While I'm in the mood for quoting books, another great resource for women of all ages is "A Woman's Book of Life, The Biology, Psychology, and spirituality of the feminine life cycle", by Joan Borysenko.
I went to a workshop with Joan at Kripalu last fall. She is a very warm, caring person and great presenter. I liked how she used a lot of short breaks to help us get back in touch with our own 'body guidance' by breathing into the belly. I especially like her chapter in the above-mentioned book on The Midlife Metamorphosis. She names the gifts we come into in mid-life as authenticity, emptying, and rededication to the feminine values of relatedness, respect for life, (the 'tend and befriend' impulse we have in times of stress). She quotes Margaret Mead talking about the midlife years as a time of "postmenopausal zest".
So it's not just a time of descent into fuzzy brained forgetfulness and hot flashes. On the bright side, we become more vocal, more self-reliant, more emotionally mature. We move with integrity from our own values, free to make our own judgments about what is right for us, not afraid of what people think. "This is not about selfishness ... it's about self-ness, being self-full, soul-full, trusting yourself deeply enough to know that if your commitment is to act with integrity you will by definition relate with care, compasion and love, so that you don't have to be afraid that by being yourself you won't care for others." (Borysenko quoting Janet Quinn)
Borysenko names one of the gifts as 'emptying'. Emptying out closets, giving away clothes we no longer wear, clearing up credit card debt, deciding to make do with one car instead of two, learning to live lightly. I have a friend who recently left a relationship and is in between jobs, in between houses, and living apart from her kids, two of whom are grown up and working. She is definitely in a mid-life transition on all levels. All she has is her computer and a suitcase or two of clothes, while her furniture and belongings are in storage. While this is a scary and challenging time, I told her I envy her the freedom she has. Life is allowing her to make choices she never had to make, (even simple ones like what to eat for supper) to learn to trust her own knowing, find her strengths.
I often fantasize that I live alone in a little house in the woods, with less material 'stuff' to take care of. And this spring, my closets are definitely going to get a thorough emptying, as we prepare to move in the fall (yes, it's a smaller house).
But it's my head that needs emptying most of all. I have stopped writing poetry for a while, stopped reading novels, stopped caring what goes on in the intellectual world of writers. I want to get in touch with the feeling mode, with the new way I want to feel - grounded, joyful, authentic, in touch with core values. My favourite place to be is not reading a book anymore, but stretching into downward dog in my yoga class (or more truthfully, lying in corpse pose in relaxation).
Borysenko reports that the number of women between forty-five and fifty-four will increase by one half (from 13 to 19 million) by the year 2000 (wait a minute - we're 2007!) - so our time has come!
Midlife women are taking over the world. Time to let people now we're taking our place, taking up space. And pushing for peace :)
Enjoy your gifts,