29 December 2009

Crone Meditation

I think most people in our culture think of "developmental stages" as something that applies to children. Once you turn 18 or 21 or so, our culture seems to imply, your 'developmentment' is done and you are that unchanging creature "an adult". We don't literally believe that, of course. If we did, we wouldn't demand that our President be at least 30, and we'd be more comfortable than we are with 19 year old doctors. But we stop thinking about ourselves in terms of ongoing development.

Astrology tells us that from birth to death, personal development progresses according to more or less predictable stages. My own experience confirms it. Too bad I seldom think to check on my own stages of development.

Nonetheless, all these years that I have been preparing for the crone's role, I have, like just about everyone else seems to, assumed that crone and sage were mostly social roles. I figured that once you reached a certain age, you automatically became wise if you had been striving toward wisdom, and that the hardships people associated with menopause and the mid-life crisis were part nutritional and largely with emotional resistance to the loss of youth. I was pretty content with my progress in my nurturing caretaker "mother" role, and so I assumed that the transition to crone would be more or less fluid.

Ahh, the arrogance of (relative) youth. I was thinking about it all wrong. Again.

I never stopped to investigate the astrology of it, which might (or might not) have tipped me off that it was a lot deeper than that. (After all, there is enough art in astrology to allow us to ignore what we don't want to see and it takes a talented astrologer to apply the principles objectively to specific situations.)

My first clue that the transition wasn't going to be seamless was that my very first hint that 'the change' was underway. I went from fairly tolerant and easy going, if sometimes a bit weepy, to an angry, grumpy harridan. For a couple of months in the beginning, I was always yelling, deparaging, and harranging my poor family (Mostly Rod, since Jack was still tiny, but Jack came in for more yelling than he deserved, too.)

I was aware of being angry a lot, but it all felt completely "justified". I was completely unable to be objective, and I was completely unable to see it coming in time to stop it. Eventually Rod, my ever-patient prince, gently brought it to my attention in a calm moment, and I was horrified at my behavior! But although I was able to stop mid-gripe and apologize, the anger was still there, boiling as hard as ever. I was now able to look back once it was past and see how outrageously out of proportion it was, but I seemed powerless in the face of it.

I was chatting with a dear friend who was a few years ahead of me on the path and who was from a more "female" family culture than I am. I mentioned my concerns and she suggested that it might be menopause. She explained that menopause forces us to deal with what we have refused to deal with before. She told me about how she was always a very strong, in-control person; the rock of her family and social group. For a while there, she said, she was in tears a lot. She had never allowed herself to address sadness or grief, I guess. She was too busy.

Anyway, she recommended that before I entertain any dire ideas about "going mad", that I try a course of black cohosh. She was, of course, absolutely right. More traditional symptoms appeared within a few months and while I am now grumpier than I was as a young woman, and it occasionally gets the better of me, I am more able to ride the wild emotions. I can feel them coming on. I can address the fact that they are unreasonable, and I can steer them in another direction if they don't make sense. Perhaps one day, having anger at my disposal will be a good thing. ;)

Thinking still that menopause was now complete, I went on my merry way thinking I'd dodged the worst of it. I was kind of dismayed that I seemed to have grown into such a flawed crone...but I figured this was it. Me, as crone.

Wrong again...

The next surprise was that my fear of heights of many years standing was suddenly just gone! I am still not thrilled by heights and I doubt that I will ever be tempted by sky-diving and bungee jumping, but I can now walk up and down stairs three or four flights without terror making me freeze with a pounding heart and a constricted chest. That was a lovely surprise!

However if the sudden anger management issues and the loss of my fear of heights could be turned at an angle that would make them both seem "freeing", I was also becoming more and more uncomfortable in large groups. I have never been someone who was energized by crowds, and I have gone through major discomfort with large numbers of people both during menarche and during each of my pregnancies -- but now I find that a crowded place gets the same panic reaction as heights used to.

Not fun. And pretty embarrassing, really, given that Rod and Jack are both heavily involved with a very large (by my standards) church, so I keep having to be there at times when it seemd 9/10ths of the planet is in attendance.

They are very warm people, very welcoming. I know that one-on-one I would enjoy almost everyone there immensely. I love the ministers sermons and what the congregation stands for. On those occasions when I have managed to get there for service in time to get a front row seat (and so put the crowd out of sight) I have left thinking that I really want to go every week. But then, next time I don't manage to stay out of the way of the crowd, the panic sets in. And of course, when I am hunting, wild eyed, for a quiet corner to hide in, someone invariably spots me and tries to engage me in conversation -- and I am as social as a caged animal. *sigh* When I do manage to converse, I think back on my own part in the conversation and blush. They love Rod, but I suspect that they wonder what he sees in me. ;) I am neither sweet nor coherent in that state.

Mostly I have been happiest and most comfortable alone in the last year or so. Even with my loved ones, I find myself growing irritable and overwhelmed unless I get plenty of alone time.

But the insights this meditation is based on come from Reverend Gail, the minister at Rod's church. On Christmas Eve, Rod was there for many hours, to sing at two evening services. Because he and several other celiacs couldn't partake in the sandwiches that were being provided to the choir between sewrvices, I was to bring a big pot of vegan lentil soup.

I got there just before the service ended, it was quiet except for the service being piped into the social hall, but there was no sign of the dinner where I expected them to meet for dinner. Jack and I stood around, listening appreciatively to the service in the next room. Jack wanted to join them, but it seemed like a bad idea to come in as the service was ending, so we stayed in the kitchen.

The service ended and no one came in to the social hall or the kitchen. But record attendance also meant that it was impossible to move through the hallways to go looking for the choir's gathering place. I felt trapped; me and my five gallon pot of hot soup. And Jack was thrilled! He wanted to get out amongst all the people!

Eventually I struggled out into the crowds to look for Rod. By the time I found him, I was a panicked mess, but I was able to get the soup to the hall where it was needed just in time and at perfect eating temperature and then left Jack to eat with the choir and socialize. I went and hid in the dark, quiet car and got my wits back around me. However it seems that my troubles came up in a conversation between Rod and Reverend Gail. Perhaps she had seen me drop off the soup, and wondered why I hadn't joined the choir to dine.

When I came back into the church to pick up Jack and the soup pot before the crowd for the next service started to arrive, both Reverend Gail and her partner made it a point to engage in conversation with me. Because it was quiet at that point, I was able to do a better job at being social, and Reverend Gail and I talked briefly about my new anxiety. She asked if she might hug me, and she held me and helped my to ground...and my brain clicked back in. We had a few more minutes of conversation, she and Rod, and I, and then we all went on our way. But Rev. Gail's parting remark stayed with me for a long time. "Remember, it's not about "fitting in, it's about being who you already are".

It wasn't a new idea to me, and I don't know that my anxiety is entirely about whether I'll "fit in", but it struck a deep chord. Especially the part about being who I already am. Not sure why...except that it was a tacit declaration that I am fine with her, anxiety and all. There is that. Part of my anxiety *is* about the crowds. But part of my discomfort is about being unable to behave like a sane adult in a crowd. Part of my anxiety *is* that I can't seem to keep my social mask on these days and so on top of the physical reaction the crowds there is the fear of what an idiot I must look like.

A few days later, as I was dicussing my new insights with Rod and commenting that evidently I am not going to be the kind of crone I had dreamed of being. Wise, patient, tolerant, strong, and able to give comfort and aid, and maybe even with ritous anger at my disposal when it's warranted.

My beloved pointed pointed out that astrologically I am not yet a crone. Chiron return, the healing of the dysfunctions and mal-adaptations to life, happens years before the second Saturn return that heralds the Sage or the Crone.

I hadn't looked at the astrology of it. Like every other stage of life, there are obvious signs of impending cronedom, and there are stages that prepare us for the new era of our lives. I had embarked on the path, but I haven't come near to my destination as crone yet. I am a baby crone, learning to grow into my full power, which I can't expect to reach for five or more years.

I sure have a long way to go...but there is time yet. Just as I was learning how to be an adult at 21, but I wasn't yet the adult I would become, so I am on my way to being a wise elder ...but there are years yet before I willl get there.

That's a relief really.

1 comment:

  1. I like reading about the crone you hope to become. :)

    I too have been struggling with difficulties with crowdes in recent years. Some things that help me are: (1) getting enough folic acid in my diet, and zinc. Without those, I don't multitask well, and my problem with crowds is that there are too many things going on around me for me to keep track of all of them, and that makes me feel overwhelmed. (This is particularly important when you're eating gluten-free, since a lot of the sources of these nutrients are associated with gluten.) And (2) I noticed that a lot of my problem with crowds is that my kids don't notice where my attention is focused and they all start talking or demanding my attention at once, while at the same time I'm also trying to focus on several things that the crowd is doing. I've started working with my kids on looking to see where my attention is, and waiting until I am ready to focus on them, rather than just demanding my total focus anytime. They don't seem to fully understand what I'm asking them to do, or why, but just my act of deciding that I need to work with them on this seems to have helped. We were at Chuck E. Cheese today for a school fundraiser, and so were a zillion other people, and yet I stayed functional and didn't get overloaded once -- it was pretty neat. (3) Getting plenty of sleep (something I rarely do) sometimes helps a little.

    I have noooooo idea if your problem with crowds is anything similar to my problemw with crowds, so I don't know that anything that works for me would be helpful to you at all. But I figured I'd post it anyway, in case something there is useful.


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