I'm in the middle of my fifties. It used to be difficult to say those words. Now I see it as a cause for celebration. I thought menopause was something to dread, that I'd have to give up my passionate, life force energy. From the viewpoint of my late forties, aging was something I desperately wanted to avoid.
On the other side of menopause now, I can confidently report the reduction of intense hormonal fluctuations is HUGE blessing. The crazy-making impulsive, reactivity and attraction to drama has all but disappeared. Life has become less of a roller coaster ride, and far more peaceful.
My dear friend Char knew. She turned 88 this past April, and when I first met her around six years ago, she told me I was going to LOVE my fifties! I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't even like the sound of fifty, let alone see any possible good that could come from being fifty-anything.
Now that I'm fifty-five, I understand. I suspect that the upside of menopause is a well-kept secret among those who have moved through this rite of passage. The blessings are many. Rather than feel a loss as I thought I would,I feel relief that the chapter of my life that revolved around the needs of others has ended, and that I now have the space to reflect and to be...to listen to my heart without compromise or holding back. Not that I'm not nostalgic and sometimes sad over the ending of my parenting years (it flew by), however, my true monastic self has finally emerged. I can now give my internal hermit permission to not engage with others for long stretches of time without guilt. I can authentically enjoy reading, walking in the woods and other solitary pursuits with a new level of appreciation.
Life as an older woman without the props and buffers of marriage and children requires me to tap into an inner resilience that previously was dormant. I can now draw on recently rediscovered inner tools to help me navigate this new terrain. Of course, it was disorienting at first. I felt unmoored without the identity of mother surrounding me in my immediate environment. Over time, I've adjusted. Now, I welcome the shedding, the purging, the unlearning, the unraveling of this stage of life. Lightening the load has given me a greater awareness of the present moment. I'm less distracted, more focused.
My prior life as a wife and mother from this place, often feels more like a dream of another lifetime, than something that engaged me for over thirty years. As I've reconnected with aspects of myself that I'd left behind when I got married at twenty-three, I've moved through a range of feelings: regret over choices made and not made, sadness over losses and changes, fear of the unknown, joy due to new-found freedom, anger at the remaining restrictions and so on. A veritable kaleidoscope of responses to this new landscape. Sometimes I'm even shocked by how unprepared I was for this empty-nest phase of life.
You see, I became restless over ten years ago. I essentially awakened from a long slumber and started asking some very difficult questions. The answers led to the end of my twenty-four year marriage, a cross-country move, single parenting, deep soul searching and a recommitment to myself. This was a dress rehearsal for the life I'm living now. I purged most of my possession then. Five short years later, I did it again. Both times I took only what would fit in my vehicle. But this time I had no plan and no destination and NO home base.
I went from brave to really brave. The purging continues. As does the unraveling. I'm still reclaiming parts of myself as I move toward wholeness. I'm much more clear about what I need to thrive and to live authentically.
I sense that another big change is about to happen. Something radical this way comes that will blow my remaining restrictions out of the water. Timing is everything. I've learned a great deal since becoming nomadic about not pushing or rushing things. But I can still feel the rumbles of change underfoot. All I can do is prepare myself and wait.
Stay tuned...also feel free to share your current shedding or shifting in the comments below.