"I Can Feel This Body Dying All Around Me."
The Last Unicorn and Menopause.
The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite movies of all time. I experienced this animated “kids film” shortly after its theater release in 1982.
For those who missed it, the movie centers around a unicorn on a quest to prove she is not the last of her kind. But unfortunately, she must become human to free the trapped unicorns, and she nearly loses herself in the process.
Based on Peter S. Beagle’s 1968 fantasy novel, it is a dark and soul-wrenching tale of loss and existential despair.
Societal pressure and the Red Bull of time
Over the next 40 (wow) years, I have rewatched this movie selectively. But, unfortunately, it’s heavy and not for everyday consumption.
We find out that a terrifying monster called the Red Bull is shepherding all of the unicorns into the sea for the delight of the King. But the King has issues.
He’s obsessed with possessing the unicorns. While they fill him with wistful joy, the King also fears the ethereal creatures. Desperate to collect them all, he employs violent and psychotic means to imprison them in the surf where he alone can witness their beauty.
Fear and anxiety surround the description of the Bull hunting and capturing the magical creatures. At seven, I cried through many of these scenes. At 47, I understand why.
As women, we spend most of our lives trying to fit the mold the patriarchy has decided appropriate for us. We contort ourselves into ideas and clothing that limit our ability to move freely through the world. Much like the unicorns in the sea, we are trapped in the stories we’ve been told to believe.
The closer the bull gets, the more anxious we become.
The march of time
The Last Unicorn must get close to the King to find the rest of her kind. So she transforms into a woman and moves into the castle. She struggles with newfound mortality and the experience of being human. Certain lines have stuck with me over the decades; lately, they’ve been on repeat.
“I can feel this body dying all around me.”
The unicorn is horrified to find herself mortal and aging. Yet, the specter of death is omnipresent.
As women reach midlife, this is a never-ending theme. We watch our cells shrink and die, collagen, estrogen, and testosterone leaching from our bodies as we struggle to accept the physical changes assaulting us. As a result, the vigor and energy we once had begin to fade, and we no longer recognize our reflection.
“Who am I? Why am I here? What is it that I’m searching for in this strange place, day after day?”
The more mortal the unicorn becomes, the more she forgets who she is.
Much like the unicorn, expectations and norms pile up as women go through life, and eventually, our true selves become hidden.
Midlife is a time of transition.
It is a call to self, a reset of values, goals, and identity. Yet, this is often a time of great self-discovery as we shed the self that society has constructed and learn to lean into our authenticity and intuition.
“Drown out my dreams! Keep me from remembering whatever wants me to remember it!”
As we traverse this transition, we often encounter internal resistance to the emergence of what’s to come. As a result, the need for authenticity becomes stronger, and we question everything we thought we knew.
Here is the call to self. The irritating whisper of possibility and forgotten dreams. Gathering our courage, we begin to create the template for the next phase of our lives.
Ultimately, the unicorn remembers her purpose. She defeats the Red Bull and frees the other unicorns. They pour from the sea in blinding white waves of hooves and horns.
Midlife is our wave. As we peel back the layers of conditioning and control, our beautiful selves become free to roam. With wisdom and keen self-awareness, we surge into the next phase.
We fight the bull and re-emerge more powerful than we ever imagined.
Kelley Murphy, editor, The Vagus Nerve, Counselor, Coach, and Questioner. I identify as a Gen X woman with a passion for ideas and connection. I am finally actually writing instead of just reading and longing. Another wonderful and terrifying opportunity I’m running with in mid-life. I can’t wait to learn more!