I have long been sure in every fiber of my being that the joys of menopause are the world’s best kept secret. Like venturing through the gateway to enter an ancient temple, in order to claim that joy, a woman must be willing to pass beyond the monsters who guard its gate. As you stand at the brink of it, it can appear that only darkness, danger and decay lie beyond. And in a way this is true – although most certainly not in the way most women believe. For having myself passed through the doorway of menopause into the realms beyond—almost twenty years ago now—I am certain, as thousands of women from all cultures throughout history have whispered to each other, that menopause is the most exciting passage a woman ever makes.
Of course nobody told me this beforehand. It was a secret I had to discover for myself. Like most modern women my head had been filled with the horrors of hot flushes, fainting spells and dry vaginas; with memories of my mother’s tears shed over a wrinkle that appeared one day to mar her perfect face; with the prospect of enforced celibacy—after all, no man can feel lust for an old woman, or can he? It was partly by accident, I think, and partly because—despite good health and secure family circumstances—my own journey through menopause was not an easy one, that I discovered this secret, which throughout history women living in patriarchal cultures have guarded close to their hearts: The doorway of menopause which each of us is invited to pass through is a call to adventure. It connects the ordinary world in which we have been living to a numinous zone of magnified power. Within that zone are hidden treasures to match our wildest dreams. But, like every prize worth having, these riches can only be claimed and brought back if a woman is bold enough and persistent enough to answer the call. What is calling? Nothing less than her own soul.
This call to adventure which a woman hears at menopause can arrive in as many different forms as there are women to hear it. But, whatever shape it takes, its purpose is the same. It is asking her—imploring her—to leave behind the comfortable world of her ordinary existence and for a time to venture into a challenging unfamiliar place. It is asking her to set out on her own hero’s journey—a journey which is completely unique to her. Sometimes this entails making an outer journey to a real place, moving to a new job, or leaving behind a marriage which has outlived its usefulness. For many the journey takes place only in the mind, the heart and the spirit. Either way it is primarily an inner journey which takes a woman out of her ordinary world with all its ordinary assumptions to transform the way she thinks and lives—from weakness to strength, from grief to purpose, from despair to hope—and then brings her home again. So important do I feel the mysterious transformation that begins in a woman’s life as menopause approaches, that I would like to share with you some of the magic I and so many others have discovered in this extraordinary life-changing passage in future blogs. I hope you will join me.