Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I am enough

During the menopausal journey, all kinds of old ghosts have come back to haunt me.

Unfinished dreams from adolescence (so you think you can dance/act/sing?). Unfinished loves: remember that boy in Grade 11 who idolized you? maybe you thought he was too immature, even if he was cute. You took him for granted at the time. Maybe he really saw you. Maybe you feel like you want to be really seen that way again.

I found all kinds of circles coming back at me in my forties. In my last year of high school, I was in a dance/mime play of Inuit legends called the Land before Time. It was one of the highlights of my creative life to be chosen for that play, to have rehearsals in the National Arts Center and a tour of high schools in the Ottawa area for 2 weeks (off school, too).

Later, I hooked up with one of the women who was in the play with me, who now lives in Montreal and we became good friends again. One of my unfinished dreams was to be involved with theatre once more, and Jo and I began a project to put a long poem series of my friend Carolyn Souaid, Sedna, on stage (which just happened to be based on an Inuit legend). We hired two actresses and began rehearsals, and during that time, Jo gave me the director of the Student Young Company, Dennis Hayes' email address. He sent me the text of Land Before Time, which absolutely blew my mind, to come full circle with that piece. Our production of Sedna played one night only for the Circus of Words, a night of poetry in performance. But it brought me a lot of satisfaction to be involved with 'theatre people' again.

I also had the chance to clear up some ancient longings and meet with former love interests, to close the door on the 'what if' scenarios my mind was cooking up. There was a lot of unfinished business that came to a head in my forties.

Now, I've just turned 55, and recently received a birthday card from a close friend that said, Jenn, you are so serene, you've changed since I've known you. Is this what post-menopause looks like? I had to laugh, and gave her a big hug of thanks. Yes, this is how it feels, once the rollercoaster of emotions has calmed down, the night sweats are over, and sleep is your friend again.

So this post is about closing the circle, and probably new ones begininng. It is the end of something, for me. One cycle has finished. Another one begins.

I am at peace with myself. I am surrounded by wondferful women friends. I am still married to my best friend. And I feel finally ready to send my work out to the world, to share what I am learning along the way.

blessed be,

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The way of going down, of letting go

A woman in the middle of her life may need to go through a down time, to journey into her depths; it may even look like a depression. She may need some time in isolation to find her own inner powers – connection to her body, her emotions and her sexuality, her intuition, her values, and her soul. She may feel as if she doesn’t know where she is going, what’s coming next. It’s a time of passage in-between – letting go of the old self, not sure of the new self yet. It may imply a change of job, or of roles (mother to grandmother), a divorce, grown kids leaving home, dying parents.

Menopause is a time of dying to the old way and opening up to a new way of being. Sometimes it is difficult to live this change, to accept the end of one thing and open our hearts and arms to a new self. It is not a linear journey.

It helps to look at this as a sacred journey. We do the careful work of an archeologist, excavating in the dark, in dreams and memory for the lost pieces of our selves.

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself within a dark woods, where the straight way was lost.” Dante, quoted in Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.

It takes a great amount of trust to surrender to a higher power, trust the life force, admit we feel lost and let God’s will be done. Sometimes the choice seems limited – either break down or break open, as Lesser puts it so well in her book.

Have you had dreams of feeding or birthing a baby who needs to be fed but has been neglected almost to the point of dying? This may represent an urgent need to reconnect with your own wisdom, your own knowing. And subsequently be reborn as a sensual being, cherishing and nourishing your female body, recognizing that you embody the sacred feminine.

Sumerian goddess Inanna’s story is an example of a dark night or initiation. In her descent to the underworld lies a story of a dying of the outer self and a rebirth. It is an archetypal story for soul growth, by one of the earliest writers in history on clay tablets, Princess Enheduanna of Akkad in Sumeria, 2300 BCE (translation from tables discovered in 1940’s).

The Descent of Inanna: (taken from Joan Borysenko's book)
“Inanna prepares to descend to hell to visit her sister Erishkegal, queen of the Underworld. She instructs her loyal friend and servant Ninshubur to wait for 3 days at the entrance to the Underworld and if she doesn’t come back to call upon the gods for help. Then she girds herself with all her powers, a crown on her head, a circle of lapis beads under her neck, to strands of gems over her heart, a wondrous breastplate, a gold ring for a bracelet, royal robes and a lapis measuring rode and line.

Seeing her coming, arrayed in all her glory, the Gatekeeper Beti calls his mistress Erishkegal – she instructs him to open each of the seven doors just a crack, so that in squeezing through Inanna will have to divest herself of one power at each gate and arrive bowed low and powerless before her.

At the first gate Beti removes the crown of Inanna’s intellect. At the second gate: her lapis necklace (power to defend herself through speech); At the third gate, he removes the double strand of beads over her heart, the twin flames of wisdom and compassion. At the fourth gate he removes the breastplate called ‘come, man, come’ through which she can summon the help of men through her charisma. At the fifth gate he removes the golden ring from her wrist, curtailing her power to strike back. At the sixth gate, the laps measuring rod and line are taken so that she cannot divine her bearings. At the seventh gate her royal robes are stripped away, her outer personality, her ego.

Inanna as naked and defenseless as a newborn is ushered into the throne room before Erishkegal. There, the seven fierce Annuna, judges of the Underworld, surround Inanna and pass judgment against her. Erishkegal fastened on her the eye of death, and spoke against her the word of wrath. She uttered against her the cry of guilt. She struck her. Inanna was turned into a corpse, a piece of rotting meat, and was hung from a hook on the wall.”

Meanwhile, the faithful Ninshubur has waited for three days and three nights for her mistress to return. She suspects foul play and begins a loud lament, accompanied by the beating of drums. She dons a simple mourning dress and hurries off to the gods to ask for help in saving the queen of heaven and earth. Father Enlil, god of air, refuses aid. She asked for it, but he grumbles. “Whoever receives the powers of the Underworld has to stay there.” Then she goes to Father Nanna, god of the moon, and begs him to save Inanna. He is as grumbly as Enlil and will not lift a finger for his daughter for she has chosen her destiny. Finally Ninsubur visits Enki, the god of wisdom who had gifted Inanna with the fourteen me, the blessings of power, to begin with. Enki is distraught, filled with love and concern for his beautiful daughter, the holy priestess of heaven.

Enki scrapes dirt from beneath his fingernails and fashions two odd and wonderful creatures, neither male nor female. To the kurgarra he gives the food of life, to the falatur the water of life. He instructs them to sneak into the underworld like flies through the cracks in the gates and gifts them with the secret of love’s true power.

Queen Erishkegal is in great pain, giving birth, writhing naked and uncovered. He tells the creatures to mirror her pain – oh my insides, oh my outsides. Oh my belly, and this they do. The queen is so touched at being acknowledged and seen, that she is willing to grant these two creatures whatever they want. They ask for Inanna’s corpse, hanging form the hook on the wall. As instructed, they sprinkle food of life and water of life, and Inanna rises up out of death.

The seven judges grab her and inform her she must replace herself with someone else or she can’t leave. The galla, demons from hell, go with her. They pick Ninshubur, but Inanna refuses to give up her loyal friend. Next they try to claim Shara, Inanna’s son, who is grieving his dead mother, dressed in sackcloth. Inanna, sees her husband Dumuzi, sitting on his throne, resplendent in garments of me, reveling to music, not in mourning at all – and she is infuriated, feels dishonoured, unloved. So she fastened the gaze of death on him, and the word of wrath, the cry of guilty (like Erishkegal). The galla clutch him, but he turns into a snake and slithers away. Dumuzi’s sister prays that she might be taken to hell instead of her brother, Innana agrees to a compromise, Dumuzi will stay in hell for 6 months of the year, his sister the other 6. (The alternation of light and dark prefigures many myths of agrarian cultures). A Woman’s Journey to God, Joan Borysenko

Inanna descended to meet her own shadow, death, and the judgments it held of her, so she could reclaim true power she had been gifted with (wisdom and love). Enki had gifted her with the mastery of truth and the art of lovemaking.

Exercise –

Dying to old Self: what time is it in my life?

What is it Time to let go of?

Draw a clock on a sheet of paper, and circle the time on it.

Is it 11:00? Near the end of a cycle?
Or 9 am, near the beginning?
Or noon, right in the middle?


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