotions. Well, sure, we talk about our bodies in the sense that we say we are too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny – we never are just right. Goldilocks would be right at home in our society, where the majority of things aren’t enough. We talk about the external parts of our bodies, but nothing about what really matters. We certainly don’t talk about menopause or menstruation.
Some cultures have such taboos about the natural rhythms of women’s bodies that they force women to behave differently when they are menstruating. Men won’t touch them, even to shake hands. This includes their husbands. If they are married, they sleep in separate beds during that time. Some societies force young girls to stop going to school the minute they hit puberty. Some are forced to marry so that they don’t become pregnant without the benefit of a man to support them. Somehow they forget that it was a “man” who would have gotten the unmarried girl pregnant in the first place. But that is a post for another day.
No, we don’t talk about menstruation at all. We call it by other names – “Aunt Flo is visiting”, “The Curse”, “my monthly visitor”… the list of euphemisms is endless. We don’t want to talk about it because we don’t want to deal with it. We’d like it to just go away.
Except we don’t know what to do when it starts going away, either. We start to think that something is wrong. Some women try to medicate it, by tricking their bodies with artificial hormones. Some women will get a hysterectomy to stop having to deal with it at all. The only thing is that the cessation of periods is natural. It isn’t a disease. It doesn’t have to be treated with medicine.
But, we are part of a culture that doesn’t like change, and it doesn’t like any sign of getting older. Women dye their hair rather than let their silver crown shine. We’ll get botox injections rather than have wrinkles. We’ll put powder on our faces to fill in lines. We hide the facts of time. In our desperate efforts to keep everything the same, we miss the valuable gifts that change can offer us.
Menopause is the complete cessation of periods. A woman is not in menopause until she has not had a period for a year. In the years before that, she is in perimenopause, where the body is adjusting to the changes.
I like to think of is as being similar to a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly.
It really is more than just a physical change. It is a transformation. The more I tried to hold on to old ways of being, the harder it was. I am grateful for drums, writing, painting and collage for being the tools I used to navigate the new terrain. I suspect learning to cook, eating better, and exercising helped a lot too.
I didn’t have a guide for this journey. My mother died when I was 25, and her response to dealing with this life event was to not deal with it. She took hormones, so she didn’t have any of the sensations that come along with this stage in life.
Note that I said “sensations”, not “symptoms”. “Symptoms” indicates disease. Do we think of puberty as a disease? Do we try to treat it with drugs? No. We get through it, transforming from one part of our lives to another. Our “growing pains” are seen as normal when we are young, but abnormal, even pathological, when we are older.
Changing into a crone is like trying to walk across a quickly moving stream. The steps are not easily visible, and they can be treacherous. Sometimes you have to stand still for a while to see what the next step is. Sometimes you have to take a different path than you intended. The terrain is constantly shifting and uncertain. The goal is to get to the other side safely. The trick is that the only way to do that is to become someone else.
I learned that certain foods I always loved were suddenly bad for me. Foods that caused me joy now turn me into a raging meanie. I learned that other foods that I never liked are now very tasty. I learned that my body and my spirit work much better the more fresh vegetables I eat, rather than processed or fried foods. I learned that I need a lot less meat than society tells me I do. I learned that a strictly vegetarian diet isn’t for me.
I learned that I need less sleep. Related to that, I learned that if I don’t make time to write, the ideas will well up inside me and force me to get up to write them down. I learned that I have to make time to be creative every day.
The creative energy is the main part here. The body is no longer able to create – to reproduce. But that need to create is still there. That force is just transforming into a different form. Consider water – it is still the same atoms whether it is ice, steam, or water. But it looks and acts different in these different states.
The trick about becoming a crone is that it is your path, and you must navigate it yourself. I celebrate it, because it was a chance to reinvent, rediscover who I am.
It reminds me of when I went to college. I initially went to college in a different state than I had grown up in. Nobody knew me there. I had the opportunity to be anybody I wanted. I chose to be myself.
The time right before menopause gives you that same opportunity. Who are you? Who are you really? What do you want to be when you grow up? Is what you are doing now leading towards or away from that goal? Are the things you are doing with your time supporting or taking away from who you are called to be? If not, why not?
Use this time as an opportunity to become the person you truly are, rather than the person you’ve always been told you were. Use this time to reexamine everything – hobbies, job, relationships… Do they build up, or tear down?
This is your path. Celebrate it.