I’VE DISCOVERED THAT MENOPAUSE, INSTEAD OF BEING THE END of life as I knew it, a slow downhill slide to old age and my eventual demise, has been the most magical of doorways to heightened creativity, confidence and new opportunities. My life will never be the same again, so there has been an ending, but it is better than it has ever been before.
I remember hitting menopause, and the emotional pain I experienced when I realised I would never have my own child. It felt like I’d been badly remiss and lost the opportunity as stupidly as mislaying a set of keys. The feeling of loss was profound and yet I was also aware I hadn’t ever clearly gone after conceiving a child either. My choice in partners had resulted in many experiences of extensive personal growth but never offered the kind of stability which results in the growth of a baby.
I had a few menopausal symptoms – hot flushes and brain fog along with a sense of unease. And although I had never truly felt I belonged anywhere this was exacerbated through the passage of menopause and I was adrift like an untethered boat on an increasingly rough ocean.
My mother’s menopause had been uneventful so I had little knowledge of the experience, and I didn’t ask anyone either. I felt ashamed that my life had worked out the way it had, as I considered myself lacking in so many things I felt were a natural part of a woman’s life. So kicking my menopause under the carpet with all my other shameful secrets seemed like the obvious thing to do.
I became nomadic (which some people call homeless). I house- dog- and cat-sat around the country, I volunteered at an eco-estate in France, and I helped out where and when I could in exchange for my keep. And then I landed for two years with a family I had known for a while and became an honorary Auntie for the two children who are the closest to having my own I shall ever experience. For a while I felt valid and valuable but after almost two years as an ‘Auntie au pair’ and approaching sixty years old I began to sense a disturbing prickle of vulnerability.
A dark night of the soul hit and my future looked bleak. For two weeks I hid underneath the duvet, not even trying to heal from a nasty chest infection which I always contracted when I felt unsupported… but this time I couldn’t point a finger at any one else. This time I was clearly not supporting myself.
As I faced this demon without backing down, without trying to change anything for the better, without uttering ‘it’s all good’ and pretending all was perfect, everything changed just as effortlessly as if I was looking at life through a kaleidoscope and giving it a firm twist.
A perfect job offer came out of the blue. I travelled to Peru and took Ayahuasca in the Amazon, San Pedro in the Sacred Valley, while back in the UK I communed with the Goddess of Cacao at a ceremony on Clapham Common. I found myself not sliding downhill at all but surprisingly effortlessly following the path of my heart. It led me to spend four months alone in an off-grid yurt in a secluded valley during the wildest and wettest winter on record in Wales. It was the most magical experience I have ever had. This adventure, combined with my trip to Peru, fed my interest in the idea that we women over fifty years old, far from being past our sell by date, are actually wise elder women – valid and valuable in our world today with wisdom worth sharing.
Everywhere I went I met wonderful women over fifty who inspired me with their passion for life, who made me laugh at their quirky sense of humour and who radiated an inner beauty. I was excited to meet so many women who were such perfect examples of my insight, however I was also meeting many women who had lost their way after menopause and who felt how I had previously felt.
World Upside Down
After a powerful calling to attend an Elven Shamanic Retreat with Elen Tompkins (author of Silver Wheel – The Lost Teachings of the Deerskin Book) I re-connected with my Lemurian Self. I didn’t consciously understand what I was exploring in all honesty but there was no denying the impact this work had on me. A few days after I returned home everything in my world flipped upside down. My job disappeared in the blink of an eye, my rented home was no longer an option, and my cat who was reunited with me after almost four years of my nomadic lifestyle was badly hurt and became diabetic.
But when the shit hits the fan I now expect breakthrough and it came in the form of what felt like a download… to create a global community for women over fifty to come together and rediscover our wild, wonderful and wise elder selves and take this wisdom out in to the world. The Silver Tent was born.
Birth of The Silver Tent
Since then I have heard a myriad of compelling stories letting me know we are on the right track. We women are awesome! By living for over five decades we have experienced so much and have wisdom by the bucketload if only we access it effectively. I believe it takes a rite of passage sometimes to unlock this wisdom, and menopause is this rite of passage.
We can dumb down our symptoms and emotional pain with medication like Prozac, or we can listen to our bodies’ needs, adjust our diet if need be, go within and explore the depth and breadth of our own inner nature. Some of us can do this on our own and some of us need a bit more hand-holding – neither being right or wrong, just an individual requirement. And as we develop this understanding, being held in the embrace of a like-hearted community gives us a profound place to be witnessed.
Frontier of Death
Two years later my life is spiralling up rather than down. I now have my own home in a big static caravan with a stunning view I adore, and I have published my first book called Together We Rock! which is about the emergence of The Silver Tent. Soon I will publish my second book about how the frontier of death isn’t the final one after all, and I run two courses (on and offline) I absolutely love which are receiving fabulous feedback.
I lost my public speaking virginity a couple of months ago when I was invited to be the after dinner speaker at the Welsh GP Conference, and I took great delight in sharing my perception of menopause and beyond. Now, I have started to walk myself fit in order to have the strength and stamina to follow a Welsh pilgrimage on foot sometime next year. And a growing network of extraordinary friends help make my life feel beyond rich and I am awed at the shift in trajectory from what I imagined four years ago.
Rite of Passage
So if you are in the midst of menopause what is its impact on you?
What questions would you love to ask someone in an environment you felt is truly supportive?
If you feel overwhelmed and challenged, how might it help to imagine this as a positive, life-transforming rite of passage?
If you have felt the benefit of the transition through menopause, what was its impact on you?
Have you felt a rush of energy and creativity?
Are you rediscovering yourself, or even re-designing yourself anew?
If you are a woman over 50 and looking for a similar discovery please come and join the discussions in The Silver Tent Facebook group, if you haven’t already.
Together We Rock! Available here
Another blog by Francesca Cassini Hogwarts