Excerpted from her book,
THE QUEEN OF MY SELF: WOMEN STEPPING INTO SOVEREIGNTY IN MIDLIFE
Published by Marlowe & Co./Avalon Publishing.
Aging and changing might be inevitable, but it ain't easy.
It precipitates in us a great uncertainty. The myriad dramatic
disturbances of modern middle life -- menopause, health concerns,
the empty nest, divorce, death, and career shifts -- create
an overwhelming crisis of identity and purpose for us. What
follows is an intense period of questioning absolutely everything
-- our goals and achievements, our priorities and our operating
systems, our morals and our values, our fears and our fantasies.
Some of us spend a considerable amount of time -- easily
10 or 15 years -- swirling in the upheaval of this middle
age reassessment. What exactly is our role as older than young
and younger than old women who are still active and more effective
than ever? Who are we supposed to be at this stage of our
life when we are less likely to be bound and identified by
our kinship connection to someone else -- as a daughter,
a wife, a mother, a lover?
middling transitional shift into the next stage of our being
promises us a vast world of positive possibilities for the
second half of life. But, first, before we are able to avail
ourselves of the advantages and rewards of maturity, we must
cross the Grand Canyon of midlife change, steep, rocky, shaken,
and ripped asunder by a whole panoply of seismic ripples --
mental, emotional, and spiritual -- beyond the obvious physical
We climb and climb, and still we lose ground. The earth that
we once trusted to be solid under our feet is slipping away
and we are dragged out to sea where we bob along in uncertain
waters, in a leaky boat with no map.
In her book Goddesses in Older Women, the therapist Dr. Jean
Bolen, says that menopause is "A time of great spiritual
and creative unfolding -- although it sometimes feels like
great unraveling." Unraveling, indeed. The whole damn
sweater is falling apart and we are standing here naked in
the cold (and we are still hot).
Nothing has prepared us for this landslide of transitions
that greets us as we enter our middle years. There we were,
going along as always, then one day out of the blue, we discover
ourselves to be middle aged. Blindsided in a youth-conscious
culture, we never saw it coming, but the overwhelming evidence
of our aging can hardly be ignored.
The profound changes in the chemistry of our bodies and in
our intimate relationships, the terrifying disruptions of
our status quo, the daily life-and-death dramas, are incredibly
disorienting. Not only are we burning up physically, blasted
with flashes from our out of control internal furnace, we
are also, many of us, burnt out on an emotional level after
years of tending the home, the hearth, and usually a job as
Society tells us, and our own experiences have verified,
that we will lose now that we are menopausal, everything that
has so far defined us: our power of reproductively, our youth,
our sex appeal, our children, our parents, our spouses, our
time left on the job, our very visibility.
This grim prognosis is frequently internalized by midlife
women as loss of direction, motivation, enthusiasm, and self-esteem,
our fear, our grief, expressed as confusion, depression, and
The relentless bombardment of losses that batters us in every
area of our lives effectively strips us of any unrealistic,
immature confidence that we once might have had that we were
safe in an unchanging and dependable world. We were shielded
by our youthful sense of indestructibility as well as by our
notoriously death-defying culture.
We now understand, because we have lived it, that nothing
and no one stays the same forever, that all things must end
sometime, that shit, does indeed, happen.
We have seen what we have seen. This rude lesson is brought
home, more often than not, on the wings of death. When our
parents sicken and die, they leave us standing alone on the
last rung of the ladder of life and we cannot help but notice
that we will be next to kick up our heels in the ancestral
conga line. It is also common for us to start losing our husbands,
friends, and contemporaries now, which forces us with a mighty
shove to confront our own fragile mortality.
Our watch sports a much larger face these days -- not only
because we have trouble seeing it, but because we are uncomfortably
aware of time running out. In a flash, we see that life has
been moving along without us for quite some time now. We just
weren't paying attention. We were busy, distracted by our
responsibilities, lulled and dulled by our routines and addictions,
deluded by denial. And, lo, before we realized what was happening,
we had reached, no, probably bypassed, the halfway mark of
our lives. From now on, we swear, we will make every precious
notion that 50 years of age could be considered a "halfway"
mark is unprecedented in history. We are blessed with an inestimable
gift of many more years of life than anyone who ever lived
on Earth before us could ever have imagined. Our future looks
bright; it is only the present that seems grim.
It is crucial that we wend our way with great concentration
and care through the crises of our midlife passage, so that
we can learn how to turn our losses into the very lessons
that will help us to achieve the life that we want for ourselves
as we age.
If we ignore our unresolved problems, chronic irritants,
and resentments, we can be sure that they will surface as
toxic stress that can cause cancer, heart attacks, substance
abuse, depression, and other debilitating and life-threatening
problems. How successfully we handle our changes will determine
the quality of our health and wellbeing for all of our future
years. Our life literally depends on it.
At midlife, we are at a major crossroads in our lives, and
we can choose to move ahead, turn right or left, stay where
we are, or go back where we came from. The Queen, my new archetype
for mature women in charge, is an inspirational role model
for us as we wend our way through our middle years. The Queen
chooses always to choose, to involve herself fully in the
process of Her life and living, and to actively direct the
drama of Her myth.
She urges us take up the challenges of changing, of aging,
of engaging in all that life has to offer, and She reminds
us to look upon the difficulties, disruptions, disappointments,
fears, and failures we have experienced as important life
lessons, without which we could never hope to ascend to a
throne of responsibility and rule. She encourages us to entertain
the entire palette of our emotions, for there is where we
find our strength and knowledge and true value. Some things
in life just have to be learned the hard way and evading them
is counter-productive and eventually destructive. The only
way to get through them is to go through them.
roads leading to Queendom are diverse and many, The way to
Self-esteem can be complicated and long. Each woman must take
her own path, make her own trail, clear a passage for herself
through the thick brambles that reach up to trip her. What
roads do exist are unmapped, bumpy, and full of potholes,
tumbleweed, and road-kill.
There are no shortcuts along the Queen's Highway, no services,
no shoulders, no signage, but many detours and cul-du-sacs.
And the fare can be exorbitant. As Dear Abby, Abigail Van
Buren, once noted, "If we could sell our experiences
for what they cost us, we'd be millionaires."
Like any grand journey, the trip toward self-dominion requires
stamina, determination, and the passionate desire to travel.
But if we pack properly, check our tires frequently, and take
time for picnics, the adventure is incomparable. And the destination
of Self-empowerment is majestic.
Menopausal women are now reaching maturity just in time to
shape the new millennium for generations of women to come.
Possessing both the vital stamina of youth and the experienced
wisdom of age, our pioneering generation is anxious to work
through the debilitating panic of aging and its negative,
derogatory cultural connotations with at least some measure
of good grace. And, as a generation, we are especially suited
to such a task.
Unique in history for our unprecedented freedom, education,
individuation, worldliness, health, wealth, and longevity,
we now hold positions of hard-earned authority, responsibility,
and influence in ever-wider realms. Though certainly not perfect,
nor perfectly safe, our power is unparalleled. Moreover, weaned
on freethinking, idealism and independence, we have been prescribing
the parameters of our lives, inventing and reinventing our
culture and ourselves for decades.
And there are more of us every day. One third of all the
women in America are over the age of 50, and one woman reaches
that milestone every 7.5 seconds. More than 4000 women enter
menopause each day. As a matter of fact, climacteric women,
50 million strong, now comprise the single largest population
segment of American society. Silent no more, we are reading
and talking and conspiring about how to best traverse this
profound transitional time in our lives.
We are determined to transform ourselves, and in the process,
redefine the parameters and archetypes of middle age. We look
to the past for grounding, we look to the future for courage,
we look to each other for inspiration, and we look to ourselves
for the answers. This is definitely not our mothers' menopause!
You don't get to choose how you're going to die, only
how you're going to live.
-Joan Baez, American singer and songwriter
Wise Woman Center -- Workshops
Join us this year for spirit healing and herbal
with Susun Weed and other Wise
. The Wise Woman Center in Woodstock NY
exists to re-weave the healing cloak of the Ancients. This
land, this sacred sanctuary for women is a place for the teachings
of the Wise Woman way. The Goddess lives here, as do goats,
fairies, green witches, and elders. Located between Woodstock
and Saugerties, 5 miles from the NYS Thruway, the Wise Woman
Center is easily accessible while private enough for nude
swimming. You'll receive a map and directions when you register.
Nourishing wild-food vegetarian meals are included with all
See the Calendar
of Events & Workshop schedule (and to register) for this
year, click here.
Menopause Metamorphosis DVD Video
Susun Weed and twelve menopausal women offer heart-felt and practical
advice for women in the midst of Change. Susun explores menopause as
the ultimate woman's mystery and offers simple home remedies for uncomfortable
symptoms. This engaging, informative one-hour video-filmed at Stonehaven
by women for women-is like having a menopause support group in your
own home. Includes hands-on preparation of an herbal vinegar, songs,
stories, and a Crone's Crowning ceremony.
Retails for $19.95
Order the Menopause Metamorphosis DVD Video in our Bookshop