"Think of yourself as the main character in a novel or motion picture that is being written by the choices that you make or the roles you play, and by whether you are committed to your own story. Your parent's positive aspirations for you, or their negative expectations, or the examples they set, may have provided you with a ready made script to follow. That prescribed path may have helped you to develop in ways that were positive or may have done you great harm if there was a major discrepancy between who you were supposed to be and your own potential and needs. Others in your life, especially any that you gave authority to, or loved, further defined you. As a result, you may see yourself in a perennial supporitng role, or a victim, instead of as the protagonist in your own story. There are, as fiction writers often note, only so many basic plots, and only so many typical or archetypical characters -- which is true in life as well.
It may be that the past is but the prelude to the most authentic period of your life. Even if until now you more or less went along with the expectations of others, you can now choose to be yourself. Women become truer to themselves after menopause not only because they gorw older, but because their circumstances change. Children grow up and leave home, Marriages often become more companionable with age. The death of a parent may bring freedom from guilt or caretaking , or provide you with an inheritance. You may become a widow. You spouse may leave you, or you him forcing a change in circumstances. You may fall in love and chnage your life or even your life style. Your career may be winding down. You may begin a meditative spiritual practice, or find that one has taken hold. When you see yourself as a choicemaker in your own life, you take ont he role of protagonist in your own life story."
This is how "Goddesses in Older Women" by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD begins. I love that. I love the idea of speaking to women about not only becoming a choice maker, but becoming the protagonist in their own lives. Yes, we do know that what we choose to do, or not do can change our lives. Choices both good and bad have the power to shape our lives and give it meaning. And taking on those choices can be the powerful and courageous act of our lives. Sometimes living is not about going with the flow. Sometimes it is about taking action - and there are times when we take action that we can feel very alone. Peri-menopause or menopause sometimes known as the crone phase can be the most powerful time of all for women. Because this is the time that many of us are finally free to embrace our true selves or at least have the wisdom to finally act. This is the time that Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD calls the archetype of the wise woman and I am flipping through the pages of her book like women hungry for water.
You see, I have chosen to be the protagionist in my own life. And for me it started in peri-menopause. I needed a good long warm up to my crone stage that I am only now slowly melting into.
For me, the path was sexuality. I was warned that embracing my sexuality is to dance with danger. To talk about it openly is to fall into a bottomless pit where everything I hold dear will go down with me- family, home, my flourishing career. Going public with what polite society says is best left under the covers has its risks. Truth to tell, I was a little scared. But that's a small price to pay for becoming the protagionist in my own life. Becoming my own choice maker has been my personal evolutionary process, one that got jump started in midlife.
I was determined to find the answers. No more sublimating, overeating, over-exercising or overworking. I needed to know what was going on. My pursuit of the "truth" turned me into a sexual sleuth launched on an unofficial, unexpected investigation into a subterranean world of sexuality that I never knew existed. Neither had any other person I'd met until that moment. Which is a lot of people.
The first thing I discovered is that I had a robust, juicy, and full sexual self that lives inside. The second thing is that I wasn't alone in my desire to unearth that part of me. It was before the time when the true nature of female sexuality and desire had become the near obsession it is these days. I felt like I was wandering in a vast, uncharted wilderness even if everyone secretly wanted to go there, too.
Admittedly, there's more information out there now. Academics and medical experts compile statistics on female sexual dysfuction apparently a plague of epic proportions- and how to fix it. Social media sexpot sexperts blog, Twitter and FaceBook their horn-dog diaries, flooding the web with virtual instruction manuals on self-pleasuring, high-tech gadgetry, threesomes, and becoming the ultimate pleasure machine.
It's all good, part of a society-wide discussion that should be happening. But in the meantime what's a middle-aged mother, housewife and careerist to do? Where do real people find good role models who help us hang on to the lives and loves we cherish even as we open up our sexual sides? Who's out shouting that we don't have to suffer for being sexually alive? Perhaps it is mid life women who will now be leading the charge - simply because we now have the wisdom and the ability to step forward.
I'm willing to stand up and say, "Screw suffering, it's highly overrated and completely unnecessary." I'm willing - and happy -to make my personal, admittedly wonky voyage to self-discovery into a tool everyday women and men can use to pry off the lid of their desires. Because that's the first, and no doubt the hardest step to becoming whole.
And I believe in every person's right to acknowledge and have their desire when consenting adults are on the same page. The sticky part in my path has been the ability to talk openly about the true nature of female desire.
The recently published pioneering work of Dr. Meredith Chivers, a noted psychology professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario who specializes in female sexuality, indicates just how complex desire can be. In her own words, Dr. Chivers found that, "Women are apparently disassociated from their bodies and have greater difficulty than men in connecting their own erotic responses to what they are actually feeling or desiring."
In other words, women's genitals and brains operate on different tracks when it comes to sexuality. Now that is huge news - and if we are to become a women in full - we need to get the tools to piece all of this together.
For me, when I stepped up into being the protagionist in my own story, I was able to reconnect my brain and my sexuality - it was my path to becoming a juicy crone! I didn't have current science to support me. All I had was the deep hunger for integration.
Shameless is my memoir about coming to terms with desire. At first I worried that maybe people were right, that opening up about sexuality would be to dance with danger. I don't think so any more. If it is, that's a risk that I was willing to take. Perhaps we get braver with age. By looking at me you'd never suspect my own long overdue sexual revolution had turned me from a tremulous explorer into a courageous older sex goddess. And most of all - I think that you can do it too....
Become a choice maker in your life. I don't know what it will be for you, but I do believe that you can make your third trimester of life your best act ever.