I have had an influx of menopausal and peri-menopausal clients in the last several months. Yesterday, I posted about how many of these women are dealing with uterine fibroids as a symptom of a lifetime worth of mothering (children, friends, family, and even strangers). As natural empaths, women hold the emotional issues of all the people we encounter. Over time those issues build up. When we hit menopause, our wombs say it is time to stop *holding* as it is time to become an elder.
But we reject eldership. Our culture doesn't revere our elders.
These woman all say the same thing to me, they are staring down the throat of their silver years, facing the harsh reality of becoming irrelevant. Their entire adult lives have been about being a mother, whether they have children or not. They have built their identities around nurturing, loving, holding, helping, and supporting others. But as they enter into the elder stages of life, they cannot mother as they have before. Many of them stopped dying their hair during COVID and now look in the mirror and don't recognize themselves as their natural grey somehow highlights their deeper wrinkles. They don't want to grow old. Modern society doesn't value elders who face daily micro-aggressions that push them further and further toward irrelevancy. They tell me that growing and being old sucks.
But it doesn't have to suck.
In some ways, COVID forced us to pay attention and prioritize our elders. On the other hand, indigenous cultures revere and honor their elders, constantly seeking and referencing their wise and sage advice. It's time we EMBRACE our eldership, claim ownership to our roles as wise sages, and serve our communities as ELDERS.
When they claim that wise sage eldership role, everything changes.
My Eldership Story
I entered into eldership prematurely. That's not to say that I went through menopause at a young age. Actually, my genetic ancestry seems to indicate that my body will be pushing out eggs well into my late 50s, as did my mother and grandmother. I'm sure when I do reach that stage of my life, I'll enter a whole new level of eldership, at which time I will celebrate and embrace the *big change*.
No, I volunteered to become an elder at the young age of 35. I signed up for it when I agreed to go through the elder initiation rites and rituals with a shaman teacher based in the wisdoms of the Dagara Tribe of Burkina Faso in West Africa. (no, I didn't go to Africa...he came to America and initiated a number of elders over the course of a couple decades). My initiation took place in 2009, and resulted in a *big change* in my life that took several years to settle.
At the time, I was married to my first husband, who was anorexic, and as a result, I thought needed a lot of mothering. I took care of him. I took care of a lot of things for him. He went through the eldership initiation with me. When we got back from initiation, our marriage was over. He wouldn't let me take care of him anymore. He refused to take care of our marriage. At the time, I enabled him. I did everything for him and for our marriage by myself as he surrendered deeper into his anorexia and checked out more and more. We divorced three years later.
While I never had any children of my own, I spent most of my adult life (until my initiation) mothering other people. First, I was a high school English teacher to at-risk youth who didn't have healthy mothers of their own. Then, I taught yoga and mothered all my clients. I was a Reiki Master, a Chakra Balancer, a Yoga Teacher...and everyone wanted my time and energy. I gave it willingly and lovingly. And I often felt depleted and needy myself.
But after my elder initiation, my yoga students started rejecting my mothering. It hurt. I didn't know how to NOT mother them. Over time, I realized that whenever I offered help (without being asked) my clients, students, friends, and family all rejected me, rather harshly. But if I waited until they asked, and I offered advice, they gushed with gratitude.
At the same time, my client list evolved. My work started attracting more elder women, menopausal and perimenopausal women. I found myself humbled because women significantly older than me were coming to me for advice and guidance. It took me awhile to realize this was because I had the ENERGY of an elder. Eventually, I figured out what that meant and started acting like an elder. The key therein being that I stopped enabling my clients...I stopped doing things for them like I once did for my high school students. Instead, I started encouraging, empowering, and advising them to do for themselves. At that point, I accepted my role as elder, and everything changed.
What changed for me was that I found better and healthier boundaries with my clients. I found more energy and less exhaustion. I found myself caring just as much, but caring in a different way. Rather than feeling sad for them when they were hurting, I started getting excited for them because I knew that whatever was hurting them was an opportunity for them to grow, if they wanted to DO THE WORK THEMSELVES. I started advising and guiding, and then watching them evolve.
Enablement vs. Empowerment
One of the biggest lessons any EMPATH needs to learn is to stop enabling (doing things for others) and start empowering (encouraging others to do things for themselves). Sadly, for most empathic women, this lesson hits hard and deep when our wombs force us to face it. For many women who have dealt with difficult periods for most of their adult life, their bodies have been trying to teach them this lesson for a long time. Eventually, they either get a major surgery (hysterectomy) or they face menopause and then, only then, do they start making the changes in life to stop enabling others and start empowering others.
I want to be clear here, there is a time and a place for enabling and mothering. An infant who cannot feed herself needs a mother. A person who has been injured or suffered a trauma needs enabling and mothering through the initial healing stages. But eventually, as the growth and healing happens, a shift needs to happen, from enabling to empowering. At some point, you have to hand the person the fishing pole and let them struggle through putting the worm on the hook and catching the fish themselves.
Maiden - Matron - Crone
All women (no matter your biology) go through three stages of life: Maiden, Matron, Crone.
The Maiden Stage is when we learn how to mother by preparing our wombs and energies to receive. I mean this energetically, not just biologically. (trans women go through maiden stages even though they don't have wombs). This is the time when we develop all the feminine energies of holding and nurturing. This stage is extremely feminine.
The Matron Stage is when we do the actual mothering. Whether we bear children of our womb or not, we are mothers. We hold. We nurture. We love. We heal. We take care of the people in our lives. We help. We support. We serve. We anticipate the needs of others and address them, often before those people even know they have needs to be fulfilled.
The Crone Stage is when we stop mothering and start eldering. When our bodies reach a certain age, they can't hold the weight and burden of mothering anymore. But our minds are wise and our experiences vast. We CAN counsel.
The matrons of the world need crones. Sadly, most matrons won't seek the counsel of a crone because she has been taught to do it all herself. Matrons often look to other matrons to support them, which leads to a cycle of exhaustion serving more exhaustion. Their best support comes from the grandmothers, the elders, who have an unlimited supply of emotional energy and wisdom to offer. When we step into elder crone, we become the wise sage who supports the matrons, and the rest of the world.
Sadly, our culture has not always respected nor revered our elders. As a result, the wisdom of our elders is getting lost into worlds of Alzheimer's, dementia, and senior moments. So let's sit at the feet of our elders and encourage them to empower us with their wisdom. Seek their counsel. Request their advice. Follow their guidance.
And if you are reaching crone stage, if you embrace it rather than reject it, the transition will be much smoother, and you will find a whole new purpose in life that is phenomenal beyond your dreams.
Are you an Empath who has struggled with the difference between ENABLING and EMPOWERING? Are you reaching crone stage and need to learn to embrace it? Book an Appointment so I can walk you through your own elder initiation rites and rituals to claim your crone status and step into your eldership power.