By Rhonda Jolliffe
Life is all about transitions. Some are fun and exciting and others you could do without or even try to avoid like the plague. Transitions can be meticulously planned out while others may hit you like a brick with no warning. There is however, one transition in every woman’s life that is inevitable and unavoidable, whether you are ready or not: menopause.
Now if you are 20-something, you may not even know the definition of this inevitable future that awaits you on the horizon. If you are 30-something you don’t really think it exists, or you may hear your mother mentioning it briefly, but in reality, you don’t think it is ever going to happen to you. Your 40s come, (quickly I might add), and you may start asking the question, “Could this be the start of it?” By the time you hit your 50s, if not before, there will be messages knocking at your subconscious that say, “Yes! I think it is here!”
The first thing one thinks regarding menopause tends not to be pleasant or positive thoughts. It makes most women cringe at the thought of that inevitable time in their life presenting itself. Thoughts of, “Now I am going to have hot flashes or night sweats,” and, “Now I am old” are more common than the positive changes awaiting you.
Yes, I said positive. We all seem to know the doom and gloom of menopause, but I am here to tell you there are positive happenings through this life transition. After working with menopausal women for the past 20 years in my clinical practice, then experiencing it myself with the love and support of my friends, family, and the 48 million other women going through the transition, I understand clearly what the positives can be.
A woman enters menopause because of a biological change in her hormones, mainly the loss of estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone of caretaking or nurturing for others, which is perfect in those childbearing years when your children and your home need nurturing. Your kids however, don’t stay home forever—you raised them to become mature adults, and they leave on their own journey that requires less nurturing on your part. As you face the quieter life of no children in the home and lose estrogen, you become more into self-nurturing than nurturing of others. This may sound like a bad thing; however, learning to say no to things you really don’t want to do, and topping it off with not feeling guilty for saying no is good for your health and happiness. When a woman loses estrogen, she becomes more like a man, and the tendencies to take things personally dwindles. This is liberating. And guess what? We just don’t care what people think as much as we used to, so we can now live our lives the way we want and not how others think we should. How much freedom of thought is in that?
Marti Barletta, author of “Prime Time Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Business of Boomer Big Spenders,” says the majority of today’s older women don’t experience midlife as a crisis the way some men typically do; they truly feel at their peak—personally, professionally, financially, and psychologically. Barletta’s research finds that older women are more content with their lives than younger women as they understand that adversity in life will come, yet they feel they now have more tools to handle what they are faced with, and things become easier.
The menopause transition should be looked at as a positive move forward in a woman’s life. The ancient thinking that when a woman goes through menopause means she is old—must end. Those thoughts were for the days when the life expectancy was age 59. Women now are living longer and healthier lives; our life expectancy is now age 84, meaning you have 30-plus years after menopause to re-create yourself. There are positive things are the horizon as your creativity increases with this biological change, and you know you can do things you have always wanted to do but never had the time. Enjoy life, get rid of things that do not serve your purpose anymore, and start something new with the creative energy you now are feeling. Barletta’s research showed that 59 percent of women ages 50 to 70 feel their greatest achievements are still ahead of them, so stay positive and embrace this wonderful transition.
Rhonda Joliffe is a Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner at Lifeways Clinic in Bismarck. She launched a website, RhondaNP.com, to educate and support women through the peri and menopause transition.