[mid-life] body of knowledge
This is the second blog/newsletter in a series about mid-life, menopause, and how to feel well during this phase. (I wrote this several weeks ago, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was making its way across the world. If it seems a bit upbeat, it is. I would probably write something slightly more melancholy these days. So, if it comes off as ‘normal’ and that seems weird right now, my apologies. But the content still stands, so I’m sharing it. I hope you are well and have the right community and support to see you through this strange time.)
The first blog/newsletter, was this one where I wrote about the symptoms of peri-menopause and how to deal with them and still feel good (maybe even sexy?). This week I’m talking about your mid-life and menopausal body.
About three years ago, I was writing to someone and talking about what a wreck my body was, compared to the social standards of beauty. I wrote, “…my body is a mess. It is never something I would offer up as a point of attraction…there is nothing pert, nubile, or sexy about this body after the clothes are off. It’s like a crumbling temple…”
At the time, this felt very true to me. If I remember correctly, it was a stressful time in my life, I was just starting to feel middle-aged, and I felt a bit like my body was betraying me. I’d taken good care of my body, despite (or, perhaps due to) having a chronic illness, and things were starting to break down anyhow. Also, I had reached the stage where I had to put on more than mascara and some lipstick to look ‘made-up.’ I felt less than myself at that point.
Over the last three years- even as my body has continued to change, have health issues, and need more hair color- I have come to a much different conclusion. When I wrote those things, above, it really made me start questioning how deeply I had ingested the social standards that I was comparing myself to.
Ummm…it was a lot.
As a rebel, I don’t like to identify myself with social standards unless I’ve had a good, hard think about them. And once I had a good, hard think about the social standards we have for mid-life, menopausal bodies, I was ready to get rid of those standards. They made me feel kinda shitty and I’m just too old to feel shitty for no good reason. (Fuck. That.)
It took a few years of work, but now I see my body very differently.
My body is not a mess. My body is a book of all the journeys I’ve been on, all the things I’ve survived, all the memories I’ve made. It’s much more than just a body. It is a living document of literally everything I’ve ever done.
My body may not be pert or nubile, but it’s still pretty damn sexy. Wanna know why? Because I know a shit ton more about sex, sensuality, and pleasure than I did when I was pert and nubile. I know how to have really good sex (for everyone involved). I know what brings me pleasure in every sensual area. I know how to love and connect so much better than I did 20 years ago. And pert boobs are nice, but I find knowing how to get off on nipple stimulation way more useful.
Up until lately I used hair dye and I still use make-up. Like a lot of women, I’m off hair dye because of the pandemic. But, honestly? I think I’m going to go with my natural, bits-of-gray, hair after this is all said and done. Of course, I will still be coloring sections blue, green, and purple, because that makes me happy. The make-up thing…I don’t know. Some mid-life women use it, some don’t. What I do know is that I like playing with make-up rather than feeling like it’s a requirement. It’s not a rule I have to live by; it’s a tool I can use or leave behind depending on how I want to feel. And it took a lifetime to understand that there was a difference. But now I know.
The best thing about my mid-life, peri-menopausal body (and yours, too!) is that it’s wise. It knows things younger bodies don’t. And not just about sex or make-up. Our mid-life bodies know how to comfort others, how to deal with pain, how to live through disaster, how to manage a million details, how to live with mental or physical health problems. They know how to be generous physically, emotionally, and sexually. They know when to stop and they definitely know how to start over. These mid-life bodies are wise from living. And I think that’s something to be really fucking proud of.
Even in the midst of this pandemic, I believe our bodies are being wise. They are feeling depressed and anxious- that seems pretty reasonable given the situation. They are wanting more sleep and getting tired easier- this also seems pretty wise given that we are in a panic state most of the time and also trying to handle work, kids, schooling, and getting the basics met (it’s exhausting and it’s okay to be exhausted!). That’s not to say that the body doesn’t need a little help sometimes. Anything that calms your limbic system (the fight/flight/freeze/fawn side of our nervous system) would be helpful right now- rhythmic movement, rhythmic breathing, yoga, reading a book, laughing, orgasm. But overall, I believe that if we tune into our bodies, they know what to do. Even now.
Time is going to march on, and it will take our bodies with it. We are going to have problems- the symptoms of peri-menopause are a kind of shadowed carnival of what can go wrong with your body (but you will get through it). We are going to age. But that doesn’t make our bodies ‘less’ or ‘worse.’ If we can approach our bodies with kindness, grace, and support, I believe we will find they are still adequate to the task of living. That, in fact, our mid-life and peri-menopausal bodies are beyond adequate- they are wise and joyful.
I’ll take our last thought from Beau Taplin:
“Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.”
May you know that every word is true, especially at mid-life.
Joanna :: xoxo