It’s been a joke for years, a decade maybe, and it became stock answer for just about anything that ailed me–
chronic insomnia? menopause
uncharacteristic mood swings (For the one who never experienced PMS. Hate me.)? menopause
aggravating forgetfulness? menopause
Stub my toe, burn our dinner, bad hair day? menopause, menopause, menopause!
Except in my case, since I was in my 40s, people were more forgiving and added a “peri-” in front of it, I suppose to soften the inevitable. Menopause happened to old ladies with one foot precariously dangling over the grave, right?
Wrong. I was 49 when I received a call from my doctor’s office informing me I wasn’t pre-menopausal at all but, in fact, post-menopausal. Each month my body suggested a different story but hormones have a mind of their own and I’ve learned they do what they want to do, not what you think they’re supposed to do.
They win, they always win.
I wasn’t prepared for how I’d f e e l when I hit menopause, that there was anything TO feel beyond the relief to my pocketbook from not having to buy tampons anymore and the inconvenience of it all.
There’s much ado when a girl becomes a woman. We say that, don’t we? When a girl starts her period, she suddenly Becomes A Woman. So, using that logic, when a woman stops her period, she becomes a, what..?
Man? Reverts back to a girl? Old lady?
That call was a sucker punch. A solemness I didn’t recognize descended over me. I was suddenly different.
Not a blasted thing had changed, but in the wake of the official news – of me simply learning what had been the case for I don’t know how long – everything had changed.
I never saw any of it coming…a profound sense of loss, bone-deep sadness, inner conflict.
Tears were wrung from a tender place I previously hadn’t known existed. I was mourning a passing.
Maybe it’s because I fancy myself a rebel. When someone or some thing tries to box me in, I go all Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” (at least in my head I do).
I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you be the boss of me which is how I remember my mama. She was a scrappy country girl born poor who escaped to the city for a bigger life. A better one in some ways, but not all. She liked costume jewelry and pretty clothes and when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33, she gave it a defiant finger and lived five years longer than they told her she would.
She died at 38 and one of the things that makes me the maddest is she didn’t live long enough for her to teach me more about life, what to expect in season.
I bore three children and I knew beyond shadows and doubts when I was done, and being pregnant is absolutely, positively the last thing I’d want at my age and stage of life, but…
b u t…
b u t . . .
it no longer being my choice, an option, even a possibility??
Puts Baby in the corner.
The determinant that made me most thankful I was a woman, the miracle no man has ever known, the thrill I’ve known three times over–never to be again.
I don’t tell you these things to feel sorry for me or sad for me or anything for me–I don’t!
I tell you because to be armed with knowledge diffuses the strength of the unknown.
I tell you so one day you can anticipate potential feelings that arrived unexpected and unannounced to me.
So, I wallow just a little while and give myself time to get used to the idea, what it means. And let me tell you this:
It means something good:
If you or I have the privilege of walking this season – and make no mistake, lovies, it is a privilege because days have been granted to us many will never see – it means we’ve lived long enough to experience it. Cause enough for celebration.
We fear the unknown, don’t we? And isn’t that why we approach menopause with some measure of dread? The last time our bodies were ransacked by hormones, our mamas and sisters and friends were holding our hands and walking with us and they made sure we understood what was going on and what to expect. It was a big deal made smaller because of the natural community that surrounded us.
Which I’m realizing as I write this is beautiful remedy for the Second Change. I missed this–the need for intergenerational community. I have so many amazing younger women in my life, but few who are just ahead of me, who can hold my hand and make sure I understand what is going on with my body and what to expect, those who can make this big deal a small one.
This is your wake up call.
This is me holding your hand.
This is my beginning to a New Thing, to recognizing great value where I am, when I am.
A very special 78-year-old person in my life said it this way: “Do you realize if you’ve gone through these changes, you’re one of the lucky ones? Not everyone makes it. Your mama didn’t. What you have is today and something beautiful can be made of it.”
If you haven’t already, seek out women just a few steps ahead of you in life and begin a friendship of mutual love and service to one another. Be intentional, be bold, be brave. Give from your void, give from your plenty.
Don’t fear your future, anticipate its goodness and be thankful for all things. Because, despite pain and hardship and void and loss, life is good.
So, my friends, when your body catches fire from hormonal kerosene? Strip to your skivvies, consider the alternative, stand in front of an open freezer, and dust off that old mantra you used to chant (and everyone would tell you) when your babies were little and rubbing raw every nerve, “This, too, will pass.”
Because if you’re lucky enough, one day it will.
(PLEASE: pass along this post to someone you love, share on your social networks,
and share your thoughts with me!)
Beautiful phoenix image in above quote is used with permission from mirselber at deviantart.com.