Perhaps it is because its the end of the year, a really difficult year, that I find myself even more reflective than usual. And as I was reading an article about the menopause today, I found my mind going off at a tangent, as it so often does when I’m in this kind of thoughtful, slightly aimless mood.
The article informed me that the word menopause come from the Greek word “pausis” – pause. As a woman, that particular pause signals the end of our monthly cycles and the beginning of a new phase in our lives. It is often preceded by a long period of change and upheaval physically and emotionally as our body begins it’s transition. How this is experienced shares many common themes – such as anxiety, fluctuations in mood, irregular periods, loss of libido, sleep issues – but is unique to every woman.
The tangent I went off in began with that word pause, some thoughts about the menopause, and then it took me down a meandering path through the Great Pause which the covid pandemic has represented for many in the society I inhabit.
The UK I live in is a privileged society by world terms, but it is also an unequal society in which very many people are not privileged at all. My working life brings me into contact with people from across this spectrum. For some, this year’s pause in “business as usual” has enabled a period of reflection, a slowing down or pause in their everyday routines, an opportunity to make some changes in the way they have been living. That hasn’t been without it’s difficulties but it has often enabled transformation and growth. But for others it has been a deeply disruptive experience, a pause in their ability to work, a pause in their ability to access health or social services they rely on, a pause in their connection to others, a pause in aspects of their lives that are essential for continued survival. It has made it harder than ever to get by in their daily lives or cope with difficulties that already seemed insurmountable. It is hard to reflect on that here at the end of 2020 and yet find a balance that honours both perspectives.
I found myself with thoughts, questions, words, phrases. Unfairness. Social injustice. Environmental injustice. Suffering. What does it all mean? How do we go forward in a way that meets the needs of people who are deeply disadvantaged in our society right now? What do we do about the disadvantage which has only grown greater during the lockdown measures put in place because of the pandemic? How do we make the changes in society and in our own lives that this pause suggests are vitally necessary? As individuals, what is our own particular place in this? How do we want to live? What is important to us?
I guess that is the place where I am pausing now, a slightly uncomfortable place but a significant one. I know I don’t hold all the answers, but I also believe it is important to reflect on these big questions even when we don’t have the answers. That is one of the qualities I bring to my personal life, my friendships, my counselling and my writing practices, the ability to just sit there, in that sometimes uncomfortable place and be with some of life’s difficult questions both alone and alongside others.