Friday, May 23, 2008

Menopause-The Process of Croning

Recently I was asked for some advice on menopause. After thinking about it, I realized that menopause was another one of those taboo subjects for many of us. Since I follow the "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" school of thought, I just started typing a reply, and my editor (my partner, bless him for being in my life) gave me the seal of approval. So here it is.
The onset of menopause signals the beginning of the croning process. As we produce less and less estrogen, we enter this phase. It usually lasts about ten years from start to finish. We go through both physical and mental changes, and often become an emotional yo-yo before we settle into the new stage of our lives.

Along with the hot flashes we can experience depression, elation, anger ........ magnifying problems we already have and adding new ones as well. This too settles down with time. Mentally, it seems that we are likely to experience the same "symptoms" as our family members. Some of us breeze through the process with little or no problem. Some have such a difficult time that they take oral estrogen to suppress both physical and mental "symptoms". That only postpones the inevitable, and if one is at risk for cancer, hormone therapy is out of the question. We gain weight with ease, but lose it only with the most intense dedication. The more overweight one is, the more estrogen is stored in the fatty tissues and the process of losing it from our bodies is much more gradual.

Our bodies change shape. I have even known some who develop asthma and allergies for the first time in their lives. We may lose a lot of our hair and skin elasticity as we loose the battle with gravity and sexual feelings may either fade away or become more pronounced. This depends a lot on whether we wanted more children. If we did, we get tangled up in society's belief that we have lost our value. If we did not, we can experience a resurgence of these feelings, knowing we will no longer be able to become pregnant. I think we have all known someone who jumped the gun and ended up with a "change of life baby". In order to continue to enjoy lovemaking, we may need to ask our doctor's help to slow the physical changes.

Men also often experience a reduction in sex drive with age, or addiction or prescribed medication and may not want to discuss it, again because of society's expectations. If our partners are experiencing this, we often blame it on ourselves, believing that our new stage of life makes us undesirable. The makers of Viagra and other such drugs are making a fortune from men who can not accept their aging process. This is the time in our lives that being best friends is most important. The love and affection we feel for each other can get couples through even this.

Menopause is another one of those things that many people are uncomfortable with. If it were more accepted, we as women would not go through much of what we endure during menopause. I'm not sure what I can add to this, but I will answer any questions honestly and to the best of my ability.

Some time ago, I wrote the article below because of this lack of acceptance.


On Croning

On this journey through life, there are both events and processes, events so great that they shape and mold our understanding of self, processes so subtle that we are almost at the end of one before we appreciate the fact that it has started at all.

A friend asked me what I meant by “croning” and I had to take a step back from my own life and view the process of moving from Maiden to Mother to Crone. Of all the life processes, this one is, perhaps, the subtlest, the most obvious and the most miss-understood.

Much human lore revolves around these three incarnations of the female deity. She is revered in all of her phases, however our society is so youth oriented that women passing through these stages tend to be dismissed out of hand when they reach the age of croning.

The Maiden is revered for her fresh faced innocence and her budding body, preparing to enter the Mother stage. The Mother is revered as well, for her ability to provide continuity of the male genetic lineage, and for providing proof of male virility.

We can slip from Maiden to Mother without any more than a passing ripple to mark the transition. The Crone, however, is dismissed as no longer able to fulfill the duties that the male dominated, youth oriented society has assigned her.

This puts her under a microscope of her own making, seeing each gray hair, each early sign of menopause, each battle lost to gravity as making her less and less useful to society, her life less and less meaningful. At the very time where she should be celebrating her new found freedom to focus on her own spiritual growth, her own path, her new insights that makes her gifts to society more meaningful, she is filled with feelings of failure, uselessness and alienation.

Instead of resuming her personal spiritual journey, she suffers from the Empty Nest Syndrome. Instead of sharing her hard won knowledge with the younger generations, she spends time at a fat farm trying to recapture lost youth. Instead of taking her place as a matriarch in her family, she beats a path to the plastic surgeon.

Our society loses much in not valuing the croning process or the Crone


2 comments:

jim said...

Very helpful Zareba, lost lore, lost truths. You give it very clear and straightforward, simple and within the reach of all, thanks for the giving, I personally enjoyed reading it as I do most of your material.

Zareba said...

Thanks Jim.

I am always a wee bit leary when I tackle taboo subjects. Sticking my hed above the horizon, I never know if I am going to get shot or a medal. I don't need either, just need to try to make people understand without them having to poke their own heads up.