“Lie back, and the sea will hold you”
First Lesson, Philip Booth
Yes, I want to tell you, there is emotional turmoil. Yes, there is pain and a descent into darkness. Yes, you may feel like you’re lost in a dark tunnel with no way out some of the time. The rest of the time, you dance and laugh at parties with a glass of Merlot in your hand, and serve the children tacos and spaghetti, whichever is their favourite. You come home from work tired and decide to read a book after supper, but instead you fall asleep at 8:30, wake up sleepless at 3:00 a.m.
Two years earlier, I felt like bug soup. Inside my chrysalis, all my ragged edges, horns and spotted caterpillar shape, the multiple legs and little prickly bits were all melting, turning into bug soup, and I felt mush-muscled. Only God knew what shape I would take or how my wings would form, which colours scintillate. Some wild blue turquoise, yellowy green, something completely different than the rose or fuchsia I imagined.
I felt tired, not only physically, but mentally tired of resisting this quiet destiny. No flames, flammèches or fireworks; it was low-key and subterranean, a lying low until strength could be gathered for flight. The peri-menopause is the period before the coming cessation of bleeding, not wholly begun yet because I was still bleeding profusely every 28 days, except for one month missed. This was the chrysalis phase, an in-between transition—I was not yet transformed, not of one world-- the young energetic past--nor of the other (mellow, old and wise) but on a shuttlebus between the two states. Perhaps 49 is not the end of energy and youthful vigour (although in the sorry shape I was in, both hips and shoulders aching, it felt like it). But just a transition phase.
Yes, at this phase the tears come more easily, and even a little something wrong upsets you. But what I want to talk about is the joy that follows, the big joy, not just a little joy, that does come finally after the dust settles, or after you come blinking out of the tunnel, into the place where you don’t recognize yourself. Once you come up into the clear mountain air, a small ray of sunshine appears, then a whole bright day ahead.
Where did I find my joy? In discovering I was ready to serve – not like before, not to forget myself, nor to give all my power away by being a good girl and getting kudos or to please others, but opening to being a fully satisfied, complete woman, a woman with power. In discovering I have wings, and in learning how to spread them – not to fly away – necessarily, but to rise above the pettiness, jealousy and drudgery of my own mind, to find the purity, clarity, and peace of heart within. Oh, my wings are real; they are white and muscular. But they shine invisibly, growing out from my heart center.
Where did I lose my joy? In making myself small, too small to see. In resentment, and fear of speaking out, fear of owning my truth, fear of what my neighbour thinks of me. I used to feel it hunched a little in my neck and shoulders, but it’s leaving, being cleared away by the work I am doing and the grace of god. I am an ordinary woman with extraordinary powers, that have also been given to each woman. The power to love, the power to inspire by my actions, the power to forgive myself for being human and making mistakes. Where do I find my joy? In sharing the wealth: in hearing your stories, and in sharing mine. In making it brand new, each new day. In realizing I am flawed but fabulous!
My life story is fairly ordinary: I was a child, I learned to love, I loved people who sometimes hurt me, but I am extraordinarily blessed in being with a caring, gentle man I love and had two children with him; I have bled once a month (almost) since I was fifteen, and since age 51 I am finished with that. I have been in the liminal space, in between young and old, but I am still in the middle years. From here, I can look backwards and forwards, but my pleasure is to stay right here, right now, in the present. And breathe, once more, into the closer, immediate present.
Getting some nurturing, in Rolfing therapy and healing massages and osteopathic treatments have helped open up the shoulder and neck muscles and release the fear I’ve been holding. I also had some coaching in which I discovered I wanted to work with ordinary women, not be a literary wunderkind. I have found my joy, in the possibility of speaking in my own voice to other women, in leading workshops and retreats and sharing my discoveries, and in all of us learning that we are not alone.
And where I really found my joy was in the openness to not knowing, to relaxing into the questions, dialoguing with my inner Wise Self in my journal as I rappelled down the mountain inch by inch, finding a safe ledge to stand on, then finding there was water down below where I could float on an air mattress, and let the sea support me.
Ah that is where my joy is, in being supported by the universal ocean. The trust I am learning to feel inside. That is worth gold; that feeds and nurtures me.
I wish you the courage to stick with the questions in the transition phase and emerge on the other side of the mid-life transition into your wonderful, powerful Joy.