Who is this person looking back at me in the mirror? Am I really this old? Has my body really softened this much, to the point of no return? I feel happily relieved inside that I am not acquiring too many wrinkles on my face, but my neck is another story. My smile seems different: guess that has to do with less plump in my lips, the thing that so many are recovering, and then some, with Botox treatments. Most days I no longer remember the little details of things to get done unless I make a list. Readily remembering the little stuff was something I always enjoyed: I miss it. After eight years of roller coaster hormones which for me included an overactive thyroid, mood swings, aches and pains, sleep disruption, hot flashes, fatigue and grieving life’s losses, I am mainly down to some hot flashes as my lasting symptom. Feeling lucky, I am. So there is my list of complaints; now for the gratitude.
There are more wrinkles on my face than I can see. I need steadily increasing reading lenses to see clearly up close. I love the glasses for reading, but for just looking around, I really enjoy the muted version of life; it’s softer, more pleasing, especially the details of my aging body. As I more deeply accept my aging body, I am less driven to make it look just right. Becoming less driven in this way is a huge relief of energy, focus and time. I exercise to feel well, to keep my body limber and strong, not to look a certain way any longer. A healthier appearance is simply a by-product of the process. When I smile now, it comes form deep, deep within me. This is because I am at peace with myself and I let go more fully and enjoy each moment, especially the pleasurable ones. That my lips are losing their fullness makes no matter when I am more fully feeling happiness, knowing the possible fleetingness of it, and the joy of having learned to embody joy fully, more abandonly. Making lists to remember stuff is simply a habit now. And what I find is that it slows me down, and I am more present in the moment. This is a thing that until experienced is hard to appreciate. If I forget something now, I know I can do it another time. It helps me to remember not to sweat the small stuff. And I am so grateful, despite the ups and downs and stresses of my menopausal experience, that I was able to approach it holistically and experience it fully, not rely on something outside me to guide me through the process. My greatest asset in the whole process was sharing it openly with my sister, as we walked the path in mirror-like fashion. It almost seemed mystical at times when we would share our current challenge and hear the other one, yet again, say, “me too!” In the end, it has been empowering to know I lived this decade fully and consciously.
As a woman contemplating this physiological passage of life, I recognize the loss of no longer having the ability to bear and birth children. Having had that experience in an enormously fulfilling way, the loss has been minimal for me. Instead, the related surges of creative, birthing energy are still coming from within me, but in a new way with a new focus. My imaginings are not focused on family life in a building sense, but rather in a more whole sense, a more communal sense. My creative energy feels new, an adventure that requires exploration to learn how to utilize it, navigate it and channel it into an end product. In some ways this is an enormous relief. I considered my role as mother very seriously, had concerns about doing it really well ( at times “perfectly” well – yeesh) so that my children grew into well-balanced, relatively happy, capable people in the world. This was a huge responsibility, one that I carried until I could see the job was done; this was a long, long process over many, many years of great responsibility to bear. Now I am learning on the job with my role as writer, and the worst thing that can happen is nothing great. So little lying in consequence when held up to knowing that our role as mother greatly influences the outcome of our children’s early life experience. Plus, I can go back and rewrite, edit, throw it away, start again, keep working at it with my own pace and timing, not someone else’s needs driving the process. This new type of creative experience is different, has its challenges, but let’s face it, just does not inherently hold the stress or seriousness of raising children. My reason for doing it comes from within me, not because I must become a success in the world at large. That, by itself, is a freedom from pressure to perform.
So all in all, despite the older me that I see when I look in the mirror, I can say that I embrace and embody the changes that my menopause miles have put on me. And the more gracefully and fully I accept the changes in the mirror, the more deeply something within me remembers and acknowledges the internal beauty that comes from a life unresisted, wholly accepted, and fully lived and appreciated. And that beauty is what I choose to see and feel each day; because I do remember what I see is a choice.