RITE OF PASSAGE: GETTING OLDER OR GROWING ELDER…?
Many moons ago a little boy asked me
What are you going to be when you grow up Aunty?
Tell me, what are you going to be?
A policeman, a lawyer, a teacher, a keeper of bees?
A politician, writer, lion tamer or surgeon of trees?
Tell me, what are you going to be?
What am I going to be when I grow up?
Let me see… What am I going to be?
Why I don’t think I want to be
Anything other than me!
And all the things which make me me
Is what I’ll be…
Stargazer, dreamer, watcher of the sea
Talker with animals and even trees
Whisperer with elementals, nature spirits, faeries
Explorer of mountains and wide open valleys
Dancer with the wind, drinker of the breeze
Chatterer with the bubbling brooks till ice makes them freeze
Lover of life from the giraffe to the flea
Roarer with lions, howler with wolves and hummer with bees
Sharer of wine (or chocolate), of ideas, of things which make us go ‘Wheeee!’
Diver in consciousness and finder of keys
To the lion hearts of all the other you’s and me’s
And yet still be home for tea
When we define ourselves we choose who and what we’re going to be
And these definitions define us most definitely
So choose them wisely
Because you are FREE
to be everything you can possibly
© Francesca Cassini, 2014
See below a video I made of this poem in 2016
As we grow older and pass through that threshold of 50, we discover one of the biggest definitions that we as women live with at this time: that of being perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal.
Each stage of this transition has its challenges and is now even considered an illness. Within these definitions are rafts of supporting definitions, for example; angry, foggy-minded, unreliable, weepy, crazy. Can you think of all the definitions you hold/held about yourself during this extended period of time, as well as those definitions and judgements others may have held about you?
The whole menopause journey precipitates thoughts of growing older, for many of us a sense of growing ‘less’.
What does it mean to get older…? Particularly for women…
We lose the elasticity of our skin, the flexibility of our knees
The colour of our hair
We lose our fertility
We lose our parents, our friends
We lose our sight, our hearing, our balance
We sometimes lose our savings, our home, our inheritance
We lose standing in our community
We may lose our minds
We lose our freedom
Eventually we lose our lives
You see, once we’ve lost our fertility it all becomes about loss…
My greatest loss was that of hope – hope for bearing children, having a husband, a career, a home and a satisfying life. I was homeless, even though I called myself nomadic at the time…
So we define ourselves as losing, and depression can become a dark night of the soul.
Dark Night of the Soul
My dark night of the soul hit a short time after a Christmas I didn’t enjoy, soon after turning 59. The entire Christmas ‘holiday’ felt like a prolonged judgement weighing both of my shoulders down. I contracted a chest infection which laid me out in a quiet darkened room for a fortnight, with no energy for anything other than staring the emptiness of my life in the face.
I got to the point where instead of defending my life choices I surrendered to them and accepted they had apparently been distinctly bad choices. I had messed up my whole life and now it was simply too late to do anything about it. I had tried innumerable times and felt I had failed at every step. All that was left was to decline in to old age and die sooner or later – a sad and lonely pauper. I had never allowed myself to go so deeply in to that depression before, and it felt like a relief. No longer was I hiding from the truth. I didn’t know what to do about it – but at least I was being honest, I thought.
Sometimes those times of deepest darkness become turning points. Out of the blue as I was still squeaky-voiced, I received an offer of work doing something I love, and less than three months later I was flying over the Andes on a bucket list five-week tour of Peru. Instead of the horizon appearing grey and lack-lustre, it turned in to a million shades of vibrant sizzling silver and a new idea emerged…
What if everything we’ve experienced up to menopause is really a practice run?
What if the main event is not having children and/or a career?
What if everything has been leading up to this time when we become who we were always destined to be – a wise elder woman, valid and valuable in our world today with a significant role to play?
What if being a wise elder woman is our birthright – in our DNA?
Just like in indigenous communities – why should we be any different?
But I wondered what would kick-start us in to believing we’re wise elders instead of the definition we so effortlessly wear?
When it came to me it was obvious – through every stage in our lives, more so in the indigenous cultures, there are rites of passage through these transitions of age.
Rite of Passage
What if menopause is our rite of passage? What if everything we experience, if we allow ourselves to be guided by our bodies and our intuition and surrender to the turbulence of the journey, is a portal to our deeply held wisdom? What if medication (self-prescribed or not) dampens our ability to access the finer recesses of ourselves, making this rite of passage null and void? What if this rite of passage takes us from the mundane to the mystical, if we honour and allow it?
How would you approach or consider your menopause journey if you decided it was a powerful rite of a passage to your wise elder self?
See a video I made of my Many Moons Ago poem in 2016 to share – view HERE
Also by Francesca: Hogwarts for the Over 50s Woman?
Books by Francesca here
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