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Mothers, Middle Age, and Melding
Middle age is a time of contradictions. We mellow into our true selves just as we’re becoming new women during menopause. We finally start feeling at home in our bodies as our bodies start shifting and changing before our eyes. We get the wisdom to know better, just as most of the most seductive danger is typically behind us. And we become the fullest expression of our individual selves (so far) and we somehow also, on some level, have to thoroughly deal with our mothers.
Whether your mother is alive or dead, whether you have/had a stellar relationship with her or a troubled one, whether you look like her or not, in middle age the mother lode hits the fan.
Why is this? I think it’s because we are now the age we remember our mothers being when we were girls. We get here and go, “holy shit, I’m the same age as my mom when ___________!” There’s something surreal about this. For our inner girl is with us all the time, you see. She’s still part of the cast of characters who are in us all. The little girl, the snarly teen, the insecure but newly brave young adult…. And none of them can f*%#@&g believe she’s as old as her mom! And 48 is sooooooooo old!
I’m 48. I remember very, very vividly my mother and step father throwing a 50th birthday party for a friend of theirs. It was Mexican themed. There was a lot of Mexican food, giant tissue paper flowers, and (as typical for my parents) a shit ton of margaritas. I remember thinking, “50 is so goddamned old…why would anyone still be partying at 50? Why would you celebrate being 50? How sad.”
I’m staring down the barrel at 50. And I want a huge fucking party. Know why? I’ll have made it to 50!!! And I’m happier than I’ve ever been! And, now I get that it’s super old to my kids. They’re starting to do that thing…you know the thing. Where I say something and they look at each other like “Poor mom. She’s such a loser. She’s so old.” And I want to scream at them, “I was so cool! You two have no idea how cool I still am…you’re the losers! You assholes used to pee on me all the time!” Yeah. I don’t. I get wounded for a second, and then I think “Good grief, I’m so glad they have each other to complain about me to.” And I also think, “Jesus, I’m so glad I’m not 14! or 21 or 34!”.
Since I’m at the ripe old age of 48 and able to do stuff for myself, I gave myself the gift of time and space at an amazing retreat this past weekend. It was a retreat for writing, and relaxing, and dropping way in, into idleness and nature, connection and discovery. It exceeded my expectations by a lot.
One of the many magical things that happened was all the mother energy that came up for me and other women during the retreat. I have recently realized that I am carrying not only the burden of my own pain, but also of my mother, and her’s and so on back for many generations. Their pain and suffering is mine to heal. When I first felt the enormity of this burden I was angry and resentful. Now I realize, however, that I am blessed. Blessed to have the space and time and resources to do this healing, and that I was chosen out of all the generations to get to do this work. I take the responsibility seriously. As I heal myself, I also heal in two additional directions: backward into the past, and ahead into the future. (I included a piece of writing I did at the retreat at the end of this post.)
I’m starting to think that all the insanity and upheaval of middle age is less “changing”, but instead more like melding: our little girls with our wise crone selves, and our daughter self with our mother self (our actual mother, and the mothering part of ourselves). And that melding is painful: sweaty, enraging, we may even need extra weight to protect our hearts as we do this fusing. It’s a merging and struggle to find ourselves, in some way, but maybe we’re also doing this healing work for our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, great grandmothers and so on.
Perhaps if we think of ourselves heading into middle age and menopause less as a burden, less of a battle, less as a loss of self, and instead more like Joan of Arc, bravely charging into battle for and along side the spirits of the women upon whose shoulders we stand, we can have more peace, patience and gentleness for ourselves. Melding our energy and spirits with our mothers as we become the truest versions of ourselves during middle age is not easy work. Let’s be as gentle to ourselves as we can. Let’s allow the mother energy to hold us, as our actual mothers once did.
Any way you slice it, middle age is hard. It can be a time of crazy ass hormones, lessened patience, fatigue, sleeplessness, boredom, restlessness, rage and sadness. And it can also be a time when you discover more courage, faith, connection, support and joy than you ever knew you’d find. If you are ever struggling with the first list, and would like more of the second, please get some help.
It is my mission to help women remember their power (like badass Joan) and reclaim their voice during middle age. I’m also on the journey. I’d love to be your guide!
Fight on, warriors!
PS. If you ever dreamed of sitting in a small circle of women and changing your life…I have something for ya! My first ever small group coaching program is starting in just over a month. A couple of spots left for women who are the right fit…probably YOU! More info and apply here: https://www.samsalenger.com/coaching-program
This is for you, my beautiful mama (…certainly younger in this picture than I am now…) I’m doing battle for you, mom, and I can feel your spirit with me, always.
My free writing at the retreat:
In this moment- sweet, thick warmth.
I feel the mamas-all the mamas. Grandmothers, new mothers, step mothers, dog mothers, lost mothers, motherless mothers, childless mothers.
Opening and lightening. I am healing my own motherness, and my mother’s and her’s and her’s and her’s, into the unseen infinity of the female ancestral web. Grateful, grateful. Resistance gives way to acceptance…to joy…to allowing.
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