Terra-exodus: Menopausal Mutations

canstockphoto45409296Since it’s summer, my family and I have indulged in some low rent binge watching – namely the profligate Marvel Universe on Netflix. On the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., humans undergo a process called Terragenesis in which they evolve through one method or another into inhumans – humans with enhanced powers. In the show, The Ghost Rider is another character who gains the skill to become a fire-hurling head of flame.

My head has felt surrounded by flames on and off for a month now. I’m going through peri-menopause, on my way to being done with my childbearing years. Every two minutes, I feel like I’ve just opened an oven door in front of my face – prickly heat, the sweat, then the cooling off and chills. Insomnia is putting me on edge and writing is interrupted by chaotic thoughts hopping through my head, like frogs on lily pads, leaping from one random word to another.

canstockphoto6610591Normally, I wouldn’t bother writing about “lady issues”. But there is some glee in doing so when we have a president who is viscerally offended by any bodily function of a woman. He’s expressed his heebie-jeebs about menstruation, weight, breastfeeding, using the restroom, children – anything that mars his puerile focus on beauty queen attributes. I’m not really interested in reading about other people’s bodily functions, hygiene or bathroom habits, but I know they exist and don’t act like a ten-year old afraid of girl cooties.

It is euphemistically called a change of life. Metamorphosis is the word that keeps cropping up in my mind. Will I shed my skin? Will I become something worse, lesser, weaker, older? My body seems no longer under my control, with the unregulated thermostat turning the furnace on every time I get the least bit comfortable. Now that I will no longer be a fertile being, is this the time when primordial husbands look for eggs elsewhere?

My body has been through a lot – all the running, marching in combat boots and gear, canstockphoto5272635martial arts training, childbirth, endless menstrual cycles. I calculated that in my lifetime, I’ve had a period at least 400 times. 400 times of hormonal changes, fat loss and gain. 400 times when sappy commercials made me cry, I’ve blurted out the wrong thing, I’ve lain on the couch with a heating pad, bottle of ibuprofen, and a box of tissue. My body has been in a constant state of change, but this time the change will stick.

Death anxiety has been keeping me awake as I approach my 50th birthday. All that time under the bridge and I can still feel the rapid heartbeat of knowing that in an instant, I could be dead. I’ve had death thoughts all my life, part and parcel of a family gene of mental morbidity. They mostly come to the surface when I’m under a great deal of pressure or anxious about something. They pass as I finally get sleep and eventually wake up to the day with gratitude – that I made it through the night.

canstockphoto7381679I don’t dwell long in that place – I know it’s not helpful. But these days the thrum of my anxiety isn’t waning. It is staying at a rather constant, exhausting level. This is where the desire to do something drastic and different arises. Anything to relieve the idea that this is it. That my life has culminated in a mere pittance and that any hopes or dreams I have are on a timer.  It gets dark in my head, before a challenger arrives.

The challenger is this moment. In this moment, I get to sit in my study and write. I look past the happy cat snoozing on the window seat, into a green space with grape vines and flowers growing. My teenager is whiling away the morning in a horizontal position that seems to shift only slightly throughout the day. My husband, who has surely had his own death thoughts, is downstairs working, on the phone with his colleagues. I’ve had a good breakfast and there’s a full coffee pot.

What is it that would make this experience better? Do I need something or have I become so accustomed to scrabbling for more, I don’t know when to rest? The idea of rest, of not fighting so hard to be disciplined or accurate or on time or willing, bothers me. Yet I wonder if it would make me kinder and more joyful and less anxious. I’ve always wondered if we all aren’t just trying too much. And maybe that is the secret to being happy as one ages. To not try so hard.

canstockphoto2121325I think about my lifetime pursuits thus far. What was I looking for? For me, it has often been safety. This is a sad realization on my part. I would do anything to be safe, not surprised, not noticed – just safe. I grew up with unpredictability, so I needed to be my own rock and I’ve spent a lifetime being careful. I keep waiting for that crushing, regret-filled moment when I see it all so clearly – what I’ve missed out on because I was safe.

That moment may never come. I will likely never be a wild woman, a revolutionary with fiery ideals and bold actions. I won’t be making history. As I sweat through another hot flash, I think about what might be released from my pores – fear, anxiety, pain, old memories, regret, disappointment. Perhaps this is the change that is really happening – that I am becoming unknown to myself again, because everything that has defined me is subject to question.

25 Comments on “Terra-exodus: Menopausal Mutations

  1. “…I am becoming unknown to myself again, because everything that has defined me is subject to question.”
    I very VERY much like this way of thinking about it.

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    • Although, reading your words — the bit about “Metamorphosis… Will I shed my skin?” specifically — honestly, the first image that popped into my mind was much more this one. Which I also VERY much like as a symbol for this change!

      Liked by 1 person

    • When I’m not sweating, the idea that there is still so much to learn (or re-learn) appeals to me. I’ve been thinking of it as off-roading in our brains, refusing to use the same old wheel ruts to find our way. Really – the whole thing is ridiculous with metaphor.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Michelle, I have had so many of those thoughts you describe—the anxiety about death, the questioning of whether I’ve done enough and used my skills or talents well and wisely, and indeed, whether I am enough (I know the answer is yes, but believing it is another thing entirely). I wrestle with “just being” and “must-be-doing” and try to balance both. You have stated it so well and provided comfort that I’m not the only one with such thoughts.
    I am always annoyed when I see someone pass along health or medical advice via blogs. Each of us is so different…there are no universal salves or solutions. That being said, I will ignore my own warning and just share that when I reached that stage of frequent and intense hot-flashes, I tried taking black cohosh. For me, it was a miracle: within a week or so there were no more flashes and they never came back. I took the black cohosh for 6-9 months and my entry into menopause was easy and completely symptomless. It remains so to this day. If the flashes are troublesome, you may want to look into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The must-be-doing thing is actually angering me a bit these days. My body needs something entirely different at the moment, which is rest in any form. I’ve even taken to napping which, in my head, was some sort of sacrilege because there was always something that needed doing.

      The multivitamin I take has Black Cohosh in it, but I don’t think it’s a high enough dosage (obviously), so I might have to pick up a supplement. I’m not one for the medical advice, either, but I’m always willing to try things to see what works. As you say, it’s an individual journey, but we only figure it out by trying.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve often wondered why people don’t wear their wrinkles with pride, the signs of rich life experience? Maybe I’m missing something …

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    • You have the right idea, but in this country it’s wishful thinking. We have a culture obsessed with all things youthful and novel. The San Francisco Federal Bank Reserve did one of the largest studies ever done on age discrimination in the job market in 2015 and age discrimination was in evidence after 50 for men and before 50 for women. Aging is not treated with any sort of respect – it’s all about fighting it off. Some of the cosmetics commercials sound like they’re going to battle – they’re defying, defeating and fending off.

      That being said, I care not so much about appearance, as much as I do functionality. And it’s hard to function when you break into a full sweat every two minutes. It seems a minor complaint to the alternative of being, say, dead, but a discomfort nonetheless. Also, the specter of death is closer to us now than our births. That’s a little freaky. I just have this panicky thought:”But there is so much more I want to learn!”

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s a complex phenomenon right enough! The question of what the old can offer the young is on my mind more and more. The pace of life de-skills us, so perhaps the offering will be more spiritual than physical. And, as you say, the proximity of death focuses the mind like nothing else …

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  4. Thank you for expressing what so many of us feel. I am right there with you. There don’t seem to be answers, only more questions. I have also come to the conclusion that all we can do is to seize the day, and stop to smell the flowers. And hope that with time comes understanding.

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  5. So many good questions. I’m on the cusp of a big change myself and will eventually blog about it. Until then, my sweat salutes your sweat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The minute I sat down to reply to your comment, I began sweating. I will look like I’ve worked out before I even get to the Y this morning! I’ll look forward to hearing/reading about your change. I need pointers these days and other wise women usually provide that through example. Best of luck to you, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Michelle,
    I believe we are too frenzied. Too many demands on attention. Machine noise everywhere. The vibrational pandemonium is de-vitalizing. I remember the hot flashes. Taught me to dress in layers, so I could start peeling when intense concentration or anger set them off.

    Napping is good. It’s more civilized. Think of southern Europe, where shops are closed between noon and three p.m., so everyone can take their siestas or naps.

    The now is all we’re guaranteed. The best we can hope for is to be able to cope with whatever comes up. You’re right about the cosmetics. I never adapted to wearing cosmetics–they felt like poison–but did so to stop my mother’s nagging. Now that she has gone, I have quit cosmetics completely. Men don’t wear them, after all.

    The youth culture in the US probably reflects how immature we are. For aging people to cave to regressive thinking, trying to recapture or claim youth that is past, only reveals their insecurity about their lives and experience. Remember, from my perspective, you will always be young. (My 65th birthday is next month.)

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    • I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to slow my life down over the last few years – lots of silence and less busy-ness. I feel exhausted seeing others caught up in the maelstrom of modern living and think I would be a much less centered person if I did not have the luxury of quiet living.
      I wear makeup for special occasions where I know there is going to be a lot of photos snapped. Fortunately that happens only once every couple of years. And I feel like having a little vanity and recognizing it, makes me less judgmental and more understanding of others who go full bore on the femininity/cultural adaptation thing.
      Some people are born old and I suspect I’m one of them, but not in a way that truly bothers me. Despite our cultural obsession with the new and shiny, I would not want to go back to my more stupid, less stable years. That was a hard time. I feel like I’m really almost in a sweet spot, but have to adapt to the changes of my body. Sometimes coming to terms with that makes me a little grumbly.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I felt I was born old, too, but life has knocked me around a lot and forced me to lighten up. Children probably do that for other people, at least when they are behaving. My pets have done that for me. Cats, now chickens.

        I’ve actually thought about buying some makeup but not using it. That way it will stay clean.

        Adapting to changes also means appreciating your body like never before. Despite common myth, I believe those who stay involved have the health to prove it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Michelle, wow, what talent you have forming your thoughts into words. I think we are a lot alike. I am 25 and I have never enjoyed rocking the boat. I find comfort in safety as well. What would you say to your 25 year old self on this subject?

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    • My 25 year old self was likely a lot less balanced than your 25 year old self. I would tell myself to quit smoking earlier (I was 28 when I finally did), do not go out with the guy who dated you despite believing that you were going to hell because you weren’t a believer, quit bad jobs much more quickly and do not run up credit debt. See? You’re likely in better shape than I ever was.
      Actually, that’s a bit of a lie. Things happened the way they did and I learned a lot of great skills and lessons, with a lot less regret than one would expect. I would actually tell myself to be kinder to me, pay attention to the lessons, keep trying new things, and try to choose steps that support your values and the life you imagine for yourself. They’re usually small ones, but gradually they build a life that you can embrace. Don’t I sound like a wise, old owl? I’m always still learning! Best wishes to you and thanks for the kind words about the writing.

      Liked by 2 people

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