Encountering “the Change” as a Personal Exodus and Liberation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Durham, Gender, John Carroll, Menopause, Celebration, ExodusThe story of Exodus, through a liberation lens, has different meanings depending on the person’s experience in life.  I recently experienced my own kind of liberation, a freedom from decades old enslavement.  Through this realization, I celebrated with many other women with the reminder – you are not alone!

The story of the Exodus is a familiar one. It is a text of oppression, journey, and freedom – a freedom that finds us in new surroundings, a place of revelation and transformation.  Many have written about the Exodus text found in the Hebrew Scriptures from different ideological lenses and social locations.  For me, I propose to apply this to menopause (also known as the “change”).

It is not too far fetched to look at menopause as a transformative event in a woman’s life.  For a woman like me, who struggled with the disease Endometriosis since my teen years, menopause it is not only transformative, but liberative.  The only effective treatment for this disease (for me) was the injections of Lupron Depot that put my body in “medical menopause.” Because of that experience,  I felt like my  body was being liberated from disease – this disease that debilitated me monthly or, at the very least, caused me tremendous pain.

A few weeks ago, I had the experience of attending a musical with a group of friends. I am not in the habit of blogging about my personal life, but I cannot help but wonder if my story and experience might help another.  The problem about “the change” is that we joke about it and usually face it with unbelievable dread.  I propose to look at the “change” as a positive – a new beginning, with a reminder to all women out there – you are not alone!

I received this revelation several months after my surgery at a musical named – you guessed it – Menopause!  What started out as a much needed get together of friends turned into an awakening and celebration. Something that has me celebrating the change – even as I fan myself through the hot flashes (I prefer “personal summers”), tear-up during emotional commercials for no reason (something I haven’t experienced since pregnancy), clinching my teeth due to a quick-igniting temper that causes me to exercise remarkable restrain (and you thought patience was a gift to children and teens), to searching every cabinet for that holy grail of comfort food – chocolate.  As I reflected on that evening, it occurred to me that I was living my own exodus story and the very thing that enslaved me can no longer hurt me – I am now free – renewed and emerged, but still in a strange wilderness that holds different challenges.

I was enslaved to my body riddled with a disease called endometriosis.  My reproductive organs helped nurture and sustain my four beautiful daughters, but they also caused me pain – pain of two miscarriages, pain of infertility, pain of adhesions and scar tissue, pain of endometrial tissue that invaded other parts of my body: my lungs, colon, and other places that I will never know.  This tissue that would bleed, leaving the blood trapped with nowhere to go, to just stay there and cause more pain, spreading more and more like a cancer – one that won’t kill me, one that just stands to torture me about 2-3 weeks every month.

With the discovery of certain questionable cells and tumors, and so much scar tissue that made biopsies impossible, the decision was made in connection with my gyno-oncologist to have a complete hysterectomy.  Even if everything was okay, the decision to remove the ovaries and finally conclude this life-long battle of endometriosis was made.  Thinking about menopause was scary, but at that time, I was so tired of the weight of the tumors, scare of cancer, bleeding, nausea, and Freyhauf. Celebrate, Menopause, Endometriosis, Exodus, Liberationdebilitating pain, that without hesitation I said, why delay the inevitable? Could be it be any worse than this?!  Hysterectomy seems to provide every woman in my family a good quality of life.  Anyway, I need my life back.

So today, I am finally free of the debilitating pain that compromised so many of my days.  Free of the endometriosis that attacked my inner organs and had been causing me so much pain since my teenage years.  I am finally free of tumors that weighted my uterus down, pulling against the twice-repaired gortex mesh that patched the hernia on my round ligament that ripped from carrying children during my pregnancy.  I was able to celebrate this, as Miriam did in the desert, with a dance.  My dance was not in the desert, but on the stage at the Hanna Theatre – Rockettes style – with a group of women celebrating the change communally.

There is an Irish Blessing that states:
Dance as if no one were watching
Sing as if no one were listening
And Live every day
As if it were your last.

I am celebrating a new beginning – a new stage to my life – with a dance of liberation.  I know I am not alone and invite those who are encountering the “change” to celebrate and dance with me.

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a doctoral Student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Ursuline College and the University of Mount Union. Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University,  and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality.  She is also a Member-at-Large on the Student Advisory Board for the Society of Biblical Literature and the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS).   Michele’s research interests involve feminism, gender, and sexuality influenced by religion with special emphasis on the Biblical text, religious syncretism, literary analysis, politics, and law in the Ancient Near East.  She is also interested in gendered violence, historical theology, and ecclesiology.  Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia”  and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013). Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf  and @biblicalfem.  Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+

Categories: Aging, Bible, Childbirth, Feminism, Feminist Awakenings, Gender, General, Motherhood, Sisterhood

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7 replies

  1. I put a chapter in Secret Lives (which is about crones and their friends) about a woman’s menopause. Like me, like nearly all of us, her emotions exploded. She was angry a lot for no discernable reason. And then she found her power. As you are finding yours. Hooray for changing!


    • Life is about new chapters – and this is mine. As my children continue to hit adulthood, start college, and we trend towards the empty-nest (with, I hope, my PhD in hand), I see so much reward and fulfillment behind me, but so much ahead of me as well. It is nice to be rid of that pain and focus on living. Hooray!


  2. Michelle —

    On my sixtieth birthday, I invited a group of friends to accompany me to “Menopause, the Musical.” We had a blast. We felt liberated (all of us past menopause or just into it) and loved hearing our experiences named in songs we could sing along with.

    Barbara —

    How wonderful that you devoted a chapter to menopause!


    • My friends voluntarily purchased a hot flash (something in short supply during the change). The musical really was liberating and helped me realize that this stage truly is a gift. I am glad you liked the post – it is such an important topic that many people joke about, but never really reflect on.


  3. I, too, found “the change” to be a huge relief and cause for celebration, after years of monthly pain that was relieved only by my two pregnancies. I thought of my hot flashes as “power surges!” I did try to honor my menses during my studies of women’s blood mysteries at a women’s spirituality workshop series, years ago.



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