2023. The best way I can describe it for me is with this lyric from Meredith Brook’s song “Bitch”:
“Just when you think you’ve got me figured out, the season’s already changing.”
My word for 2023 was “embody”, and I posted my intention on Instagram in December last year:
“I want to embody the trust and belief in myself that I have started to develop this year; embody my values in my daily life; embody what I have aspired to be, in both my work life and my creative life.”
How do you embody something that is forever shifting? This year, I came face to face with perimenopause and the complete and utter mindfuck that that involved. My hormones were out of control, and I honestly thought I was losing my mind. I was frantic at times, thinking irrational and paranoid thoughts about people I love and relationships. I felt isolated, unwanted and unloved. I considered seeking out an affair, for heaven’s sake! I thought all I had worked for was crumbling around me. I spent much of the year filled with anxiety about my youngest leaving the nest, which he did in September. The sky hasn’t fallen in, oddly! And many of the things I had ruminated on for months have not come to fruition, or at least haven’t been the minefields I imagined that they would be. I think that seeking support from a Menopause Coach was one of the best things I could have done (Sophie at Hormones on the Blink is amazing), and starting hormone replacement (initially three-monthly progesterone injections, and more recently oestrogen gel) seems to have calmed me a little.
I am in a much better place, mentally and emotionally, than I was six or seven months ago. The brain fog is less intense, and my sleep is starting to improve. My anxiety feels lessened, and I am not feeling (to quote Rachel Green) so “erotically charged.”
Trying to embody the Advanced Nurse Practitioner I now am in the workplace, having completed my Masters, is a challenge. Some days, I can barely string a sentence together thanks to brain fog, it takes me much longer to process my thoughts and I struggle to concentrate in the office. I can’t juggle multiple thoughts and tasks as I once could. I am worried my colleagues will think I am ineffective at my job and question my promotion (again, paranoia anyone?). This is the professional I have aspired to be, and I feel I’m missing the mark most days. In a recent conversation with my Consultant, he effectively said (I’m paraphrasing here) “time to pull on your big girl pants and do it!” Asking for support is fine, and essential in more complex cases. However, feeling the need to double-check every decision shows I do not yet have that belief in myself, my knowledge and my abilities.
Embodying the woman I aspire to be - the crone-like wise woman, embracing midlife and finding its magic - that comes and goes. I don’t yet feel that I’m living my life to its fullest, but that’s possibly because I’m exhausted from working full-time, not sleeping well, worrying about finances and other unpaid labour in the home. I try to make time for myself, time to rest, time to write, but the feeling of rejuvenation doesn’t last long. This time of year is especially hard, with the social expectations of the festive season while still working. I have cancelled plans in the last few weeks, then felt as though I was letting others down. A vicious cycle.
Learning to embody my values can also be difficult, as I am still learning to put boundaries in place to protect my space and my energy. Things like kindness and compassion need to be almost limited, as I find I absorb other people’s struggles which can be draining at times. I worry for them and want to fix what’s happening for them, which is impossible.
2023 has also held some amazing highs - I know I have achieved a great deal. I am blessed with amazing friends; a tribe of women (and men) who have my back, support me, listen to me without judgement. I have a wonderful family, and this year we have the addition of two beautiful granddaughters! I have spent time away with those I love - a spa break, a Cornish getaway, a few days in Jersey, a week on the Isle of Wight. I have had photoshoots in the forest and in the sea. I also indulged myself in a forest writing retreat, a few days on my own in a log cabin, which was wonderful. I have met friends in person for the first time. I (we) have adopted a cat, beautiful Lily. I have made art. I have made space for my writing. I have been to the theatre. I have danced, I have yoga’d, I have been in the sea, I have walked through the woods.
2024 will see me continuing to embody the woman I aspire to be. It’s a work in progress. There will be changes ahead, but I feel maybe I’m in a better position to face them now. Less turbulence in my head. More clarity, I hope.
Photo credit (bottom left & 2nd row, 2nd from left): @debbie_the_phoenix