gathering selfie

Consent and curtains

At the weekend I had a small gathering for some of my apprentices. For the last few years they’ve been on a journeying path with me, as I attempt to pass on at least a little of what I have learned in a couple of decades of pathwork* and study with Tira.

We had a lovely pixie scramble through the hedgerows in the heat, and shared food, good conversation and a little gentle fire ritual. At various points, the talk turned to the menopause, as it tends to when the group is mostly peri- and post-menopausal people. I don’t think it’s a topic many of us discuss well, or often even at all. I see a lot of posts about stepping into power and jokes about hot flushes, but I don’t see a lot of sharing about how disruptive and exhausting it can be.

I’m trying to be open with people about my own struggles with this transition. It could be worse, but neurodivergence and peri/menopause together can be a very spicy combination. I’ve had a couple of years now of periods of burnout and autonomic dysregulation, which I hope and believe are finally settling, and then a few weeks ago I bled so badly I ended up in Urgent Care clutching a prescription for tranexamic acid.

I feel a little bit like I’m going through puberty backwards. At 50.

One common description of the menopause that resonates with me is a feeling of being unmoored. Things that have kept you well for decades stop working. Your moods become very erratic. Symptoms flare and die and flare again, and just as you get a handle on them, they’ve gone and a new one has turned up. You’re just not quite sure who you are and where you’re going and how you’re going to feel, and that unpredictability in itself can be exhausting and at times, all-consuming.

Of course, it’s also a great teacher, if you can grit your teeth and surrender to it, and have the resources to do so. In my case, it helps if you can remember where your gods live, and learn how to hear their voices through the temporary static.

Anyway, at the weekend, my lovely friend and wise student, Jill, said a number of things from her experience with this transition that stuck with me. She said – as everyone does – that things settle down in the end. But she warned that things are different afterwards. You are different afterwards. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

She also laughed and said ‘Just don’t buy curtains for a year!’

She explained that she’d bought curtains whilst menopausal and then a year later she’d seen them as if for the first time and wondered what the hell she’d been thinking.

It turns out to be a fantastic metaphor for a thought about consent and transition I’ve been struggling to articulate for a while. People sign up for all sorts of transformational processes, be they more for health or more for esoteric self-development. Whether it’s a weekend-long retreat on stepping into your power, a month-long journey into hand balances, or indeed a year-or-more-long yoga teacher training course, one common and convincing selling point for these kinds of programmes is that you will be a different person at the end.

But when we talk about meaningful consent, we talk about it being ‘informed, ongoing and enthusiastic’. How is it possible for the you that has yet to transform to meaningfully consent to becoming a very different – even an unrecognisable – person?

How is it possible for a you that is yet to be born to say yes?

How do you know if you’re going to love the curtains a year from now?

This isn’t leading up to some form of policy recommendation by the way. It’s more of a philosophical experiment. I think contemplating this question can get us to the heart of our vulnerability, our fragility, and our power, as human beings. Our ability to reshape ourselves and our world is, for good or bad, awe inspiring at times. But our lack of foresight, our inability to project ourselves forward into who we might become, also shapes all our choices, big or small.

Sometimes this means taking a leap of faith, be it into a new spiritual path or into a global post-carbon economy. At other times it means recognising how vulnerable we are to exploitation when in a transitional phase of any kind. It means balancing gentleness with determination, and caution with bravery. It probably also means buying the wrong curtains once in a while.

It’s a hard time right now for so many of my friends and loved ones – so many of you are going through unexpected hardships and transitions of one kind or another. I have so much respect for the dignity of the people around me, and sympathy for the weariness they feel in their bones. I hope it reflects some of the same qualities in me.

Above all, I wish us all respite and good resources on the journey, and a calm and gentle harbour to land in on the other side, whoever we are becoming.


*Pathwork is one of the words we use these days for what is still sometimes called ‘shamanic’ practice. At some point in the next few months I will be opening that path up to new students, but not just yet…

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