By Young Lee Hertig
Increasingly I see Asian North American women reaching middle age with somatic symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, sleep interruptions, and other symptoms. Not long after a stressful move across the country from Los Angeles to Dayton, OH without any warning, menopause hit me one day. While lying down on the couch one evening wondering what it all meant, a female gynecologist, Christiane Northrup, showed up on the TV screen and addressed menopause. She is the author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing. Her main message was that many women leaders achieved their dreams during and post menopause and therefore, it is a season of women’s second birth if we allow it to be. While listening to her presentation, I immediately reframed my initial feelings of loss to bliss. All of a sudden, as if all the cells and fibers in my body eavesdropped on the change in my attitude, my hot flashes disappeared! Mind you, I was not yet empty-nested but rather in the middle of a busy season of teaching and raising my daughter.
Watching Christiane’s presentation was one of those watershed moments in life. I am fascinated by western neuroscience that is only beginning to confirm more than 3,000 years of ancient Asian wisdom in their approach to health — the holistic rather than the reductionistic. Asian and non-Western approaches to health, in general, does not separate the mind, body, and emotions. For example, according to this approach, when trauma is experienced, the spleen that carries blood throughout the body gets out of sync with the liver that produces blood. In order for blood to be carried out to all of the organs, both liver and spleen need to be in sync. This is why the definition of sickness in Asian medicine is imbalance.
In the same way in regards to menopause, our bodies listen to our minds and respond — mind over body. I find it helpful to practice the art of reframing as a spiritual discipline. What a privilege it is to live out our God-given calling and dream no matter how challenging it may be. I invite all middle-aged women to welcome and embrace this season of second birth with open arms. You may experience a surprising bliss instead of loss as you live new seasons of pre/during/post menopause. The best is yet to come:)
Rev. Dr. Young Lee Hertig is executive director and a founding member of ISAAC (Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity) and AAWOL (Asian American Women On Leadership). She teaches in the Global Studies and Sociology Department at Azusa Pacific University and is an ordained Presbyterian clergy as well as a commissioner of the Presbyterian Church USA to the National Council of Churches Faith and Order.