I haven't written much from the heart lately. I think when my dad died in June it was easier to just be more superficial in my writing. I didn't know where my heart would take me and that scared me because I wasn't feeling myself. So, after 3 months, I saw that I needed to talk to someone about my "symptoms" - insomnia, anger, irritability, night sweats, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. (A positive symptom is a huge surge of creative energy.) I thought it was grief - unprocessed grief. But, it didn't make a lot of sense because I sat with my father for 8 beautiful months while he died. I cried with him, I thanked him, I told him I would miss him, I just hung out with him. I felt pretty complete about that. The "symptoms" didn't fit the self-diagnosis. And the diagnosis the world seemed to be giving me.
So, I called my trusty therapist and told her what was going on, that I was at risk of doing major damage to my marriage and business relationships if I didn't sweeten up. We wiggled around and through a lot of the symptoms. And then she asked, "How old are you? This sounds like menopause. If it is, we don't this lightly. It is a powerfully demanding time of life. You will never be the same."
A woman in her late 50's (I am guessing) which is my age - she was like a harness for the hurricane I had been feeling. She is the first to acknowledge that the anger I have been feeling is healthy and real. And after 1 hour with her, after 3 months of having trouble breathing, of sleeping, of feeling guilty about my dis-ease, I finally feel liberated and heard. And this is what I got:
We are told something that goes like this: Menopause is a perfectly natural state for women. If you are eating right, exercising, not abusing your body and spirit, there is no reason that you should suffer the "symptoms of menopause". If you do, it is a sign that you are not taking care of yourself. And, have you ever noticed that almost everything you do / want / eat is related to the problems of menopause???
Okay, fine. I'll cut back to one cup of coffee a day. I'll cut back on my red wine. I'll exercise almost every day. I'll eat kale until it is coming out of my ears. I'll meditate. I'll go to yoga 3 x a week. I've done all these things and OF COURSE I mostly feel better. Who wouldn't?? I spend half my income on organic, locally grown foods! But my menopausal symptoms have not diminished one iota!
I still have hot flashes. I still have insomnia. And now I will tell you about the other symptoms....anger and feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.
When I told Carol about this - she lit up like a light bulb. "This is because menopause is a time to take your body back. You have been giving for years - for 30 years? It is time for yourself. This is a profound change of life. Do not take it lightly."
I noted several things of late:
1. I turned Isabelle's bedroom into my own office - WITH A DOOR! immediately after her move to Charleston. I have "a room of own's own." For the last year, Lee and I sat 8 feet apart in our main living area, each working on our own projects - it was wonderful after living apart for so long. But, when Isabelle left as a young adult for her own life, I began to purge the room and take it over. I can hardly tell you how profound it is to have a quiet place to myself with a door. And, equally important, Lee has his own space now that he begins life anew.
2. I HATE feeling responsible for feeding people! I LOVE to cook - but not when I have to work around my work. My work is important. And I don't want my primary role to be taking care of people any more. It would be neurotic to WANT to continue to take care of people as my primary identity since my children are grown. I LOVE to cook for friends and for Lee and myself when I have the time, but as a daily duty, I am so over it.
I love love love my husband and children, but so happy they are doing their thing. Also....a note that I am so happy my husband isn't in the "retirement" mood! The surge of creative energy needs a partner who can meet that - at least that is true for me. I need Lee to have as active a creative life as I want.
3. I want to say "No" more than "Yes". I find myself not willing to do the "favors" I used to feel like I had to do. It isn't that I wanted to do them then; I just thought to be a good person you had to do it. Now, I feel like I need to be clean and clear and say yes to the things that matter and no to the things that don't. The writer of the 4-hour work week makes a practice of this.
4. Finally, the major life transitions can be painful. Birth, death, puberty. All of these are spiritual passages. More primitive (or not?) cultures created rituals to inflict pain on its youth at puberty to emphasize the threshold that must be crossed. This is how I am now thinking about menopause. I don't want my guy friends telling me I need to clean up my liver. I want to just be a woman experiencing menopause. I may do it well. I may not. I wasn't that great at giving birth - I had 2 C-sections, but I still love my kids. I am still a mom. I am a woman with hot flashes. So what? It is a physical reminder of the skin I need to shed to create this new life. Change is painful sometimes. I don't want to feel guilty about the pain anymore. I don't want drugs. I just want my authentic life back. Guilt free. Ready to figure out what is next. Pain and discomfort don't scare me. Denial does.