Menopause Medley

painted aspens 1 © lynette sheppard

painted aspens 1 © lynette sheppard

This week we offer a medley of natural, simple helps for menopause symptoms. (And good advice for us post-menopausal goddesses too.)

Exercise for Hot Flashes

Strenuous exercise may reduce hot flashes. That’s right, two new studies published in the Menopause journal and the Journal of Physiology found that jogging or bicycling 30 – 45 minutes 3-5 times per week resulted in as much as 60% fewer hot flashes. That’s good news. Still, it might be worthwhile to train carefully and slowly increase your exercise tolerance to avoid injury. I’ve done brisk walking for years and recently decided to add a little jogging to my regimen. I ended up injuring my hip, which took a few months to heal.

My preference is always for low impact, aerobic exercise. Swimming might be a great option – you can get moderately strenuous workouts while in a cooling environment. (I’ve never had a hot flash in a pool or the ocean, just sayin’).

Superfood Bars for Women 40+

Bar and Girl Naturals have created some yummy  mini bars that help regulate hormones while providing nutritional support. Their bars contain maca root (which I profiled a couple of weeks ago). They also contain turmeric, flaxseed, nuts, and coconut oil. Check them out in the Menopause Marketplace.

Chocolate for Health

Dark chocolate is probably a major food group for menopausal women. Serotonin in chocolate flavenoids helps with irritability and mood swings. (Remember those major cravings just before your period? You were in dire need of serotonin.)

There is evidence that chocolate is beneficial to cardiovascular health. Those little flavenoids exert a protective effect on your heart and blood vessels.

The antioxidants can protect against free radical damage to your skin.

And last, but certainly not least, chocolate improves focus and brain function.

Eating a bar per week of dark chocolate is a necessary adjunct to a menopausal woman’s treatment plan. Yum.

Humor by PerimenopART

Kirsty Collett, a menopause goddess sister from New Zealand has created some wonderful cartoon musings on the menopausal condition. They are hilarious – and so true! Here’s a sample that she sent me:

© Kirsty Collett

© Kirsty Collett

 

Laughter and sisterhood may be even more important to surviving the Change than chocolate, exercise, or superfood bars. Luckily, we don’t have to choose just one. You can follow Kirsty on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PerimenopART?__mref=message_bubble

 

 

 

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Do Your Clothes Reflect Who You Are?

© meri walker

© meri walker

In my closet are a number of outdated outfits that I don’t wear, that take up space, that I’m saving “in case”. In case of what? That I might go back to speaking to businesses sometime? That the beloved relative who shares not one iota of my taste bought and I might wear just for him/her one day? That I might lose the 10 (okay 15) extra pounds and squeeze back into it even though I have no place to wear it? Every day I look in my closet, hoping for the intestinal fortitude to  get rid of all the clothes that are not reflecting “me” right now.

One of my favorite iPhone artists, Meri Walker, posted a fabulous piece on Facebook and the Joy of iPhoneography website. It was like she was talking right to me. She has given me permission to post it here as a guest post. The photo is hers as well.

Read it – you won’t be sorry. I swear this week, my closet will be purged of clothes that don’t suit that woman I am today.

“I Get That Some of You Just Don’t Get Me” She Said. © 2016, Meri Aaron Walker, iPhoneArtGirl, Talent, OR. All rights reserved.)

In response to my report yesterday on Facebook that my latest “creative action” has been a deep exploration of my clothes closets, a talented mobile artist, Kate Zari Roberts, wrote that every time she opens her closet, she wonders who bought those clothes.

I replied to Kate that I’ve been doing that for years! Like five years. Until last week.

Since moving to Talent, I have been wearing a very few things, mostly clothes I folded up and stacked on the trunk at the foot of my bed or hung on hangers in the door to the bathroom that I’ve been using as an art materials and medical supply storeroom instead of a master bathroom. Quirky wierd, I know. And it’s been my best effort to date. It was way too confusing after I bought a house in a tiny town where none of my big-city clothes made sense anymore. And besides, I started calling myself up on my iPhone all the time, making some crazy new kind of art. I could do that in jeans or my bathrobe. And I have been.

But something flipped in me last week. As I watched President Obama embrace Hillary Clinton on the stage at the DNC, and then heard her make a straight-up acceptance speech as the Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, it felt like a San Andreas fault moved deep in me. And it moved a lot.

Not because I’ve been a long-time Hillary fan. In fact, quite the contrary. I have had sincere respect for her as a PUBLIC public servant who has remained focused on improving the welfare of women and children for over three decades. I have been inspired by her persistence and resilience in the face of relentless attacks by the Congress and the press and conservative political activist groups while she proposed new ways of doing things that had stopped working. I haven’t agreed with everything Hillary has done any more than I’ve agreed with everything any politician has done, including our current President, who I can’t help but love and honor at the same time that I’ve watched him take some executive actions that I believe are harmful.

But, something deep flipped when I heard Hillary say with simplicity and grace, “I get that some of you just don’t get me,” and then go on to make the case for her desire and competence to be President of the United States. That line, and the tone of voice with which she made the reset of her remarks, allowed me to welcome – in myself – who I have become as a woman while I’ve been treated like a third of a person for 66 years.

The immersion in my own creative process with my mobile devices for the last five years has reorganized my psyche. It hasn’t changed who I am but it has allowed me lightning fast access to capture, shape and share my personal, creative responses to my actual life experiences anytime and anywhere with a lot of people. Powerful, portable, affordable mobile tools – and the ease with which I can freely express my thoughts and feelings – have reprogrammed my “freelance shooter” mind to attend, full-time, to my own experience. After a lifetime of working “for the man,” these days I focus my attention on telling my own stories – with images and a few words – instead of hunting for evidence for others’ stories.

On this trip with my phone – from tiny Talent – whatever I was wearing has been fine as long as it had pockets and allowed me to move freely. This cut out almost all the big-city clothes I brought with me from Texas after a lifetime as a “stay-at-home Mom,” “working professional woman,” “female community activist,” “tango and ecstatic dancer,” “mid-life jock,” “nature lover,” “culture diva,” “sexually liberated feminist,” “printmaker,” and on and on.

What I had accumulated in my closets were either trophies or fresh, unworn armor – “fabric guns” – that had protected my tender woman’s heart against the blazing, unconscious, systemic misogyny that I have stepped into every time I left home to do something that mattered to me. I collected clothes the way men collect guns – to help me get what I needed for myself and my children and to keep the predators at bay – because I’m not a subservient woman.

And I’m far from the only American woman who has lived – or still lives – this way. There are all kinds of women in the world, not just cookie-bakers.

When Hillary simply acknowledged with grace and humor that some men – and women, too – “just don’t get her” because she’s wants to play big in the world, she shifted my understanding of how to hold the resistance I’ve felt about being an American woman for 66 years.

I realize that’s a funny thing for an American woman to say who’s had a big education, a big career and been a life-long feminist activist. And it’s simply true.

In the days since I watched Hillary speak, I found myself opening the closets, pulling out everything, and physically re-experiencing what each of my different fabric guns has done for me. Living in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” when you’re a woman, you’re always, always, always in danger – and more so if you’re a woman who resists being treated like a third of a person. I started sewing my own clothes when I was seven and I have loved creating and collecting clothing that would help me take care of myself as a woman. I put the sewing machine away when I went back to graduate school. But it’s out now on the kitchen table where I’m looking forward to redesigning some pieces I love that still have happy-potential.

At this point, there are piles everywhere like the one in the picture above. They’re going to consignment shops and battered women’s shelters because I don’t need them and there are plenty of women who do.

I’ve been laughing my head off, putting what I am keeping together in brand-new ways to cover my now aging, sagging flesh in fun ways. I’ve been shrieking aloud when I come up with a new outfit from old pieces, delighted that I have had all the experiences I’ve had, and that I no longer need to keep clothes as trophies of battles won – or lost – or armaments I’m stockpiling to defend me in years to come.

The jig is up: we’re women. And there are a lot of people who just don’t get us. Dressing for success – so we look good enough to eat (attack) – is just too much goddamn trouble. And it cuts out the fun of being a woman who loves clothing because it’s beautiful.

Regardless of whether or not I agree with her every time, Hillary Clinton has made herself a model of strength as an American woman: a woman satisfied to continue her quest to build a safer and healthier world for women and children – even when so many “just don’t get her.”

Well, me too – I’m with her. Wrinkles and saggy arms and asses and all.

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Maca Root: Natural Support for Menopause

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

In keeping with Ashley’s most recent post about plants and their healing properties, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite remedies: maca. Maca comes from Peru, a veritable paradise of wonderful grains and healing plants. (Including the much maligned coca leaf, but that is a story for another time, girlfriends.)

Originally eaten by the Inca for strengthening and increasing energy, recent studies have found maca root to be helpful in relieving menopausal symptoms and returning our sexual vitality. Side effects? Virtually none, save occasional reports of gas with the raw version. (It is available in raw powder, capsule, or elixir.)

Maca root seems to work by balancing hormones and the entire endocrine system. Believe me when I say that our hormonal systems are interconnected and all of them need balancing after the Pause, not just our estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.

I took maca root early on in my menopause journey – then I ran out and “forgot” to order more. Menopause brain, I suppose. Luckily, the wonderful folks at The Maca Team contacted me about trying it again. They sent raw red powder, gelatinized powder, and elixir.

Two of our goddesses have tried the powder and both are reporting better energy. One was suffering hot flashes again after losing fat and adding muscle mass. (Yep, fat is a great place to store hormones it seems.) Her hot flashes have decreased using the maca root and she is once again sleeping through the night.

I opted for the elixir and love taking it – I get lazy when it comes to powders. I know, ridiculous but true. A couple of droppers full three times a day and my vitality has definitely risen. Placebo effect? I don’t know, since I can’t split myself in two and conduct a controlled clinical trial, but any way I can feel strong and healthy works for me.

So many reports are anecdotal (stories by women like us) but more studies will likely bear out maca root’s health benefits.

Synchronistically, just as I was working on this post,  I got a note from ethnoherbalist Kevin Curran about maca and its role in relieving menopause symptoms. To learn more about this wonderful plant medicine, please visit Dr. Curran’s site .   It’s fascinating!

For more information or to order maca root supplements, visit The Maca Team website. Let us know how maca root works for you. We learn by sharing our wisdom and experiences with one another, so don’t be shy.

Interesting side note: Every time I try to type ‘maca’, autocorrect changes it to ‘mama’. A message or sign? Maybe not. Then again, maybe.

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Plants talk about menopause: their simple message

Plant people

Know me by name

I’ve always been intrigued by plants ~ every since my mom began pointing out flowers and announcing their majestic, exotic names: “hyacinth”, “agapanthus”, “hydrangea”.  So it wasn’t a leap for me when I started to learn about the medicinal properties of the plants ~ that people had been using them to treat everything from bruises to insecurities since time immemorial.

Modern herbalists come in all shades. My yearly dive into plants happens at the Northern Californian Women’s Herbal Symposium where practitioners teach about herbal traditions from all over the world – including Ayurveda (India), Traditional Chinese Medicine, European, Western (Native American). Then there are the ethnobotanists, nutritionists, sea weed specialists, Mayan uterine practitioners, and more.  Common to each is her appreciation of the symbiotic relationship we’ve been having with plants since time began.

I want to share with you, my menopausal sisters, my take-away from the blend of these century-rich traditions and modern scientific explorations.  As with any distilled wisdom, it’s really simple.  The key to a healthy perimenopause, according to Sarah Holmes, co-founder of The Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine, is to support our body’s natural tendency to maintain homeostasis as our bodies are always trying to stay in balance.  In other words, our task at menopause is to focus on balance.

Balance is a continuum

As we come into this next phase of our life cycle, balance starts with coming into a compassionate relationship with ourselves.  We accept this is happening, we bitch and complain about its inevitability, we mourn and regret ~ and then we put on our big girl panties and figure out how best to navigate this turn of the tide.  Identifying how to bring more balance is the first step.  But we’re going to need a good store of resilience and flexibility to maintain that balance.  Step two is to expand our range of balance, that is, to actually increase our cache of balance. Similar to having bolsters in the hull, so to speak, when it comes to keeping ourselves upright no matter how choppy the waters get.

Okay, got the metaphor. But how does that translate into what’s happening now?  What do the plants say about these fluctuations that are turning me into someone I don’t recognize?

Patterns of balance and imbalance

Since our bodies speak, we notice, in our bodies, emotions and spirits, repetitive patterns that are pointing to imbalance.  Herbally speaking, the task at hand is to support our bodies until balance is restored. (This approach is in contrast to the pharmacological way of taking over or suppression the functions of our bodies, until balance is restored).

Let’s break that down a little more: When we experience inflammation, pain or heat (that includes hot flashes and being pissed off) that’s imbalance.  When we don’t rest or spend time with friends, that’s imbalance.  When we don’t pay attention to what our body’s trying to communicate to us, that’s imbalance. 

If our task at menopause is to show up, become our true selves and be in our power to be examples for the younger generations, balance includes: resolving our unresolved trauma and family stuff; stepping away from outgrown jobs or environments, especially ones where we’re disrespected; and being brave and trusting enough to look at those shadowy areas that we’ve hoped would go away by now. It’s time for us to figure out how to a good, wholesome, healthy human in this day and age.  No mean feat, mind you.

That’s where the plants want to help out.  Using herbs to support our bodies until balance is restored can occur in many forms: it can be making dietary changes; it can be mixing your own herbal teas (infusing flowers and leaves in hot water overnight or simmering roots and berries for 4-8 hours); it can be consulting with a herbalist in your area; and it can be growing your own plants and being ‘fed’ by your relationship with them. There are wonderful resources, books, websites to explore outside the scope of this overview of plants at menopause, many of which you can find in our archives here at MGB.

Herbalists have introduced me to perspectives that seem so simple, but as I mature they guide me with renewed depth and wisdom. Their message: we are an integral part of nature, over the millennia our bodies and the plants have evolved together, the plants are our allies and our healing is intimately linked with and dependent on them. 

Thank you, Mom, for introducing me to them by name.

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Menopause and Intimate Relationships

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

More than just a decrease in libido can cause significant strain in the most loving, troublefree relationships during Menopause. In this blog post, we examine irritation and feeling disconnected from our intimates.

My husband once remarked that it was a wonder that more couples don’t get divorced during the  Big M transition. And certainly it’s true that if we who are undergoing this forced journey don’t understand much of what’s occurring, our mates and loved ones are left completely befuddled.

The combination of physical changes and emotional changes can put a strain on the most loving relationship. Loss of libido, depression and apathy, irritation with everything your loved ones say and do, fatigue, hypersensitivity to noise, temperature, and touch are just a few of the manifestations of this hormonal rollercoaster ride.

Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, starts her book of 500+ pages with this sentence “It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause.”

Okay, well it may not have been an intentionally kept secret, but I sure never heard anything about this. (Or any other of the myriad manifestations of the hormonal sh*tstorm we call the Big M.) And I’m a registered nurse for pity’s sake.

Dr. Northrup goes on to elucidate that whatever is wrong or dysfunctional in your relationships will be greatly exacerbated by menopause. I think that is true.

However, in all my talks and sharings with menopause goddesses and their loved ones, I’m finding that a huge amount of upheaval can exist in the most functional relationships.

The Venuses spent a significant part of every meeting focusing on our primary relationships. Suddenly sexual desire disappears. We may not have leisure time interests in common with our spouses. The kids are no longer a focus.  How then do we connect with one another?

And now our intimates want to spend more time with us (the men are changing, too, don’t forget.) We are just beginning to explore our creativity and may want to spend more time alone or with girlfriends  How do we reconcile these needs with our desire to be connected with our loved one?

It has been all too easy to assume that every freakout or episode of bitchiness is hormonal – “oh she’s just going through menopause”  rather than a legitimate reaction to circumstances.

Additionally, deeper difficulties may be brewing or problems long ignored have just come to the surface.

However, it is just as deluded to assume that this sea change isn’t hormonal. Especially if the change is fairly dramatic, seemingly without warning.

Theresa and I found that we went from zero to sixty on the irritation meter in seconds during the worst of our transition. Talking with the other Venuses showed us that we were not alone.

It became clear to us that we needed to ascertain when our anger was a legitimate problem, a true trampling of our boundaries versus a hormonal side effect. Let me tell you truthfully, it can really be hard to discern the difference.

Looking backward, I can offer this advice. Proceed with caution and take it slow. We found that irritation might flare up in a circumstance that we could certainly rationalize as being justifiable anger. But we often decided not to act or say anything right away. We mused. We waited. We paused.

If we were still pissed off in a few hours, we reevaluated and decided on a plan of action for confronting and discussing the problem. If our irritation had literally vanished, we knew that hormones might have played a part. And we let it go.  No harm, no foul.  Especially no harm. To us or anyone else.

(A little history sidenote here – none of the Venuses is a shrinking violet, unused to sharing her feelings, including anger. If you have always contained your anger and irritation, this may not be the best plan for you. You may need to let some anger out. After all, some Change is good!)

And some good news.  The worst of the emotional and hormonal upheaval seems to last around two years, give or take a year. So be patient. Get to know your irritation levels; when they require intervention and when they don’t. Warn your loved ones when you feel especially out of control so they won’t take it personally. Best of all, they can support you. They love you.  They want to help.  Let them.

(Part of this post was adapted from a previous entry in 2009. It’s still relevant. More about this in the next post from me in two weeks. Ashley will post next week.)

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Cultivating A New Relationship with Ourselves

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

One hard lesson we learned – possibly the most valuable of this transition – was that the pivotal relationship we needed to cultivate was with ourselves. When it seems that virtually every molecule in our body has changed, it shouldn’t surprise us that we need to get to know our new selves. That truly is the first step in creating new relationships with our intimates. Oh sure, we all thought we knew ourselves but further examination made us completely rethink that premise. Here’s how we started the process.

Me – meet Me

The mantra of midlife women “I just don’t feel like ME anymore” serves as an call to awakening.  Who WAS I?  More important,  who AM I now?  Perhaps our increased need for time alone has a purpose.  We need to become acquainted with the changeling emerging from the upheaval of our bodies, psyches, and beleaguered spirits.  We must question ways in which we have known ourselves prior to now.

We identify ourselves by the roles we’ve played in family and society.  We also have ideas of what describes us – quiet, outgoing, sensitive, impulsive, etc.  Identities and descriptions make up much of what we think of as ‘myself’.  These roles and ways of being are familiar and comfortable, if not exactly the dreams we thought we would live.  In getting to know a new SELF, we must first relinquish these familiar identities.  We need to let go of them however much they may resemble a life preserver tossed upon the stormy seas of so much change.

We addressed this in one of our Menopause Goddess gatherings with the following exercise.

“Letting Go of the Old Me” Exercise
Cut up heavy unlined paper or cardstock into pieces big enough for one or two words to be written.  (approx. 1/2 inch by 3 inches each is a good size.)  Give each woman 30 pieces of paper and a pen.  In silence, each Venus writes down one role or description on each piece of paper,  eg.  homemaker, nurse, artist, spiritual person, wild woman, sister, daughter, mother, and so on.  When finished hold all your roles and identities in your hands.  One by one, put them down, feeling the sensations and emotions of letting go of each one.  Take as long as needed – noticing how it feels to shed each identity.  When all your papers have been relinquished and your hands are empty, just sit quietly and notice what is left.  How does it feel to be without your roles?  Without your descriptions of who you are?  Don’t forget to breathe.

After 5-10 minutes of sitting quietly in this fashion, slowly begin to pick up your roles and descriptions one at a time.  Notice this time how it feels to reclaim each identity.  Are there some that are easier to take back?  Some that are burdensome or seem irrelevant?  Are there surprises?

If you’ve done this exercise in a group, (definitely the preferred way), those Venuses who wish to may share their experiences.  This serves to deepen and validate the experience for all.

For some in our Venus group, this exercise was deeply emotional, with great pain experienced on ‘giving up’ some of our most cherished identities.  Others were equally surprised at the ease with which some roles dropped away, like burdens laid to rest.  We found ourselves re-thinking the roles we have adopted until now and contemplating releasing those that no longer serve us or others.

The most important epiphany of the exercise involved feeling what was left when we let go of all our supposed roles and identities.  “Something” essential still remained.  An authentic being with value apart from what she does or how she is perceived exists when we give up all our identities.  Each goddess might be well served to acquaint herself with this essential ‘she’. Our ‘aha’ discovery of Self without proscribed identities led us into a discussion centering on another relationship that we wished to cultivate in midlife: our spirituality. We’ll touch more upon this in our next blog post.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”

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What A Vibrant Second Act Looks Like

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

We drove up to the house and parked. A diminutive red-haired pixie burst out from the front door, multicolored tattoos scrolling down both arms. “This can’t be right,” I thought. “This woman can’t be a grandmother.”

It was our first time using Airbnb. The cozy mother-in-law unit looked perfect. I received text messages from our hostess, Linda (not her real name). She gave me pertinent details and asked why we were coming to Ventura. When I mentioned grandchild, she responded that she too was crazy about her grandchildren.

As Linda neared me, I realized that she indeed was a Menopause Goddess. She flung her arms around me in welcome and ushered us into the charming hideaway. A bottle of wine and several Keurig coffee pods decorated the counter. A woman after my own heart.

Linda  is a nurse midwife who runs two other businesses. She is a dynamo, a force to be reckoned with. I don’t doubt that she jumps out of bed every morning excited to greet the day. She has created her vibrant Second Act.

Menopause Goddess Sandy was in a terrible accident last year while commuting to work. Her convalescence gave her time to assess her life choices. She retired from her job and took a different route to Vibrancy. She spends her days walking, reading, and playing with her grandson. For the first time, her days are completely her own. She says she may volunteer or work at a bookstore someday, but for now each day is a perfect jewel to be admired as it is.

Jess and her husband left the tech industry last year. They bought a motor home and traveled the U.S., wandering wherever they wished, whenever they wished. They came back home and got jobs that have nothing to do with tech – she works in the hospitality industry and is loving the fresh start.

Barbara is a member of my writer’s group. She moved to Moloka`i alone last year. Her family was aghast. Why was she moving to a rural island where she knew no one and had no ties? She explains it this way – “This is my Walden Pond. I want to live a life of contemplation in nature.” She writes much of every day and is thriving in her new life.

My point in sharing all these stories is this: there is no one right way to live a vibrant life. All these women are following their hearts into a fulfilling (for them) Second Adulthood. There are as many ways to live vibrantly as there are Menopause Goddesses. And if we don’t know what or how we’d like to create our next steps? Try different ones on for size – if you don’t like it, go to Plan B. Or C. We don’t get demerits for trying more than one approach. Or for constantly revising it as we go along. Whatevah!

Share with us your vision of a vibrant Second Act, even if you are not quite ready to fully live into it. Sharing our dreams makes them more real to us. And after all, that’s what this site is about: Women sharing wisdom.

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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 Schrader’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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