In her midlife, every woman deserves a chance to go travelling alone; just to test the possibility of rolling with “fuck it”
Chamber of separation
The teachings of Red School tell us that there are psycho-spiritual phases of menopause that we move through. This knowledge is gold, and a way to keep us anchored and sane on the uneasy path of midlife shifting. The first phase we enter in perimenopause, is the chamber of separation.
What does that look like? Probably the most disquieting time of the menopause journey, because the call to be separate from, well, sometimes everyone and everything, can be extraordinarily strong.
Solo travel opportunity
This summer I was blessed to have had the opportunity to travel to Bali and Australia. The trip to Bali was to complete my teacher training in Womb and Fertility Massage Therapy. Then on to Australia to spend time with my beloved aunt and cousins. Circumstance meant that I was to be travelling alone, as my family wasn’t able to join me on my adventures.
As I hugged my darling ones tight at the airport, and walked through passport control, this midlife traveller was oozing excitement. The prospect of heading to the other side of the world, only having to look out for myself, was actually quite exquisite. I was fully embracing separation.
Easeful in separation
Travelling while in the chamber of separation felt utterly easeful. I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s needs but my own.
Flying to the other side of the world and back did, of course, mean spending time in the company of the same group of people for an entire day each way. But, I was able create my own travel bubble, so that I would only chat if I wanted to. In reality, “fuck it” I really didn’t want to! Small talk with those around me was kept to a minimum.
The freedom was there to observe parents, often with an exhausted look in their eye, as they had to navigate the challenges of long-haul travel with their little ones.
Before perimenopause, the yells of other’s young children would have yanked at my heartstrings, but with perimenopause, there’s a shift. “Fuck it”. There’s no need to take on the screams and yells of the intensity the children felt at take-off and landing; I knew they were safe in their parents’ arms. I was simply able to offer the parents a supportive nod and understanding smile.
Mapping out my own space in the small, tight environment of an economy class plane seat even felt unproblematic. Sitting next to a couple of women chatting about Love Island, again I could phase it out and concentrate on my book, choose a film, do a bit of writing. “Fuck it”, there was an element of joy connected to only choosing self-care. Just to switch on relaxing meditative music to drown out the constant rushing sound of the aeroplane so I could try and sleep, was bliss. There was no call to think of anyone else’s sleep needs.
Travelling through I don’t know how many time zones, and only having to take care of my own discombobulation was a huge relief. The brain fog of perimenopause was going through several multiples of intensity. Could I have taken on anyone else’s jet lag? Phew, I didn’t have to!
That said, I was travelling with an injury, which pricked at my vulnerability. Severe ligament and tendon damage to my ankle, meant a countdown to whether or not travel was even going to be possible. The vulnerability sat in opening myself up to accepting assistance at each airport.
The experience of sitting in a wheelchair, being pushed around by various strangers, was a true lesson in surrender. Surrender is the next chamber of menopause after separation. This meant dipping my toe quite deeply in this phase.
Not simply the practicalities of surrendering to my inability to walk long distances, but to the vulnerability that I found myself steeped in. The discomfort of being in a wheelchair was immense. Accepting help in this way, when in my heart surely I’m an independent, vibrant and very mobile person. It was a challenge.
The wonder and upside of airport assistance, though, was being whizzed through customs and passport control at each of the eight flights I took! I also wondered if it helped to present a more trustworthy face when entering Australia. I had to declare the Yoni Steam herbs I was taking home from Bali. I told them it was tea! The customs officer was very uncertain, but looked down at me in the wheelchair and said “I’m sure they’re ok” and let me keep them!
Of course, there was the physical side of perimenopause; the odd hot flush, interesting experience on a plane; insomnia; aches and pains; and a crazy-ass short 18 day cycle, all came with me on my travels. But I could breathe through each menopause manifestation, without having to concern myself with anyone else.
Nervous? Me? I don’t think so
Before I went away, a male friend asked me if I was nervous about going? I was quite shocked to be asked this question. Would he have asked my husband the same question? Did I give the impression that travelling alone was going to be a nerve-wracking experience? Was it a misogynistic expectation that I needed a man to make me feel safe when I travel? Was it other women he knew who may have been genuinely nervous about travelling alone, being projected on to me?
Was I nervous? Absolutely not. Even with the injury, I was only excited. “Fuck it” hey, we have Whats App and Facetime to stay in touch with loved ones now! Separation was firmly holding me.
While in Bali, as my fellow sisters gathered for our Womb and Fertility Massage teacher training, we did experience a few of the earthquakes that claimed far too many lives in Lombok. As the effects of the earthquakes emerged and the number of lives lost rose, my soul was rocked. But during the earthquakes, there was a definite feel of “fuck it” in me. If my life was going to end, what a beautiful place to transition; surrendering to mortality.
I would absolutely love to go back to Bali with my husband and children. For a different experience of family togetherness in a country that took my heart. And without the support of my husband, who took over full parenting while I was away, I could not have taken the trip, and for that I will always be grateful. But the gift of travelling while in the chamber of separation was truly liberating, and an experience I will treasure as part of my menopause journey.
Love Your Menopause
To explore the peri/menopause journey in the company of like-minded women, Love Your Menopause is a day retreat offering nourishment and enquiry about how you can create your own liberating experience. To grab a cushion and and join us on 21st November, pick up your place here