Series 40: For the Love of the Elephant in the Room | Episode 05
Elephants in the Room Part 5: Undoing the Stigma of Menopause with Cheryl Bridges Johns
Have you ever heard anyone say they are looking forward to menopause? A rare occurrence, to be sure, as our culture seems obsessed with keeping women “young” on all levels. 50 is the new 30, right? And while women inevitably age, the maturation of women has not classically been held in high esteem in our culture. So no wonder we view the onset of menopause with fear and trepidation; a stark reminder that we’re not what we once were. And as most elephants in the room, this natural transition into what should be a wise, peaceful and well-earned season of our lives is met with disdain; something to be hidden and ignored, or “fixed” with surgery, hormones, and a host of anti-aging products. For those of us who haven’t gotten there yet, we’re treated to the negative aspects played up historically by a patriarchal perspective giving us dread of hot flashes, mood swings, body changes, gray hair and overall loss of youth and vitality. Though this transition is unavoidable for all women, we’re here to look at what it all really means–to those who are currently going through it and to those who inevitably will. We hope you’ll be encouraged to find that there is much to lean into that gives us hope for a productive and meaningful second half of life. We’ve got a wonderfully educated and compassionate leader in this space–she’s not only been through it, but her work focuses on de-stigmatizing the whole topic for women and taking to task the historical negativity around a woman’s aging process. Cheryl Bridges Johns is an author, she’s an academic lecturer, she’s a leader. She advocates for women’s full empowerment, care for all God’s creation, and the renewal of the church to boot. She’s written a compelling book about navigating the second half of life as a woman–it’s called Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause, which gets to the heart of this change by helping women find their voice and speak openly about their journey. Cheryl wants women to see their menopausal journey as a time in which we can become more and more of ourselves. She believes if society can embrace this natural occurrence, women can flourish in the second half of their lives, which can only lead to the flourishing of society as a whole.
Hey everybody, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. I am really and sincerely glad that you are here, because we’re in a series right now called For the Love of the Elephant in the Room. I’m no stranger to hard conversations, I’ve learned how not to avert them but rather lean into them, and so we wanted to address a series of conversations that are just hard to talk about. Maybe we feel shame around them, or it seems super personal or there’s not a lot of data out there. But what if we bring in experts to help kind of walk us through some of these areas that have been shrouded in silence or avoidance or fear? Let’s bring them to the light. Let’s see if we can sort of shave off some of those scary edges and see what happens.
So I think at my age and even at my stage of life, I’m not interested anymore in sort of tra-la-laing my way through life. Because that has not produced much fruit in my life. While maybe that helped me avoid a hard thing, it didn’t grow me up, it didn’t make me wiser, it didn’t bring me more into my own integrity. I think I just prefer facing things right now than avoiding them, and so a lot of you are experiencing our topic today firsthand or you’ve been through it or are on the cusp of it or maybe you’re years and years and years as far as you know from experiencing what people back in the day rightly called “the change,” right? So wherever you fall on the spectrum, the approach of menopause is something that we as women will all face. So we’re going to receive it differently, we’re going to have different symptoms, we’ll have different ways to sort of manage it, but universally, we will share this.
Of course over the years there’s just been so much stigma and sadly not a whole lot of science dedicated. So it’s really only been the last few decades that the world’s bright minds have approached this very natural stage of life in a way that promotes individualism and dignity and honesty and hope. This isn’t a death sentence to our womanhood and vibrance, my friends. I am not to menopause yet, but that’s the next phase of my life, and so this combination right now of preparing myself for this physiological phase while at the same time being in a stage of rebuilding my whole second half of my life in a different direction than I anticipated, this has just combined to make me really interested in this conversation. But I would rather be eyes wide open right now. I want to be proactive.
So you guys are, if you don’t already follow her, going to love Cheryl Bridges Johns. Cheryl is an author, she’s an academic lecturer, she’s a leader. Cheryl advocates for women’s full empowerment, care for all God’s creation, and the renewal of the church to boot. So basically she’s out there mixing things up and helping women adopt this broader, more expansive view of themselves and ultimately come into their full potential. Which yes, includes menopause. So it doesn’t end there. She helps us see that as a crucial part of our full journey.
Her latest book, Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey looks far beyond just the physical aspects of menopause and it weaves into the spiritual journey of it as well. Cheryl says that she wants to help women find their voice and speak their truth by essentially identifying seven key developmental tasks of menopause. We’re going to talk about it. It’s an amazing, practical, and empowering way for women to embrace what is going on in their bodies and minds and their spirits and embracing it wholeheartedly. I can’t wait to put this conversation in front of you. I learned a lot. I heard a lot. I’m going to be noodling on it for weeks. Please enjoy this hopeful and encouraging conversation with the absolutely wonderful Cheryl Bridges Johns.
Books & Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Journey
by Cheryl Bridges Johns
The Silent Passage
by Gail Sheehy
How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help Is on the Way and Love is Already Here
by Jonathan Martin
The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health During Change
by Christiane Northrup
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XO – Team Jen