Psalms 90:12 – Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
I have to admit, when I was asked to participate in this panel on menopause, my first thought was, “Is it because I’m the oldest one here and I’m the one in menopause??”
So interesting that my initial response was self-derogatory. I have to admit, I might have even felt some small trickles of shame. Why is that? What negative messages have I heard about women in menopause over the years that would trigger such a response in me? What messages have you heard?
But the truth is, menopause is a physical and hormonal process that all women go through as part of how their body changes in their late 40s to 50s. It’s not a “disorder” or “condition” but it’s a natural part of the stages of life that women go through.
Unfortunately, there can be some stigma around menopause, particularly when medicine has been male-dominated and there has been a “hysterical female” narrative in the medical community, with the belief that “it’s all in her head”. So, your symptoms of perimenopause or menopause may get dismissed by your doctor.
The foundational studies of medicine were by men for men. For years, women’s health issues were dismissed, misdiagnosed and under-recognized because of a lack of training and information. This gets even more complicated when you factor in race, body size, and social economic status.
Even today, medical doctors may only get one hour of instructions on menopause, and even obstetrician/ gynecologist have little to no training on menopause because their focus is more on helping people get pregnant, keeping them pregnant and delivering babies. But more women will go through menopause than pregnancy. In fact, most of us spend 30% of our lives in menopause.
Most people talk about the physical changes and symptoms of menopause – of which there can be many!! But we can forget about the huge psychological impact it can have on women, because of what it signifies: the ending of our fertility – and for some women, the ending of what makes us feel significant in our role as child bearers. There is often a grieving process. So, we have to give space for that. And there is a letting go for sure.
But for many women, it signifies getting old!!
There are a lot of negative messages around aging that our world tells us, but scripture instead has many verses that link aging with wisdom. I especially love Psalm 90:12 because of the whole idea of numbering our days—which menopause does for us, as a demarcation of aging (since we have more years be behind us than in front of us). Menopause can be a beautiful time—if we choose—to remember that our days are numbered and it’s a time of leaning into our maturity, growth and wisdom.
Let’s reframe perimenopause and menopause as a time to reflect and choose wisdom. Let’s choose to see the gift of our aging, not so much focusing on our physical changes but on our mental, psychological and spiritual growth and maturity. But let’s also choose to pay more attention to our bodies and what it’s trying to tell us.
For example, a really important consideration to keep in mind: there is a direct connection between our stress hormones and female hormones. This might then be a time of reflection for us on the pace of our life and how much we are over-functioning and pushing ourselves – which can not only worsen our perimenopause symptoms but can actually trigger it. What does our body need? What do we need emotionally, psychologically and spiritually?
And this letting go of “what was” can also mean the freedom to move forward to “what’s next”. Psychologist Erik Erickson described this psychological stage of development in these years as one of stagnation versus generativity. This is when we can either get stuck in our feelings of loss and unhappiness with our physical symptoms and aging (stagnation), or we can move towards generativity – which is this beautiful time when we focus on giving back, mentoring those behind us: lifting them up, equipping them, and being generous with our experience, time and opening doors of opportunity for them.
The Gift of Menopause:
1. For those of us who have a long-time partner or long-standing friends—well, as we’ve aged and lived longer, there is the gift of knowing and being known. Of being more authentic, of opening up and having deeper heart talks, of knowing ourselves better (and hopefully liking ourselves more), and of being more vulnerable with our trusted
2. It’s easier now to shrug off failure. It’s easier to shrug off most other things, too: missed opportunities, the anger or disappointment of others, the fear of looking like a fool. A person who is not afraid of looking like a fool gets to do a lot more dancing, a lot more silliness, a lot more opportunities to try new things, because why not? It’s easier to let
go of worrying what others think of you, of needing to prove ourselves because, well, been there, done that. There is the gift of self-acceptance.
3. We can put things much more into perspective. We all have probably had health crises (or watched family and friends go through one), lost loved ones, lived more of the tough stuff of life—but I think it can teach us to the gift of savoring life—to number our days—and to savor all that is good, to slow down enough to notice the beauty, to create more space in our life just to enjoy good things.
4. It can free us from feeling obligated to say yes to everything. No, I don’t want to get involved with that ministry. I don’t want to go to that event. The days are running out, faster and faster, and we have learned that every yes we say to something we don’t want to do means saying no to something that matters to us far more — time with our family, time with our friends, time enjoying nature and travel. Time to simply sit and read a book. The gift of focusing on our priorities.
5. It can teach us to be much more intentional with the investment of our time, resources and energy. Who and what will I invest it? It will be less, but it will be deeper and more meaningful. Our impact may seem “quieter” on the social media world, but in many ways, it’s way more impactful, because we have the time and space to notice, to
respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to speak to that person, or to pause and to help that other person. Or to build into relationships, the gift of intentionality.
Question: How can you reframe perimenopause or menopause as a gift? Be as specific as
possible with how these changes you’re going through can actually be a gift to you.