Power is lost in youth.
There comes a time, somewhere in middle school, that kids begin to find their true voice. They begin to speak up for what is meaningful to them. They begin to defend their peers and assert themselves verbally. This is a critical time in human development. Sadly, it is also the time when we experience the greatest sense of isolation as we find ourselves criticized and chastised simply for being who we are. It’s a cruel time. Heartbreaking.
During this time, girls sense the gender gap widen. Although all kids experience the feelings of being different, isolated, and loneliness, girls experience the added accusation that their feelings or beliefs are wrong due to…you guessed it…hormones.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was having a discussion with some boy about some heated topic. I (of course) did not agree with him. I asserted myself. That was when he turned around and said, “You’re stupid. You’re PMSing. You’re on the rag.”
To be honest, it really wasn’t time to hail the red moon for me. I was simply stating how I felt. But apparently that made me stupid. It apparently also made me crazy. Why crazy? Well, everything that I had ever heard about PMS and being “on the rag” was that it made women crazy.
Hormones are useful. They DO NOT make anyone crazy.
Although I can trace my it back to way before this point in time, that one statement caused me to sink even more into silence. This was when I began to believe that nobody in the male species will ever take what I had to say seriously. My self-worth had already begun its quick and steady descent down the proverbial toilet. This was when my opinion was replaced with smiles and nods, since I felt like nobody really gave a flying fuck about what was true for me.
This silence continued for nearly 30 years. Of course, there were those “times of the month” when I would cry, or act like a “lunatic”, feeling like I was throwing a royal fit whenever I didn’t get my way. Damn hormones.
It breaks my heart when I hear women apologize for being assertive, and then pinning the blame on their hormones.
If you are not familiar with Nia or the week-long intensives, I will just tell you that it is just that…physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually INTENSE. It’s 7 days (10 hours each) of solid self-discovery through the body. Long story short, during my Brown Belt experience, I found myself sobbing in the room right outside the dojo that my Nia sisters and brothers were in. I simply couldn’t get it together to join them. I made my way into the bathroom where I continued to cry. I simply felt like I had NO idea where my life was heading. I knew that I was on the wrong path. I felt so very confused. When my trainer, Ann, checked on me, I told her, “Oh…it’s hormones, I’m sure.”
I’ll never forget what she told me.
“This cycle is a blessing.”
Now, although I love my new-age influences, I’m not necessarily the type of woman that goes out under the moon, banging on drums and chanting during period time (although I whole-heartedly believe that there is value to this for some women). It’s just never been my thing. But what Ann said stuck with me, and it really had nothing to do with banging drums or performing monthly rituals.
In the years that followed my Brown Belt intensive, I (of course) experienced a few life-altering events, including the passing of my stepdaughter. It was a time of intense grief and transformation at a cellular level. Months of sadness lightened up, and I was able to “see the sunshine through the clouds”, so to speak. My heart was broken, and I let it speak for me through sobs and whimpers. I healed it through my connection with children and loving support.
Although this healing was taking place, once a month…oh my goodness. My emotions all came out. It felt as if someone was grabbing onto my heart and pulling it straight through my throat, resulting in wailing, painful, gut-wrenching pain. My tears spoke FOR me about the pain I sensed everywhere in my body. This intense pain had no words. It just was. Pure sadness. Grief.
And when I would show up to work, or I would see someone in the store, or I would be working with a child, and I would get overcome with emotion and I’d feel tears beginning to well up in my eyes, I would explain away the reaction. “Oh, it’s just hormones. I’m so sorry.”
We were created this way. On purpose.
A tribe in Africa, called the Daruga, see grief as food for the psyche. Necessary to maintain balance. They honor the grief process by literally creating a space for mourners to experience grief in all of its intensity, in safety. Crying, dancing to the beat of a drum, pounding on the ground, and any other displays of emotion are expected in this space. If the mourners stray away from the space and show signs of grief, the caring tribe members will tap them on the shoulder and remind them to return to the space. Grief is viewed as gender-specific, and it takes a woman to reflect the grief of another woman for healing to take place. Life stops for the tribe during this time, all for the sake of honoring the grief process. The community continues to acknowledge the grief, allowing for multiple funerals to take place.
So why was I sorry to others when I was grieving? I was apologizing for the pain that I was feeling. I was afraid of it making others feel uncomfortable. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t contain my emotions. I was concerned that people would think that I was incapable of me doing my job or being a functioning member of society.
I felt crazy. It was the hormones, right?
Eventually, I began to wonder what would happen if I owned those emotions. What if I rode on them as if they were my chariot, carrying me through to voice what was simply dying to get out? What if, when I sense that intense anger, I allow myself to FEEL it and express it in constructive ways (through writing, dance, banging a drum, etc.)? What if I treated it like the pure energy that it is?
I’ll tell you what happened.
My family took a short trip to Dublin to see Michael Franti. My wife and mom knew something was “off” for me (and of course, I was blaming my hormones). After going to the concert, I finally told them, “I don’t know what to do next. I know I need to do something, but I’m confused. I don’t know if I want to go back to school, or if I want to do something else. I just know that whatever it is that I’m doing now feels so wrong.” Lovingly, they both embraced me with compassion and understanding. They told me that no matter what I chose to do, they supported me. All of the tension and worry that I sensed melted away. I felt loved. Accepted.
And that’s all it took.
When we got back home, I read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and The Anatomy of a Calling by Lissa Rankin. Inspired, I started this blog. I decided to take a stand for helping people seek, express, and live their lives with truth. I began to honor my anger, and to use its energy productively. I am now riding on the ebbs and flows of this beautiful monthly ENERGY cycle. Are there times that I feel irritable? Yes!
What if hormones are simply our body’s way of releasing tension and hidden stress? What if we allow them to do their job and cleanse our emotional bodies, naturally? Our culture does not allow time for emotionally charged events to play themselves out. Rather, when tragedies strike, the typical routine is to console the mourner, give them a week or two, and expect them to bounce back, just as functional as they were before the event happened. This, of course, isn’t only true for women, as men also experience hormonal fluctuations. Rightfully so, given that our society has notoriously pretty much poked fun at men expressing their emotions.
Men, however, haven’t had entire psychological disorders assigned to them as a result of acting on these hormone-induced emotional outbursts (ever heard of histrionic personality disorder?). It is entirely possible that the very actions that we, as a society see as being “abnormal” for women are absolutely acceptable for men.
So, my sisters, consider this…
Our hormones might be the fuel behind the fire that will give us the power to amplify our voices.
So please…the next time you sense that your “Aunt Flo” might be on the horizon, make friends with the hormones that make it possible for her to grace you with her presence. Dance with them. Paint with them. Write with them. Use them to help you speak your truth.