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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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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!

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Mother

Mother; we all have one. We were all birthed from our Mother’s womb, whether or not we know her.

Mother; we* will all be one. Whether or not we have have children.

The Mother archetype is the second phase in a woman’s life, following on from the Maiden phase.  Typically, the Mother years span our 30’s, our caring, protecting, nurturing decade when we are in full bloom, where as the Maiden covers years 12 (approx) to 29. This phase is archetypal and embodies the mindset, maturity, emotions and feelings of the “Mother”. Of course, there will be an overlap between the phases for many women as some will be Mothers at 16 years old or not until 45 years old, and some either through choice or otherwise, never become a Mum.

You are the Mother.

The Mother phase may not seem applicable to some as they have chosen not to, or are unable to have children, but that does not rule out the Mother in all of us. She is the Creatrix of life; be that children, career, project, self, garden, however you choose and what ever you create in this life. You are the Mother.

Who is She?

She is a whole host of labels including : Stay At Home mum, Working mum, Pushy mum, Step mum,Tiger mum, Elephant mum, Helicopter mum, Over protective mum, Negligent mum,  Judgmental mum, Holier-than-thou mum, Yummy Mum(my), Slobby mum, Competitive Mum, PTA mum, Earth Mum, Hippie Mum, Teen mum, Old mum, Geriatric (in the UK, pregnant women over the age of 36 are referred to as geriatric…charming) mum, Adopted mum, Child-less woman, IVF mum, Single mum, Busy mum, Absent mum… I’m sure there are 100 more labels that I have missed that could be added. But is that really who she is? I think not.

This phase of our lives is possibly the most judged; we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t! Your choices here are up for discussion and scrutiny whether you like it and know it or not. But why is this the case? Society and of course, Patriarchy.

The role of mother is valued and equally not valued. Our fertile years carry an expectation that we will reproduce whilst at the same time judge us for staying at home to raise our own children or pass comment that we have returned to the workplace instead of being at home.  To stay at home is a luxury as it is seen as not be participating in or contributing to economic growth of the society, yet to work is seen as a fault as we expect the state or strangers to raise our kids whilst we are at work. Its a no win situation. And that is without the gender pay gap the maternity leave wrongfully exacerbates via unscrupulous and manipulative employers. You will of course be no stranger to the fact that this is specific purely to Mothers; Fathers are not subjected to such restrictions, judgments or expectations.

Should you be childfree/childless during these ‘fertile’ years, you are not free from probing questions and judgement either – regardless of how inappropriate or hurtful the interrogation. “My body, my choice, my business – fuck off and mind your own”  is not, however, regarded as a suitable answer by these judgey types. The flow of the caustic opine is purely one way.

Whilst the Mother is pregnant, in current society, she is revered, fawned over and strangers have a desire to touch your ever growing belly, sans permission. A pregnant woman is celebrated. That is until the baby is born, then the focus shifts. This is the time when Mothers are at their most vital, most important, most in need, yet this is the time when your role begins its demise in patriarchal society. You are invisible, unless you are being judged.  Mother is on the pedestal and every expectation not met is a failing to be scorned.

And I am no stranger to judgement; being judged and judging others. It’s not pretty from either side but it’s there and it runs deep. We judge others from our own insecurities and hurt beyond belief when on the receiving end which further fuels the judgement cycle. Or maybe that’s just me.

grieve the loss of our maiden years

Moving from the Maiden to the Mother is not necessarily an easy transition. We are older, with different priorities to our maiden years, many of us have way more responsibilities too. Raising children, caring for parents or other relatives, supporting friends and sisters with their children, birthing and working in careers, starting and building own businesses and countless other responsibilities that tend to fall on us at this time.  With that extra load, it is absolutely necessary to grieve the loss of our maiden years and its freedoms. We wear our tiredness as a badge of honour and medicate with wine or gin. Societal conditioning plays its part here too with the expectation of us to be selfless in the quest to achieve and do it all. There is also the male gaze to contend with, which is kept sustained by the media. It is a damn site harder to maintain the Maiden physique in the Mother years. Our bodies don’t just snap back into their Maiden mould postpartum, because they aren’t supposed to! They are fuller and rounder, plump and juicy like ripe fruit; no longer just a bud. Just like nature. We are a part of nature rather than apart from nature.

Let’s look positively at this phase in our life. There is so much wisdom, joy, celebration and beauty we can get out of these years should we let ourselves open up to receive.

This is the full moon stage of the lunar cycle – full belly, luminous, beautiful and glorious. Fully in protection mode, healing and receiving. Radiant with health and well being, she is captivating. She is a wonder. Magic.

mothermoon

Looking at the menstrual cycle, the Mother phase is ovulation, our inner summer. This is our most fertile time, when we have the most energy and are feeling super charged, super sexy, confident and magnetic. (Ironically, in my Mother phase years, I felt super knackered, super frumpy, insecure, full of doubt and lonely as fuck – more so in the first few years rather than the latter as I had then made friends with an amazing group of beautiful, loving and supportive women!). We are living with the lessons we learned during our Maiden’s journey. We are wiser, older, more aware of who we are and what our values and priorities are.

How can we ensure that the Mother years are the positive experience they ought to be? How to cultivate that supportive and nurturing environment? You just know what I’m going to say… Circle!

THIS is one of those times in life when your circle is your life line. Whether a circle of women you gather with regularly in sacred space, or a specific Mother’s circle, the support is there waiting to hold you when you need it. You can be honest and let out the shadow side without judgement and are encouraged to share ALL aspects of this Mother energy – the good, the bad, the struggles and the victories. The fellow women in circle will have been there or going through it similarly. You also have the opportunity to pay this back when the time comes for other women to need the support. It is connection to peers interwoven between generations and differing experiences. There are are many things we would love to say or admit but can’t coz judgment. And judgement surrounding Mothering or the choice not to become a “Mother” is one of the worst and most deeply felt. Personally, had I had the circle in place back when I entered the Mother phase, my own journey would have been dramatically different. I know that to be a fact.

What was my experience was that this phase was my loneliest in my life.  I went from being confident and self assured at 31, to birthing my son and experiencing a 180 degree flip in my personality. When I needed support the most, when at the most vulnerable and lost, self conscious and lacking in self confidence and ability to be the Mother I wanted to be, I was without the support I needed. The friends I had had were gone, and I didn’t initially have the confidence to make more, for a good few of years.  I had my Mum and Mother in Law, both of whom were supportive in their own way, but these 2 women did not a circle make. But once I started believing in myself again and my capabilities, forcing myself out to meet new people – and finding the right ones – my life changed. My group of friends in my circle are treasured and invaluable, not just to me but to one another – our support is collective and given amongst  each other as needed.

Just think what the Mother years would look like if circles where caring, sharing and supporting each other were the norm rather than the judgement and criticism faced in isolation.

The village raises the child.  The circle honours the woman.

(Lissa  ~ Wild Sister Rising)

*The we here refers to CIS women, as this is my frame of reference and understanding.

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40

I’ve taken my 40th jaunt around the sun.

My 30s are now behind me with my 20s now a memory.

I’ve hit “mid life”.

I’ve never looked forwards to a birthday more!

And it didn’t disappoint!!

Yes, it is just another number but to me it’s more than that. It feels like a complete new start; the dawn of the next phase in this life cycle. The Wild Woman phase, the Enchantress, the Medicine Woman, the Mage. Call it what you will, but our 40’s represent the journey into the Autumn years of life, the peri-menopausal years transitioning from our fertile mothering  years into that second puberty where we connect truly with who we are as women, owning our own person.  Of course not every woman takes until she’s 40 to reach this place of knowing herself, but I have, and have been on this journey for a long time.

In honour of such a milestone birthday I gathered my sisters in sacred circle and celebrated a beautiful and emotional time.  Nine of us sat in my livingroom and shared in stories, meditation, crafting, poetry, song, food and ritual. I felt incredibly blessed as my friend led the ceremony of leaving my thirties, with it’s lessons, regrets, achievements and acknowledgements, moving forward to face and embrace any fears of growing older (I have none, I LOVE this aging process and with the wisdom it brings as well as the grey hairs aka wisdom highlights!) and set intentions for this coming stage of my life. My women in my clan of choice also set intentions and wishes for me, which of course were burnt to release said intentions in the central cauldron.  My good old broom was put to good use in symbolically clearing away the old to make space for the new and with a twist on the the matrimonial jumping of the broom, I jumped my broom to cross over into this new phase and exciting times ahead.  Not a typical 40th birthday celebration, but a deeply felt one.

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As well as Circling, the other 40th biggie, was a gift to myself  (also from my 8yo as he wanted to gift it to me). I have wanted a new tattoo for a while and had a rough idea of what I wanted and the symbolism it needed to contain, but an inability to put it all together. I contacted the only artist I knew who would be able to create exactly what I wanted and as expected, it is stunning.

So I got my Goddess Butterfly with the moon and pearls and lace detail that I needed. I don’t think it is possible to love this tattoo more! The detail and artistry is exquisite – and no, it didn’t hurt. Having Fleetwood Mac playing in the background (love Fleetwood Mac) was an added bonus. Thank you Aphra x

Of course, no birthday is complete without cake….

cake

especially CHEESE CAKE!!!! My Mum pulled a blinder on the cake front this year. I had the chocolate & raspberry slice but when went back later, discovered Scottish Tablet flavour….Oh My Goddess, I have never tasted cheesecake so good!!!!

So far, this being 40 malarkay is proving to ace the 30’s – long may that continue.

Lissa

xx

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Maiden

Maiden

Maiden. What does that word mean to you?  What image immediately springs to mind? All it means is an unmarried girl or young woman, and sometimes an older unmarried woman; spinster or maiden aunt.

It can, perhaps, seem like an old fashioned word.  The images I automatically think of are of fair maidens of Ye Olde England in the style of Maid Marian from the Robin Hood tales.

What I am referring to with the word “Maiden” is the first phase of a woman’s life when she transitions from girl to young woman. It begins with Menarche – her first bleed – and commences around 12 years old, give or take a year or 2 (I was 14 years old at the time of my Menarche, although that was not what I called it or EVER even heard it referred to as such until only a few years ago). This is the start of her journey through the cycles; not only monthly but through the rest of her life, moving through the seasons of each from Maiden to Mother to Wise Wild Woman to Crone (Elder) to return to the earth.

The Maiden phase is when she is most valued and least prepared. 

Why am I writing about Maidens you may be wondering. I am writing about Maidens, because in today’s world, in Patriarchal society, this is the phase of a woman’s life where she is most valued and least prepared. We need to redress this balance.

How do we do this? By acknowledging the importance of Menarche, what being a Maiden means to the individual young woman AND her Mother (or primary female care giver), what we can learn from her and what we can teach and tools/skills we can can equip her with as she walks her path to fully realising the wonderful woman she is,  celebrating this rite of passage and honouring the blood rite. And we do all this collectively in the village, the community, the Circle, the Red Tent.

Take a minute to think back to when you had your first period. Were you prepared beyond the basic biological chat from your Mum or School Nurse? How did you feel – embarrassed, ashamed, confused, ill, empowered, proud, “like a grown up”? Looking back, is there anything you would wish had gone differently? Hold on to that thought for a bit longer – we’re going to come back to it later.

Lets now look a bit deeper at this “Maiden”. As girls we transition in to the Maiden phase of life from around the age of 12, give or take, and it lasts until around age 29, when we then transition into the Mother phase. Regardless of whether we have birthed or will go on to have children is irrelevant, as women we all cycle through the each of the phases, experiencing the shifts in energies and our purpose. Some women will have an overlap of the two phases when they birth their children in their teen years or twenties, but the archetype of the Maiden still stands strong – that doesn’t change. Why?  Because this is the season of Spring where everything is new and fresh, preparing the fertile landscape, the waxing crescent moon phase ( and in our monthly cycle, the Maiden/Spring phase is pre-ovulation). See how we are all connected ~ woman, nature, moon, our own inner cycles. All one.

As I mentioned, this is the phase of life when young women are most valued and least prepared. What I mean by that is that we live in a Patriarchal Society where a woman’s value and worth is determined, for the masses for the past few thousand years, from the dominant perspective; by men. Don’t believe me? Just look to see who is making decisions on women’s healthcare and rights in government, particularly in the US – it’s the menfolk!  But back to value and worth. The young Maiden is the prize, the trophy wife.  She makes older men feel youthful and powerful, and if desired, likely to easily produce an heir (or more). Socially, it is perfectly acceptable for an older man to have a much younger wife or partner, when the reverse is much less so.

This is a time of contradictions of epic proportions

This Springtime energy the Maiden is exerting is what makes her attractive and magnetic. She is beautiful, youthful, energetic, confident and ambitious. This is a time for immense growth, but also for facing the shadow side to all this exuberance; naivity and the desire to be independent and free without consideration of consequences. In efforts to make it on our own, this is the time when mistakes are made (some small, some not) and lessons are learned (some the hard way), generally without the framework of strong support in the right places.  This is the time of contradiction of epic proportions, contradictions that can be as confusing as fuck, without the that support.

What is this support I am referring to? The support of women, trusted women who can share the knowledge and wisdom of the blood mysteries, the strength and power that comes from knowing and understanding our cycles, how to care for our (physical and mental) health  properly, are a trusted support network of mothers, grandmothers, older sisters, friends and aunties that will guide and be there without judgement to catch us when we fall. This is what is missing today. The Red Tent/Moon lodges of yesteryear were destroyed and outlawed. The passing on of female wisdom and the teachings of the shared community is long gone, but thankfully not lost. The remembering, awakening and reclaiming of the old ways is happening. And it is being driven by the very real desire and craving for the connection to each other and the support we need.  21st century living is not connected, we are all separated in insular living units, judging one another and hiding our truths. Bugger that! It’s destructive and unhealthy. We are striving rather than thriving, the decline of mental health highlights this. We live in our heads and online.

It’s no wonder the Maiden years are so conflicting. The messages sent out to all are that girls are princesses to be saved – firstly Daddy’s Princess then growing up to be a “good girl”. Any boy/young man who dares show interest in wanting to date a girl has seen the slew of memes around having to face Daddy and his shotgun, the Daddy who wants to look his little girl up until she’s 35. Obviously these are attempts at humour but the subliminal message is chastity and remaining pure are the most important aspects of respectability. Good girls don’t, sluts/whores/slags/tramps/easy girls do, but if you don’t you’re frigid. Don’t love yourself,  you stuck up bitch. Flirty and enjoying self or promiscuous and deserve to be scorned. Ambition synonymous with hard faced, woman hating bitch sleeping her way to the top. Having children in teen years, what a stupid slapper, not having kids in teens/20 is leaving it a bit late, tick tock. Fat shaming, the epitome of beauty is skinny with jutting collar bones, a thigh gap, big boobs and a pout that looks like a swollen vulva. Is it any wonder the Maiden years are a bloody minefield with all this toxicity?

It is time to bring back the Sacred Circles and initiate our daughters into the fold

It is time to bring back the Sacred Circles and initiate our daughters and nieces and friend’s daughters into the fold, into their power, in the safety of those who love and trust. Lessons learned in the village include self respect and trusting their own intuition as to what feels right or doesn’t in any given situation (#metoo anyone?), discovering the workings of life without any fear of shame or embarrassment. Learning not just the biological function of the menstrual cycle but how to live with it and how to best understand what each of the phases of each month mean – again intuition to listening to the their body. This may sound a bit woowoo, but remember your own teen years or your 20’s. Personally, my maiden years were pretty mental – I had bouts of depression, utter recklessness, carefree abandon, was super secretive, made friends and lost friends, was confused by what I thought were the “shoulds” versus my wants/needs, was incredibly insecure but very outgoing, desperate for independence and individuality,  made highly questionable choices, accrued horrendous debts, was incapable of living my natural feminine truth instead struggling and failing to be more masculine in my career (I’m not made that way and it made me ill trying, several times). I was a mess who hid it for the most part fairly well, I think.  The support network during that period was from different friends at different times, those friends who were also trying to figure out and negotiate their own messes at the same time. What we needed was guidance from a trusted source(s). If that person is not the mother, then a suitable mentor. One both the maiden and her mother trust. She is found within their circle as well as the support from the collective within that Circle. When I think back to all the #metoo situations I have experienced, I am angry and frustrated with myself as well as the situations but am convinced that those situations wouldn’t necessarily not have happened, but they would have been called out at the time and dealt with. Being in Circle,  gaining the wisdom and learning the teachings, allows for the self confidence to be able stand up in truth, the ability to determine personal boundaries and authority to honour them, meaning that we no longer tolerate or put up with shit and deal with it at that time, not years later.

The Circle community doesn’t just support the Maiden, but her mother too. Having the support to guide her daughter through these turbulent years, knowing that she is not doing it all alone, even when there is conflict of opinion as the daughter is differentiating her individuality, she is not alone. She also has the additional comfort in knowing that if she can’t assist her daughter for whatever reason, there is another woman/women there who can. This is not to drive wedges between the mother/daughter relationship but to strengthen the bond and give enough space to breath and grow.

Now, I ask you to remember the feeling from earlier, about what you would change from your own time of Menarche and through the Maiden years. Do you still feel the same, or have you changed your mind? Do you wish the Red Tent had been part of your life at that time, and remain so now? Would you be looking to share in Red Tent with your daughter if there was one available? If so, I encourage you to find one or start one.

maiden moon
Photo by mademoisellechrissie on flickr

So, to the Maiden phase of a woman’s journey, we experience her in our physical youth, we experience her energy in the pre-ovulation week of our menstrual cycle (if you are menstruating), and we can attune to her energy in the waxing crescent in the lunar cycle.  She is associated with Spring time and the Element of Air, the East as the dawn of the sun. Her colours are white and green. Her energy is joyful, dream filled and fresh as she learns to step into her personal power.

If you are interested in learning more about Menarche, Maidens and yourself, I am at the moment putting together a workshop which is coming soon…stay tuned for further info on that.

We are currently between the new moon and the full moon, completely in the Maiden phase, as we are in the season. Imbolc and Ostara (Spring Equinox) are both sabbats acknowledging the Maiden. I hope you are enjoying the shift in the air and feeling the coming of the light and bright.

Lx

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39 Years Young

suntrip

This past week saw this Gemini celebrate her 39th wander around the sun, and this year I find myself looking forward to the next, more than I ever have.  Not because I am wishing my life away, but because this is the end of an era – next year I’m 40!

I consider 40 to be the next chapter in this life, with an overlap between the “mother”  and the “wild woman”.  The Mother phase is coming to and end from the point of view that I am done with the actual birthing of little humans and focusing instead on the raising of my wild one, but it is not over completely as I have many projects yet to birth. The Wild Woman knows who she is and is unapologetic for that. I trust myself and am accepting of who I am  and of what I have achieved/done (not all with pride or without regret, but with acceptance nonetheless).  There remains parts of me that continue to be a work in progress; things I want to achieve and accomplish or release and so I’ve compiled me a bucket list! The deadline for which is June 2018.

Whilst I believe that we are never too old or too late to do what or be who we want, and 40 is an arbitrary age, I have a strong desire to leave this decade, or era, with my list complete, and ready to leap into the next.

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Looking back at 2 old blog posts from my 36th and 37th birthdays and reflecting on where I was 2 and 3 years ago, its satisfying to see how I have grown in that short time *note that I didn’t say, matured*…

This particular birthday was spent camping over the weekend with our home-ed tribe, which could only be described as wild, free range and feral ( and that was just the kids). One of my friends brought along THE biggest birthday cake to celebrate.  My husband gifted me with a gorgeous silver necklace, which was made to my design by a local jeweller, using my silver (old jewellery) and moonstones. It is perfect. The weekend ended in the best possible way: dirty, messy, happy and scented by campfire just before a relaxing and long soak in a luscious bath. I could not ask for more.

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Now, time to hit that bucket list!

Lx

 

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Sacred or Dread?

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This is not a conversation for fannying around, so I’ll cut to the chase. What’s your relationship with your period?  Do you dread it? Tolerate it? Accept it as part of your monthly routine? Celebrate it? Behold it as sacred? And why do you feel the way you do about it?

This is one of those topics that finally is becoming less and less taboo as more women embrace the art of honest conversation without shame or, more probably, embarrassment. If the thought of talking about your period or reading about other women’s menstrual cycles gives you the cringe, then this is the post for you – get comfy, grab some chocolate and settle in. I promise it’ll be bloody awesome (pun intended).

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about periods and simplifying our monthly visitor on my old blog site, which I have recently reread (and enjoyed, even if I do say so myself, so please, have a read and see what you think). I found that while I still agree with most of it, I have changed my perception around my own cycle. I actually look forward to my bleed time now rather than the irritated tolerance I used to regard it with.

That last sentence may seem a bit “out there” for many people, but yeh, I look forward to it because I understand it; my cycle, our cycles as women. We are not linear beings but cyclical, continuously revolving each and every month (the clue is in the name; monthly cycle). Think of it another way – if we were linear, we’d be flat lining. If you flatline, you’re dead. I’ll stick to cyclical thanks.fl

Since I had my first ever period, I have recorded it on either my calendar or in my diary;  always tracking when I was “due on” but never gave the other 21 days inbetween a second thought.  The cycle was 28 days, give or take, with a week each month to bleed and rage and weep and eat and legitimately be allowed to be thoroughly pissed off for no good reason. When I was working as a Senior Manager with 5 men (around 12 years ago), they actually knew when it was my time of the month and had it on the calendar in the Boss’s office – I shit you not. They tended to stay clear at that time as I was “crabbit“. Even now, I’m still uncertain as how how I feel about that…anyway, I digress… the point is, our cycle is not purely one of bleeding and not bleeding. There is so much more to it, and to us, than that.  And these days inbetween are just as important to how we function and live, as the days when it’s our “monthlies”.

We don’t just coast long for 3 weeks then BAM! bleeding for a few days and then back to “normal”. You may notice that you feel a little more tired, less tolerant, or freaking awesome and alive at different points in your cycle, yet be completely unaware that this is because of your cycle you are feeling like this.  Who knew this already? I know I certainly didn’t until a couple of months ago, when I began charting my cycle daily. It is an exercise I can heartily recommend, as it opened my eyes to the patterns in my own cycle.  This is the 3rd month that I have been consciously monitoring my ebbs and flows, moods, energy levels, primal need for chocolate and the release that only really good/creative swearing brings. I have seen where I am full of energy and motivation and actually achieving the tasks on my to-do list compared to when I get very little done but then there is an upswing in the need to chill.the.hell.out and hunker down.  Remember further up this post I mentioned that we are cyclical not linear? This is the reason why I was getting so frustrated with my bullet journal (which I no longer use) and why in some weeks, most of my tasks were being carried over into other weeks, not even just carried over onto the next day, I needed a whole other week to catch up!

We flow through a period of birth, life, growth and decay before returning to rebirth again. We have completely different energies at each of the stages, different needs and experiencing different emotions. What we feel or experience at the time of menstruation is the polar opposite to when we are ovulating, for instance.  Are you still with me? If you aren’t familiar with the work of Lisa Lister, I urge you to read her books Code Red: Know Your Flow, Unlock Your Super Powers and Create a Bloody Amazing Life. Period. and Love Your Lady Landscape: Trust Your Gut, Care for ‘Down There’ and Reclaim Your Fierce and Feminine SHE Power – she gets right down to the nitty gritty on this stuff which is utterly captivating.

The research I have being doing into our female cycles all break it down into 4 stages, or seasons, just like turning of the year, only over a period of 28 days instead:

Winter  

Days 1-7 of your cycle, also known as the dark moon phase, menstruation. Its energy is the estrogen producing, feminine yin.  The archetype is the Crone.  This is recorded from the first day of your bleed, a time to be reflective, withdrawn (anti-social even), passive, to hibernate, focus on rest, self care, food (including chocolate), bubble baths and plenty tea. Not exactly cracking on with all that roller skating in skin tight trousers and partying the tampon adverts want us to be doin, that comes later.

Spring

Days 8-14, the waxing moon phase, pre-ovulation.  It’s still in the estrogen producing phase but the energy is masculine, yang. The archetype here is the Maiden.  This is when we come back up for air, after hibernating. This is all about new and fresh ideas, new beginnings, the rebirth, full of dynamism and enthusiasm. Beware however, although this is pre-ovulation,  if you are looking to get pregnant, days 10-16 are generally HOT!  (this is due to sperm being able to live in the fallopian tubes for up to seven days after sex, meaning its ready and waiting for that egg to be released at ovulation)

Summer

Days 15-21, the full moon phase, ovulation. Remaining masculine in yang energy, now producing progesterone. The archetype is the Mother. Remember the scene from Pretty Woman when Kit was encouraging Vivian as she approaches Edward’s car? “Work it, work it baby, own it”, YAS!  This is you right now! In your A Game! You are at your peak, your optimum, getting shit done! This is a very expressive and social time. Get those white jeans and roller blades on and get going.  While the phase lasts a week, it is worth noting that actual ovulation is a very short timescale (as in the once the egg is released it can only survuve 24 hours unless fertilised), which coincidentally matches that of the British summer time, blink and you miss it!

Autumn

Days 22-28, the waning moon phase, pre-menstrual. Feminine yin energy returning, still producing progesterone. The archetype is the wild wise woman. This is time to store reserves of energy, take stock of the previous month, winding down readying for winter. If you suffer, then this is PMS central with the cramps (try raspberry leaf tea. I drank it by the bucket load when I was still pregnant 12 days over my due date, but it is ace for period cramps too). Your emotions may be temperamental fragile, swinging back and forth and tears may be more readily available. And do you know what? It’s allowed. It’s yours to feel so give permission to yourself to feel all the feels, because they are yours. Own it.

*Disclaimer – I am not a dr and my finding have been based purely on my own personal experiences and upon the research I have conducted myself. Not everyone will have a 28 cycle. Cycles ranging from 24-35 days are equally normal.

Edited to update 04/03/19

Having now been tracking my entire cycle for the past 2 years. I noticed very clearly that my seasons didn’t fit neatly into the 7 day boxes as described above. MY own personal seasonal cycles look more like the following:

Spring – Days 4/5 – Day 10 (Lots of energy and in a generally good mood with plenty of creative juices flowing)

Summer – Day 11 – Day 18 ( I am a Goddess and am getting shit done!)

Autumn – Day 19 – Days 25/26  (Generally around days 25, don’t even speak to me)

Winter –  Day 26/27 – Day 3/4 (Day 1 I CRAVE solitude and tend to keep my diary as free as much as is possible).

moontime

So how does all this fit in with modern living? It is not exactly practical to take time off from family/work for 3 days every 4 weeks to menstruate.  Have you read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant? The women, whose cycles are all in sync both with each others and with the phases of the moon, bug out together in the Red Tent for 3 days, no men, a sacred space for themselves and each other at the new moon, to bleed.  It is reported that in Native American tribes, women went to the moon lodge at their moon time and they were revered for the power.  This all sounds pretty amazing if you ask me, but anyways, today we don’t have time for a wee 3 days holiday. We have lives and careers and families that we need to get on with, not taking out that sacred time to rest, nourish and gather. We pretend we are linear and we rely on paracetamol.  I am no different in that respect; a busy mum with a full time schedule, but I have started making some changes, such as ensuring I don’t plan anything outwith the necessary in my winter week, up the number of bubble baths and thankfully have a Husband who knows when to bring home massive slabs of Galaxy chocolate bars without being asked. The dishes will not always be done, the clean laundry not put away and the general state of the house becomes just that: a state. BUT when that phase moves onto the next, everything is caught up with again and more. It’s all about balance and listening to your body. Slow down when you need rest and go for it when your energy spikes, and plan according to the flexibility you have.

I think if we are honest, menstruation is all hushed up and by some, still referred to as “women’s stuff”, because in the past, that is how we were taught about it.  I remember being in Primary 7 (so 11 years old) and having the talk with the nurse.  All the girls in our year were in the classroom and the boys were all sent out to play football for the duration. They had no idea what we were being told, truth be told, in hindsight neither did we; plain facts of body function followed by a selection of pads and tampons to look at and a pamphlet to read.  And there in lies the problem – excluding the boys, and relying solely on the facts about what happens then, rather than looking at the cycle as a whole and all it encompasses.  If they/we knew what we were dealing with, perhaps then it would be far less ignorance around the subject. In particular, a greater understanding from the male species with regards the mood swings and emotional peaks and troughs experienced by their mothers, sisters, friends, girlfriends or wives. Too many men , and to be fair, many women too, completely disrespect women with judgmental and ignorant comments such as “she’s emotional/hysterical/bitchy/insert any other [in]appropriate name” . It would be helpful for those holding such beliefs to understand that feelings are not wrong or inconvenient, they are a barometer of how you experiencing something at any given moment. To experience emotions is human, without them we would be as good as dead. Also, it’s worth noting that as our emotions are heightened around the time of our period, so too is our bullshit detector.

Climbing back down from my soapbox, I say let us connect to and understand our own cycles, celebrate the wonderment of them and what they mean to each of us (it’s taken me almost 25 years to get to this point).

We are women and we are bloody magnificent – yes we are!

Lx