Second Spring: Starting a New Cycle Of Expansion.
How do you feel about aging? If I tell you that you will be old, what arises in your mind?
Catch those thoughts now, it is a fear of… what? Failing, being unlovable, being vulnerable, of loss? If you are lucky, you will be old. If you are very super-lucky with a combination of genetics and loving self-care, you will be healthy and old.
In one sense, this is what you’ve been working towards all your life, to have the gift of accumulated wisdom, able to celebrate who you are without shame, free of other people’s judgments and hopefully, surrounded by the people you love.
Except our culture does not support this view, not at all. I challenge you to find an ad using an image of a cool post-menopausal woman. Someone you’d like to be friends with. And no, Jane Fonda doesn’t count because she has crafted herself into an eternal 45-year-old.
Any realistic image of a post-menopausal woman is used to sell joint medication, or easy-access baths on afternoon telly, where a 50-year-old stands in for a 65-year-old. And this is in a post #MeToo environment. Clearly we have a way to go here.
So what’s going on? Could it be that women are still only valued when they have the juicy magic of a fertile menstrual cycle on their side? Is it still all about the sacred womb?
Let me remind you that a third of the female population are in menopause or post-menopausal, and unlike previous generations, we are well-educated changemakers and creatives who’ve had a lifetime of breaking through glass ceilings. That’s a fifth of the total population, and if you look closely, the picture is not the one painted in the ads.
If you were to go into the café with the best coffee in your neighborhood, back in the days when we could, at 11 am, you would see a sea of grey-haired people having the time of their lives. Having finished their morning yoga, having a cuppa before they go off to pottery class, and laughing, connecting, having a bloody good time, and all right under the radar because if it’s grey, we just don’t see it. Our eyes slide over to the blond.
Our lives work in cycles, our breath, the circadian rhythm and the menstrual cycle all mirroring the flow of the annual seasons. It’s a cyclical, inner rhythm of expanding our attention out into the world in spring and summer, followed by withdrawing the focus back to ourselves in autumn and winter.
It is, of course, the expansive spring and summer that get all the accolades, where we are increasingly able to take on multiple tasks, be effective, kind and accommodating, the autumn/winter half of the cycle that draws us into ourselves is less popular.
Alexandra Pope of Red School instigated a world menstruality movement which has made a massive dent in menstrual shame by developing the ‘inner seasons of menstruality’. Wild Power, the book written by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, shows how we ignore the inner seasons at our peril, and how, by aligning our lives to the seasons, we can be healthier, happier and more creative.
The same seasons are present in the way our lives flow.
From our first period through our teens comes spring, the season of exploration and discovering who we are and what our world is about.
Through our thirties we encounter the summer years, where we feel the strong drive to manifest our unique offerings into the world.
The autumn years bring perimenopause, a time where we start to see more clearly what is happening around us and prepare to let go of what is not serving us, before heading into the winter of menopause for healing and repair.
Once again, spring and summer get the worldly approval, with all the plump, juicy fertility they bring. The cross-over into the choppy waters of autumn as we arrive into perimenopause can be shocking because we are not expecting this withdrawal to happen. Trained all our lives to be there for other people, to be hyper-productive and open, the change to an inward focus feels like a catastrophe.
But unless we can soften and tend to ourselves through our perimenopause years, we miss out on a massive gift. Remember those grey-haired potter-yoginis having the time of their lives? They’re in second spring, starting a whole new cycle of expansion.
The concept of second spring originates in Chinese medicine, and brings many of the qualities of our first, teenage spring. We emerge from the quiet of winter, blinking in the light, wondering what the hell’s going on, and as our energy builds, we start to explore who we have become.
Dancing out into the world with renewed libido, we can explore new ways of being, but this time, without being smothered by the conventions of who we ought to be. It’s both an exciting and tender time, as we learn to hold our vulnerability alongside our authority and find our path in this new cycle of life.
No rush though, because second spring is followed by another season of manifestation in second summer, before withdrawing once more into our second autumn and our final winter.
I have interviewed many women in their second spring and second summers to find out about their experience of their post-menopause lives, and the stories just blew me away. Second spring brought them liberation from miserable relationships and the ways of being that had been holding them back for decades, along with a sense of showing up for themselves, being their own best friend.
After years of searching, they had found their calling, and their calling was to please themselves! Often my interviewees hadn’t reflected much on the arc of their menopause and post-menopause experience before, and even they were surprised to see that they had gone from feeling small to following their bliss.
One second summer woman, who had always been deeply involved with her family, emigrated to her spiritual home and later walked across the desert and had wonderful lovers. Another picked up a paintbrush 40 years after a teacher told her she was useless at painting. My self-named friend Fuck-it Fi embarked on a summer of fun.
You only have to go to an Extinction Rebellion protest to see that it’s stuffed full of sparkly-eyed second springers, having a marvelous time.
As menstrual shame becomes a thing of the past, it’s also time for gender-related age-shame to be questioned and released. By understanding and living in tune with our life seasons, with the all the advantages of good nutrition and education, if we can allow ourselves to rest and heal in our menopause winter, a vibrant new cycle awaits.
Kate Codrington is a mentor, writer and facilitator, and has been a therapist for nearly 30 years working with people in menopause and complementary therapists, both one-on-one and in groups. Now in her second spring, she studied Biodynamic Psychotherapy with Gerda Boyesen, working both in private practice and with women affected by HIV and AIDS. She trained in Body Psychotherapy, Pregnancy Massage with Shiatsu, and Fertility Massage, but no longer practices. More recently, she trained in Womb Yoga and Yoga Nidra with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, and in Menstruality with Red School. In partnership with Leora Leboff, she runs Woman Kind retreats, has written for many wellbeing publications, and is currently working on her first book. Her mission is to change the way we regard menopause, and show how we can relax into our own, inner authority through our cyclical nature and menopause process. You could contact Kate via Instagram.