Dancing into menopause – our changing libido

Best of Friends © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Best of Friends  © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Pray tell, how are we expected to have a big picture perspective on The Change when we’re worried about our non-existent libido sabotaging our relationship?

Inspired by the topic in our upcoming Conscious Menopause series, (Common Symptoms – a Holistic View) I thought I’d start the conversation here with a biggie – the free-fall of midlife libido. (By the way, you’re all invited to join us this Thursday at 5 PST for a real-time online get-together to hear our voices and share our musings.)

Many women I see in my practice talk about how disoriented they feel when days go by and they realize they haven’t thought once about sex.  Or they’re disillusioned because, as much as they love their partners, they just aren’t turned on by them anymore.  Or they’re grieving the loss of this vital part of themselves – they dont recognize themselves as ‘asexual’ women.  On the other hand, some women are just so relieved that they no longer have to deal with sex anymore – it was never enjoyable, and now it’s thankfully behind them. Wherever we sit on this spectrum today (we seem to slide up and down the continuum as we transition through menopause), it’s helpful to understand …

The big picture on libido

Here’s the unavoidable truth about our sex drive: as a human female mammal we need intimacy, safety and love to become aroused. During our early years, our hormonal cocktail (aka the reproductive imperative) could often override this but now, at midlife, we need that cuddle time, we need touch that doesn’t only lead to sex, and we need to explore arousal and stimulation that feels good in our changing body. 

The fact that our body takes longer to become aroused and juicy is … a delicious gift.  When we and our partner are tuned in and curious about the changes, we both reap the benefits of our emerging “full sexuality”.  Women from less youth-focused cultures have told me how the most desirable women sexually are post-menopausal!

So the bottom line it this: our bodies are changing. And with that, our sexuality is too.  One woman put it beautifully: “We had to have a very frank conversation. Outside the bedroom. I told my partner that we had to kinda start over, discovering the touch, the attention, the words that now turn me on.”  We seem to move towards slow loving with the focus us and on the intricacies of our extraordinary anatomy.  Sheri Winston’s great book “Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal” is fabulous for navigating and discovering places you’ll want to visit. In our world of male-focused sexuality, we sometimes have to dig a little deeper to discover more options.  Lisa Shrader’s work Awakening Shakti brings the Tantric practices to our modern ways and shows us what’s possible when we feel stuck.

Here’s more good news: for some women orgasms can become stronger and more prolonged.  And even more: when orgasms don’t happen, it doesn’t really matter because now our whole body can become more easily aroused.  Whew, there really isn’t an ‘end goal’ in sex, and yes, the playing fields have certainly changed, haven’t they? This is what we’re talking about when when we say FULL womanhood.

In the meanwhile, you’d love some ideas to smooth over the cracks that have appeared.  Here’s a little inventory that might help: how’s your self-care going? Are you getting enough sleep (type ‘sleep’ into the search box for many ideas from the Goddesses)? Fatigue is a number one libido zapper. Are you keeping our body nimble and strong? You want to have that engine ready to go. And then you  know what they say about practice, practice, practice. Hang in there, do what you can to stay engaged and sexually active. I’ve heard it said that three or more times a month is good for keeping the juices flowing. Talking of flowing juices, taking care of our changing ladies parts is a big part of the libido conversation. “Sex” and “vaginal dryness” in the search box can certainly scratch your itch, so to speak.

Whether we want more or less of it in our lives, our sexuality is ours to claim. It’s an expression of our vitality. It’s important to know, as aging women, we have options when it comes to sculpting how we move gracefully, sensually and sexually, into the second half our our lives.

I hope you’ll join us on Thursday. It’s sure to be rich and juicy.

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype.  You can read more on her website ashleyjeanneross.com.

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Forging New Relationships with Intimates After Menopause Part II

Fractured © Lynette Sheppard

Fractured © Lynette Sheppard

Love Will Keep Us Together – But How?
Closeness in intimate relationship is more than just physical. It’s emotional and mental as well.  What constitutes connectedness on a day-to-day basis?  Shared interests and tasks create an atmosphere for feeling connected.  For some Venuses, the children once provided such a focus.  However, the emptying of the nest means new linkups need to be found.  Other Venuses have been focused on helping their husbands with business or work projects, yet now are questioning whether they wish to continue in these endeavors or to search for interests of their own that stimulate them in new, creative ways.  The first questions for midlife goddesses, who have traditionally as family nurturers (womb-men) been absorbed in the lives and interests of their loved ones, are “what do I really want?”  “What are my interests and desires, independent of others?” “ If I weren’t trying to please, what would I do, try, be?”

We invite you to join us and listen in on the initial conversation:

Theresa-Venus – “It’s hard when your  partner is so into physical activity.  I feel like if I don’t engage in physical pursuits with him, we’ll lose some of our connection.  He’ll just do those things with other friends, and we’ll drift apart.  We’ll lose some of the connection that comes from shared interests. And I also don’t want him looking at me thinking, ‘Boy she’s getting old, she’s slowing down.’”

Beej-Venus – “I tried to learn golf to be with my husband more.  Yet he won’t try ballroom dancing or some of the things I’m interested in.  It seems to me that we better have SOMETHING in common for our golden years.”

Jane-Venus – “I go skiing to spend time with my husband, because he loves it.  But if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t want to ski the runs he enjoys – it’s scary.”

Lynette-Venus- “So where’s the balance between doing what we want vs spending time with them?  How much is quality time and how much is based on our preoccupation with disappointing them?”

Wow, big questions!  We realized that we might have to ponder these and others for a while.  Are we spending time together to strengthen and nurture our relationship?  Do we even enjoy the things we are doing with our spouses?  Are there other ways to connect?  What do we really want?

Sandy-Venus claimed that she has been less plagued by this issue.  “I always knew how to balance my own needs and interests with my spouses.  I’ve only dated four men in my life,” she quipped.  “Of course, they were in thirty seven different bodies.”  The Venuses snorted with laughter.

Courtney-Venus was especially quiet during this interchange.  “What if you’re not sure you want to forge a new relationship?  What if it’s not meant to be?”  The rest of the goddesses turned their full attention to her.  “I’ve been with this man for 5 years now, and at first it was really great.  Most of the time, it’s still good.  But he doesn’t like my children.”  A chorus of “He’s outta here.” “It’s over.” ensued.

After the hubbub quieted, she explained that her children were grown.  Only recently had one moved back home, coming and going “like a ghost”,  still managing to annoy him by being in his ‘space’.  “Holidays are painful, because I love a big family get-together for Thanksgiving and Christmas – and he hates it.”
Okay, Venuses are about support and the search for truth.  We asked her to verbalize the pros and cons of remaining in this relationship.   Although as a group, we felt that the kid issue was non-negotiable, a deal breaker, the decision to go or stay was Courtney-Venus’s and hers alone.  Our job was to help her find a little clarity.  The more she talked, the more she defined what wasn’t working.  “I feel like I’m always guessing.  What did I do now that I didn’t know about?”  “Still,” she sighed.  “ A lot of the time things are stable, even fun.”  Finally, Bobbi Venus asked a pointed question.  “How do you feel when you come home and see his car in the driveway – are you excited or disappointed?”  Courtney’s eyes widened, “I feel sick to my stomach.”

There wasn’t any more to say.  In this way, the Venuses were able to support one of our own in a difficult examination of her life and where it was headed, through listening, prodding, and caring.
Exhausted, we went to bed.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”  It’s interesting that one isn’t ever really done working on these questions – we spent time in every meeting revisiting aspects of relating to our intimates. Over time, we’ve gotten better at creating time and space for ourselves while creating that new relationship (or in the case of two of us, moving on.) One of the things that helped, weirdly enough, was actually reading the book out loud to our mates, so that they could see how universal our questions and symptoms were, how they and we were not alone in working to start our relaionships anew. No longer was it “Why are you like this?” or “What’s wrong?” but how can we address this unplanned change together. It opened a real conversation rather than a disagreement and paved the way for understanding – on both sides. Stay tuned for more on this important topic.

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How Do We Inform Ourselves About Menopause?

Christmas bouganvill

That is the question that Jamie Cooper is trying to answer in her doctoral research study at University of South Florida. She is asking for participation in her online survey questionnaire.  She’d like women aged 35 -55 to share their experiences with her; your answers will be confidential and anonymous.

Jamie hopes to help improve the lives of women at midlife now and in the future. Now that’s some research we can get behind. Women sharing wisdom – that’s what we are all about. Here’s the link:

http:tinyurl.com/menopausestudy

If you have questions for Jamie, you can email her at jc2@usf.edu.

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A feminine take on menopausal hormones – part 2

Two weeks ago (in part 1) I put my faith in your body’s wisdom. I suggested that “by changing how you see your hormones, you can actually change the way they make you feel.”  What? No discussion about bio-identicals? Or phyto-estrogens? Or progesterone decline? Or (name your hormone) gone awry?

Okay, let me just say this from the get-go. This is not your run-of-the-mill balance your menopause hormones conversation. Instead of discussing what to take to get those darned hormones to balance like they did in 1999, I’m offering what the women I counsel find far more helpful for their long-term health and sanity: 1) the real cause of menopausal symptoms and 2) some pointers to lifestyle and attitude changes that can sustain hormonal balance for the rest of your days.

When hormones become symptoms

Menopause, when defined by its symptoms, is bloating and mood-swings, heavy bleeding and insomnia, hot flashes and foggy brain, desperate irritation and parched hoo-ha’s. How are these seemingly interminable and highly unpleasant symptoms connected to your hormones?

Simply put – when your hormones are out of balance, you get symptoms.

However, the culprit isn’t your hormones …  it’s stress that turns ‘hormones’ into symptoms, not the
hormones themselves. This is really important to understand. Your hormones aren’t to blame.  When you ‘develop’ symptoms, it’s not like developing an illness or catching a virus. That’s why unless you address the things that are stressing you out, ‘treating’ your hormones won’t bring about the fundamental balance you’re looking for.  Put another way, your symptoms have one message for you: “CHANGE!” they say. “Tend to things that are stressing you and you’ll get symptom relief.”

Of course, I’m not saying don’t try and make your life more comfortable as you go through The Change.  From homeopathic suppositories (to make me juicy down there) to Lugol’s Solution (to boost my thyroid), and all kinds of things in between, perimenopause has turned me into my own walking laboratory. Wait, I think I might always have been a little adventurous when it comes to natural remedies, but things feel a little more urgent now, don’t they?  Clearly, by tending to the larger picture of the things that make you feel anxious, stressed, furious, helpless or discouraged your hormonal balance will find its life-sustaining, cruise-controlling sweet spot that feels so good.

How to support your hormones: step one

[Spoiler alert: step one might be the hardest part].

To apply a more feminine approach to supporting your hormones (see part 1 for more on this approach), you first need to align your attitudes about a smooth menopause with your intention to support your body.  This is easier said than done, as it means changing some very old habits when it comes to how you treat yourself. Here are some pointers:

  • Cultivate a trusting, open relationship with your body. Learning to listen to your body is the most important step in owning your health.

           Some ways to do this:

         ⃟   tune into your body when you exercise (instead of scoffing down People magazine on the treadmill)

         ⃟   pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods (feeling bloated is a really helpful sign of discord)

         ⃟   be guided by a ‘body whisperer’ (somatic counselors or body workers who collaborate to bring you back into authentic communication with your body)

  • Love yourself. I know we always come back to this one, but this is true hormonal balance therapy. Choose things that attainable and nourishing and, most importantly, enjoyable!
  • Expect accountability from yourself. Stay clear about your intention – you’re wanting to feel better, have more energy and more fun.
  • Get involved with your health. Wean yourself off relying on ‘experts’ to know what you need to make way for an intimate dialog with your body.

Here’s the good news. When you make these changes, your body responds and your hormones shift from imbalance to balance, without needing to ‘fix’ them. It’s kind of alchemical –  how changing one area balances something elsewhere.

Tending to the larger picture: step 2

Your hormones respond to your whole life. How you experience your daily life, things like love, respect, sensibility, regard, comfort, appreciation, gratitude, and self-love – these keep you humming along.  I know you see this over and over again, but these are your best hormonal balm:

  • healthy food (eating well is crucial to stable hormones)
  • rest, relaxation and sleep
  • family, friendship and support
  • pleasure, laughter and fun
  • spending time on you – especially if you’re tending to others’ needs a lot
  • self-care and nourishment sisterhood and community
  • healthy emotional boundaries – and the best medicine of all – love, gratitude and integrity

What does “hormone love” look like

Here’s what you have to look forward to as you come home to your body:

  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you’re not afraid of them. Instead you know how to listen to them to make adjustments (the language of your symptoms)
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you aren’t ashamed of them. Instead you get excited about the sensitivity and diversity and understanding you now have access to as you transform into your full-womanhood or wise-womanhood.
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you don’t feel controlled by them. Instead you reap the huge healing benefits of collaborating with your body.
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you notice what’s making you uneasy in your life and you reduce stress to bring it back into balance

We’ve most of us got the memo by now.  Apparently, menopause isn’t for the feint of heart. Maybe that’s why it comes along when you’ve gathered some life experience, a little insight into how the world works and hopefully some self-reflective skills to boot.  With your big girl panties hiked way up high on your hips, you bide your time in the chrysalis, being guided by your hormones to find your balance. Until, one day, you burst forth – emboldened and empowered …

Adapted from Ashley’s upcoming book, The Conscious Menopause Survival Guide.

Want to chat live online with me and other women this Thursday, April 7 @ 9-10am PST? Symptoms and Stress – the link to relief is our topic. Sign up details are here.  (If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the recording in your own time).

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype.

You can read more on her website ashleyjeanneross.com.

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Forging New Relationships With Intimates after Menopause

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Again, I want to thank all of you who let me know what topics you want explored as we step into our next phase of Second Adulthood. It didn’t surprise me that “forging new relationships” was a hot pick. We Venuses spent all of our second gathering and significant portions of our subsequent meetings digging into this part of our changing. With that in mind, here is Part I of what we discussed and learned.

Forging New Relationships With Our Significant Others
Next to ourselves, the people most affected by our midlife changes are our intimates.  Our spouses, life partners, and significant others are not sure how to relate to the entities who have seemingly taken over the bodies, hearts, and minds of their best friends.  They want the sweet, loving, sexual woman they used to know to come back.  Well, guess what, so do we.  But she’s nowhere in sight.

One spouse, when feeling amorous one evening, told his Venus, “Honey, I just want to make you happy.  I just want to give you pleasure.”   All the Venuses hooted and hollered when she shared this – we’d been there.  At this time of our life, when we are struggling with diminished libido, hot flashes, night sweats, and life-altering insomnia, pleasure seems an elusive dream. The first responses that had bounced into our heads luckily remained unshared with our well-meaning mates, but we voice them now.  “You just want to give me pleasure?  Then bring me a fan!”  or “Great.  Then just let me sleep.”

After the laughter died down, we set about confronting the real difficulties of reconciling the new us with the old them.  Oh sure, they may be going through their own changes, but let’s not muddy the waters with that just yet.  No, on second thought, we decided the waters were already muddy, so we’d better look at that too.

Leavin’ Libido Loca
One change that seems to surface with the “climacteric” (scientific name for menopause) in men is that they begin to “feel older”.  They confront their own mortality in a very real way.  No longer is death an abstraction.  Time is running out.  This can lead to questions (or obsessions) of virility.  It seems to us as if they believe that if they can still get it up and working, they are not old yet. Virility = youth. As a consequence, they may suddenly be wanting sex a great deal more.  “Hey, if I can do it 3 times a night, I’m still young.”  This increased interest in ‘doing it’  is in direct collision with our waning or hibernating sex drive.

While we were on the subject of sex and pleasure, several of the Venuses blasted the so-called sexual performance drugs:  Viagra, Cialis, and the like.   Despite the Hallmark-esque commercials’ rosy pictures of happy, satisfied couples, our goddesses denounced the use of these pills as artificial.  Worse, they felt that the drugs acted as a barrier to intimacy and sensuality, reducing this intimate act of sharing to a poor mimicry of teenage prowess, a contest of turgidity and longevity, a tractor pull between the bedsheets.  Yeah, baby!   We’re ready for ESPN!

Hey, guys!  Even if our libido were running full tilt boogie, (which we think we’ve already established, it is not) we wouldn’t want a sporting event in our bedroom.  We want closeness and sensuality – not endurance.  It’s not about the thrill of victory vs the agony of defeat.  It’s about being together physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Forget chemically.  The Stepford penis doesn’t work for us. It’s artificial and we hate it.  Enough said. (Note: this feeling was BEFORE any of our spouses suffered true erectile dysfunction – the drugs can indeed be helpful in those circumstances. The trouble was when the pills were taken when not truly medically necessary. Live and learn.)

Pillow Talk

Sexuality issues are sensitive issues, not easily talked about in even the closest relationships.  Yet until and unless we confront it in conversations with ourselves, we won’t be able to broach the topic with our intimates.  The Venus group provided a way to learn and share together, to gain understanding and grow strength, compassion, and courage for the scary, delicious process of creating new relationships with our old loves.

Okay, so what do we do?  How do we reconcile our diminished sex drive with their normal or increased drive?  Lei-Venus was able to talk to her husband about the changes in this way.  “Hormonally, it’s like I’ve become a little girl again.  When I was a little girl, I didn’t really think about sex.  And now, without the physical drive from my hormones, it just doesn’t come up on my screen.  Emotionally, of course, I’m still a woman in love with her husband.  So I just need to remind myself how much I love being physically close with you, and get myself in the mood for making love.”  As we mentioned earlier in the Help Chapter, Lei gets herself in the mood by reading romantic literature or watching a movie love scene.  Bobbi sets the stage with romantic dinner, music, and rose petals.  Little touches of sensuality help get her in the mood for love.

Recovering from Lost Libido

A additional wrinkle for some of the Venuses involved an increased emotional sensitivity on the part of their lovers.  These spouses expressed a desire for their mates to initiate lovemaking more often.  Perhaps this was just another side effect of the mortality/virility question, wanting to know if they are still desirable to us.  For our part, it isn’t that they aren’t desirable to us.  It’s that we seem to have forgotten desire altogether.  If we DID lust for someone, it would be our partners. Sandy-Venus summed it up when she said, “I forget that I like sex, until my husband approaches me, and we get it on.  Then I remember – hey, this is great.  We should do this more often.”  Like so many of us, she suffers from a sort of sexual Alzheimer’s phenomenon.

Alas, our libido seems to have gone to some netherworld, maybe the land of lost socks from the dryer.  Regardless of the lack of drive, we were going to have to find ways to maintain our physical closeness in our primary relationships.  Additionally, to honor our partners, we would need to be proactive at times, not simply submissive.  Most important, we realized that we have to TALK about physical intimacy with our mates, and how we are going to adapt and grow into the changes that we are experiencing together.

Bobbi-Venus and her husband set “dates” for enjoying one another physically to make sure that this aspect of their relationship isn’t neglected.  For the upcoming year, the Venuses vowed to pay attention to nourishing the physical connection with our mates, for ourselves as well as them.

Beej-Venus and her husband follow their therapist’s advice.  All they have to do is to set a date and both agree to show up naked with a smile on their faces.  If anything happens, so much the better.
(This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.” These issues not only come up during menopause, but are prevalent after the Pause as well. A vibrant Second Act will mean creating new relationships in many arenas – we’ll talk more about intimate relationship re-creation and re-bonding in my next post in two weeks.)

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A feminine take on menopausal hormones – part 1

Magnolia Sky

Magnolia Sky © Ashley Jeanne Ross

“You’re so hormonal!!”

When we hear these three words, we can’t help but feel judged, right?  We fear we’re a mass of unpredictable, uncontrollable and massively inconvenient hormones.  If only we had nice normal balanced hormones – you know, the kind that go about their business without attracting so much attention!!  If only … 

I’d like to offer a case for our all-too-often under-represented, maligned, misunderstood and scapegoated hormones.  In a literal example of blaming the messenger, I propose it’s time to change how we see our hormones.

Are our hormones the problem?

What if I told you that by changing how you see them, you can actually change the way they make you feel? And what if this new way of seeing them could take you from struggling with them to feeling supported and nourished by them? If this can be, here’s a revolutionary idea that’s worth looking into …

Your hormones are an integral part of the perfect design of your body. When we talk about these “chemical messengers” and the important job they do in keeping you alive, we are talking about a networking system that is designed to keep your body, mind and spirit in homeostasis or balance.

As you can see, we’re talking about a system based on relationship, communication, harmony, support and collaboration. Fancy that, true feminine principles!

What our hormones are up to …

Through the physical lens, your hormones connect and coordinating many different functions in your body. They communicate between the different parts of your body in each moment.  Your reproductive hormones, for example, are finely attuned to other systems and organs in your body – to your thyroid, heart, bones, adrenal, liver digestion, circulation and nervous system to name a few.  When you tend to your hormonal health from various angles, you make way for these other systems to rebalance too.

But your hormones are so much more than physical. Your hormones are deeply connected to your emotions. They are constantly responding to your external environment. They’re tracking if you’re safe, if you’re loved and cared for, if you’re respected, if you’re useful and so much more. If that’s not enough, they are listening closely to your internal environment – what you’re telling ourselves!! They’re responding to whether you’re being kind or harsh to yourself, if you’re think you’re a good or bad person or if you’re tending to your needs.


So you can see how your hormones do more that just interact with your physical body. They network with your emotions, sensitivities, intuition, spirit, creativity, your purpose and your self-respect. These subtle, sensitive, fine-tuned and multidimensional “chemical messengers” are also exceptional communicators. Again we see how your hormones operate on feminine principles.

Hormones in balance

A feminine approach to being with your hormones turns out to be is quite simple.  It’s eating well, slowing down, exercising moderately, being around good people, loving yourself all up, contributing your gifts to the world and not relying on someone else to know what you need. This allows your body to self-regulate and to establish natural hormonal balance. When you see hormonal imbalance as the problem (too much estrogen, not enough progesterone), you limit yourself from benefiting from the subtle ways your hormones support you.

Adapted from Ashley’s upcoming book, The Conscious Menopause Survival Guide.

Stay tuned for Part II on April 3, when I’ll talk about ways we can support our hormones when we look at them through this nurturing, supportive and reciprocal way.

There’s still time to join us for our first online Conscious Menopause Circle this coming  Thursday March 24 @ 12-1pm PST (or you can watch it by video if you can’t be there at that time). We’ll be talking about: What is Conscious Menopause?  Sign up details are here.

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype. Join Ashley and women from around the world for the live Conscious Menopause Circles Series online. You can read more on her website ashleyjeanneross.com.

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{Let’s talk!} Join our online menopause circles

Conscious Menopause Circle Series

We’ve made it happen!  I’m so thrilled to offer a way for us to join together with Menopause Goddesses online.  Let’s speak, as we women love to do!

Come and join us as we:

  • meet women from around the world to talk about what our menopause journey is really like
  • hear what others are experiencing, discovering and figuring out
  • join by video or phone whichever you prefer
  • get together with us just one time, or come for all five conversations

Our first circle is NEXT WEEK – Thursday March 24 @ 12-1pm PST

We’ll meet at different times to accommodate different time zones
If you can’t make it, sign up to get the recording and watch in your own time

Get the details here …

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Elderhood: Embracing New Values

 

Opening © lynette sheppard

Opening © lynette sheppard

After menopause, aging can jump to the top of the concerns list. Aging comes with a multitude of changes. Some of them are disconcerting in the extreme: droopy skin, aches, jowls, invisibility, hot flashes and the like.  These changes require adjustment and acceptance. They are here to stay.

However, some of the changes are nothing short of marvelous. If I were offered the return of my physical youth in exchange for the wisdom accumulated atop my wrinkles, I’d turn it down. Oh, I’d think about it for a minute or two, to be sure. But it seems to me that the gifts far outweigh the losses; at least so far.

One of the biggest gifts has been a change in the values that are most pivotal in my life. I sat down to make a list of how my values have morphed over the decades.

Value harmony and understanding more than being right
Being right is not all it’s cracked up to be. Being right means someone else is wrong and these days, it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’d rather find common ground or try to understand another viewpoint than be right.

Value silence as much as discourse
Actually, I value it more. When quiet, I can feel others and connect on a more elemental level. I have found that presence and togetherness do not require spoken word. Silence is no longer uncomfortable to me, but a soul satisfying cloak that I can wrap around me.

Value kindness more than mental acumen or braininess
I used to be wowed by those who were smart, quick, clever and strove to be like them. These later years have me admiring and emulating kindness and compassion more than accumulated knowledge. I am deeply drawn to those with emotional intelligence.

Value presence more than accomplishment
Our culture perpetuates doing to the exclusion of being. Small wonder that so many of us feel guilty when we aren’t accomplishing (yes, I fall prey to this all the time, but I’m working on it.) I am in awe when I meet those who make no apology for being, who relax in their non-doing moments.

Value plain more than fancy
I love plain food, comfortable clothes, just hanging out with friends and family rather than big excursions or amusements. The fancy or complicated things feel like they sap my energy rather than filling me up. Less really does feel like more these days.

Value learning more than teaching
This is weird. We elders have a fair amount to impart and may take this responsibility quite seriously. Yet, as I age, I am struck also by how little I really do know and can revel in the pure joy of learning without putting pressure on myself to “do something with it” or succeed. As far as I’m concerned, we get an A just for trying.

Value self deprecating humor over sarcasm
I’d rather laugh at myself or the human condition in all its sweetness than indulge in snarky humor. Besides, when I look at myself, there is just so much comic material that I need never stop chuckling.

Value internal peace over external validation
While I still check Facebook for the number of “likes” that Menopause Goddess Blog receives, it matters to me less and less. When I feel that I have given my best with an open heart, I feel centered and peaceful, less craving feedback from others.

Value communion rather than nomenclature
I really don’t care as much about the names of birds, plants, butterflies as I once did. What really thrills me is just hanging out with flora and fauna, feeling a part of the oneness of existence. OK, it’s a little challenging with cockroaches and centipedes, but they too have a certain quirky beauty.

Value taking time over time management
In the autumn of my life, I find that I just don’t get as much done. I’m not as productive or efficient. Many items on my to-do list are carried over for days, even weeks. This bothers me less and less as I surrender to the bliss of just taking time for myself. Daydreaming, writing, reading, walking are all as important as getting my chores done. Weirdly enough, the chores seem easier when I’ve taken time to just re-create myself.

What changes might yet be in store? I don’t know but I’m looking forward with curiosity, excitement, and some trepidation. So far, I like what I’ve discovered on this life’s journey.

Perhaps you also have values that have changed – share them here in the comments.  We learn so much from one another, so please don’t be shy.

(I originally wrote a version of this post for the Celebrate What’s Right Blog. I’ve found that during this time when so much can be wrong, celebrating what is right can ease the more daunting passages.)

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An Affair of the … Body

Abbots Lagoon

Connected © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Yesterday I found myself diving into the depths of the earth – down, down, down into the fathomless, bottomless, infinite earth. Around me were other meditators diving down their own chutes. Yes, this is San Francisco, the land of the experimental. And yes, we’ve been know to explore some interesting landscapes. Only this time we were taking a journey with, and into, our bodies.

The idea of this body-focused meditation is this: by imagining you’re falling, you leave behind your regular or habitual thoughts, and discover who you are – when you’ve just got your body for company. It’s quite an eyeopener really. You’re forced into an intimate relationship with this one and only familiar ‘friend’, way down there.

Similarities with the journey of menopause abound. There’s that falling feeling when the bottom drops out, flailing in the dark depths, coming face-to-face with each ache and pain in your joints, in your heart, in your temperament.  It’s in the dark that your body begins to talk to you. 

Bodies talk really, really quietly and really, really slowly. So you have to tune in to hear it, especially if you’re doing a lot of running around.  If you ignore it – like when you don’t get enough sleep or when you hang out with that person who doesn’t treat you kindly – it has to start raising its voice so you pay attention. Then one day you begin to notice … 

The Language of Symptoms

The message is simple: tune in, learn to speak the language and the symptoms will show you what you need to change to regain balance in your life. Since you’re in The Change, your body is inviting you to join it – by changing the things that are no longer good for you.

Wait, why can’t you just find the things to fix your body so you can carry on with your life? Yes, by all means partake of the ingenious array of rubs and potions and modalities that we clever humans come up with (my recommendation is to stick with the natural solutions).  So then what’s all this about cultivating a relationship with your body? Isn’t it enough that you feed it, bathe it and use it for pleasure?

Let’s look at all this from your body’s point of view for a moment.  Day in and day out, you live mostly in your head.  Your life is made up of a pretty constant stream of thinking, talking, watching screens, reading, more thinking, more talking, more screens, etc, right? All the while, your attention is in your head. In fact you can get through your day without needing to be aware of your body at all. If your body was another ‘person’, we could reasonably call this relationship a tad negligent. 

You might go on this way, ignoring your body – until it rebels. Menopause is an open invitation for rebellion. Hello, hormonal flux. Hello, brain dissolution and restructuring. Hello, chronic aches and pains, weight gain, insomnia, constipation, vanishing libido, etc, etc.  These are the sounds of anarchy, right? 

Wanna know what to do about all this?  Throw in the towel? Kinda. Seek out help? Absolutely (and the best kind is from other women who are going through it too).  Tell everyone you’re no longer who you were? Pretty much. Learn a new language? Bingo!! It’s called the language of symptoms.  When you decode it, the clouds part and you’re on your way to a healthier, more appropriate life.

Appropriate life, huh? 

If you’re in peri/menopause, you have a decision to make. Either you can continue ignoring your body’s needs, or … you can enter into a conversation with it. If you choose to talk to it, here’s what happens: instead of blaming your body for your symptoms, you decide to collaborate. You support each other, you work together, you become curious about what’s really happening and why, and you look for solutions that address the cause instead of tending only to the symptom.  This close collaboration is what allows you to not only learn the language of symptoms but to begin to trust what you hear.

Here’s the good news: coming into your body is like coming home. Sure, the route home may be unfamiliar and the obstacles on the way may be uncomfortable or even downright excruciating.  But the gift of finding refuge in your self becomes yours when you tend to your most intimate and life-long relationship with love and respect – the one between you and your body. 

Adapted from Ashley’s upcoming book, The Conscious Menopause Survival Guide

I’m so curious to hear what you hear when you listen to your body? Or is it hard to hear what’s going on? And what are some of the ways you’ve cultivated your relationship with your body?  Let’s talk about it: as dear Lynette always says, it’s in sharing this crazy, fascinating, soul-wretching journey that we come through intact …

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype. Join Ashley and women from around the world for the live Conscious Menopause Circles Series online. You can read more on her website ashleyjeanneross.com.

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A Guide to Creating Me Time

Paradise Palms © lynette sheppard

Paradise Palms © lynette sheppard

First off, I want to thank all my sister goddesses who wrote me about which topics were uppermost on their priorities for the “Second Adulthood” posts. I promise that I will get to all of them – eventually. Most are high priority for me as well, as I traverse this second half of life. And please, if you have thoughts, insights, or offerings to help us along the way, share them! That’s how we survive and thrive – together!

 “Me Time” was mentioned so many times that it jumped to the top of the list. I used to think (and say) that I needed to find time for me, as if it were lost or misplaced and I had only to stumble upon it to have it. I know now that I was completely off base.

Me time can’t be found. It must be created. We have to actively set aside time for ourselves or risk never having any. Sure, there are always demands on our time. For years, we put aside ourselves for other people and priorities. The rare massage or infrequent bubble bath just didn’t fill the need, though they helped some.

So, how do we go about creating “me time”?

First and foremost, we have to believe that “me time” is important, even critical. Right now. Because it is.

Second, we have to be clear with our family and friends that this is a necessity and in no way diminishes our relationships with them. In fact, they may come to see that a refreshed, revitalized intimate is more present and connected, a pleasure to be around. It can only enhance our relationships.

Third, we must schedule it and keep it as a sacred covenant, to be broken only in case of a true emergency. (And I have found from this vantage point in life that very few of the “emergencies” I responded to earlier in my First Act were truly as urgent as I made them out to be or that I was the ONLY one who could respond. Discernment is called for in such a case.)

Right now, I am writing this blog post from my hotel room on the island of Kauai. I’m sitting in the middle of a bed with four, count them: four, fluffy white pillows propping me up. Sister goddess Lei and I are attending a multi day hula conference. Hula is something we love and share; it nourishes us. However, it is intense to go from early am to late night learning and sharing dances. And while this trip is a type of “me time”, it can be tiring both mentally and physically.

So we’ve learned to schedule a day prior to the conference and a day after to just “be”. We might hang by the pool, make art, or just take a walk on the beach. We might talk. Or not. Naps may spontaneously happen.

Tonight, our last night here, one of our sister goddesses who lives on Kauai will join us for dinner and we’ll have some “us time” as well. I know that we will be rejuvenated and re-created by all of this time. And we will go home rested and filled with joy.

Don’t wait. Start now. Schedule that me time. And let us know how you feel afterwards.

Helpful hint:  it can help to schedule “me time” with a girlfriend. Because we may let ourselves down, but we will not let our girlfriends down. Who knows? It may become a habit. Let’s hope so, anyway.

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