By Guest Blogger JamillahNeeairah Nasir
When I turned forty, I began to ask older women who were at least moderately pleased with their lives to share any advice they might have about living well beyond mothering, and about their experiences with menopause. Many touching and personal stories were shared with me and I believe quite a few of my challenges were circumvented because I was told about how profoundly my life would change due to the psychological and emotional changes menopause ushers into the lives of women.
Thanks to these women, I knew I might become curt and sometimes reckless with my words if folks took too damn long to get to the point of whatever long story they swore to make short. I knew I’d probably need to carry a hand fan and a small spray bottle with some witch hazel in my purse for those hot flash emergencies. And thanks to these women, I knew I’d become something beyond mothering. Beyond my womanness. Finally, I’d be allowed to be Human.
Viewing everything through the kaleidoscope that is mothering and menopause has put my life into an entirely different perspective for me. Through that lens, I saw my children getting older and needing less and less daily guidance and I was able to celebrate that at the same time as I lamented it. I watched them all leave for college and go on to make life-and-mate choices that were sometimes questionable, and I did my best to reserve judgment. And I was right there when they decided to move across the world to begin careers and start living life on their own terms. I supported each of those decisions, even when they negatively impacted the outcome I’d been imagining for years. And, you would think that would bring me an unprecedented level of personal satisfaction.
But nobody tells you that this insight and wisdom won’t prevent you from feeling hollow and without purpose sometimes. We can’t wait to see our children grow up to live their lives without our daily input, but nobody tells you that out of nowhere, you might experience a wave of self-pity for the part of yourself you sacrificed in order to be present for your children that only you can acknowledge or fully recognize. They don’t warn you that there will be times when you’ll feel so very unnecessary because everything in your reality has changed without your permission. And absolutely nobody tells you that you can now create a life lived by rules that don’t require you to be a perfect human example of love or God’s grace or anything.
Life at fifty involves being more introspective than I’ve ever been, so it’s crucial that I take a moment to engage in activities that allow me to be re-introduced to the wild, open spaces within me that say it’s okay to eat cereal for dinner. Or popcorn. While sitting in the car listening to the last segment of NPR.
Now that I’m no longer a hands-on parent, God doesn’t require me to be a perfect example of anything except my truest self. That truth helps me remember that I’m just a woman. A fabulously flawed and perfectly fine woman, who is finding her way–one meditative, menopausal moment at a time.
JamillahNeeairah Nasir (Mama J) is a mother to four grown children, a writer, and a retired birth worker. She’s the owner of Woman’s Work Consulting Group and Sweet Mama Jai’s Kitchen—A local specialty catering outfit. She also sells handmade gifts and personal care products to raise funds so she can pursue her dream of hoboing across country while her ankles are still strong. She is also a founding member of the Greensboro Kwanzaa Collective. You can follow her latest and future shenanigans on Facebook @RealWomansWork.