Last blog post, we focused on getting what we really want. Wanting, even defining may not be enough. As we create the second half of our lives, we may have to let go of some previously cherished identities; stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
The Venuses pondered this quandary in our third meeting, a week long exploration in Hawai`i. The following exercise provided tears, laughter, and enlightenment. (excerpted from “The Big M”, Humor, Heart, and Help For the Menopausal Journey.”)
“Cultivating A New Relationship with Ourselves
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.
“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, 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’. “
You can try this exercise alone, although it is even more valuable when done in the presence of your Menopause Goddess girlfriends. Shedding roles that don’t serve us any longer opens space for us to become the women we wish to be. As we grow into our new Selves, what we want may change as well. All of this is just focusing our vision, clarifying our dreams, and finding our path as we travel this next part of the post menopausal journey.
(For more exercises in creating our Second Act, as well as surviving and thriving on the Menopause journey, get your own copy of The Big M. And get a copy for a girlfriend at half price when you order yours.)