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.
I would love to know what other goddesses discovered when they performed this exercise. Who or what was left?
I can speak for the goddesses in our original group – what was left was an essential “me”. Some goddesses cried at losing some of the roles and felt bereft at first – it was a very emotional exercise for being so simple. I think it spoke to how much we identify with our roles. We decided that what was left was more like ourselves as children, pure being. It felt “lost” at first, then as we explored it, much more of a remembering that we are so much more than our roles. And that we could jettison roles that no longer fit. Try it with a group – very powerful to work on it together – creates a synergy of insight. Great question!!!