This is dedicated to Vweta for raising the subject of menopause here within our WorldPulse community, and to all who are writing about the horrendous treatment of old women in their communities. My Sisters, we all go through this at some point in time.
I have been lucky to have been surrounded in my adult years by so many women determined to expand horizons for women, researching old and creating new ceremonies that respect the stages of life that we go through. My own mother broke the silence around menstruation by speaking openly with me as a young girl, as her mother had been unwilling to speak about it, sending my mother to her older sister for explanation. When my mother went through menopause I had no idea. I did know that at some point the “child-bearing years” ended and we stopped bleeding. When she was going through it, I was far away in a different part of Canada and it was only when I began my own journey through menopause that I realized she had gone through it years before, with no mention of it.
Menopause came early for me, at age 45. By then I was aware of what it was, and had heard some stories from older friends. By then too, I had had many occasions to be in the company of groups of women exploring many forms of suppression of, silencing of and disrespect for women, including the dismissal of old women. I had been able to take part in what we call Crone Circles in which we meet by sitting in order of age, from youngest to oldest, to talk together, to honour the oldest women in the circle, to have the oldest and youngest sit by each other. The dictionary defines “Crone” as from “carcass” and “cantankerous woman”. We knew that there was a great fear, even revulsion of getting old, being considered ugly and being dismissed. We renamed Crone as an old woman, a wise woman. We chose 50 as a good age to celebrate as a Crone. Though 50 seemed still young, it is the average year that women experience menopause, and we were aware that at 50 it was most likely that we were more than halfway through our lives.
When I had my first hot flash, I didn't immediately recognize it. I had had an unusual dream that night though, the details since forgotten, but it was about something significant happening, and that it was a surprise. Soon I realized that the hot flashes were here to stay for awhile, and that my periods were disappearing. A dear Sister who I had been in Circles with for years came and put a book in my hand, The Menopausal Years, by Susun Weed. When I think of how lucky I was to experience the beginning of my menopausal years this way, in stark contrast to what you, dear Vweta and other WorldPulse sisters have described for women in your lives, I am in tears.
Susun Weed is an experienced herbalist, one of many here in North America. Not everything works for everyone, and different theories clash, one of the biggest being: to take a medical estrogen replacement, or, to take the journey without medication through the decrease in estrogen, which happens in menopause. Estrogen replacement here in Canada comes from a pharmaceutical named Premarin, which is taken from the urine of a pregnant female horse (pregnant-mare-urin). A whole wave of women my age decided to stay out of the medical model and go through menopause as naturally as possible. We were told we were crazy and that it wouldn’t work. We proved differently. What was helpful by Susun’s work and others, was to have acknowledged that one way does not fit all, that there are variations and degrees of challenges, and that we could each discover what worked for us. That can range from cooling off, to wanting to see a doctor. For me it was drinking lots of cold water. So much has to do with keeping our bodies happy.
On the emotional side, it is without doubt the end of child bearing years, which is again different for each of us. It is the end to what has reminded us monthly that we are women, and capable of giving birth. I had decided early that my life path would not involve giving birth to children, and it is an ongoing theme in my life to reassure people who feel sorry for me, or stand up to people who dismiss me, that this was a conscious choice, and a choice that I believe every woman should have the right to make, whether it is when and how many children she wants to have, whether to not give birth to a child at all, or to be respected if she can’t. Entering menopause there is no turning back, and it is entering womanhood as a post-childbearing age woman. Even for a woman who chose not to give birth, the growing into being menopausal and post menopausal was a journey both physical and emotional. There is a deep, spiritual side to this time of life.
Again I felt my good fortune being surrounded by women, many a few years older than me, who made the path. I was also in a chapter of my life in which I was on women’s land in the woods, growing organic food for people and living deeply in nature. I was glad that I was at that point not public speaking and organizing workshops, and I feel for any women who are. Any amount of stress can bring on a flash. My menopausal journey lasted ten years. Eventually those hot flashes, which we called Power Surges became energy that could be transformed into inspiration.
The discrimination toward old women, the disgust hurled at us for our aging bodies, the distain and dismissal of our intelligence, the assumption that we are useless burdens, the pushing out of communities, the loss of land and homes, the forced menstrual and widow huts, the forced living in temples for widows, the beatings, the murders, are all finally being brought forward by WorldPulse sisters everywhere. The lack of gratitude for all that those old women have given, the loss of what they have still to offer, the denial of their beauty and wisdom is all part of what we are collectively working to change, from stopping the killing of girls at birth, to mentoring young girls through a happy, safe and educated youth, to celebrating full and happy adulthoods in lives chosen, not forced, and into our crone years, all of this is connected.
And so I hope that this story about my post menopausal years that I do cherish, will be of interest you as we work on all the ways that this too, has to be shifted for the sake of all of your lives, and for the lives of women who are old now, especially in countries in which their/your precious lives are in danger. As a woman just beginning to approach old age, I send my love out to the elder ancient ones everywhere, and to the younger Amazons creating change.
***For Common Effects of Menopause and Natural Remedies, combined from many women's stories, message me and I will send it.