By 4s4w Lover and Guest Blogger, Sheri Croy
Chances are, if you were raised in the modern Western world you’ve been conditioned to think of your female cycle at three distinct moments: the moment you have an emotional, passionate, irritable or angry response that someone else deems unreasonable for the circumstance; the moment you see blood, and the moment you don’t see it when it’s expected. Even if you have been raised in a family with a more human centered, body-conscious, healthy view of being a woman, if you are reading this, chances are you’ve been at least witness to the larger Western societal paradigm that has demonized the period — and women with it. If you’ve ever been asked “Where are you in your cycle?” In response to sharing your opinion or stating your feelings, you’ve experienced the demonization first hand. If you’ve ever posed that question to another, or discounted your own feelings and experiences as “PMSing,” you’re (at least a little) conditioned.
What our evolving Western society has done a very good job of with their pills and potions, perfumes and protocols over the last few decades is compartmentalizing the period. Women’s cycles have come to be addressed in terms of PMS and periods — with a focus on the inconvenience, mess and expense of “handling the problem.” Society’s evolution from a family and community centric model in which grandmothers, mothers, aunties and wise women handed down their wisdom to their daughters, nieces and valued young girls is all but lost for the majority of women today. I can sum up what my mother shared with me about my cycle in just a few words, “There are paper towels in the kitchen, just use those.” And when my little sister asked questions I needed my mom to help me answer, her response was, “Your sister can learn about it at school, just like you did.”
I’m not upset about these beginnings; I have tried to do things differently with my daughters — probably to the other extreme (maybe things will even out once I have granddaughters!) In my mom’s case, maybe there was a stigma about discussing “it” with me and my sister. Perhaps my mother had never heard it from her mother. Maybe she was bought in to the cultural idea that your cycle really is nothing more than an inconvenient show of blood once monthly interspersed with some cramping and a few mood swings. Perhaps she was just embarrassed. Or, maybe she just didn’t have anything nice to say, so she chose nothing at all.
The single thing that has made the biggest difference for me — not only in being able to have something nice to say about my cycle — but also having something to hand down to my daughters and help them rise above the stigma and demonization they are plummeted with hundreds of times daily through media, peers and even just interacting with other humans has been the new understanding that my “period” is only one aspect of a vital, dynamic, recirculating cycle. The 4 Seasons in 4 Weeks insights have facilitated such a refreshing and smooth transition for me in thinking and being, I wish I’d had access to this wisdom when I was emerging into womanhood, or at the very least when my girls were younger and I first noticed their mood cycling.
Had I known then, as a young mother, what I know now, I would have known that the predictable moods and behaviors I was seeing acted out in my 5 and 7 year old daughters were just their female blueprints coming into view. I would have been able to guide them better to find times that felt good for talking about the big things affecting their hearts and other times for the big things affecting their minds. I would have been able to show them there are some times that are ideal for playing with our friends and other times that we need to be by ourselves a bit. I would have been able to talk to them about the prime time for building relationships with all their important people and how that time can affect the entire rest of their lives. I would have been able to help them attune to their little bodies and recognize the times for resting and being still and the times for exuberant activity. I could have helped them better to identify the times that felt right for reading, writing or drawing as well as the times that felt right for tackling a big, important project or performing some great feat. I could have done all this in the context of the four seasons.
Even the smallest child can observe the changes in the seasons. The chill of autumn sending us to our cozy jammies and blankets to observe the leaves turning red and falling to the ground; the way the world becomes more quiet under the weight of the sky, the way the plants turn in to the earth, pushing their roots down to prepare for winter. The way winter sends us indoors to play and connect with our families, to snuggle close and watch movies or play games or do crafts activities; the feasts and family celebrations that define our holiday celebrations; the slow building of the light after the winter solstice and the way tiny green shoots appear signaling the approach of spring. The arrival of spring with its lengthening days and bursts of color, birds singing, flowers blooming, rosy cheeks and laughter, the return of shirt-sleeves weather and the joy of spinning and spinning in the sun or rolling down grassy hills. And summer, with its hot, sticky don’t-touch-me, she’s-breathing-my-air days, grass that’s browning with too little water and too harsh of sunlight, flowers in need of dead-heading, and all around, too-hot-for-too-long uncomfortableness. Mother Nature’s seasons, so easy to observe and interact with in my little girls’ lives would have been so easy to translate to their own miniature rhythms, their personal 4 Seasons in 4 Weeks, just as they have been for mine as an adult.
I am finding it easier and easier to navigate my own ebbs and flows, to recognize Week 1, Fall as a time for inward focus, for drawing, writing, resting and recouping; to feel the pull of Week 2, Winter to strengthen my relationships with my spouse, my children, my friends and coworkers, and have the deep heart-to-heart talks at a time when I am closest to my own heart-truth and ability to express myself; to embrace the burgeoning fullness of Week 3, Spring, to acknowledge my inner and outer beauty and allow myself a few indulgences with my partner, to allow my world leader to step forward and offer my truth on the mind-to-mind level; and to steal myself for Week 4, Summer, to face the personal hot-spots head on, to take note of the areas in my life that are breathing-my-air this too-hot week. Instead of pushing off my emotions and passions as a symptom of “PMS,” I’m seeing them through the lens of my pre-menstrual truth telling — journaling and processing in anticipation of releasing what no longer serves me, and taking note of the things I will need to bring up later in my heart-to-heart talks. There is an ease to this way of being, a flow. And every month, every cycle it becomes a little more a part of me. My own rhythm is revealing itself in the most beautiful and powerful way. I’m glad to be finding it now, even at 40, it’s making all the difference for me.
4s4w Week 1, Fall, artwork by Cecile Miranda, 2012