In the summer of 2017 I found I had finally created the work that I had always wanted: supporting women with massage for fertility, pregnancy and to make friends with their bodies. After many years of working at it, I was finally in the high summer of my career.
My self-care at the time was pretty immaculate, with meditation and yoga a daily practice, but they were scheduled into my diary like boot camp, with a five-minute changeover between mothering and work. There was little room to manoeuvre.
Beneath the surface, menopause was working her magic and my own body was speaking to me: my hands were becoming stiff, adrenal fatigue and sleep issues. I was tired and started to become aware that my heart wasn’t quite in it.
As a menstrual educator, I understood that menopause is a process of refinement where we are asked to release roles that no longer serve us so we can emerge into the second spring as our ‘best self’. But understanding is very different from integrating, and although I felt I had let go of loads of stuff, I was now required to let go of yet more. More? Really? Yes, there was more…
I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
It had become clear to me that the role of ‘helper’ no longer felt good. In fact, like a Primark coat from two years back it could be seen as it truly was, a shoddily made role, ill-fitting my authentic self and clearly not a keeper. It was time to break free.
Although I was already seeing case studies for Menstrual Medicine Circles, I knew that I wanted to organise my work differently, with more space, more pottering, more dreaminess, more presence, and I knew to do that I had to stop.
As soon as the notion of a Menopause Gap arrived in my head, it become non-negotiable.
Menopause sabbatical time.
It became important that I let go of goals in my time out, that I could just drift with whatever my system needed at the time, without pinning myself to a result. So an impulse to draw could be just a pencil mark rather than a completed drawing, an impulse to move could be just a stretch rather than a complete yoga programme. I resolved to suspend judgement on what I did or didn’t do. Obviously I failed in this goal the inner critic being as she is, but holding the intention not to act in fear of my judgements was a great one.
Perhaps the biggest gift I gave myself in my Menopause Gap was weekly biodynamic therapy. I had been seeing Michelle Quoillin on a monthly basis for five years or so, and I was delighted when she agreed to see me for weekly therapy. It had been years since I’d been in therapy and it felt like falling back into a feather bed, giving myself space to drop down and re-connect with myself.
Many of the questions that arose were around how I could feel myself while at the same time be connected with other people without blurring round the edges:
Could I find a way to be both connected with others AND hold onto my own self?
How much space could I possibly need to finally feel free?
Could I stay truly present to myself when contact was initiated?
Using vegetotherapy (probably the worst named but most beautiful therapeutic technique ever) lying on the mattress, allowing the impulses to emerge from my system, my body began to mobilise and heal herself. From deep within, the movement arose to soften my resistance and create liveliness and presence.
To say that ‘the body has a natural impulse to heal’ has become almost a cliché. But in my therapy, over the weeks that followed, this was my embodied experience and the trust grew that my body does finds a way to heal. No matter how wonky, out of alignment or shut down I feel, I am still connected to my essential goodness. My bliss, as Joseph Campbell says, is always there to be followed.
By taking time out, I’ve been able to access parts of myself I thought were lost and buried in my early 20s, certainly career and motherhood knocked them out of me. My creativity is re-invigorated. My inner compass is more easily available when I’m making decisions. I feel a confidence to follow my nose, to trust myself. Also, I am told I am a nicer, softer version of myself!
As my new work emerges with menopause women, it feels utterly joyful, daft, truthful and connected. It’s still in the early spring stages, so I’m midwifing it tenderly still and going very slowly.
I wobble of course, but I find I can be more present and feel more of myself and be in contact with others, all at the same time. Of course I fall off the waggon and have to climb back up, but each time I do so it’s easier, because each experience of internal bliss, of myself as an energetic being, re-confirms and makes it easier to re-connect.
Warning Taking a Menopause Gap can be catching, I caught it from a friend and since I took time out more colleagues are finding the space to stop and potter. Be extremely careful, it could make you seriously happy.