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The Unique Way I Celebrate the Changing Seasons of My Life

How ancient feminine wisdom gives me strength.

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illustration of hands holding an open pomegranate with female faces as the sides
Sonia Pulido
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Since the Old Testament, women have taken refuge in each other’s company. In the era of #MeToo, their empathy and support created a powerful movement. Group photos of women celebrating together are a staple of social media.

In later years, these safe harbors become even more important. As women live longer, often outliving male partners, we need each other more than ever — and have more time to mark our accomplishments and celebrate in unity.

Birthdays and anniversaries can take on special significance later in life. One friend invited birthday celebrants to write on slips of paper emotional pain they wanted to let go of, and throw those papers in a fire.

Beyond birthdays, there are many more milestones for older women to celebrate, such as welcoming first grandchildren or paying tribute to a loss from which they have healed.

A few years ago, for example, I wanted to mark my transition from the physical and emotional demands of my child-bearing years and harkened back to ancient wisdom and myth in the deep recesses of women’s history. I came up with the Pomegranate Ceremony and invited my childhood friend of 40 years to participate.

“Are you ready?” I asked as we gathered in my little mountain house retreat in Maryland. She was visiting from Austin, Texas — more than 1,500 miles away.

I lit a sparkling gold candle and poured deep red pomegranate juice into vintage champagne glasses. And then I shared this, as the candlelight cast symbolic shadows of light and dark: "According to Greek mythology, the Earth goddess Demeter avenged the kidnapping of her daughter, Persephone, at the hand of Hades, by allowing all the earth's crops to wither and die."

To save the Earth, the story went on, Zeus agreed to release Persephone. But, because she had eaten four pomegranate seeds, she had to return to the underworld four months of the year, resulting in the barrenness of winter. I found this representative of the unique seasons and challenges of women's lives.

Acknowledging the Sacred Feminine

I discovered the tale of Persephone while searching for wisdom about this journey to growing older, and tumbled onto Sue Monk Kidd’s Traveling with Pomegranates, written with her daughter as Kidd approached her 50s.

I identified with Kidd’s description of the pomegranate as steeped in the symbolism of the sacred Mary and the crone, its deep red elixir representative of the blood of womanhood.

“Thus, the pomegranate is a symbol of the push and pull of life,” I said to my friend, “Death and renewal, the mourning of the loss of youth, the struggle and loss of fertility, but also the sweetness and strength in a life freed from the relentless cycles of the moon.”

Heart of the Crone

The word “crone” may have devolved into a misogynistic insult, as it conjures up images of witch-like old women. Yet, the word’s origins relate to “crown,” according to Barbara G. Walker, author of The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power. As she puts it, the crone actually is a pro-aging symbol, representing “the power of the ancient tribal matriarch.”

New Ideas for Celebration

Fast forward more than a decade and my Texas friend and I are long past the ceremony honoring Persephone and our sacred femaleness. However, remembering our toast has helped me face other transitions — from work to retirement, from daughter to caregiver, from mother to mother-in-law and from middle-aged warrior to elder.

I have been married 35 years, raised two children and worked as a journalist and professor for four decades. Through writing, I came to terms with my father’s alcoholism and death from liver disease and the loss of my mother-in-law during the Covid pandemic as she stayed, alone, in a memory care facility without knowing where her family was.

I offer the Pomegranate Ceremony as an inspiration for letting go of past roles as we age and search for renewal. It is a path to own our accumulated wisdom and power and action.

When I saw others being eased out of long careers to what I considered ageist policies in a recent job, I set my own date for leaving, with dignity, on my own terms. Refusing to compromise our values is a way to mark such transitions later in life. Another is to reflect on our legacy. I recently helped endow an award to recognize women researchers in the fields of communication and journalism.

How would you like to be remembered and how can you go about reinforcing those accomplishments and values? There is no time like the present to take action. Even reflecting and recording accomplishments in your journal can leave its mark on your emotional history.

Any invitation to yourself to listen to, and trust, your inner wisdom will suffice.

Harkening Back to the Masters

The big socially approved ceremonies of life may be naturally dwindling, but I don't think it's too "otherworldly" to pay attention to the internal shifts that seem more frequent than before. As we age, how we care for our spiritual evolution is increasingly important as we negotiate our physical changes and limitations.

One crucial awakening comes from this realization, as we lose loved ones and let go of others’ expectations. It is that we answer ultimately only to ourselves. It’s a spark that reminds us that we no longer are compelled to do what society expects. My own inward reflection on a long outward journey brings forth the idea that both the ancient and modern sisterhoods, especially when sprinkled with a little pomp and circumstance, are powerful and deep.

Do you have any rituals that YOU share with your girlfriends? Let us know in the comments below.

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