I’ve been having a bit of a post-menopausal crisis of identity lately in that I feel I’m no longer completely who I was, but find I’m not yet quite fully formed into who I will be, either. I’m lost in limbo, held hesitant in a strange transitional place, a liminal space on the threshold between yesterday’s me and tomorrow’s me, waiting for the way out to become clear so I can move forward with confidence once more.
It feels as if the worn fabric of my old life has been torn, leaving precariously frayed edges and a yawning gap of vulnerability and weakness that initially left me holding my breath for fear of causing further damage. My first thought was to try to mend the rupture immediately, stitch it up tight, put a patch over it to provide reinforcement, remain in denial of my long-lost youth. But then with the tension already released I started to wonder what bits and pieces might be hidden away deep down and sheer curiosity caused me to forego my fears and rummage about a bit beneath the surface.
Inside myself I found not only all those parts of me I ever was, but also multiple bulky boxes of Wishful-Thinkings and Maybe-One-Days, Roads-Not-Taken and Ideal-Imaginings, never unpacked and simply kept stored away for potential future use. And at 58 years old I realised that the contents of many of these unopened boxes were no longer dormant dreams to be taken out and aired at some point, but over the years had somehow become stagnant in stifled obsolescence. They were filled with myriad Things I Will Never Do and People I Will Never Be, some by choice and some by circumstance.
And I also realised that it was long past time to let many of these musty old boxes go. I need to lay them to rest peacefully and deliberately so the ghostly disappointments of so many discarded dreams do not haunt my identity into my future. Because thankfully I have found no real major regrets in there – it seems the things I wanted to do most in life I have actually done. I may not always have succeeded in all things I have attempted, but I have tried and sometimes failed or have changed my mind about them, and having had that experience is enough for me.
Life is always about prioritising, making choices between one thing and another, adapting and assimilating and becoming anew, time after time. In the past I may have dreamed that one day I would write a book, but I know now I never will because I simply don’t want it enough. In the same vein I will never have a proper career, because having a family first mattered more to me and I preferred to work around their needs. I have to accept that I never will grow up to be tall and slim, the lithe leggy athletic blonde of my youthful dreams because my genes have determined otherwise and I simple cannot be what I am not so why upset myself wishing for the physically impossible?
Better by far to make the most of what I have rather than yearn for an imagined ideal that I can never attain. I am a middle-aged post-menopausal grandmother with ongoing health problems and at times a heavy heart. Depression and anxiety have always played a huge part in my life to date and with the best will in the world they will not be going anywhere soon, so inevitably all of those weighed-down dusty boxes of hopes and dreams belonging to someone more emotionally robust who has not experienced a lifetime of mental health issues also need to be placed gently but firmly in the growing pile marked ‘Leave Behind’.
I feel like I have enough experiential emotional baggage to carry around with me without bulking it out with all these outdated optional extras whose statute of limitations has effectively long run out. I feel like in order to know myself into the future I first need to be sure who I am not, who I will never be, draw a clear line in the sand and step beyond all those potential dead ends that belong firmly in the past. I know I will find a way through this and feel whole once more, but right now I’m not quite there yet.
And I know in my heart of hearts that however lost and confused I may feel right now, as I start on my later-life journey towards becoming an old woman I’ll also be moving more freely towards becoming a new woman, too…