October 18, 2021

Being Burned Alive: Fire, Becoming & the Gifts of Perimenopause.

Heat and hot flashes burn me up.

I’m slightly sweaty, sticky. Clammy skin. Woman skin. The substance of body and solid flesh.

Can I lean into the heat? The flashes. The burning up. Lean into the fire when all rationale points to the opposite action. Or if not, can I open a bloody window?!

I’m travelling through the valley of death. Or, in other words, I’m in the time known as perimenopause. A rite of passage. The one thing all (bleeding) women will come to know. And yet, why the f*ck did no one tell us how turvy topsy this journey is?!

This is a liminal time, a transition. We travel blindly, our bloodied hands feeling our way through the dark. The calling toward crone isn’t pretty. It’s squatting on haunches, and whiskers on chins. It’s brain fog and words in a mixer swirling like dervishes into nothingness. It’s insomnia and anxiety, mood changes like quick moving moody clouds, filled with the promise and threat of storms if they so choose. For some reason, I read that back to the tune of “Raindrops and Roses,” from “The Sound Of Music!” Julie Andrews would be ever so proud.

Crone, elder, wise one. Holding the knowing in the universe of our womb, as we die and are reborn. For this is a death. In a very real sense, it’s a death to our physical fertility. To the question of having any, or more, children. It’s the sense that we don’t know what is to come, what will become of us. Do we disappear into the invisible ones, no longer youthful with fine skin? If we have assigned and aligned ourselves with our outer beauty, then that will come as a shock—to no longer be valued for the luminosity of our girlhood skin.

But as we sacrifice our youth, and the finery of the superficial enchantment, we gain something else. Substance. Flesh. Bellied living. A deeper embodiment that holds stillness and all the currents of life. We bear life more, its pains and pleasures. We become seers in a way that we only had visiting rights for once a month in the days gone by. The days when the crimson tides were lunar bound, the rhythm a cycle, when we were rocked gently into touching something so powerful that it isn’t until we are older, we are led, and we are ready, do we get to bear it until the end of time.

This is another loss, that of this friend, known perhaps to another generation as “The Curse,” the comfort in the anchor that our cycles bring. As mine begin to change their shape, I’m missing them already. Just as there is a menarche ceremony, a ritual to honour the first bleed, I wonder where this is for this stage of our life.

We experience this change as both excitement and as loss. We have to honour the grief of the years changing, our body changing, and as we do, we rage, fire as our ally. A wise woman once told me that grief is wild, not tame, like Isadora Duncan, and that to meet grief we must meet our fire too. And let it burn through, and burn us up, into cinders and ash. And into becoming.

It’s only recently that the conversations around perimenopause are beginning to happen. Women are speaking up, visionary doctors are getting on board, and there is a growing need and desire to give voice to that which was once simply dealt with, swept under the rug, as our inner world rearranged itself, and life fell apart.

The fire brings me back to the cooking pot, a boiling belly potluck. I’m a fierce warrioress with a heart that is moved by so much these days.

Eve let herself be burnt. Or she wouldn’t have eaten the fruit. She could handle it. It was the ones around her who couldn’t. Neither her husband, nor the male God above! Hmmm!

Body. Pot. Burning flesh. I think of Sati, the name of a former practice common in India when a widow would throw herself onto her husband’s burning funeral pyre. The word “Sati” comes from “sat” or truth, and Sati means a faithful, or good, wife. Jesus! God help us.

The nice girl. The good girl. The pleasing you girl. The minding one’s Ps and Qs girl. The not rocking the boat girl. The meek and mild girl. The strangled girl with her words all caught somewhere, someplace, pressed down into some kind of patriarchal tradition.

F*ck that sh*t.

Electricity burns through me, and I think of the book by Naomi Alderman, The Power. The electric rage of woman. Her power. Burning it all up. A veritable burning bush. (Though that could be a water infection, love!) And the ability to point our finger and shoot flashes of electric out into the world.

Fire. Anger. The impotent rage carried through generations when they tried to burn us for using what we have always known is ours. Connection and belonging to Earth, to body, to ground. And yet in this wildness, we are seen and labelled as crazy. Hysterical and needing to be tamed, caged, the heat turned down to a simmer, where burning resentment and frustration bubble the pot. Crazy rage and clarity. No bullsh*t and the realness that comes from knowing that it doesn’t matter, that we don’t give a f*ck anymore, that the wild Baba Yaga in us just craves to rub her hazel broom between her legs, get high, and fly through the skies cackling.

No wonder women of a certain age are taking up felting, because it’s cathartic, because you can wildly stab at some wool instead of your partner or your boss or that person who looked at you funny!

What happens when I lean into this fire? What will become of me? What even is this fire? It pulls me in deeper to meet more of my burning flesh. My aliveness wakes up. This becoming into a body, oh so familiar yet strange, a strange suit and fruit to climb into!

This bitter fruit, strange fruit, poached fruit. Our womb is hungry. It soaks our flesh in its longing. Longings stirred and ancient. Of our flesh. The desire of being a woman. Being allowed our pleasure and our voice. Did you know that our vocal cords and the vagina are remarkably similar structures? They are both supported in function by a hammock-like set of diaphragmatic muscles that move in tandem as we breathe! Also, the word “cervix,” comes from the Latin word for the neck. And they are both pathways, gateways, into the body from the outside world, and instruments of self-expression to life and others.

Perimenopause—and we burn with all that has been unspoken. It’s a time of fierce claiming of all that has gotten stuck somewhere. Gotten pressed down or denied.

This fire in us that gets stuck. That turns to resentment and irritation and thus resistance to everything, anything, and anybody. If we let ourselves get burned, if we lean in, then it purifies us, a deep confession that blocks the airwaves and heartwaves and sometimes is needed to be cried out, wept upon, raged, and vented against. This is fire. This is raw fuel.

And everything that rises up is given to the furnace gods. They love it! Roaring in their greatness and feeding upon the fuel as we come back to life by life. Fire is both life and death, desire, and the burning up of all that is in the way.

When we are filled with desire, with life itself, we are continuously being burned alive, embers that glow and glimmer akin to the minutiae of stars that, in the correct light, show us that we are indeed made up of more than flesh and cells. We are the stars themselves, glinting their passion for life and light and existence within the shimmer of our skin. Fire burns us up and sets us alight, gets us off our seats, and chases us into the world with playfulness and a mischievous slap on the bottom.

Let yourself be this fire my beloved sisters.

Allow these hot flashes to burn to the ground all that stands in the way of your power, your grace, your beauty.

Bow to being reborn. Older yes. Greyer possibly. And yet still here.

Here’s to being willing to step up and be burnt. Not to deny ourselves, or to play small. But to being willing to be destroyed. Willing to risk the uncertainty of the new. And willing, as will be the truth, to rise like a phoenix.

The younger women need us. Let’s lead the way.



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