The Possibility of Reinvention
Women have an inherent passage at mid-life that is often the harbinger of reinvention: menopause. It is through this biological, social and neurological stage of development that many women redefine their identity, reorganize their priorities and become
powerful creators in the world. Because women now have many more years to live and to adjust their lives going forward, in menopause, they often first reevaluate and
consider the path they have trod. Then, with new insight and understanding of themselves and fueled by physical changes, including adjustment of hormones that affect mood and behavior, they embark on a new era of generativity.
Christiane Northrup puts it this way in her seminal work, The Wisdom of Menopause, “Throughout most of human history, the vast majority of women died before menopause; for those who survived, menopause was experienced as a signpost of an imminent and inevitable physical decline. But today, with a woman’s life expectancy averaging between seventy-eight and eighty-four years, it is reasonable to expect that she will not only live thirty to forty years beyond menopause, but be vibrant, sharp and influential as well.”
The Brain Re-Wired
Part of what happens in menopause is a powerful rewiring of the brain and nervous system. For many women focus shifts away from child bearing, from care-giving, and begins to bend towards their own, perhaps long buried, longings, dreams and interests. Northrop puts it this way, “Research into the physiological changes taking place in the perimenopausal woman is revealing that, in addition to the hormonal shift that means an end to childbearing, our bodies – and specifically, our nervous system – are being, quite literally, rewired…menopause is an exciting developmental stage – one that, when participated in consciously, holds enormous promise for transforming and healing our bodies, minds and spirits at the deepest levels.”
Regret as Fuel for the Journey
Many women describe menopause as a time of regret. Youth and vitality seem to be slipping away. Choices made have foreclosed many others: The education not pursued, the relationship lost or damaged, the journeys not taken. There are so many things we haven’t done, or said or experienced. But, regret can serve as both a road map for the second half of life as well as the fuel to move us forward.
The trick in using regret as fuel, rather than allowing it to depress us, is to grieve the past, forgive the younger you who did the best she knew how, and then reclaim or discover for the first time what is meaningful, what you are passionate about, what feels like adventure and challenge, and how you can re-jigger your life to include those.
Look for next week’s blog when we will continue to explore reinvention in the second half of life.