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Deep in the Womb of Winter

Deep in the womb of winter; this is where I find myself.

January, with its icy, howling wind blowing in a damp, raw air that chills me to the bone. The dark, heavy skies give an ominous air that draws me to surrender to its presence, while patiently I wait for snow. For when it snows, the air is milder, the energy lighter and the noise is muffled under the Cailleach’s cloak in a metaphorical coziness that invites both childlike fun outdoors and coorying in indoors.

In these dark days and weeks of winter, I relish the time to just be. I don’t bounce straight into New Year New Me; that’s just not my style. Instead, I light more candles and embrace the slow pace, the space and the very deliberate lack of routine, for as long as I can. A big fat pause on life to properly rest and reset. This year, more so than ever before, I feel the need to withdraw and sit in the stillness by myself. And for once, I’m listening and paying attention. I want no company, no distraction ( I see you and hear you social media and you know exactly how to draw me in! You are my WIP!), to be able to eat, sleep and walk in the woods as I please, no timescales, no expectation, just my simple rituals, pencil and fire (and soup!!). But of course, I live in the real 21st century world with a family, home and business, so while I can dream of this existence, the reality is more the taking of little bits of it at a time and make the ideal come true in the inbetween spaces of everyday living. Baby steps.

This is my time for planning and dreaming. My head is burlin’ with ideas and wants and desires for the coming year but none of them are yet in action or even anything other than a list on paper or swimming in my imagination. I have not the energy nor the strength to even attempt to put into action currently. Perish the thought!

We are approaching the first full moon of 2020 (7.21pm GMT Friday 10th January), also known as the Wolf Moon, Snow Moon, Cold Moon or Birch Moon, alongside the lunar eclipse. The energy is rising as the moon waxes to her full size and strength, yet for me, my cycle is in direct contrast. My energy is waning and am drawing inwards towards my dark moon phase, my inner winter. My mood and my energy perfectly in sync with the season and myself, with where I need to be.

How are you feeling this winter?

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What is Yule?

What is Yule? Are you familiar with the word but unsure of it’s meaning? Or know a bit about Yule but unsure as to how to celebrate the festival or of the meaning behind the celebration?

Yule is the time in the calendar also known as Winter Solstice or Midwinter. It is the pre-christian, pagan celebration of the return of the sun. The precursor to the modern day, christian celebration of Christmas. It was honoured and celebrated across much of northern Europe, particularly in Celtic, Scandinavian/Nordic and Germanic cultures (known as Jul).

Here in the northern hemisphere, this time of year is very dark with only a little sun light each day, but on the Solstice, the shortest day of the year, some places see no sun light at all. To get through these dark times, people came together to feast and make merry; to make offerings to the Great Mother (Mother Nature/Gaia/Goddess / local deities) and to honour the sun to ensure its return once more. With the sun’s rebirth comes lighter and warmer weather to farm, grow food and livestock thus enabling their very survival. The welcome and vital sunrise was celebrated as a festival as it was believed to truly be a miracle and people rejoiced that they had been blessed by the light once more. The festivities lasted many days and more recently have been referred to as the 12 days or nights of Yule/Yuletide which gave forth to the 12 days of Christmas.

Living in tune with nature, the cycles of the earth and seasons of the land, the people of the day were at the mercy of the weather and of the Great Mother and would ensure they pleased Her with their offerings, in both thanks for what they harvested and in hope for success for the next year coming. The best of the produce would be served at these revelries and the rest would have to keep families going throughout the winter, lest they starve until the new crops began to grow and the new animals were of an age for slaughter. Spring was a lean season for eating, but a good successful harvest secured a hearty and abundant winter and a pleased Mother.

As well as a time of celebration, Yule was also a time of peace and quiet contemplation of the lessons learned. Gratitude and joy was shared for the year just gone and hope was encouraged for the year to come. The festivities were steeped in observed rituals and reverence as well as helping lift the communities through the bleak midwinter lull in work and idle hands. Instead of working the land, evergreens were gathered and brought inside, the branches, boughs and trees or bushes (Christmas tress and garlands by today’s understanding) were adorned with candles, lit to to give encouragement to the vegetation to grow and thrive in the coming year, and remind the sun to grow bright and strong, as well as to keep any fae, housed in the boughs, warm during this cold dark time.

Many traditions from the ancient ways are still in practice today, some have been modified to accommodate modern living but the essence remains true. This is not a commercial festival, with the business of busyness, but rather a meaningful time to make like nature and find the stillness in the dark to turn inwards in contemplation of what has gone before; give thanks and release what no longer serves or has expired, to say farewell to those souls who have departed this earthly plane in the past solar cycle and to also create, plan and make space for what is to come in the following cycle. It’s cold outside so connecting with kith and kin hearthside, round the Yule log, sharing in communal ritual and togetherness, gift giving and feasting is as important today as it was way back when.

So how do modern day pagans celebrate this important time in our Wheel of the Year (calendar)?

I can’t speak for anyone else but thought I would give you an insight into what yule looks like rounds at mine. A quick pinterest search will open to millions of pins of ways people across the globe are honouring the sun’s return. In the Northern hemisphere, December 21st (approx) is Winter Solstice, but in the Southern hemisphere, it is Summer Solstice that parties with Christmas, while their Winter festival is in June.

Our Yuletide celebrations begin at sunset of the evening of December 20th, Mother’s Night (Modranecht ). I say “our” celebrations, but I really mean mine! I’m the only pagan in the house, but my family share in some of the celebrations with me which is beautiful and has become traditional in our own wee family. All work must be complete by this evening, there is no “work” during Yuletide. This night is not too dissimilar to Samhuinn in that it is time for me to acknowledge and honour the Mothers who have come before me, my motherline ancestral thread. I have names for these women now, but in years gone by I didn’t so my ritual was more a prayer/blessing to all Mothers, and Mother-like women I know, knew and respected. I like to take time for myself and dedicate this time to meditation and a small ritual involving naming my ancestors and giving thanks.

The day of Solstice or Yule will fall on 20th or 21st or 22nd December. This year our shortest day is 22nd and the light will be reborn at sunrise on 23rd. We have a special meal – ALWAYS Nigella’s Christmas Ham (her Christmas cook book is the only bible I ever owned – it comes out every year without fail since I bought it in 2008) eaten by candle light, we have a small gift exchange – the gift has to be crafted (usually food! Once again thanking the Goddess that is Nigella) or be a second hand purchase or books – books are the best gift in my opinion, and if second hand then even better, especially if they are old and have an inscription in the inside cover. My copy of Little Women that my husband gave me for yule about 10 years ago, has an inscription from Elsie to Alice in pencil from April 1911 – who were Elsie and Alice?? Anyways, I digress. We watch the sunset into the longest night of the year, exchange a small gift and give thanks for the year gone and make a wish for the year to come. It’s such a cozy evening with just the twinkly tree lights and candles. This year, weather depending we are hoping to get the fire going and can sit outside for a bit as the sun goes down and burn our wishes and a makeshift yule log (as well as enjoying the chocolate variety for pudding). In ancestral times, the fires were extinguished and hearths were cleaned out. The communal village Yule log was lit from a taper saved from the previous year’s log to continue the luck and good fortune into the new year, and then each household’s new fire was lit from a flame from the blazing communal log. The following morning I will witness the sunrise, as it returns in welcome to join it as we dance its next dance.

A traditional Scottish Blessing for Solstice’s returning sun :

I welcome you,

sun of the seasons,

as you travel the skies aloft;

your steps are strong

on the wing of the heavens,

you are the glorious

mother of the stars.

A modern twist on the rejoicing the light is when my son and I jump in the car (usually the evening of 22nd or 23rd) and drive round all the local villages and look at all the lights people have decorated their homes and garden with, and bring along hot chocolate for our nighttime road trip. Over the course of the next couple of days, including Christmas day, the time is spent with family and friends celebrating the season, eating and feasting and laughing and enjoying (and stressing and arguing and eye rolling but there is always mulled wine and/or rum!) which is tempered by quiet moments of time to myself each evening (sometimes, especially on 24th or the 4th night of Yuletide, that quiet time is literally 5 mins before bed!).

But it’s the betwixt days between Christmas and New Year that are my favourite; lots of time for contemplation, working out the kinks and plans for next year, eating leftovers and rich foods, sleeping and resting, not keeping any routine or “normal hours”, seeing friends, getting outside into nature and cleansing (redding) the house ready for 12th Night, Hogmanay. The festivities all leading up to “The Bells” and steak pie and the traditions that come with this night. I prefer to have the tree down and the decorations away before The Bells, so as to welcome the new year in fresh and clean but I know I am in the minority for that.

Some other ways to honour the 12 nights of Yuletide could be to spend each of the 12 nights reflecting on a month of the year just gone i.e. first night, what lessons did January hold, 2nd night for February so on and so forth. Welcoming the sunrise with yoga sun salutation. Baking and sharing sun bread. Having a potted tree or an evergreen tree in your garden that you can decorate with birdseed, nuts and berry garlands and icicles for our feathered friends. I’m sure you have plenty of ideas that suit your needs/beliefs/wishes.

I love Yule and actually would happily fore-go Christmas in favour of yule but that would take some explaining to the family and result in hurt feelings and misunderstandings that quite frankly just aren’t worth the hassle – who needs more stress in December? So I will continue to celebrate both and maybe my 9yo will develop my same love for a low key Yule over the extravagant Xmas as he grows up but for now he is still all about Santa and the excess of the season. To him it’s magical and when I was his age, it was pure magic for me too.

Solstice Blessings to you

Lissa xx

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12 Nights of Yuletide

On the first night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, my Motherline ancestry.

On the second night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, evergreen trees and my Motherline ancestry.

On the third night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, the returning sun, evergreen trees and my Motherline ancestry.

On the fourth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me a flaming log, the returning sun …

On the fifth night on Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, time with family …

On the sixth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, feasting and laughter …

On the seventh night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, a bunch of mistletoe …

On the eighth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, quiet contemplation …

On the ninth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, sacred solitude …

On the tenth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, cleansing energy …

On the eleventh night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, love in abundance …

On the twelveth night of Yuletide Great Mother gave to me, the turning of the wheel, love in abundance, cleansing energy, sacred solitude, quiet contemplation, a bunch of mistletoe, feasting and laughter, time with family, a flaming log, the returning sun, evergreen trees and my Motherline ancestry.

Sing along to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas. These are the 12 nights that best suit and reflect MY yuletide – what would yours look like?

With love & blessings

Lissa xx

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Dear Winter

Every year I look forward to your dark embrace.

Your stark, barren chill brings a wild clarity where the shadow is invited into the light, hearth side.

As I await the Cailleach’s freshly laundered cloak of white to spread out across these lands, I quietly settle into slowing down and coorying in, into your season.

While I eagerly anticipate you annual arrival, I am well aware of the sense of dread your appearance brings to others. Those without shelter, food, comfort, their health or the love of kith or kin. You make their very existence a challenge for survival.

In contrast to the poverty lived by many, the polar opposite also bears witness to showcase wealth, abundance and for some, greed; much of which will lead to the aforementioned poverty in the spirit of keeping up appearances.

There is no hiding in your season, where everything is raw and exposed; branches bare and wind unforgiving. You are relentless in your pursuit of truth, forcing the pause of hibernation to turn inwards to seek our heart’s desire or assess our current situaion, for good or othewise; mentally and physically clearing the path of the old to make way for the new growth.

I crave the simplicity of life that you so beautifully demonstrate in the earth around me. Peaceful, resting, hibernating, going deep to renew once again in Spring. To appreciate what has gone before and to prepare for what is to come with a healthy dose of self care and preservation, feeding my body simple but nourishing foods and loving those around me hard.

Thank you for this time of quiet and slow reflection.

With love, blessings and gratitude

Lissa

xx

(Inspired to write this by Carrie-Anne Moss, of Annapurnaliving.com and her book Fierce Grace)

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Remembering Our Ancestors

October is my month, Autumn is my season; the season of the witch, of transformation, a transition period, of evolution, of turning inward. It’s dark and it’s energy contemplative, shadowy, truth seeking, quiet, nourishing and soulful. This is the time before the pause, I’m in my home and nesting, tending the hearth, coorying down prepping for hibernation; I look forward to this point of the year, each and every year – you can keep your spring and summer, I’ll keep my late autumn.

Late October is also, associated with Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve, followed by Hallowmas, All Hallows Day, All Saints Day on 1st November then All Souls Day on the 2nd. In times gone by, the whole affair was known in Celtic traditions as Samhain/Samhuinn. In time before the Gregorian or Julian calendars with set dates and days, the passage of time was measured by the solar and lunar cycles. Much simpler, much more intune with what was happening naturally. The rituals of this fire festival were respected and revered on and around the dark moon, and that wouldn’t necessarily have been 31st October (because 31st October didn’t exist). The darkest sky at this time of year was considered to the be the gateway into the winter months and the point where the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest, allowing our ancestors to move between their world and ours. Of course, that also meant that any malevolent spirits could also traverse the veil, hence the need to ward them off with charms such as skulls (evolving into the jack o’lantern of today).

Honouring our ancestors and deceased loved ones, whether by telling and retelling their stories, looking at photographs, visiting their graves or by some other means of remembrance, is a long held tradition of keeping their memory alive in the now and carrying forth into the future.

Why is that important? People only stay “alive” for as long as we remember them and continue to tell their stories. Our ancestors make us who we are – we here because of them, whether they be someone to honour and love or are ashamed or embarrassed by, what ever horrors they lived through or were involved in, whether they were “good people” but “of their time”, whether their beliefs and values mirrored ours or not, which ever path they walked, how they lived, loved and breathed, we are here today thanks to them.

Our ancestral DNA is imprinted in our very fabric of existence. What magic and memories are you holding at a cellular level? How do you weave their story into you yours? We create and tell our own stories, but what can we learn from the past for today and moving forward.

I ask you, do you know who your ancestors are? If so, how far back and from where do they hail? Do you know your Red Thread, who your female ancestors are? A beautiful way to honour your ancestry is to trace it, see where your lineage lies and from where. Embrace your roots and learn your heritage. You may end up surprised or it may lead to conversations with relatives you’ve lost contact with and sharing of yet more stories or old photos, with names and people and places.

And looking to the future, we are the ancestors of tomorrow; whats (y)our legacy?

This year, the dark moon is Sunday evening, 27th October (actual 0% lunar visibility falls at 03.38GMT on Monday 28th) so celebrating and honouring our loved ones and the festival this weekend is perfectly appropriate. Samhuinn, the 13th New Moon of this year and the Celtic New Year all rolled into one celebration. So get your pumpkin ( or tumshie as per my household preference) carved, prepare, serve and enjoy a favourite meal of your loved one no longer earth-side, dook for apples and divine the future. Make merry and have a blessed Samhuinn.

Love Lissa

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Help! My period isn’t synched with the moon.

Come, gather with me by my hearth. Let’s sort this out.

Close your eyes and visualise in your mind’s eye, the moon, in all her luminous beauty.

Take a deep, womb deep, breath in.

Open your eyes and give the best eye roll that you can.

And exhale through your mouth with a roar, releasing all the frustration surrounding the un-synched-ness of your cycle to the lunar cycle.

Now, repeat after me :

FUCK

THAT

SHIT!”

Feel better now? Confused?

It is a very popular myth that women’s menstrual cycles are governed by the lunar cycle. Yes the moon controls the Earth’s waters and we are made up of about 60% water (I actually though it was 70% but a quick google search told me different). Yes our menstrual cycles are cyclic and the phases of our cycles can be described in the same manner as the moon’s. The associated energy of the moon’s effect on earth is mirrored in our moods and own energy levels, BUT there endeth the story. The tales that tell how all women in ancient times bled together under the dark and new moon, then ovulated under the full, are unfounded. They are lovely stories and it would be beautiful if true. I mean, that’s exactly how it would have happened some of the time but not all the time, not every month. It makes sense to live in harmony with the natural world in a time and place before electric light, modern medicine and endocrine disruptors but all it is is another stick with which to bash us with, another standard we’re to aspire to and meet or feel inadequate when we fail.

Unless your own cycle is 29.5 days long every month, you won’t ever be “in sync” with the moon, menstrually. Let’s take my cycle for instance, this month I am bleeding on/with the dark moon. I haven’t done this for almost a year. Last month I started 3 days after the new moon. For most of the this year I have been bleeding either side of the full moon, but have actually travelled through and bled with all phases. Why? Because my own cycle varies each month and ranges between 27-31 days long and the other month it was only 24 days! I’m not a robot. Here’s the thing – your body IS in sync…with itself! The only time your cycle isn’t “in sync” with your own natural rhythms, ebbs and flows of your ovaries is when you are taking the contraceptive pill (or have the injecion/implant) which suppresses/stops your cycle, or when you are pregnant, undergoing medical treatment such as chemotherapy or are post menopause. At these times it maybe useful or beneficial to follow the lunar cycle but when we are following our own cycle please know that you are in sync with your own body and that’s who you’re supposed to be in sync with!

This whole red moon/white moon bleeding with paricular phases of the moon is something that at one time I bought into it too! However, I’m sick to my ovaries of this new New Age expectation of how to and when we are supposed to menstruate. Again, repeat after me:

“FUCK

THAT

SHIT!”

The lunar energy is powerful. I can feel it, but it doesn’t mean that I ignore my own inner energy and being; self first lunar second. This month I am aligned (not synched) with the dark moon and my own moods are deep rooted in need to rest, in solitude, pretty much hibernate, my inner winter phase , in the same way the moon does when it is invisible in the nights sky. It won’t be next month and that’s how it goes.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts – what is your take on menstrual/lunar cycle synchronicity?

Am I tuned to the moon? Absofuckinglutely! I love the moon and how it’s connected to our planet and her energy and beauty.

Is my menstrual cycle? Nope! It’s my period and I’ll bleed when I need to.

L xx

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This Is Forty One

16th June. Another year older and more the wiser. We often joke about being another year older and none the wiser, but this is certainly not the case for me. The first year of my forties has most definitely been a doozy and I’ve not come out of it unscarred.

The lessons have been plentiful and at times painful and brutal as well as joyful.

So what have I learned this past sunwise cycle? Read on…

Life truly does begin at 40! I had a beautiful welcome into this decade. The big celebration within a circle of beautiful souls. Intentions for the coming times were set and the emotions from experiences held from previous decades were released. It was a metamorphosis in action.

Life continues to evolve, as do friendships. The friends I began this decade with will never sit in circle all together again. This is in part to the unfair and untimely death of one of my dearest friends, who at my birthday celebration hadn’t yet had her diagnosis and a year later she is no longer with us. The evolution of friendships means that over time people move on in different directions following their own path, some bonds are strengthened and form more solid friendships with deeper connections, some break off altogether and some new friendships develop. And so it goes. It is all OK. The saying that we have 3 types of friends in life : for a reason, a season or a lifetime is a truism if ever there was.

Time is finite and life is lost. Grief doesn’t so much heal the loss felt, as it does shift into a new way of living and continuing on. Losing a close friend is no different to losing a member of one’s family, and it brings thoughts of my own mortality up front – get those niggles or concerns checked out by the GP!

Moving house is stressful and you never know someone until you live with them. We extended our wee family of 3 this past year by 1 and we share our home with my Mother in Law. Oh the lessons coming back at me to learn are untold and abundant. Yes, I regularly have to check my sanity (as well as my tongue, for blisters).

Self care is non negotiable. I don’t mean bubble baths, I mean looking after me, all of me; mind, body and spirit. My priority is solitude – I NEED time on my own to recharge. No noise, no chatter, no drama, no tongue biting, nothing. Whether that’s being up early before the rest of the household to have my coffee or take a walk in the woods on my own, the need to be alone is primal and absolute.

Perimenopause. This is something I was not prepared for or expecting so early into my forties. Actively tracking my menstrual cycle and being aware and conscious of my body and what it is telling me has been key in identifying what is going on on he inside. My body is changing and aging, ready or not.

I am LOVING the aging process. I am firmly anti anti-aging. My grey hairs are joyous (not just because they are wavy and I have always wanted wavy/curly hair having lived 40 years with poker straight locks), my wrinkles are well earned, particularly those laughter lines, my lived experiences grant me wisdom and I do not wish to be 20 again, far less look it! I feel privileged to have had an analogue childhood/adolescence and digital adulthood. It is the perfect combination for this life, I don’t think I could do or would even want to do my teens or twenties online *shudders*. I am “acting my age” (what ever that means), 41, as I live and breathe it – I don’t know how else to do it!

Acceptance comes in a variety of guises. Acceptance of self, of others, of situations and circumstance. I know who I am (I think). This year I have been swimming deep in the waters of my shadow uncovering and exposing the bits I’d rather not face; my shadow. There are parts of my physical body I like and dislike, there are parts of my character I like and dislike, but I accept that these are the parts that make me me. Of course I am a work in progress, trying, failing, succeeding, learning, trying again, growing and evolving. Its a never ending process. And it starts with accepting who I am.

Values. With acceptance of who I am and who others are, I have stopped reduced comparing myself, positively or negatively, because it is irrelevant, and live instead, according to my own values. The values I deem most important may or may not be the same as those of another, but they are mine and I am living to honor these to the best I can to ensure I live my best life.

I’m sure there are other things I’ve learned or perhaps unlearned, in this past year, but I feel these are the main points. The general thread running through seems to be regarding self awareness, but not from a naval gazing stance (I hope), more from the view that this is who I am, this is my life, these are my needs and boundaries, take me as I am or keep walking. And so this is where I begin 41, and am keen to see what unfolds before 42.

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Perimenopause. WTF?

I’m tired, so tired. Most of the time. I can count on one hand the number of nights in the past few months where I have gotten a fully rested night’s sleep without waking for no apparent reason – and that’s once I actually get to sleep. My bed is too warm despite sleeping with the window open. I keep getting headaches even though I have upped my water intake to ensure I am drinking at least 2ltrs per day which of course just exacerbates my granny bladder. My already dry eyes feel like swollen bouncy balls in my sandpaper sockets as they dry further. I am generally happy to go with the flow of the day to day, but push my button and I WILL explode without warning (this is your warning!). I have zero tolerance for bullshit, drama and other folk’s nonsense. My patience is limited and my time precious; when and with whom I chose to spend it is carefully decided. I am easily distracted and find it hard to focus on anything or anyone for any length of time. I am changing. My body is changing. I feel heavy and bloated (I’m actually the heaviest I’ve ever been outwith pregnancy). I am becoming and growing into myself, into the real me. I crave more and more time alone; peace and solitude are my holy grail. I’m done with striving, with pleasing others at my own expense or judging myself or being judges by other people’s standards. And this is just the start.

Hello Perimenopause!

Did I mention that I am also only 40? I didn’t think I’d have to think about this stuff for another 8 year or so. That was part of my ignorance about menopause and perimenopause. Hell, until 3 years ago I had never even HEARD of perimenopause until a woman I know mentioned that she had been perimenopausal for 8 years as she was approaching her 50th birthday. WTF?

I KNOW I am not alone in what was menopausal ignorance. How do I know this? BECAUSE IT’S NEVER DISCUSSED! We are only just coming around to openly discussing menstruation without using code words and hiding tampons. There was still a minor hoo-ha when an advert showed red rather then blue menstruation blood on the TV last year.

But this is a big fucking deal – it , like menstruation, will affect half the bloody population! Where is all the chat from our elder women about The Change?

There are some women now starting to use their voices and internet platforms to share their own experiences, but the over arching theme in all of them, this one included, the the sheer lack of information about menopause, specifically perimenopause in our general knowledge about our own bodies.

What do you know about menopause? Before I started looking specifically into it last year, my knowledge was thus : menopause means the end of periods, happens between ages 48-52, you get hot flushes and sweaty restless nights, mood swings and for some people, depression too. Oh and HRT of course. There. That was my understanding and extremely scant knowledge of what was to come in my menstrual future.

It is NOT ok for us to be so poorly prepared.

As someone who considers themselves fairly well versed in the workings of the womb and menstrual health, having had pre-cancerous cells removed from my cervix at 30, a miscarriage at 32 and a run of tests taken last year, I take the health of my lady parts seriously. Early 2018 I started experiencing changes however. I had constant nausea (this wasn’t new, I’ve had intermittent periods of persistent nausea for a few years), feeling full after just starting my meals, constantly needing to pee, bloating, disturbed sleep, less cramping just before my bleed was due (when I used to have awful cramps) which moved to awful cramping at ovulation instead, lots of headaches and an unpredictable temperament. The Dr ran blood tests and sent me for a scan of my ovaries. All bloods “came back fine” just needed to up my iron (again, nothing new there) and scan showed “nothing out the ordinary”. Ok, so I am functioning normally, and there’s nothing to worry about (I was just glad that it wasn’t ovarian cancer as my symptoms were pointing in that direction after some internet investigation or early menopause), so WHAT was causing the shift? Nothing more from GP was said, I got my iron pills and carried on with life. Of course, not all the changes in my body stopped, some in the past year have increased! Through my own research I have come to discover that while my GP told me that the UK average for women going through the menopause was 48-52 ( there is a younger and older range to the spectrum, as required in order to ascertain the average), she at no point mentioned perimenopause and that the start of this phase is perfectly normal for women my age! Seriously??

Why is Menopuase not a hot topic of conversation? Why aren’t we discussing it with our mothers or aunties or friends? Why aren’t our Drs discussing it with us when we present our symptoms? Why is it, when it is in conversation, regarded with doom and gloom and scorn? Why is HRT to immediate go-to cure? Why do people think it needs a cure? Why is it to be hidden? Yet another taboo of the female form!

So, let’s chat.

First of all, the word symptoms. I’m not down with calling my experiences “symptoms” and here’s why:

  • Oxford Dictionary : ” (i) a physical or mental feature which is regarded as indicating a condition of disease, and (ii) an indication of the existence of something, especially of an undesirable situation”
  • Cambridge Dictionary : ” (i) any feeling of illness or physical or mental change that is caused by a particular disease and (ii) any single problem that is caused by and shows a more serious general problem”

Do you see my point? Perimenopause and menopause is NOT a disease nor a health problem! Language is important. Frame this big event in our lives as an “undesirable situation” and your frame the societal attitude and engender the shame and need for taboo. It devalues women, in particular our mental health and emotional strength and belittles what our bodies are experiencing; effectively our second puberty! What it doesn’t do is celebrate that this is our time!!! Instead of “symptoms” how about just naming the changes as that, “changes” or “experiences”? Symptoms also has a very medical/clinical energy around the word for a stage in our life that is not medical but a transition as we progress through the cycle of life.

There is a power behind “The Change”; a casting off of the fucks given, a determination to be true and feeling whole. Or at least it ought to be. Instead we may find crippling insecurity and anxiety, long unexpressed and suppressed rage and tension working its way to the surface accompanied by tears. We NEED to feel this stuff, accept it and let it go – WITHOUT being told we are depressed or “hormonal” and given multiple prescriptions for anti depressants and HRT. Yes, we are hormonal but not in a bad way, and yes, some people are actually depressed but how many woman are told they are when all they are truly feeling is the release of toxicity that they had held since their maiden years, bursting its way through? It’s not allowed, it has to remain contained and hidden, you crazy lady. Oh, really?

I have already been told that HRT is the way to go by elder women. “It’ll make you feel better with the mood swings.” “It helped keep my emotions in check” etc etc. Personally, I don’t care about keeping my emotions in check. I want to feel what my body is experiencing not numb it out and effectively be punished by being silenced for it. If people around me are uncomfortable with the metamorphosis into the woman I am becoming, that’s not my problem. This is a rebirth, one I am not stifling to accommodate the delicate expectations of those who are uncomfortable with a woman in her power. Resting bitch face? Nope, regular face where every wrinkle has earned its right to be there, where aging has its own beauty and is a privilege. Not tolerating bullshit or annoyances I would have in the past does not mean I’m grumpy, it means I am honouring myself and my boundaries as opposed to pandering to make someone else feel good. If however, my experiences cause me issues and problems in myself, then I will seek advice from my GP so will not rule out HRT altogether at this point – who knows what the coming decade holds!

So, going back to what I said further up about my knowledge being, at best, scant, is that the actual menopause isn’t recognised until we have had a full 12 months with out a menstrual bleed. Only then are we considered to have reached menopause. (UK average is 51 years old) We are no longer fertile. 1 in 100 women experience it before the age of 40! All the perimenopausal changes we experience leading up to the menopause can start in our 30s! Once the body has gone through the menopause, the changes can still be experienced for a further 4 years or so, when we are then referred to as post menopausal.

A good read for facts about the physical changes and what to expect are

I have self diagnosed myself through my research as perimenopausal, but am going to see GP to make sure (and to rule out anything else untoward, just incase). I feel this is the most sensible approach to take particularly due to my age being in the younger end of the spectrum.

What are your thought and experiences with perimenopause? I’d love to find out and get a conversation going. There are not enough conversations and discussions around this – sharing the good and the bad, empowering and debilitating and educating the next wave of women and men and future generations in what it is to experience this transition as best prepared as possible.

Lissa x

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If you could turn back time, would you?

If you could turn back time, would you?

The clocks went back at the weekend and so too did my mind and imagination!  An old friend sent me a couple of photos from when we were at school (the first being my 17th birthday and they surprised me with cake in English class, the second being our last day at high school). How young we were, just at the threshold of life.

I posted the photo to my instagram account and was asked

“Curious…if you could share anything about the journey of growing up with the girl in this pic now, what would it be?”

which got me thinking about what would I say to the girl in that picture.  I replied with the following :

“I’ve always wondered what I’d do differently if I had my time again (answer = most of it!) but been giving your qu some thought and through all the mistakes and wrong decisions and poor behaviour and choices, I keep coming back to the same thing: Stay true to you, don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t, you don’t have to overcompensate, you are enough and make the best decisions for the right reasons when you remember that 🙏💖 oh and the world is there to be seen and experienced so go and do both!!! ✨”

I’ve been think about this question ever since.  If I could have my time again what would I do differently; answer is pretty much everything! It was then that I realised that conclusion was was a pretty sad state of affairs, because the my choices have led me to where I am now.

Remembering back to when I was 17, who I was and what I wanted, and reflecting on the path that has led me to today, I can see that very little of what I have done and achieved has really been in line with that girl.

I didn’t want to marry or have children. I wanted to travel.  Up until I was 17 I wanted to go to Glasgow School of Art and from age 10 I wanted to be an interior designer, but then self doubt made its presence known along with the comparison to other people. From then I wanted to be a woman with power and authority. I craved independence and the desire to “fly the nest” so sought out university courses which would lead to high flying careers (of course I picked the wrong university, the wrong course and so dropped out).  I also harboured dreams of being arrested(!) but for something worthy and for a good cause, like protesting or doing something radical for Greenpeace.  I remember striving for approval, yet wanting and needing to be “different”. I hated societal confines and knew there had to be more; I was capable of more, but more of what?? I loved most things alternative but was chained to convention, a chain that took years to finally break. It took several bouts of illness and a permanent health condition and numerous well paid but highly stressful  to finally stop and reassess. I spent years in the barren lands chasing dreams that weren’t really mine, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, instead of years in the wilderness following my truth.

Now forty and I am once again taking stock and reassessing where and who I am.  It’s like I’m back at the start of knowing and understanding who I am but with the lived experience behind me.  No I don’t still want to go to Glasgow School of Art and become an interior designer, but I am still creative and need to express that. I know what I want to do, am just finding the confidence to push past the inposter complex to achieve my dreams.

Instead of being sad and melancholy over what ifs or shoulds, I am grateful for the experiences I have had and the lessons learned as I am sat here, a woman who has lived, loved, lost and laughed. A lot! I am who I am because of me. I can’t change my past, but I can learn from it and grow from there.  This second half of life will be all the richer for it.

Looking back, while I strayed way off course from my true north and made highly questionable choices, I can say that no, I wouldn’t change it.  I like love me and who I am today, and I love my family. Who is to say I would be that lucky if I had taken a different route.

1995

Now it’s my turn to ask you: If you could turn back time, would you?

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Wild Woman

Autumn is upon us. The summer sun had peaked and the descent into the dark half of the year has begun. The natural world thrills us with the stunning jewelled landscape of purples, oranges, rusts and gold. The scents in the air tantalize us and the desire to turn inwards with cozy woollen layers and hot chocolate at the fireside increases with each darkening evening as the nights themselves draw in.

Ask everyone you know, I would confidently place a bet that the majority of people would agree, that their favourite season is Autumn. The transition season between the sizzling joy of summer and the cold dead of winter. Everything is changing and evolving; shedding and letting go, preparing for the next stage. The wheel turns; the cycle continues. Birth, blossom, fruit, seed, rebirth and so it goes.

Autumn, the season of abundance. Enjoying the fruits of our labours, the sweet and the juice, the preparations for preserving, baking, sharing and appreciating the harvest. Thankful and grateful for our good fortune. We welcome the return of Strictly on the telly, and not forgetting Hygge  – where Autumn and Winter get their dusting of cinnamon sparkles and we coory in to enjoy and embrace these darker months in a comfortable and delightful bubble.

Can you tell Autumn is my favourite season of the year? I adore this picture I saw on Pinterest last year declaring:

october

Oh yes it is indeed!!

This is the season of Wild Woman

This rich time of year is not purely about the falling leaves and rejoicing in the need to wear to tights again, oh no, it is SOOOO much more than that. The Autumn season in a woman’s life is that magical time when she herself is in transition; the phase between Mother and Crone.  This is the season of Wild Woman. She may also be referred to as Medicine Woman, Warrior, Enchantress, Witch, Bitch or Maga (no NOT the Donald Trump acronym!!)

The season of the witch honours the the waning phase of the moon, the acceptance of the journey towards the end (which is inevitable in all forms of life). The energy is introspective and contemplative, assessing what has gone before and what is yet to come, meeting and facing the shadows. Where the Spring and Summer /Maiden and Mother energy is light, bright and optimistic, the Autumn and Winter / Wild Woman and Crone is dark, deep and questioning. For those of us cycling, this phase is our Inner Autumn, aka pre menstrual phase:  when we want to retreat, have little to no patience or tolerance for bullshit, because this is the most honest phase. We meet our shadow where it forces us to see what we would rather not and either hide from it or face and deal with it.

I personally love this phase, in my inner cycle (despite the cramps), in the annual cycle outside in nature and in the great life cycle of being a woman. Life is such a celebration and our Autumn years are no exception.  When I was in my Maiden phase, my “scary age” was 35, but since my late 30’s I couldn’t wait for my 40’s. I turned 40 earlier this year and I have to say, so far it has been worth the wait! It is a true saying that Life Begins At 40 – there was for me, a distinct shift inside that went from self consciously hiding my truth, people pleasing and a need to be liked, to being thoroughly honest with myself, unapologetic in being exactly who I am and stopping pussyfooting around others so as not offend them, or make them uncomfortable at my expense.  And yes, it has been both noticed and not always liked. But too bad! My transition phase started with the shedding and letting go of outside judgement and placing my value and worth in those external hands. I don’t mean that being true and honest gives you carte blanche to be a total dick, your field of fucks is not so barren, I just mean choose what you care about wisely and release the rest that do not serve or only bring drama.

The Wild Woman Autumn age spans years 40-65 with, of course, plenty room for overlap from the previous Mother phase.  It’s our time to take and make space for ourselves, turn inwards to nurture self and get to know self better (going to drop self care in here). Many women find that this is also when they become more interested in a personal spiritual practice or are curious to find out what it means to them; including understanding and learning to trust their own intuition or tracing family lineage for example. I found that need to know where I came from incredibly powerful, and the answers I found were both surprising and yet made so much sense to who I am leading me to understand the blood that runs in my veins. We can reclaim who we are.

feel all the feels in all their glory

This phase covers our blood-rite, or second puberty; the transitioning peri-menopause years leading into menopause. Or to give it its other name, “Moon Pause”.  It’s an intense time where you feel all the feels in all their glory! Rage, hot flushes, insomnia, depression, lower sex drive, or swing to the other extreme of super charged sex drive,  headaches, increasingly irregular periods, mood swings are some of the most common “symptoms” of a transition in our lives that has been medicalised and medicated. We are not allowed to feel and experience this natural change in our bodies without being told we need Hormone Replacement Treatment. While HRT works for some women, just like the pill, it is not for every woman.  According to the NHS website, the majority of women move through this stage around age 48-52 but some begin much earlier or start later – there is no right or wrong time, just as there is no predetermined timescale for the peri-menopause. Sadly, it is during this time when we are most likely to be called hormonal, hysterical, possibly even bi-polar(!) and most definitely a bitch . Lovely

Why?

Because women are meant to be and equally not meant to be everything except for who we are!! Because middle aged women are viewed as less than the Mother (but more than the crone) and vastly diminished and practically worthless compared to the Maiden.  Incase you missed the memo, we are no longer “worth it”. Over 40 or worse, over 50, no no no, that wont do. The Maiden is idolised for her youth but not her experience. We are plied with adverts everywhere about eternal youth, staying young looking, even to “age well” by using anti aging lotions and potions! What’s so wrong with saying:

“Hey, I’m 40/50/60 and I’m aging. I know I’m aging well because I am alive and living and have the life experience to boot!!”

Keep your mouth shut, don’t create a scene, don’t age, stay young and look young but don’t look like mutton! Oh Pu-lease!!

Autumn is so glorious from all its facets, can we please embrace and give reverence to women in their own Autumn too? This is truly a spectacular age that is not to be feared or disregarded, but celebrated for the wise, wild, unabashed, unashamed, knowledgeable and powerful woman that has come into herself. As  nature naturally slows down and the trees shed their leaves, the cycle continues: Birth, blossom, fruit, seed, rebirth.

Can you imagine how incredible it would be if you were part of a women’s sacred circle which honoured the phases of our life cycle and allowed each of us to be held heard and honoured in our respective phases? How different might the world be if Wild Autumn Women took their place, sat in their power, and got on with living, without the prescribed should and expectations? As I have recommended in previous posts, if you don’t have a circle, find one or create one; they are invaluable in my experience. They are as abundant in support and love as Autumn fruits and give you the necessary hygge coziness you need to sustain you through the deepening darkness into winter.

Wild Woman, rise! Wild Women, together, we rise!