Midlife is a time of great change. Many women feel as if they are sitting atop a simmering volcano. Dr Christiane Northrup, in her book The Wisdom of Menopause, describes women’s brains as “catching fire” in the midlife years, stoked by hormonal surges as strong and disorienting as puberty. Physical changes occur at a cellular level and the brain rewires itself to the extent that the world begins to look and feel different.
These internal changes seek expression externally. Therefore, it’s unsurprising many women choose to make radical life changes; for when the old way of being in the world no longer works, a new way forward must be found. This is why some women move away from traditional caretaking roles, or high-powered careers, towards a nurturing of themselves, often for the first time in their lives.
The key to traversing midlife’s turbulence in a meaningful way is courage. Resilience is another, together with a willingness to listen to, and act upon, intuitive hints and feelings. Ignoring or suppressing midlife’s urgent need for transformation is an option no woman need consider.
Cultural attitudes to Midlife
Youth and beauty are celebrated in our culture. The word “old” is pejorative and we euphemistically call the elderly “senior citizens” to avoid confronting our inevitable decline and ultimate mortality. Spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle believes our culture’s general disregard for the old is because we have become immersed in a habitual pattern of manic “doing” – “I am busy, therefore I exist”. Age, on the contrary, is about “being” and retreating from external achievement and incessant activity. Thus, we have little time for something we find incomprehensible and of little practical use in our market-driven, corporate world.
The onset of midlife, however, compels us to face our mortality and the extent to which our culture denies and fears ageing. We begin to see that while youth and beauty have their own power, so does the age and experience of midlife women. Indeed, this is a significant time to be entering this life-stage because by 2013, an unprecedented 50 million women will have begun midlife. Women, en masse, have a chance to develop the wisdom and strength so often undervalued in our society. Midlife can finally be a time for women to reclaim their nnate vitality and creative energies to enable a new vision for the Earth.