I am currently preparing for my next herbal health workshop, (taking place on Saturday 25th March) which is about helpful herbs for the menopause years. It occurred to me that what we women experience as The Change, or the peri-menopause, is in fact a time of rebirth.
However difficult this time may be for women, ( and believe me, I know!!!) I do think it is a time for women to return to themselves. Our children are grown and have probably left the family home which means that a woman’s time is her own once more. We have reached a time in our life where we can choose what it is we want to do, want to be and we can have fun without being tied to those responsibilities that exist when our children are dependent on us. Unfortunately, our society regards the older woman in a rather negative fashion. We are seen less as a fount of wisdom and more as an old biddy; someone who is feeble, vulnerable and not worth listening to, someone disempowered. The wise elders of our society are often told to shut up because “…you’re too old, you just don’t get it.”
Many indigenous societies, on the other hand, view their elder women as wisdom carriers or wisdom keepers, who are responsible for passing on their knowledge to the next generation, who are appealed to to settle disputes, to make decisions for their tribe and to oversee ritual thus keeping their culture alive.
One reason why we have lost respect in the West is because we fear the ageing process. Advertising campaigns and the media tell us over and over again, whether they are selling a car or selling a loan, promoting a grocery shop or a holiday, that only the young are beautiful. If you do not look young and beautiful you are not worthy of respect. We have swallowed this view and accepted it without questioning. Quick! Buy an anti-ageing cream, reduce those wrinkles!
Look at this rock. If we accept that this is the ‘face’ of Mother Earth, what do we see? Fissures and grooves worn into the rock by sand and sea over aeons of time. Her “wrinkles” do not make her any less beautiful, indeed they tell us a story of sunny days, stormy winters and we can imagine all that the rock has been exposed to. These lines, like ours, tell a story. Does Mother Earth fear ageing? I doubt it very much because despite her age she chooses to be reborn every spring time.
I am afraid this picture is a little out of focus but you can see that part of the Cherry tree looks dead and brittle and yet there are a couple of new buds on the verge of bursting into flower. The tree may look old and dried up but there is life in it again this year.
We women must stop worrying about wrinkles and ageing and focus on the life still within us. With life expectancy increasing all the time – the average age of death is around 80 years – we must put our lives into perspectve. If we reach menopause between, lets say, 50 and 60, then we have years and years left to be productive, adventurous and enthusiastic about life. Lets face it, we would look ridiculous if we had the smooth skin of a sixteen year old when we have the life experience of a 6o year old.
As we are encouraged to attempt to look younger than we are, what is the pressure on younger women like? They are encouraged to not grow up at all and are under pressure to remain eternally youthful. I just watched a documentary last night about young women undergoing labiaplasty – cosmetic surgery on the vulva! It is absolutely horrific to think that women are being encouraged by trends to hate their bodies to such an extent that they have part of their most intimate and feminine parts cut away. Their surgery denies their womanhood and makes them look like a pre-pubescent girl. What is that all about? On one side of the world women are forced into female circumcision because of a misogynistic culture and on our side of the world, young women are opting for similar surgery because they don’t feel they look good enough!! It is crazy!
Being different is ok. We shouldn’t all look the same. Ageing is ok too. After all, many women, in fact many people, don’t have the option to age so we are incredibly fortunate to reach an age where we have some lines and wrinkles.
Part of my workshop on Saturday 25th will be to teach people about herbal remedies that can be useful for relieving the menopausal experience but I will also be facilitating discussion about health and fitness and the importance of viewing menopause as a rite of passage. If we see it as a rite of passage, like the onset of menses or giving birth, then we will feel more powerful and happy within ourselves. Menopause is not the beginning of a decline towards death but is the commencement of a new age, an age of personal power, a rebirth.
I believe it is vitally important that the women of my generation who are in the peri-menopause, or have reached the menopause must come together, rediscover our power and teach our younger sisters that they are beautiful, that their bodies are perfect and that we with our wrinkles are also beautiful and perfect. Any time that we adopt a negative view of ourselves or another woman we are complying with a misogynistic patriarchal world view.