WISE BLOOD to WISDOM
MENOPAUSE: A NEW AWAKENING

by Joanna Poppink, MFCC

In ancient times, human beings believed that because a woman did not bleed for nine months before giving birth, infants developed from retained menstrual blood. Menstrual blood, called wise blood, took on powerful meanings. It was used for healing, to fertilize crops and to impart wisdom.

It followed that when a woman did not bleed for a year and did not bear a child, people believed she retained her wise blood. At that time she became a respected elder, judge, teacher, healer and leader. Her community respected her as a powerful and loving wise person who honored and cherished life. In her later years part of her purpose was to help humanity move through the passage of death as she had once helped us move through the passage of birth..

Today, millions of mid-life women are reaching the retaining wise blood stage. They are frightened abut physical and emotional upheaval, social and professional exclusion and health risks. Because of the past generations of silence around menopause, many feel ill equipped to make choices concerning hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and personal priorities. Fear can make them oblivious to opportunities for new choices. In the current economic and social allegiance to youth at any cost, many women feel vulnerable and naive as they approach "the change."

In ancient times, when the clan respected the maiden, mother and wise elder woman trilogy, women at regular intervals gathered in a separate space within the community to encourage, support and teach one another. Young girls who had yet to bleed and older women who had ceased bleeding would stay for days with menstruating women so that physical, spiritual and emotional knowledge could be shared and learned.

The tradition of women helping each other through menopause broke down during the massive, community sanctioned torture and murder of nine million women during the Inquisition.

Today, we have a new climate for women who are coming of age. Never in our patriarchal society have so many political free and economically independent women begun entering the menopausal years. Women are now too educated and financially competent to accept the old definitions of menopause. A summary of those definitions describes menopause as the deficiency disease of an old, depleted woman with a failed uterus who is about to lose her sexuality and her mind. Cher, Jane Fonda and Elizabeth Taylor are a few well known mature women who still have vibrant life juices flowing. Most of us now have friends and family as well as our own lives to show us that living is rich and full well beyond the Barbie stage.

Women are beginning to realize that menopause is more than a physical change. It is a rite of passage that holds deep meaning. In my 16 years of psychotherapy work and research with women, I've learned that menopause is a call to make choices. Mid-life women now have an opportunity to live a future filled with love, satisfaction, serenity and joy of creative challenge. Menopause can awaken courage and recommitment to life.

Although hormonal treatment may be necessary and helpful for some women during menopause, there is more to this passage than deciding whether to go on HRT. To discover the personal significance of this passage, many women are coming together to give voice to their inner lives and encourage each other. We are discovering that life experiences, including private hurtful and solitary experiences, are the seeds of wisdom that need to be shared now.

As in ancient times, women are using herbs, diet and exercise to tend our menopausal blood floods, waves of sudden raw heat, skin changes and emotional intensities. We share healing teas and talk privately with one another for soothing and understanding. We write, sing , dance and paint in new creative surges. We contemplate mortality and create priorities based on deeply held values. Most importantly, we listen to women's stories and may make changes in our personal and spiritual lives that startle the people close to us.

Often, only in the context of being heard and understood do we appreciate the significance or magnitude of our experiences. We can provide that context in regular journal writing where we offer ourselves private, honest time to compassionately listen to ourselves. Sharing regularly with a friend, therapist, spiritual guide or in a women's group gives us a more immediate and personal exchange when we are ready.

Women discover a new energy when we share our stories. By so doing we encourage our inner selves to unite in harmony. In finding a sense of clarity for making reasonable, soul-satisfying choices, women can discover our deeply believed positions related to the care of our bodies and our commitment to a life purpose, whatever it may be.

During menopause, our bodies become our teachers and demand our attention. We are learning to make choices we learn to care responsibly for ourselves.

As we move through this passage of menopause we can create a future for ourselves and our daughters where we can be fully alive to the end. We can pass our gifts on to our granddaughters and great granddaughters. Menopause is a time to let our wise blood awaken us to the good life that is yet to come.

References:

Conway, D. J. 1994. Maiden, Mother, Crone: the myth & reality of the triple goddess, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN

Downing,, Christine. 1987. Journey Through Menopause: a personal rite of passage, Crossroad Publishing Co. New York, NY.

Greenwood, Sadja M.D. 1989. Menopause Naturally: preparing for the second half of life, Volcano Press, Volcano, CA

Ojeda, Linda. 1992 Menopause Without Medicine. Hunter House, Alameda, CA.

Walker, Barbara G. 1983. The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Harper, San Francisco.

5/29/98

Joanna Poppink, M.F.C.C., licensed by the State of California in 1980, is a Marriage, Family, Child Counselor (License #15563). She has a private practice in Los Angeles where she works with adult individuals and couples. She specializes in working with people with eating disorders and with people who are trying to understand and help a loved on who has an eating disorder.

Contact Information:
10573 West Pico Blvd. Suite 20
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 474-4165 phone
(310) 474-7248 fax

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