A while ago, before the “change of life” was a reality I fully understood, I was sitting in my best friend’s backyard ruminating about the prospect of our lives with our children grown and gone. “We have to start making some decisions for ourselves,” she said, with a righteous tone in her voice. “After all, you don’t get a gold watch for menopause.”

“No kidding,” I said, breaking out into hysterical laughter at the combined pithiness and poignancy of her statement. Having now lived halfway to a hundred in a fairly prescribed way—marriage, children, house in the suburbs, volunteering at the kid’s school—I wasn’t able to imagine life without all of its familiar parameters. But I also knew I wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture just because my body was soon to retire from one of its most noble acts–the producing and feeding of children. Sometimes I felt as if my very femininity was being called into question and I hadn’t the faintest idea what to do about it. But I wasn’t about to up and quit.

“Who wants a gold watch anyway?” I finally said. “After so many years marching along to everyone else’s schedule, a watch is the last thing I want. Frankly, I’d prefer to be off the clock and on vacation. After all, we have more than earned our stripes in the name of service to family. I couldn’t begin to calculate the thousands of dinners cooked, errands run, doctor and dentist’s appointments kept, or holiday celebrations produced. To be honest, the “pause” part of menopause was looking pretty inviting.

Now a decade later, I know that menopause is actually a chance for liberation! Culturally we tend to focus on what menopause means in terms of a woman’s body. It is a drying up, a time of newly emerging wrinkles, sagging flesh, blurred vision, and horror of horrors, a rounded belly. For those of us who crave the gold watch, an appointment with the plastic surgeon is the answer. But I can’t bear to think that I would have to deal with perpetual care for the rest of my life. I’d rather write my own prescriptions, to work with nature and embrace change.

Life keeps moving on, and as the years go by, I’ve learned that I can’t control its course; I can only adapt. We mark graduations, marriage, birth, even death with celebrations and fanfare. Why not menopause? What if there were rituals that recognized a woman’s achievements– crises managed, lessons mastered, attitudes and ideals reversed—and then launched her into her PAUSE in order to regroup and replenish. Maybe the physical changes would be easier to accept if we honored the journey that preceded them. At least we’d be spared the depression that often comes when we long for the way we were in favor of celebrating what we’ve become.

For as my mentor, Joan Erikson said: “Life is a progression. We are meant to be aware and eager to greet the next passage. Besides, holding on to anything ruins it.”

(Originally posted on Gather.com. For more of Joan Anderson’s work, click here.

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  • aric champagne May 17, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    This is from a “white guy”
    Posted by: Kathy | March 29, 2008 at 07:19 PM “This nonsense about the fracturing of the democratic party is something some bunch of white guys dreamt up to get her to look bad.” Liberals are the racists and pretentiously biased. and gender bigots. Everybody do as I say not as I do. Thats hypocrisy. Hold yourselves accountable to your own and I quote “principles” not that Ive seen any examples.