Regarding the courage to age as a woman. . .
Updated: Mar 14
Each year during the holidays, my daughters and I watch Peter Jackson’s
The Lord of The Rings films as a binge-marathon. It might seem like an odd holiday choice, but not for us. It reminds me that there are good things worth fighting for in the world, there is inherent good in people of all kinds, and that courage, integrity, bravery, and the impulse to the heroic still live within men and women. Good still exists; there is light in the darkness. And, there is magic, old magic, in nature.
I first read the trilogy, by J.R.R.Tolkien, in the early years of high school. I promptly made myself an elven grey wool cloak and wore it. I read and re-read the entire trilogy every summer during college. It was a ritual of remembrance and renewal for me. These books had, and still have, a deep hold on my psyche.
Tolkien created an entire cosmos within these novels. He created a world with original languages, history, geography, mythology, and an origin myth, fulfilling the definition of Epic literature. One character, in particular, has been visiting me for the past few months, Eowyn. In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there are few principal female characters.
Eowyn is one of those few.
Like many mythologies and heroic tales, over time, details get added to the tale and some things fall away. Peter Jackson’s retelling was no different, adding new scenes that Tolkien never wrote and omitting others. Even if you have never read the books or watched the films, you know Eowyn well.
Eowyn, is a woman living in a decidedly man’s world, who wants to be more than a traditional daughter, sister, or noblewoman. Dedicated to her family and country, she longs for a life outside of the domestic realm. She longs for the power to “do” something, rather than wait at home for the men to return. She longs for some kind of valor and glory, and to be able to fight for those she loves.
She fears that from exhaustion and familiarity, she’ll accept the limitations that her culture places on her and she’ll slip into old age, having surrendered to her gendered role, failing to fulfill her greater purpose. Check out the YouTube clip of that scene, it’s a good one!
Can any of you relate to parts or all of that? Hello! All of Eowyn’s character traits are metaphors for the struggles that aging women face. Although Eowyn is in the prime of her youth, her struggles are universal to women.
She is on my mind as I move through the choppy currents of Regency. Regency is what I call the life stage of women from 45-70. We are living into a new era. There are no models; we are creating something altogether new. If you are a woman living in Regency, then you know all too well the challenges of aging in a culture that worships youth–and ignores at best– or at its worst hates and reviles aging women. Eowyn reminds us to have courage in the face of insurmountable odds, even if that is simply our everyday lives.
It takes courage to be an aging woman in the world today. It takes wisdom and discernment to navigate all the choices, sacrifices, decisions, cleavings, leavings, losses, griefs, and deaths that we’ll face.
In a lifetime we’ll suffer many deaths. The loss of friends and loved ones are among the hardest. We’ll also suffer the mini deaths. The death of dreams, routines, choices, ways of life, identities, youth, certainty, and endless do-overs.
But there is also the possibility of rebirth, growth, deepening authenticity, and the fruits of aging. This harvest includes greater self-understanding, widening compassion, expanding knowledge, deeper experience, and ever-ripening feminine wisdom. These are the potential gifts that we have to balance with loss and uncertainty.
Even if you live in the best of circumstances, this time of life can pressurize the midlife menu of concerns including your health, finances, career, family, and relationships.
Woven into all of this is the midlife reassessment of who we are, where we are, and where we want to go. We reevaluate our lives. I ask myself, “Did I fulfill my destiny?” “Have I lived an authentic life, being true to my inner self, and my guiding principles, while contributing to the collective good?"
When I travel these paths in my mind, Eowyn always comes to greet me. She walks with me as the perfect metaphor for what I am battling at any given moment these days: being limited by culture, rejecting the prescribed roles for aging women, living in an embattled household, feeling like I’m losing time and chances, watching identities slip away, and seeing one possible future that looks miserable, sorrow-filled, bleak, grey, and empty. Yikes!
Flip the coin over and I’m standing on the gleaming razor’s edge of opportunity. Seizing opportunity takes courage. Change takes courage. Whether it’s a change in perspective that helps you survive and thrive in your current life circumstances or a major change in your life, relationships, or career, it takes courage to start it and to see it through.
Through the lens of opportunity and continued personal growth, I see a future with vibrancy and the determination to create something new. There’s the enticing possibility of stepping outside what’s accepted, rejecting the cultural norm, and turning from the cautious considered choice. There’s a rebirth, a shedding, a lightening, and a new beginning. A beginning among all the endings. It takes courage to step forward despite the fear of the unknown and to be willing to face the results of all our choices.
Eowyn has the courage to make a choice and follow her inner truth toward her destiny; though she has no idea what it is, or what trials lay ahead.
Eowyn makes her decision on the eve of a great battle; taking her fate into her own hands, she disregards the direct orders of her uncle the King. Disguising herself as a warrior she rides to war with her countrymen. In the heat of the battle, she ends up defending her uncle and fulfilling a prophecy at the same time—by killing the evil wraith, the Witch King of Angmar.
It’s because she’s a woman that she was able to kill the Witch-King. If she had stayed at home, done as she was told, and fulfilled the role that her culture expected of her, the war would have taken a very different turn. She felt in the deepest part of herself that she had to go to battle, that she could not stay behind. It was her destiny to do what she did.
Even though her destiny and her calling went against all of the social norms of her culture, even though it meant disobeying the king, even though it meant leaving her people under someone else’s leadership, she could no longer deny the pull of her soul.
Psychologist James Hillman writes in The Soul's Code about each individual’s fate or destiny. He describes it like an acorn, as the seed of who we are. Just as the potential for the mighty oak lies within the tiny acorn, who we are destined to become lies within us from the start. When you look back at your life, with all its decisions and events you may be able to see where your acorn has pushed you one way or another toward living your most authentic life.
Eowyn is a powerful image, symbol, and metaphor for Regent women who want to activate the next 20-30 years to fulfill our destinies and the potential within our unique acorns. She represents the bravery and courage needed to make hard decisions. Although she doesn’t know exactly what her future holds, she knows what roles she is happy to leave behind, despite any uncertainty ahead.
Who among us can predict what our future holds? What I do know is, like Eowyn, I am searching for my destiny. It was foretold that no man would be able to kill the Witch-King. As she removes her helmet, in the film, she shouts the line, “I am no man!” and she destroys him.
Here is the clip (Trigger warning this is a violent war scene)
This year, and every year, my wish for you is the strength to face whatever is keeping you from fulfilling your destiny. “I am no man!” is your superpower. The dragons that live within our shadow can be more terrifying than any cinematic creation because they keep us from becoming our most authentic selves.