Yes, you heard me. That "annoying" time every month when you get irritable, crampy and wet between the legs is in fact the center of your power as a woman. Here's why...
My mum celebrated with me when I got my period at age 13. It was a quiet sort of celebration: a hug, a knowing smile, a gentle welcoming into womanhood. I bled heavily from the beginning but I never experienced that much pain or shame around it. Nevertheless, "that time of the month" still seemed like an inconvenience. In a world that's focused on how you look and what you get done, periods just don't have a place - at least, not a good one.
Aged 33, training to be a birth doula, my views on feminine biology began to be severely challenged. Birth was suddenly revealed to me as a powerful initiatory gateway to motherhood. Watching women navigate this sacred transition revealed a stark truth: allow a woman to feel her power as she gives birth and she will carry that power into her mothering and her life; block that power and she is far more likely to come away with grief, trauma and a pervading sense of self doubt.
Despite this radical realisation, my prehistoric views on periods went basically untouched until I was introduced to the incredible work of Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo-Wurlitzer at The Red School. They gasped and giggled about the whole menstrual cycle, even referring to their ecstatic states during bleeding...I was intrigued and not a little baffled.
The first step to reclaiming my cycle was to record the daily rhythms of my mental, emotional and physical states. It took me several false starts but after a year or so I began in earnest, witnessing my own states and diligently recording a sentence or two every night.
And what did I find? Well s**t. I don't think I can fully express what I found, because the enormity and significance of my findings are still reverberating through me like a wave of joyful energy that just keeps growing. But if I was going to vocalise my findings they might look something like: "Mwwwwahhhhh yeeeeeehhhhhaaaaaaa ffffffrrrreeeeeeeeee yyyiiipppppeeeeeeeeeeee ha!!!"
Okay, let me try to expand on that. But bare with me, because really this is like trying to put an orgasm into words...
My cycle is like the seasons. Day 1 starts with my first day of bleeding and is the heart of my inner winter. The first day is usually light bleeding and so I've been known to use that time to run around getting shit done. Turns out that's a bad plan. I now notice that when I do that, when I don't give myself rest and solitude during my bleed, my whole month can be thrown off. Just as a winter without frost or cold temperatures can cause problems for plants and trees when spring comes, my time of personal dormancy is crucial if I am to be creative and alive during the later part of my cycle.
My inner spring usually hits around Day 4 or 5. At this time, if I've given myself some down time I am ready to burst forth like cherry blossom. Still, it's not yet summer, and so it's helpful if I keep my cards a little closer to my chest; I can enjoy the feeling of new life flowing through me without rushing forth to spend it all. Like allowing for the slow build-up of an orgasm, this helps my summer - which usually comes around Day 12 or 13 - to be even more juicy and spectacular. In summer I am at my most extroverted - ready to socialize, engage in creative projects and do whatever running around needs to be done. It's an amazingly beautiful time.
Then Day 21 hits...and I want to cry or to kill someone, or both. This heralds the beginning of my inner autumn, the time we traditionally associate with PMS. When I first realized that Day 21 was a seasonal cross-over day for me a lightbulb went on. Those seemingly random days when everything seemed to go wrong actually occurred on the SAME DAY of my cycle each month. Now I try to plan ahead, making sure that I don't have anything particularly arduous happening that day, and allowing time in nature to soothe my battered ego and crazy-ass mind.
Autumn is my least favorite time. My inner critic gets loud and self doubt sets in. Despite this, the Red School women have helped me to see its gift, namely that my critic is actually pointing to something I need to change or to let go of in my life. Though it's messy and painful, it's an opportunity to heal. Still, I always breathe an immense sigh of relief when Day 1 comes round again and my sweet blood starts to flow. *Phew*
And here's the most exciting part, I'm starting to think this s**t might not just be a personal empowerment tool, I think it might save the world. Think about it: if women took their own cycle seriously - making time for dormancy and activity, solitude and sociability, healing and growing, rest and play - then we'd be a LOT more likely to apply that to Mother Earth. "Hang on a second", we'd say. "Why are we expecting foods to be available all year round? Why are we overfishing and deforesting? Why do we need to be on the go all the time? Why are we a consumer species and not a restorer species?"
Why do I believe this? Because it's EXACTLY WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME, as we speak. Those things that used to be merely mental abstractions and inconvenient truths, are now BODILY REALITIES for me. If I push myself in winter I am not able to blossom in spring or bare fruit in summer. If I don't face my dark places in autumn then I am not able to fully inhabit my light in spring. And if I don't lovingly take care of my body, then it will begin to deteriorate. When i put something in the trash can today, I don't feel guilt, I feel a place inside my own body that knows I'm trashing myself as well as my Mother.
So Mumma, I'm ready to love you like you deserve. One month at a time.