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Article: Thriving in Peri: Transformation, Growth, and Your Best Self

Thriving in Peri: Transformation, Growth, and Your Best Self

Despite what you’ve heard, Perimenopause is just the beginning. 

This is vividly illustrated by the influencer and midlife guru Sara Durham Wilson, who runs the Instagram powerhouse, Her Second Act. She wrote, "The bad news: life as she knew it was over. The good news: life as she knew it was over."

Perimenopause isn't happening to us; it's happening for us. It's not just about our hormones and physical bodies. It’s a catalyst for personal growth, self-discovery, and empowerment. It's a call to transform our lives, and when we summon the courage to answer that call, we thrive.

The researcher, professor and author Brene Brown nailed this on a 2020 episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, in a clip that is deservedly still circulating on social media – because it’s brilliant. She talks about how we all grew up experiencing varying degrees of trauma, disappointment and more – and most of us responded by protecting ourselves from further hurt.  

It’s time to let our guard down. 

“This is the time when the universe comes down, puts her hands on your shoulders, pulls you close and whispers: ‘I’m not f***cking around. You are halfway to death. The armor is keeping you from growing into the gifts I’ve given you. That is not without penalty. Time is up’,” says Brown. “So this is what you see happen to people in midlife, and it’s not a crisis. It’s a slow, brutal unraveling. This is where everything we thought protected us keeps us from being the partners, the parents and the professionals, the people that we want to be.”

As post-trauma recovery specialist and psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote in her must-read 1997 book Women Who Run with the Wolves, there comes a time when we must return to our instincts. And like any worthwhile endeavor, this takes work.

“Intuition is not to be consulted once and then forgotten,” she writes. “It is not disposable. It is to be consulted at all steps along the way, whether the woman’s work be clashing with a demon in the interior, or completing a task in the outer world. It does not matter whether a woman’s concerns and aspirations are personal or global. Before all else, every action begins with strengthening the spirit.”

In a 2012 article in Health Care Women International journal, nurse Cynthia Ricci McCloskey examined research conducted in the 1990s outlining a basic social process called  "changing focus" that women pass through – and can draw comfort from – while in Perimenopause. “This process consists of five parts,” she writes. “Monitoring the voice of the woman within, listening to the voices of others, integrating the wisdom, nourishing the woman within, and becoming a wise woman.”

While there is some research showing an association between a strong sense of spirituality and a better menopause experience, if you don’t have it already, the process of getting to the other side can be a “brutal” test of our mental health, which is how Red School founders Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer term it in their 2022 book Wise Power

“It can feel as if you’re picking up each element of your life and giving it the most excoriating onceover,” they write, “and if it doesn’t make the grade immediately, it goes”.

Yet all of this hard work moves us along the necessary shift from the “maiden” – one has most likely lost her way and spent far too much time worrying about what everyone else thinks about her – to the conscious, feeling, knowing “mother”. It happens to us whether we’ve given birth or not, and if you let it happen, it is powerful. Pinkola Estes writes: “As a woman transits through these cycles, her layers of defense, protection, density become more and more sheer until her very soul begins to shine through.”

Don’t you want your soul to shine through? Isn’t this kind of transformation why we are all here? 

British author and coach Tania Elfarsy is one of the new generation of educators trying to reframe Peri for generations to come, reminding them that it’s a necessary part of moving on to the next phase of their lives.  

“Many women experience a second spring as they move beyond their reproductive years,” she writes on her blog The Wiser Woman. “They find the energy and time to pursue passions that had remained suppressed and untended to, for often most of their adult lives. Despite the doom and gloom of the dominant narrative, it’s quite possible that the best is yet to come.”

Peri is challenging. It’s also an invitation to release anxiety, relinquish control, and take the first steps on a very necessary transformative journey. It's the spiritual intervention we need, even if we didn't consciously ask for it.

When New York Times health and wellness writer Amy Larocca appeared on the Slate podcast, she made an interesting point about one of the major stumbling blocks that accompanies Perimenopause, one that isn’t made any easier by the proliferation of “anti-aging” messaging we face. 

She argues that what gets in our way is an impossible-to-satisfy desire to “get back” to a place of youth, when life seemed easier, and challenge-free. And that maybe letting go can set us free. 

“Your self is ideally like an evolving thing, right?” she says. “And your menopausal self should be and will be different.”

When it comes to Peri, we are not just surviving. If we do it right, we are thriving, on our way to becoming the very best versions of ourselves. 

Now, that's a narrative worth embracing.

Author - Ann Marie McQueen, Hot Flash Inc.

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