It’s humbling, this getting older thing. Why has something to do, in part, with cultural messages telling us we’re on the decline? Messages that tell us we should preserve ourselves.
Once it’s likely you’ve lived past the halfway point of your life, this fact can sometimes bring on a sense of urgency. It can shake at the core of Who am I? and What am I doing here? These are existential questions, of course. We’re less likely to be stirred into them earlier in life when we’re busy trying to become somebody. Raise kids. Work. Keep the house from looking like the chaos all that busyness feels like on the inside.
Over time, we’ve come to see menopause as a gateway to engaging more fully with the inner life and letting loose the grip on all the external stuff. Still, there’s always this old story whispering in the backdrop or from behind the looking glass that keeps so many women feeling a strange embarrassment about getting older.
That old story hammers at women long before we ever approach menopause. It tells a tale of outright misery that goes something like this:
You (and all the people around you!) have to endure a living hell for some untold
number of years while you go through menopause – spoken as if it’s an ugly word.
“Buckle up, folks,” so the story warns, “Get ready for the change. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”
As if it couldn’t get worse, there’s the fact that the change is referred to in countless science and medical articles as the climacteric. Short for: It’s all downhill from there, Ladies. Getting beyond the change is the beginning of the long road to the end – so the story goes.
That old story gets lodged in our cells long before we can tell it back. We’re told femininity and beauty are tied to youth. We’re told to hold onto that ‘college figure’. Maintain that girlish prettiness. There’s this message that keeping our body preserves our worth. You’ve heard people say it. Maybe you’ve said or thought it yourself about someone: She let her body go.
We urge you to cast aside any judgment for letting this story take up residence in your mind, mouth, and body. It gets fed to girl bodies before we can hold our own spoon and refuse it. Only when we see it for what it is can we begin to create a new story, a story that applauds a woman’s worth by the fact that she exists – that she’s a human being who loves and is loved.
Research shows that women who grow up with negative messages about menopause and getting older embody these messages. They tend to have a harder time with the menopause transition and aging than women in cultures that broadcast something a little easier to swallow.
Women growing up with the negative messages may resent menopause, struggle through it, and fight aging. That there’s a booming 21st-century ‘anti-aging’ movement fighting a natural process mostly against women lets us know the power of that old story.
More Hype Than Truth
The truth is there’s far more hype to the menopause transition than what many women experience.
Still, it takes some undoing to shed that old story and write our own. But we can, and we must, because if we don’t unlearn what this story unleashes on our body–self, we fight our body’s own becoming.
Menopause is a rite of passage – a doorway that many women that many women come to celebrate. Celebrating this passage can shore up the body for change, enhance her resilience as she adapts to these changes, and open us to what is waiting in the second half of life.
What is waiting is a homecoming, which brings with it a quality of beauty our younger selves couldn’t touch, a sensual sexiness that only comes with knowing who we are and feeling fully alive in our cells, an empowered self-worth that is hard-won self-knowing and self-loving.
Gateway to Vibrant Wellbeing
- What sensations, images, words, or reflections stir as you read about ‘the old story’ and that we ‘wear it in our cells’?
- How would you describe your beliefs about menopause and getting older?