I started reading a book called "The Female Brain" by Louann Brizendine, M.D., It is very fascinating learning about the physical differences between the male and female brain as they grow and develop from infancy to old age. One thing that really made an impression on me, is that the female brain can change by up to 25% per MONTH. Intense hormonal changes circulate constantly and that these changes can make us hate ourselves or love the world, depending on their season.
There are differences in the size of certain areas of the brain. Women having larger areas for empathy, communication, facial/emotional recognition and vocal cues. Women have these over men up to 2 and 3 times greater. I know as a child I had this highly developed sense. My mom will atest that I was not one that needed spankings. A look would be enough to shame me.
Currently I am in a season in my life where these sensitive hormones are wreaking havoc. As I continually strive for balance and to bring my health and spirituality into alignment, I find myself being utterly frustrated at the way my hormones are coursing through my body, making things miserable for me. I feel intensely sad and self deprecating. I read in Dr. Louanne's book that this is one of the "normal emotions" that come up with life changes-- specifically perimenopause.
Women get a bad rap when it comes to their bodies and hormonal changes. We so easily and dismissively earn the label and title "bitch." I hate this term. To me it reflects the worst trait to posess. It seems to suggest that it is an irreversible choice, something we ARE and will always be. An absolute. Why do men get to be "frustrated and irriated" but women are bitches?
It is very challenging being a woman and having these constant fluxuations. It is challenging to be constantly holding back and holding back. Not having a safe place to emote and when you do, it is not met with the same tenderness and nurturing that you have put forth to others over your lifetime. Its a raw deal.
Dr. Louanne's book is a relief to me. Its good to know that your emotions are not your fault. Its not something you are "doing" or "not doing" anymore than winter can be summer. There are seasons to a woman's anatomy. There are seasons where there will be balance and imbalance. It is something to be honored and celebrated, as we celebrate when the leaves fall from the trees and a blanket of beautiful snow covers the earth. In time the snow melts and the shoots begin to spring forth from the ground and we again honor this change of season. Space allows for change and with change something new and wonderful can come into one's life.
Something that struck me while reading is that women are always changing. Our needs are always changing due percisely to our hormonal changes as we move through the life giving stages of our seasons. As women, we are always getting ready for something. Before we are 18 months old, our brains are flooded with estrogen, which get our bodies and brains ready for being nurturing child bearers. We are early equiped to be better communicators and friends so as to later attract a mate. After our brains have marinated the estrogen is shut off for a while until we approach puberty, and then it is turned on again. This chemistry causes us to change our priorities again and look for more social interactions in all aspects of life; friends, careers and searching for a mate. With pregnancy more hormones are released which cause the nesting and self/fetal care priority. Early motherhood through to perimenopause activate the worry section of our brains as caregiving becomes our number one priority. Finally, with menopause and post menopause, the focus becomes very self driven. The sharp decrease in estrogens and progesterones deactive the outward nurturing instinct and we can start to relax and focus on ourself and our own needs and wants.
In the face of all these hormonally induced instincts, it made me think about how hard women struggle against these instincts to maintain a sense of autonomy and individuality. In the seasons of our life, we want different things and have different priorities, but do we ever lose our passions, whether they be for science, art, flower arranging, writing, or whatever?
The biggest challenge facing women these days is how to honor our seasons. How to feel our emotions and have them accepted and honored by those we love and who love us. In our society, the fatty deposists around hips, breasts and thighs for childbearing, just isnt' cool. Neither are the wrinkles and the mood swings common in menopause. We want to diet, inject, ingest, cream and staple them all away. Where are the circles of women ready to embrace and welcome you to the seasons of your life? To help guide the way and bring you through them with rejoicing? Where are the men to stand by your side and hold you up with thanks for the years of service you provided in helping them weather their own storms inside-being their mothers, their lovers, bearing their children and nurturing them and helping their lives go smoothly? It is very rare to find anyone there beside you in a celebratory manner.
At the end of it all, with change comes wisdom and I think this is the shiny glory of being a woman, that through all the changes we become very wise. My hope is that in learning to honor the seasons of change, women will not only become wise but share their wisdom with those in their community. Their friends, lovers and mostly within their goddess community, such as Dr. Louanne has done.