Good morning, morning pages! What am I to write on you today, to fill your endless lines of blue on white paper printed page? Is it to be a poem, prose; purple or just black on white? Am I to be creative or mundane? What issues lurk in the deep? Oh subconscious what will you spill today?
I don’t know. I’m not even sure of the value of the pages today, but still I write them. As a therapist I know that resistance is a protection mechanism the ego throws up to cloud the issue and veil the truth, and therefore I do not resist, but simply write.
Open-minded and fully present I sit. Allowing. Succumbing. Surrendering. I surrender my life to Thee Oh Lord Adonai in the Heavens above: To you, Oh Most High, Supreme, Ultimate, Infinite… What would you have me do? Wear? Go? Read? Learn? Receive? Who would you have me talk to? About what? What would you have me think, feel?
You gave me free will.
You are Greater than anything – far Greater than I, yet You also dwell WITHIN me, for I am part of You.
I accept, that when you let me know what you would have me do, to my ego’s surprise, it comes not externally, with bolts of thunder and lightening, but quietly from within, with clarity, as my own stream of thought: Often, but not always, in my own voice. It’s a clear, unmuddled stream that springs from The Source of All, a drop of which resides energetically within the field of my being, my consciousness.
When I’m connected to it fully, I am whole, complete, joyous, present and expansive. When I listen to that still, small, clear stream of thought, and follow it, it leads me back to Source and connects me to it.
When I listen instead to resistance, to confusion, to worry and fear and anxiety and hurt – then the clear pool is muddied and I can no longer see. I’ve cut myself off from the pure Source – for nothing can muddy the Source of the All.
Therefore, clarity in all things. Purity in all things. Follow the first clear flash of knowing and when things become muddied or muddled, take self off for a while. Walk, yoga, meditation, sex. Do the dishes, paint a shelf, dig the garden, read, weed. Give space and time for the mud to settle back down and leave a perfectly clear pool of fresh water.
I am clear. I am whole. I am the Universe, connected to All. Connected to the One Universal Soul. Umma. Imma, Abba. No thought. No time. A tingling feeling of joy and pleasure – not from ‘pussy’, Mama Gena, not from below up… but the other way around: From above down. Expanding inwards and outwards in the spaciousness of being. Not doing but resting.
A movement and a rest. The Gospel of Thomas: “If they ask you: What is the sign of your Father in you? Tell them; It is a movement and a rest”
Rest, rest, rest. It isn’t lazy! It’s not for you to feel guilty about! It’s the rhythm of creation. Fibonacci. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13… Creation. A movement. Then a pause. The comma. A rest. Assimilation. Then another movement. Another rest. Assimilate. RECEIVE.
When all is complete and whole and in perfection, rest. Then start again with the next block. The next movement. Then rest.
Rest and let it unfold exponentially, spiralling up block by block, stage by stage. The foundations are built. The groundwork done. Now the temple goes up quickly. Exciting! Watch it grow! Watch your life grow as your Light grows as your stillness gives rise to the spring of clarity.
It’s time to put on make-up, it’s time for fishnet tights, it’s time to get things started for the Steampunk Show Tonight…
So there I am, on a small, make-shift, plywood stage, covered in the yellow ochre dust of the desert. I’m in the Tankwa Karoo and I’m wearing a full-on corset, high-heeled patent leather stilettos, black gloves and a cerise and black bustle. My false eye-lashes bat against the wind. The generator hums somewhere back-stage as the lights flicker. The audience – some half-stoned, some half-drunk – cram together, cross-legged on the patchwork of mats, like school kids in assembly.
“Bare Necessities,” I hear the MC say as she finishes her spiel. That’s me. I stumble onto the stage behind my partner in crime, Wonder Lust (her stage name) and we pose. The familiar Jungle Book song strikes up on the sound system and I’m dancing.
I’m dancing in the desert.
I’m dancing in the middle of nowhere, about 120 kilometres down a sand road and even further from the nearest petrol station. There’s no wifi, no internet, no electricity and no phone signal. I’m off the grid, in every sense of the word: Me and 13,000 others who’ve made the annual pilgrimage to Afrika Burn.
Out in the distance, enormous wooden structures loom in the fading light of dusk. As a thousand million stars twinkle in the endless desert sky, gigantic flames lick the inky darkness. Glowing skeletons are exposed beneath the burning artworks. Who built these things? Ordinary people, that’s who. People who gave up their weekends all year round to make the treacherous trek over stony ground to this remote and hostile place. People who carried wood and tools and water and food and shelter. People who toiled under the sun, the wind, the sand storms and the icy winter skies. They built these homages with their bare hands and now they burn them bright against the black night. The music thumps out its bass across Temporary Tankwa Town
The Binnekring (inner circle) is lined with bedouin tents and mutant vehicles. Everyone is dressed up, or dressed down. You’re either in a fabulous creation or in God’s creation: Trinketed and adorned or free as the day you were born. Critical tits, let it all hang out, panda suits and steampunk garb. You can be anyone you like here. You can do anything you like here, providing it doesn’t hurt anyone. Freedom to roam. Freedom to be. No watch, no phone, no rules, no proper time of day. Only dusk, dawn, night, bright hot sunlight and The Burlesque Show at 6.30pm.
The Steampunk Saloon buzzes with quirky DJs, burly girls, live music, dust, dirt, bad whisky and the obligatory steampunk leather with cogs and wheels, top hats and bowlers, corsets and bustles, cuffs and straps and buckles and laced boots. Victorian Gothic in the Age of the Industrial Revolution with a punky alternative twist. A guy from the audience steps up on stage. He’s drunk but he picks up a guitar and plays Wonderwall. His friend slurs the lyrics into the mic, the audience accompanying him. We’re lost in a moment in time. An eternal moment of connection and shared experience. A moment of cohesion, of knowing, of kindred spirit.
Come to the cabaret, oh chums, life is a cabaret. All life is at The Burn.
Did you hear? Barbie’s going curvy, petite and multi-cultural. Mattel has realised the need to update the iconic, pneumatic, impossibly slender and long-legged doll for a new generation. What sort of message have they been sending until now? Apparently the diminutive All-American’s proportions were copied from a German predecessor called Bild Lilli. Lilli was based on a popular comic strip about a woman in search of a wealthy partner… and was aimed at.. err… men.
In Barbie’s world, not only is value placed on looks, but impossible looks at that. Inaccurate vital statistics – nobody can be that tall, that slim and that buxom on top – are matched by an inaccurate portrayal of success. Success in Barbie-land means the Barbie house, the Barbie pink convertible, the Barbie wardrobe of clothes and of course, the Barbie horse. If you don’t have the impossible hat trick of looks, lifestyle and accoutrements, you’re out.
But trends have a way of shifting. Venus de Willendorf was considered the archetype of beauty in her day. When I was a teenager, growing up in 70s England, it was hip to be androgynous. Men and women had long hair, slim hips, loon pants and straight silhouettes. I had booty. It was deeply unfashionable and I hated it. I’m finally trending now it’s all too late. Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and Christina Hendricks: Where were you when I needed you?
It’s about time the commercial world woke up to the fact that women come in all shapes, sizes and colour, and that looks do not maketh a woman. Or a man. What makes a person beautiful – male or female – is the entire package. It’s the personality, the smile, the warmth they exude. It’s the things they do and the things they don’t. It’s the music they like, the way they dance, the way they extend themselves into the world. It’s how they hold themselves and hold the space. It’s how they react when the chips are down and how they behave when the stakes are high. Oriah Mountain Dreamer will tell you what she wants to know: What we all want to know.
I surrendered the war on a petite dress size when I hit my fifties. I gave up impossibly youthful looks during my menopause. But I won’t give up on my sexy sassy self. My ass was flagging a bit as big bums tend to. It was past the sell-by date. And what’s the story with skin? It seems to stretch as you age, like an old swimsuit whose Lycra has rotted. I look at the spare half inch that sags over my knees. I check the crepe-like stomach that was stretched during two pregnancies. I catch the fold of skin under the chin and turn a blind eye to the ‘egg box’ cellulite. Oh how I wish it was ‘orange peel’ like the ads say. “Unsightly orange peel” would be a luxury compared to the dimpled indentations that run up the back of my upper thighs.
I don’t feel sexy. I’ve lost touch with the mesmerising allure that women possess. I’ve mislaid my own sensuality and feminine confidence. One minute it was there, all ripe and luscious and next it had withered.
Enter Burlesque. Yes. Busty, burly Burlesque. Dita Von Teese and the cheese-cake pin-ups with their nipped in waists and 1950s saucy post-card look. My teacher, Tenille Lindeque-Joshua, aka Lady Magnolia, is a dancer with legs to match Barbie’s. Within two sessions I’m wiggling my hips, walking like Monroe, wearing red lipstick and sporting vintage underwear. On went the black patent leather shoes, black patterned tights, long sparkly earrings and black eyeliner. A long shiny skirt fits around my new-found curves. An ankle-length leopard-print T-shirt dress with black netting arms and inlays hangs in my wardrobe. Nothing tarty. Nothing short. Nothing in-your-face. Just good old fashioned sexy, sassy, timeless style…. and a proper corset and fishnets for dancing, of course.
Forget Tantra. Forget workshops. Forget personal development. If you’ve lost your mojo or you feel you’re past it, if you need more confidence in the bedroom, or if you want to explore your sensuality, get yourself bumping and grinding. Burlesque, or it’s gentler cousin, Belly dancing will put you back in touch with your heritage: The inherent rhythm and eternal seductive power of the feminine. Rediscover your body and move it to the beat of the music, delighting in the sheer joy of being a woman. Every woman should go.
Tenille says it all: “The media gives us a one dimensional picture of what’s beautiful… Burlesque isn’t a picture, it’s an experience… and a whole sensation of what feels beautiful. In a burlesque performance it’s all about the performer’s personality, her character. Who she is.”
My confidence is back. My mojo’s working. I know who I am. I am woman.
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As far as I know, it’s a natural part of the evolution of all women. Meno meaning month. Pause meaning stop. Our monthly periods stop. It’s been happening for millennia. Women from all cultures and backgrounds have gone through it just as they went through puberty and the start of menstruation. It’s a fact of life.
But in the modern world we’ve turned it upside-down. It’s something to be shunned. Women moan about it, men hide from it, greetings cards joke about it. My friend tells me she’s fed up with hearing her colleagues grumble about the difficulties of ‘the change’. They harp on about night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, an absence of libido, irritability, rage, anger, tearfulness and depression. They complain bitterly at the lack of sleep, the tiredness, and the dearth of energy. “I can’t do what I used to do,” they lament.
GPs are no better. When I visited my doctor to ask him to test my thyroid, he wearily told me all my symptoms were simply menopause. He wistfully related his wife’s demise, and subsequent resurrection through the power of Hormone Replacement Therapy. “But I don’t want HRT!” I insisted. “I just want to check my thyroid’s ok.”
“You’ll start to look more masculine, you’ll have no energy or vitality, you’ll put on weight and if you’re happy with one orgasm a month, then carry on…” The male doctor’s prognosis. What does he know of female sexuality and sensuality?
“You’re a therapist!” he says, “What would you say to someone who was depressed but refused to take the talking cure? It’s the same! HRT will help you get over it.”
I got up and left the surgery.
“It’s not the same,” I silently protested. “Menopause is a natural part of being a woman which we must all embrace. You don’t need to treat menopause: It’s not a problem!” It dawns on me why there are so many young-looking, skinny fifty-to-sixty-something women in the posh parts of town. All those beauties spinning at the gym with their Barbie-doll figures and age-spotted hands are on HRT! I’ve rumbled them. They’re waging a battle to hold back the years.
To hold back nature.
We don’t yet know the full extent of possible side-effects from HRT. I remember being told by a research scientist, not on any account, to use patches. This mode of delivery is not safe, he told me. I know that HRT has been at the root of many cancer scares and I know that breast cancer and cervical cancer are on the increase. But more than that, I know, deep in my psyche, that it’s not right to mess with mother nature. To upset the balance of creation. We’re not meant to bleed into our dotage.
Do I want to be forever young or do I want to grow up? Menopause is a rite of passage and is seen as such in many cultures. It’s the transition phase for women moving from the ‘mother’ to the ‘crone’. Crone means ‘Crown’. Crowning Glory. Sovereignty. The Wisdom Years. The holding-in of the wise blood. I’ve been the “maiden’, with full red lips and blushing cheeks, peachy buttocks and smooth skin, youthful, headstrong desires and playful appetite. I’ve been the ‘mother’ – the great nurturer and provider. The giver, the organiser, the teacher, the safe harbour. Now it’s time to be Crowned in all my Glorious Goddesshood. It’s time to be wise, to be balanced and most of all to be free. Free of the expectations of others, free of the vicissitudes of the ego, free of the straight-jacket of first impressions. Am I slim enough? Is my body toned enough? Is my face pretty enough? Shallow criteria on which to judge a life: Simply by the cover.
Modern woman has become disconnected from the rhythms of nature. Disconnected from her body. Disconnected from her inherent Wisdom: From her intuitive guidance and from her feminine sensuality.
My friend decides to go ‘cold turkey’. She’s not doing HRT and she’s not doing herbal supplements. No progesterone cream, no red clover or dong quai, no black cohosh. She’s not taking soy isoflavones or flaxseed. It’s life as usual. She swims, she eats, she drinks red wine. She becomes selfish and reclusive for a few months, a bit ratty with her husband and the world. She has a few hot flushes which warm the winter nights and she puts on a few pounds around her belly. You wouldn’t notice. At fifty-something she’s not wearing mini skirts or cinched-in waists. She looks good. Mature. Confident. Her own woman.
Menopause brings up our ‘stuff’. If you haven’t sorted it out by your late 40s, then the middle years are going to throw it into the spotlight. Old wounds, old fears, old psychological issues. If you’ve buried them, they’ll rise like Lazarus. “Know thyself,” said the great philosophers. If you’ve confronted your demons, analysed your childhood, healed, forgiven and forgotten, then you’ll have forged a new path for yourself and there’s nothing to worry about. Menopause is an opportunity to clear out the old and bring in the new. It’s the human equivalent of a chrysalis. You’ll emerge transformed and free, spreading the wings of your beautiful true nature. But first you must cocoon yourself, turn inwards and hunker down till the imaginal cells have shifted. You’re not going to be a chrysalis forever, but to be the butterfly you must go through the pupae stage.
Reconnect with your body. Reconnect with your self. Reconnect with nature. Connect with who you are, what you really want from life – not what you want from others, but what you want from yourself. Take the menopause as a gap between the hectic life of career-woman and mother, constantly feeding the needs of others, and the life of an Elder, revered, serving the community, self-assured and wise. Let nature enfold you then unfold the new. Stay youthful in your outlook. Keep your mind and your spine flexible. Do gentle yoga. Meditate. Paint. Sing. Dance. Play the piano. Walk. Walking’s good. Walk in nature on your own. Eat wholesome food. Laugh with your friends, but for goodness sake, don’t try to hold on to something that you’re meant to let go of.
I have a feeling the more we resist the menopause the longer it takes to pass. The more we embrace it, the quicker we traverse it. Acceptance is the key. Accept this is where you are in your life.
Make slow, sensual, intimate love. You’ve had the quick burgers, now enjoy the exquisite three course meal. In winter, relish the hot flushes. In summer, nakedly spread-eagle yourself on the cool of your bathroom tiles. It may add another dimension to your sex life. Emotions are natural. Let them flow through you. They’re generally ephemeral. Delight in your curves. You’ve denied yourself for too long just to fit into a smaller dress size. Find out what suits you. Beauty is skin deep and the beauty within shines out to the world. Nurture yourself. Be gentle with yourself. It’s natural to have less energy, to be slower as you take time to go within. You may not be as fast, but you’ll be wiser and you’ll be all woman… And you’ll emerge triumphant as a free-thinking, centred, grounded wise-woman.
It’s time to reassess the menopause. It’s a time to pause from the pace of modern life, to withdraw from the external, to nurture self instead of others, to heal, to let go, and to metamorphose into your true Glorious, Gorgeous, Goddess Self.
And remember – as the Sufi’s say: “This too shall pass.”
Bridget Finklaire 2016
My partner teases me that I’m a ‘Soutie’ and I ask him what that means. “Soutpiel” he replies. It’s an Afrikaans word. I find out it’s rude. It means ‘salt penis’. “But I don’t have a penis,” I protest! “I’m a girlie, in case you hadn’t noticed…”
A Soutpiel for those who are in the dark, is a derogatory term for a South African with an English Heritage. He has one foot in each country, with his penis dangling in the ocean between. He’s not English and he’s not South African either. He can’t let go of either identity.
My partner has a point. I’m English and I live in South Africa. I wanted to let go of England and immerse myself here, but I can’t. Not fully. I was born on that small grey Island in the North and lived there for half a century. I spent almost thirty years in the dazzling metropolis of our Capital with its bloody history and cornucopia of eclectic places. London, as they say, is a collection of villages strung together to create an exciting city. My earliest memories were of being taken on the train to Waterloo, then catching the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus with my mother. I vowed to live in London as soon as I was old enough and I did. The City is overcrowded now. The infrastructure is at breaking point. Roads, trains, tubes, buses have reached capacity. Every hour is rush hour, unless it’s 3am in the suburbs. It chewed me up and spat me out… onto a beach on the Cape Peninsula.
I can’t go back now. Cape Town is raw and beautiful. It’s a clash of contrasts amid wild nature. It’s a small city with a great big mountain in the middle. Each neighbourhood has its unique personality. You can be anyone you want in Cape Town. You can do more or less anything you want. There is a certain disregard for rules which I love. Health and safety would have a seizure here. Variety. Food, great wine, music, people, weather. All four seasons in one day. Wind like you wouldn’t know. Hot penetrating sun. Biblical rain. Extremes. Sharks, Dolphins, Whales. Sports, dangerous and not so dangerous. Mountains, rivers, forests and long white beaches with fine sand and clear blue ocean. Freezing ocean. The pace of life is slower. There is a greater emphasis on leisure and enjoying oneself. Who wants to be slaving in an office when you could be lying on a beach, paragliding or sipping ‘sundowners’ somewhere trendy?
I miss my children terribly. Phone contact is not the same as a big hug. Following them on Facebook is not the same as watching them step into the world of work. I miss the thrill of London and the fact I know exactly where to buy anything unusual. I miss my friends and my old haunts. Every morning I check the weather app on my phone. Another sunny day in Cape Town. I check how the weather is doing in London. You can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl.
You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but I’ve been battling with myself for over 40 years. On the one hand I love food and on the other I love being slim. I’ve never been overweight and most of my life I’ve been on the lower end of the acceptable weight range for my height. I’ve never had a full-blown eating disorder, but I have controlled my eating habits. During my late teens and twenties I was fashionably underweight, with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18. The healthy range is 18.5 to 24.5, as almost every woman reading this will know. My current BMI is 23 and I’m the fattest I’ve ever been apart from when I was pregnant. And there’s the problem.
I’m used to being petite. I’m used to wearing slim-fitting clothes. With every decade, I’ve allowed myself to put on a few pounds. Age 30, after the birth of my daughter, I allowed myself an additional 8 lbs -about 3.5 kilos, BMI 19.8. I was a mother and I was older, I told myself. Age 40, my weight increased by another half Stone – about 3 kilos, BMI 21. I figured it was healthier for my age and a comfortable compromise. I was a little heavier but it was easier to maintain. I was slim and remained in the lower half of the range despite toned muscles, which we all know weigh more than fat. I was happy with my body until last year: I hit the menopause, age 52. I’m now in the upper half of the healthy range and I’m appalled.
I enjoy food and the occasional alcoholic drink – wine, champagne, whiskey. I’m not going to exist on a low carb, low fat tasteless diet. I’m not going to eat 100% raw or juice for seven days: It gives me heartburn and an acid environment. I feel weak and miserable, dizzy and light-headed. Don’t tell me that’s the toxins coming out because I did raw and clean for three months once. My nails broke, my hair fell out and I could barely get out of bed. It simply didn’t suit me. Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda would agree.
I’m at my best emotionally and energetically when I’m eating a balanced, wholesome diet. I enjoy quality food made from scratch. I eat meat, eggs, fish, salad, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, seeds, nuts, rice, sweet potatoes, stir fries, dark 70% or more raw chocolate and sometimes a sweet treat. I try to eat organic and free-range when I can. I feel better when I eat porridge for breakfast with a little honey and rice milk. When I slather butter or olive oil over my vegetables, I feel more satisfied and have more energy. My skin is smoother. I don’t eat highly processed foods. I don’t eat lots of wheat. I don’t do crisps or sweets. I eat very little dairy and my portions are quite small. It’s rare for me to eat more than one course in a restaurant.
I try to walk every day for 45 minutes – exercising my heart as I head up towards Table Mountain. I try to do yoga two or three times a week, and I try to dance for an hour on Thursdays. I’m pretty fit for my age, considering that three years ago I was burned out with adrenal fatigue.
So why am I beating myself up about the 10 lbs (4.5 kilos) that just won’t budge?
It horrifies me to realise I’ve probably passed my neurosis onto my daughter. It horrifies me to realise I’m jealous of every skinny lady I see who is over 40. It horrifies me that I have wasted so much time, money and effort keeping myself below my natural, healthy weight for most of my life. Has it made me a better person? Has it helped me to grow and mature? Has it contributed to society or humanity in any way? Did it make me more attractive? Probably not, but it did make me more confident… Why must my confidence rest on the size and shape of my body? What am I (and Western Society) teaching young girls?
Do I want to continue the daily battle to eat like a sparrow and exercise like a race-horse? Do I want to defy my genetic inheritance by insisting I must be thinner? Do I want to believe that every skinny woman out there is judging me because I haven’t had the willpower to exist on grilled fish, green leaves, juice and coffee? Do I want to believe I’m unloveable and unattractive because I have curves in the wrong places? I’m 53 for God’s sake! Something has to change.
I look at the world around me. Cape Town, London, any First World City. I see women. I see two categories: Skinny and overweight. I filter out the average, normal figure. I focus on the skinniness and feel shameful. Why aren’t my legs like that, I lament? There is nothing missing in my life save skinny legs, hips and buttocks. I have a feeling it’s time to let go. My health is more important: Glowing, vital, vibrant health… and the green juice ain’t doing it.