By Leora Leboff, Sep 9 2015 08:18PM
So, how does it feel to hang out with your harshest critic? And what can you do to protect yourself from her words?
Let me introduce you to Zelda - she has an opinion on pretty much eveything, rarely has anything kind to say and often pops in to say hello at the least convenient moment.
Before telling you any more about this delightful soul, I want to share a little something with you.
Next year I will be immersing myself in the wisdom of Alexandra Pope. Learning and feeling deeply in to the nuts and bolts of menstrual awareness, and my word, for me, it is such a ridiculously exciting prospect!
A prerequisite of Alexandra's apprenticeship is to experience a Menarche Ceremony. It’s a ceremony that acknowledges and rewrites the experience of your first menstrual bleed. Where you have the opportunity to hear the words and feel the emotions that would have served you at the time.
Since working on my own menstrual cycle with one of Alexandra's Women's Quest Apprentices and now Red School mentor, the exceptionally talented Emma Tivey from Woman Soul, she has always offered space and time to allow my cycle experience to be heard. And always heard with kindness and a deep level of understanding. I knew that my Menarche Ceremony would have to be with Emma.
Happily my first period, wasn't at all distressing. In fact, it was quite exciting, as I was one of the last of my friends to "join the club". Despite the ease and excitement of having my first bleed, my early teenage years, like many, were fraught and hard. Some were obvious and teen related reasons, but others were due to unfortunate life experiences.
In the week or so leading up to the ceremony, my mood began to slump; I began to explore who I was at the time of menarche and what it felt like to be that teenage girl again.
As I looked at pictures of myself at the time, I was reminded that 13 year olds don't smile very much! And in fact look downright angry!
I was transported back to feeling hideously awkward and awash with an all-consuming teenage angst.
The Menarche Ceremony itself, led by Emma, was truly beautiful, moving, uplifting and deeply personal, which is why I won't share the details of it here. Suffice to say my journal was filled with a floatingly positive entry that night.
We were told though by Emma to be kind to ourselves following the ceremony. To be mindful and watchful of ourselves. This was going to be a time of transition.
Every woman's experience of the transformation will of course be different, but I wasn't quite prepared for what my psyche had in store for me!
What unfolded was a most unwelcome guest visit from my inner critic.
Thanks to spending the summer online under the guidance of another of Alexandra’s apprentices with her She Flow Yoga Summer School, the menstrual maven herself, Lisa Lister, she suggested we name our inner critic. I decided on the name Zelda, although I also see her as Cinderella's wicked step mother!
Zelda decided to enter not only my psyche, but my very core and take up residence for most of the next month. There she was, a voice who usually makes herself heard a couple of times a month, mostly in my premenstrual phase, decided to stand up loud and proud, hang back, arms crossed, rolling her eyes at pretty much anything that I said and thought.
Her skill lay in her ability to sneer incessantly, all day and even worse, often throughout the night, about how utterly...useless...worthless... I was...at...everything...yes...EVERYTHING.
My awareness was such that I knew what this critic of mine was up to, and with guidance from Emma, I had to work on easing her away from my core. I also knew that at a more balanced and discerning time I would have a "conversation" with her and even ask the question, was there any truth in her constant unkind words?
It was time to pull on my resources, but I had to keep it simple. Deep and true kindness had to be the key. Intellectually it was crystal clear what was happening, a recalibration of my soul after the Menarche Ceremony; for me, the work was going to delve deep and unfortunately, harshly.
So yes indeed, kindness had to be my resource of choice.
I journalled like crazy, not allowing the thoughts to fester for too long. And as tempting as it would have been to hide away, in what was a particularly celebratory month, I spent time with wonderful friends who unknowingly kept me afloat and connected to myself in a safe and supportive way.
But one realisation disturbed me more than anything. Although I was tracking my menstrual cycle and the physical shifts were occurring, emotionally, I had stopped cycling.
Oh good grief! This had become my touchstone! The ebb and flow of my cycle had disappeared. Instead I became stuck in a perpetual autumnal state of premenstruum.
This was why my critic was having such a ball!
As the month went on there were very few signs that the recalibration was moving towards completion even though the winter of my cycle, emotionally preparing for my period, was drawing closer. This is the point in our cycles, according to Alexandra Pope, called the void. It took a few days of journaling to realise that this feeling of total emptiness that I was now occupying was a void deeper than I had ever experienced. A complete detachment.
What gradually became clear though, and my belief was, that this transition would finally reach a climax with my menstrual bleed. It turned out to be a long 34 day cycle, so it did feel as though it would never end!
But my bleed finally came and then it happened, I woke up full of ideas, creativity, excited, ready for action and unknowingly ready for new projects and new challenges.
With all I have experienced following the ceremony, I realise life will never quite be the same again; not so much a re-birthing experience, more an emergence from child to woman, where I am still "growing up" and that's sometimes deeply uncomfortable. And when Zelda makes an appearnence, I stay connected to my cycle, my awareness and my trusty journal.
I tested the kindness challenge after my Menarche Ceremony and truly, it was a soul saver. And I've learned to keep Zelda in check!
Over at Love Your Belly, we started a conversation a while back about how hard it is for women to allow kindness in to their lives. We have had the pleasure of sharing a number of wise and impassioned guests who have joined the conversation. Check out their articles right here.
Top artwork: Black Man by Richard Rizzo