Move over Dr Who…
Regeneration is for women in midlife
Too many of us view getting older as an ending. The end of youth, the end of fertility, the end of periods (hurray!) and even the end of our attractiveness and visibility to men.
I think this is a shame. Despite what many people think, there are benefits to getting older. Instead of seeing ageing in terms of loss, we should see it as a transition. One that opens up new opportunities to the way we live our lives. The second half of our life should be seen as a transition, not an ending
Life naturally moves in cycles. Women especially, move from one phase to another through their lives. We shouldn’t see any of these stages as better or worse than the others but accept that each stage has a different emphasis. During our 40s and 50s, we experience one of those transitions, the most obvious symptom of which is menopause. This is natural, and instead of fighting it, we should embrace it. When we do, midlife can be a time of renewal and regeneration.
It may seem strange to have the second half of your life described as a time of renewal and regeneration. But what I mean by this is that we experience a renewal of our relationship with ourselves. Our regeneration happens, not in a Dr Who way (although, that would be fun) but as a form of rebirth. Where we throw off the restraints and shackles of who and what society says we are supposed to be we can truly become ourselves.
Ageing as a mindset
It is easy to dwell on the negative points of being an older woman, after all, western society is so focused on women’s youth it overlooks our value as we get older, instead of saddling us with corrosive stereotypes. But ageing, like so many other things, is also about mindset. How you feel about getting older, is very much how you are likely to experience it. Instead of dwelling on perceived losses we should focus on how we can make the most of the second half of our life. After all, you should (hopefully) have many years left, now is the time to think about what you want to do with them.
How can we make this a positive time rather than a negative one? Everyone’s situation will be different. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be financially sound, love your job, and have fulfilling relationships along with very few obligations to tie you down? But life isn’t like that for most of us. You may have children living at home, ageing parents in need of help, a job that sucks, and hopes of retiring still a long way off. Even so, I think there is still plenty to be grateful for.
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You rarely see menopause portrayed in a positive light, but once your hormones have settled down, and as long as you are relatively healthy, it can have some unlikely benefits. There is a theory that the drop in oestrogen and progesterone experienced in menopause causes a reduction in women’s nurturing instincts. This shifts the primary focus of a woman’s life away from selflessly caring for others to wanting to do more things for herself.* This change is unlikely to be welcomed by those who still expect to come first in our lives, so lower hormone levels can help by relieving some of the guilt that many women feel when they start prioritising their own happiness.
Don’t let yourself be cowed by accusations of selfishness from them or anyone else. It is in the interests of all those who depended on your, often free, time and dedication to others to keep you in that role, you have done your time! Instead of endless self-sacrifice, how about helping to break down these harmful taboos and destroy those limiting stereotypes designed to keep us invisible?
Learning to love your wrinkles and flabby bits
As we get older our bodies change too. (This can be the hardest side effect of menopause for many women as so much emphasis is on looking slim and young). A thickening waist, wrinkles, and dodgy toenails certainly do not appear to be an advantage. Although depending on how you look at it, it can be a liberation, instead of sorrow. For the first time since puberty, you are not at the mercy of your hormones and the urge to reproduce. You can live your life for yourself instead of just for others. This doesn’t mean you suddenly stop caring about your loved ones, but that you can find fulfilment outside your job and your family as well.
Another advantage is that you no longer need to attract men to reproduce, so you don’t have to adhere to the constraints of conventional beauty standards. If you don’t want to put on make-up in the morning or wear heels anymore then don’t. But if you enjoy the ritual of putting on make-up and love strutting your stuff in skyscraper heels then go ahead. You should please yourself with what you wear and how much time you spend on your appearance; embrace those hairy legs and greying hair and get dressed up in flamboyant outfits if you choose to. It is up to you. Others may disapprove, but don’t let anyone impose their idea of what they think is appropriate “for your age”. You don’t have to fade into the background just because you have dared to get older!
This is your time
The second half of life is your opportunity to take a journey towards self-knowledge. A chance to remember who you were before you grew up and took on responsibilities such as a career and/or children and running a home. You can then decide what you want to take with you and what you want to change or leave behind as you embark on this exciting phase of your life. You might not know what it is you want, but the second half of life is the time to find out.
Changes don’t have to be huge – you don’t have to give up everything and go and live in a cave unless you want to. You could go for a change of style, take up a new hobby, visit places you have always wanted to go to, or just spend more time reading in the garden. The choice is yours. So, are you going to sit around and mourn the loss of your youth while you count your wrinkles and grey hairs or, are you going to embrace your age, and get out there and be your best self without giving a f**k about what others think? I know which one I’m doing!
*I cannot find any actual proof for this, but it has been speculated on by others, not just me. No proper research has been done, probably because those in charge of deciding what is important to study, (mostly men) decided it isn’t that important.
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