I turned forty last month, and shortly after my birthday, I had an amazing conversation with some of my Sunday class regulars just after the class had ended.

(Incidentally, why are post-workout conversations so fabulous? Is it that we know we should be elsewhere, moving on with our day? Is it the rush of endorphins we get from moving our bodies that propels us to higher heights of dialogue? Is it the camaraderie we enjoy from a shared experience?)

Moving on …

The two women – one in her thirties and the other a few years older than I – were asking whether it felt different to be 40. I laughed and said everything happens gradually, and that technically I was just a week older than the last time they say, me.

But then I did admit to feeling a spiritual change taking place over the past few months.

“I just don’t care as much as a used to,” I explained and then quickly clarified, “Not in a bad way. Not like nothing matters anymore. It’s more like I know what matters to me now and I just don’t have the time or energy to give to other things.

Granted, this could be as much a function of mothering three children as it is my chronological age, but something that Sara Gottfried, M.D. said in her book The Hormone Cure, makes me think that my chronological age has at least a little to do with it:

Dr. Louann Brizendine is a psychiatrist at the University of California at San Francisco who … (has) concluded that, in the service of the householder tasks—securing a mate and having children—the predictable hormonal changes of our fertile years drive women to be accommodating and nurturing. Some call this attitude the hormonal cloud or veil. Then we wake up in our forties (probably around two a.m.), convinced we want a divorce. We’re sick of all the needy, self-absorbed narcissists in our life; we’re tired as hell, and we need a break. We are primed and ready, anciently wired, to be forest dwellers. Once past the householder years, you become less interested in what other people think. You care less about your clothes and makeup, about your mother’s opinions on your hair, about offending others. Why? Your ovaries are making less estrogen, and estrogen is what makes you want to have babies, look pretty, and please people. Less estrogen means you stop accommodating people indiscriminately and perhaps finally blurt out what you’ve been meaning to say since you were twenty-five.
I asked my friend, A, whether or not she felt the same way when she hit forty. She said she started to feel more “anti-social.”
“I used to want to go out with couples and meet new people all the time,” she explained. “But now, it’s like we have the families in our lives whose kids play well with mine and we get along with the parents and, it’s awful, but I just don’t feel like going out to meet more people.”
I told her it wasn’t awful! Building off what Dr. Gottfried reported about the hormonal shifts that occur in and around forty, I framed our feelings in term of an ancestral paradigm.
“According to evolutionary pressures, by this point in our lives, we should have already secured a mate, reproduced, and have found a tribe to support and protect us. Why would you be out seeking when you have what you need?” I asked her.
She said that made sense – and made her feel a little better – but her comments got me thinking about the role that hormones and our evolutionary heritage work for us and against us in this modern-day aging game. After all, according to the ancestral paradigm, I should probably be a grandmother now instead of suffering nightly wakings courtesy of a nineteen-month old.
What happens when our hormones don’t match up with our day-to-day realities?
I can feel the ancient tug that Gottfried describes, urging me to sit in the forest and meditate. (Instead, I blog, of course.) And in many ways, this turning inward is serving me very, very well. It offers up a freedom I’ve never felt before.
Yet, the day-to-day still exists and I want to live it exuberantly and fully, as if I were, hormonally speaking, a twenty-something parent. After all, this is my one shot at parenting and I don’t want to be so inwardly drawn as to let it pass by.
Am I alone in feeling this way? Do others of you struggle with spiritual or hormonal tugs of age that don’t quite align with where you are in your life?


2 Responses to “A Turning Inward : Aging in the Ancestral Health Paradigm”

  1. on 03 Feb 2014 at 1:14 pmSusan

    I totally agree, Kristine, that your hormones play into how your feel about yourself and your world. It is wonderful to wake up at age 40 and realize that it does not matter what other people think, as you have had enough life experiences to figure out what works for you. It gets even better after 50…….and I am now happy to be 56 and loving my age. I no longer worry about having that perfect 30 year old body and guess what?………no one expects me to! Now I focus on what is truly healthy for my body and not what it looks like on the outside.
    I chuckled when I read your comment about staying up nights with baby A. I’ve been pulling all nighters this past week to help my daughter with her new baby and I can tell you that this 56 year old body is not meant to be up at all hours of the night! God knew what He was doing when he let us have children when we are younger. The good news is that there is NOTHING better on this earth than grandbabies……..so hang in with the children because their children will bring you so much JOY that you will just glow!

  2. on 03 Feb 2014 at 1:29 pmKristine Rudolph

    I know my 40 year old body isn’t made for it either! Goodness.

    Your daughter is lucky, lucky, lucky to have you to help!

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