So why do I have pictures of a guy scrolling for the women's retreat prep work? Because my husband is the one thing I can say is NOT in a state of flux during my middle years. Here's what is:
- Changing career
- Parents aging
- My body
- Living location
Life is always full of uncertainty and change. It's part of how we grow and mature but as I reached middle age I realized that there were a LOT of things that were starting to change in addition to my body. With peri-menopause came all sorts of physical and emotional changes. Weight gain, hot flashes, mood swings, panic attacks, acne. What I realized was that I was getting my physical attributes (except for the weight gain) under control when I would stick to my gluten free/dairy free eating plan. If I went off-course (especially adding wine into the mix), those physical attributes of menopause would kick right up again. OK. so for now, during peri-menopause, I have figured out what works for me to control my physical health (for the most part).
But what about those panic attacks during the night that I've never experienced before? What about the heightened PMS symptoms (mood swings) which I never know when to expect because with peri-menopause your cycle is hard to predict? That's when I started thinking about the emotional component to menopause. How many women (not just me) are going through some major life shifts during their middle years:
- Becoming empty nesters (sending their babies out into the world!).
- Contemplating getting back into the work force after full-time mothering.
- Contemplating a career shift (like me) because our bodies either can't hack the physical attributes of our work anymore or the stress level or just the simple fact that we've realized what we're doing is not what we want to do for the next 20-30 years of work.
- Caring for or being away from our aging parents. How hard is it to watch our parents age, get diagnosed and eventually die? We are losing our childhood. We are saying goodbye to those we trusted and loved most in the world and for some of us, we are also caretakers. Or for some of us there's the guilt of living halfway across the country while our siblings bear most of the responsibility.
- We start thinking about our legacies.
- We start thinking about our mates and out commitments to them.
So there we are. We're in a constant state of flux during the hardest shift in our bodies since puberty.
Here was a revelation for me. What in my life is NOT in a state of flux? This came to me while I was camping alone for five days in Joshua Tree a few years ago. I had just started contemplating a career change and The Healing Farm and I had just started experiencing the first symptoms of peri-menopause. I was panicked because I had never had a child. Pretty big stuff. So there I was out in the desert by myself and one evening by the campfire a song came on that reminded me of my husband. It's by one of his favorite bands and it's a great song. It ends with the repetition of the line "I'm in love with you. So in love." And I realized that despite everything else swirling around me during this crazy time, the one thing that is for sure is my relationship and my love for my husband. Do we have a perfect marriage? Far from it! But what we do have is mutual respect for each other and an ever increasingly exciting sex life. Now let me tell you. You can go pretty far in the contentment category with that!
So what I realized is that as everything else swirls. As my body changes. As my parents age. As my husband and I both figure out our future career paths and home, the one constant is that love for my husband and the loyalty we have for each other.
So the assignment? List what IS in flux during your middle years and then list (even if it's just one thing) that isn't in flux: the one or two or three constants in your life that you can cling to when everything else seems to be a tornado of emotions and changes around you. It could be your job. It could be your pet. It could be your new grandchild or your young child you are rearing late in life. It could be your faith. It could be a dear friend or sibling. There's something in your life that's not in flux so think about it. Meditate on it and when you feel yourself reeling come back to that.
I would love to discuss either in a group at the retreat or one-on-one your flux list and your constant list so either share here, share on the retreat facebook group or let's set up a time to share at the retreat. This is a time of great change in our lives so let's try not to get too freaked out. Let's try to embrace and make it our mid-life renaissance!