We so often hear that the years after 50 are the downhill ones, particularly for the woman’s body!
Menopause seems to be the signalling point of the start of the decline – where our body is supposed to start wrinkling up, drying up and even, horror of horrors, shrivelling up. And for many years I thought the same, but recently I have learnt differently. . .
As a woman in my seventies I have reclaimed my femaleness through a deeper understanding of the many changes my body is going through, both physically and emotionally.
I subscribed to the old adage of looking at life as a linear journey from start to finish – from being young to growing old – and it certainly was not a comforting thought that as the years were passing I was getting closer and closer to the ‘finish line’. However, now I delight in the knowing that my life has been a series of cycles and since my menopause period (over twenty years ago) I have entered a beautiful and rewarding cycle of life – my elder wisdom cycle.
What constitutes being in an ‘elder wisdom cycle’ and what do I mean by ‘femaleness’ you may well ask. Let me start with appreciating the cycle of being in ‘elder wisdom’. Our life’s experiences can be the starting point, but experience alone does not bring us ‘elder wisdom.’ In our society, wisdom has been very much associated with knowledge, intelligence, high degrees in education and how much and what you know.
However, elder wisdom runs deeper than having knowledge; I have found it is the sense of understanding a deeper meaning of life, it is connecting deeply with who you are and what you bring to humanity, it is living a life of love and commitment to seeing others as equals, it is the sharing of the grace, stillness and serenity you are, it is being responsible for knowing that this cycle of our lives is where we, as women, can be a real role model of ageing joyfully.
It is understanding that a woman’s body, no matter what cycle of life it is in – is a precious and sacred gift to be appreciated, valued and honoured.
Yes, physically, my body has, and is, going through many changes – some are welcomed and some are not so welcomed – but I am now accepting that when I understand why and what these changes bring to me I can begin to appreciate my changing body both on the inside and on the outside.
Starting with menopause – I initially welcomed it as it signalled the end of the menstruation cycle, the end to worrying about getting pregnant, the end of ‘that time of the month’ syndrome that played havoc with both my working and social life. Little did I truly understand what the real purpose of periods were in a women’s body, other than they were an indication of whether one was pregnant or not! A very superficial understanding, now that I know just how important they are as a monthly cycle of clearing and cleansing of my ovaries of energies that affect the whole body.
So why is this important to understand now that I no longer have periods? Surprisingly, to me, a woman’s body still has these monthly clearing and cleansing cycles, only instead of it being heralded by a period, it is aligned with the moon calendar. The monthly full moon cycle is equated to the bleeding of when we had periods. I found this information to be quite a revelation for me, and it is only since I started to diarise how my body felt and the changes I felt in my ovaries during the Full Moon that I began to understand just how valuable this cycle continues to be for clearing and cleansing my female organs.
Since menopause I had stopped being aware, and consequently had no connection with my uterus and ovaries, mainly because I believed that as they were no longer useful as a means for procreation, they would have become dried up or even possibly have shrivelled away. Not so, as I now can connect to, and feel, they are still a very important part of me and reflect my femaleness in all its glory. I haven’t lost my womanliness now that I am not having physical periods – instead I have gained a deeper love of, and appreciation of being a woman in my elder years.
My elder years’ cycle has given me the opportunity of loving and appreciating my female body once again – just as I did when I was in my twenties – however, the love I now have emanates from the inside of my body and is not dependant on how I look on the outside.
The grace, the tenderness, the delicateness and the preciousness I now feel on a daily basis reflects a woman who is in the ‘prime of her life’!
Oh dear, the wrinkles and the ‘fall of gravity’ affecting my body’s structure were not so welcomed! However, instead of bemoaning these changes I have learnt to accept them as confirmation of my life’s experiences. It’s a different attitude to hold when so much of society looks to youthfulness and ‘beauty’ as being the ‘holy grail’ for a woman.
As a woman in her seventies, the outside appearances of my body do little to affect the inner beauty, the inner wisdom, the inner joy that I feel every morning as I wake up to a new day of living ‘me’!
How many times is it touted that ‘beauty is only skin deep’ – as an elder woman we know the truth of this saying – it is up to us to live it, treasure it and indeed flaunt it!
What has my elder years cycle brought for me emotionally? I am finding that I have let go of the emotional woman I was in my previous cycles (younger years!). Women are generally classified as ‘emotional’, hysterical, reactive, and illogical, and at times, irrational but is this who we really are, or have we been stereotyped because of the ups and downs experienced during our menstruation cycles?
I can see no value in displaying emotions that do not serve me as an elder woman. All those emotions that caused pain, jealousy, comparison, thoughtlessness, anger, false hopes and false successes have been discarded and are replaced with a more graceful and serene manner of being. I love and value the opportunity of being able to read a situation and to understand what is going on for the parties involved and not to become absorbed in their emotions. I can now actually observe and not react – surely a sign of my elder wisdom coming into play.
And finally, how do I define my femaleness and sacredness? I have always seen myself as a ‘person’ and ignored the femaleness of my body, totally resisting feeling my sacredness as a woman. Outside of their function of procreation, I had lost my connection to the true sacredness of my female organs. I had lost the connection of the stillness I carry naturally and innately within my body as I travelled through life, day after day, totally disconnected from the inner harmony and stillness that my womb holds.
The working cycle years of my life were spent in thinking that rushing – not stillness – was the way to get things done, or that hardening up, being tough and pushing through was the way to manage life.
Now, in my elder years I am valuing that my innate delicateness and sensitivity are precious and strong aspects of my femaleness and this knowing leads to a deep sense of stillness which my body, my wellbeing and my life truly thrive on.
And so . . . in my elder wisdom and in being ever so gentle and loving with myself as a woman I have discovered that we all hold the seed of sacredness deep within our own bodies. And that our sacredness is divine and has always stayed pure, irrespective of what has happened in our individual lives over the years. I can now acknowledge that I have lived my life in a male energy of pushing and driving my body, however, I am now deeply aware of how living my life connecting to my sacredness and femaleness contributes to the ‘elder wisdom’ that I have to offer and share with all.
As I age I am much more committed to living my life in the fullness of appreciating me, of being a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend and living within a community made up of all of these people – until my last breath.
Learning to accept ourselves for who we truly are in our uniqueness as women, especially as we move through the elder cycle of our life, is both a blessing to ourselves and to others.
Ruth A., Australia