“We are born into a family, a lineage, a city, a country – a vast web of the living and of ancestors who have passed. Placed within this cocoon of connection and intimacy, you’d think we ought to feel secure, safe and loved – that we belong.”
As a child, soon after we see, we are aware that we can also be seen. Like a little girl at the window becoming aware that as those on the street can be seen, they too can see her, she becomes aware of herself in relation to the world around her.
We learn as young girls that we must be good, gentle, nurturing, smart and beautiful. We attempt to be that kind of girl. We learn to grow into the skin of a woman’s presence, manifest in her gestures, voice, opinions, expressions, clothes, chosen surroundings, taste. In contrast to men, their presence is dependent upon the promise of power which they embody. If large, his presence is striking.
Presence for a woman is intrinsic to her nature and it is seen and experienced by men as almost a physical emanation. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually, and to adjust herself for praise and validation. In the patriarchal system or system of domination women are born into, we are born into the keeping of men and the patriarchal woman – the masculine dominion.
All of this is largely unconscious to us and to our family raising us, who inadvertently project the role of woman and man into daily interactions. But then one day, we begin to notice that we are not happy, that we’re angry, that we’re ill, stressed, even bored. And we can’t put our finger on it, or we do, which is a great gift.
And sometimes when we’ve not quite figured out that we haven’t individuated yet into who we really are underneath all of what we are supposed to be, it can hit us when perimenopause arrives and our emotional landscape becomes strewn with the ghosts and ghouls of unmet need, love, and authenticity. Whew, it’s a biggie!
And what an opportunity then, when we are perimenopausal and our thoughts and emotions rage through dark nights, to get to know what the heck is going on. Why these thoughts? Why this rage? This is a time for therapy. Oh the therapist out there who will guide you back to your north star, your home, YOU! And you can finally emerge.
What are the five words that describe what you most want to feel right now? Go on, write them down.
When I was asked this question by my therapist over 12 years ago now, my words were peace, to be loved, happy, whole, me. And the journey began toward that. Those words you wrote down – you deserve to feel these things, or be these things.
As I’ve hit perimenopause, I’ve done a lot of the inner work and I feel lucky. I don’t have to mine the quagmire of the mystifying and unrelenting emotions clawing at me for attention. But I know that place. I’ve been there. And now in perimenopause I have some visits from time to time by my old friends ‘mystifying heavy emotions’ and I mine them and reveal an old hurt or wound. I know how.
I want for every woman to become who she really is. And unfortunately, we have to do a lot of undoing and unlearning through life so that She can emerge. If you are experiencing mystifying and unrelenting emotions as you journey through perimenopause and menopause, get some help to scrub off the dirt of others, patriarchy and all its tools, like the media. Scrub it all off and find you.
I make sense of a lot of persistent emotions by writing a poem to draw out the words. I wrote this poem in Greece in 2012 when I was 42, in the throes of becoming.
The Hinterlands of Woman
A snake hisses and now it’s the fault of woman
I never liked being a woman anyway, so cover me over
and fork my tongue —
melt these breasts down
and sever my pleasure —
ignite my limbs
and litigate my hips —
to be really sure
make me a plucky little girl
make me a too-spirited little girl
make me a little-miss-know-it-all little girl
or a you-can’t-do-anything-right little girl
make me a spiteful and ungrateful little girl
make me a it’s-our-little-secret little girl
make me a very troubled little girl
and I won’t dare say a word about my stain of shame
Un-letter me so that I can be of good service to copulating and populating
but, let me peek at you through my shuttered eyes — I won’t tell
Domesticate me in my rightful and honourable place
but, allow me my fantasies — they protect me from you
Objectify me so that I can be of good service to sexual preference
but, please let me eat that chocolate pie — I won’t show
Alienate me and make me a target for womankind and mankind’s loss of dignity
but, don’t be cruel if I cling on fast to you because you’re all I know and all I have
Ravage me and my daughters so that we can be fuel to your raging power
but oh Lord, I don’t want to die — please please please please please don’t enter me
Over-work me so that I can be of good service to global consumerism and capitalism
but, let me see my children — I won’t flee
Languish me in magazine-glamour idle numbing life on the arm of my vital husband and my children will ignore me, even loathe me —
my husband too
coat me in armour
cut my mane
give me a horse
and a sword
as big as yours
as big as you are
I will succeed like you
but what I will really do is seethe inside unknowingly and my germinating parts will disease
and I will keep working toward the higher echelon of perfection and power and my germinating parts still disease
I will be broken so broken inside
and you won’t want me anymore
so this is me —
woman, all covered up —
and dying of shame
Aging. Lifestyle. Menopause. Mental Wellbeing. Perimenopause. Women’s Empowerment.