January 14, 2014

How it Feels to Have a Period.

Let me start this off by saying: I’m going to talk about a whole bunch of stuff right now, and I’m going to talk about it through the lens of my period.

I realize that when we start talking about periods, it usually elicits eye-rolling from specific groups of people: when women talk about their periods, men send off an eye-roll; when men talk about periods, women eye-roll and tell them to shut up.

I think this is a completely valid thing to talk about, and I think we can do it where no one feels like they are being told that they are wrong or crazy or misinformed.

I am alive because of periods. You are alive because of periods. Thank you, God, for periods. Amen. (This is my new grace-statement before meals…how appetizing.)

Draw whatever conclusions you want from this, but things shift for me during menstruation.

I mean, duh—I have 4 oz of blood spilling out of me on the daily, which already makes me feel unclean and closed in.

Additionally, there are a host of hormonal shifts that I cannot even begin to fathom, doing who knows what in my body, and generally creating strings of thoughts that trigger the response: how in the hell does that make sense?

Sure, you could argue that I have it a lot better than most women: period pains have always been manageable for me, and I can still maintain daily function on the rag, unlike some of my friends who must hibernate for the first few days, leaving work unattended, phone calls unreturned, and boxes of tissues and candy wrappers strewn about and empty.

(Why is it that we seem so disconnected from this conversation? Why is it that when I need to go change my pad, people pretend they don’t know me if I decide to not hide my green wrapper on the way to the restroom? I have never understood this. Just know that if you and I are ever out in public together, I will make no attempt to hide my tampon wrapper. I won’t be the obnoxious one on the table throwing tampons like confetti (you know those girls), but I just don’t see the point in using my vital period energy to figure out how to twist my hand to deformity to conceal a tampon wrapper.)

When I’m on my period, I tend to forget a lot of things.

I tend to forget that the only requirement for a good time is that I make the decision to enjoy myself. That’s it. When I walk into a situation and think to myself, I’m going to figure out how to enjoy this, I have an awesome time.

It’s not hard to make that decision—making that decision is the easiest thing in the world. The difficult part is that sometimes I completely forget that I have that option. The difficult part is that sometimes life feels like a bad time and I forget that I can choose—at any freaking moment—to snap the fuck out of it and decide to enjoy myself (but I mean, really decide).

Yesterday was the first day of my period and I found myself teaching four yoga classes, which under normal circumstances feels like gut scraping—not in a bad way, actually in a very good way. It feels like scraping out the plaque from my spiritual lining and allowing myself to flow (get it?) with less resistance.

But it’s also tiring, and if I’m doing this on the first day of my period, it feels even more tiring.

After four classes, I found myself at an event. I only knew about four people, and the four people I knew were going to be mostly occupied with other things during this event.

I would be hanging out by myself.

That’s okay, it feels good to be by myself.

I sat down against the wall and felt my entire day settle into me. I watched as people flittered around the room, setting up things and having conversations. I almost asked if I could make myself useful to someone else by hopping up and doing something, but then thought: hold on, I want to be useful to myself right now.

What does that mean?

That means that even on a day when I’m feeling generally empty, I do not need to be resigned to a poor experience of living. I don’t need to be grumpy and self-cherishing in my dismal attitude. I don’t need to be grunty and whiny, but I also don’t need to force myself to be different than I am.

When I’m on my period, it’s easy for me to attach to bad times. It’s easy for me to feel the slowness of my internal speed and feel rushed into picking up the pace because the world doesn’t slow down when I’m on my period. This sometimes makes me frustrated and tired, as I’m trying to smash two varying speeds together: my speed of personal operation, and the world’s speed of cultural function.

Of course I feel like I have to smash two speeds together: when I’m on my period, I still have to go make a living; I still have to walk half a block to pay for parking; I still have to feed and bathe myself. All of this is on someone else’s watch.

Remember in Alice in Wonderland where the Mad Hatter opened up the White Rabbit’s pocket watch and smashed a whole bunch of jelly into its gears? Yeah—that’s what my time feels like when I’m on my period.

All of this hustle and bustle is even more-so, because when I’m on my period, I have to make sure that I have enough supplies to get through my days and look like a normal human to everyone around me (I’m a little unsure of a grosser feeling than that of bleeding through clothes and having no immediate option for cleaning or removal).

So here I was last night, at an event after four classes.

So, I sat.

I found another person who looked unoccupied and I sat.

There are few things I love more in this world than when I find myself in the mood to have a conversation with a complete stranger.

I love seeing what comes up during these conversations—the feelings, the topics, the way I express myself during these topics (which is always surprising), the reactions that a complete stranger has to me…it feels like meditation—having these moments of checking in with myself in the presence of another person.

I sat against the wall with the girlfriend of the DJ, which turned out to be convenient as I was the girlfriend of the guitar player, and we—the two groupies—sat and talked about jobs, about our self-worth, what we want out of life, how our relationships feel to us, suicide, and being supportive.

I remembered something during this conversation that I frequently remember and frequently forget: how I want to treat other people.

When I feel even the slightest bit crummy, it’s easy for me to attach to it and start expecting other people to pull me out of that place. It’s natural for me to slump down and make silent demands to other people to read my mind and provide for me and dote on me.

My period will often coax me towards this internal place of sloppiness, where I expect other people to provide my good times for me.

And then I forget that the only way for me to have good times in life is to just decide to have good times instead of bad times.

The only way for me to have good times is to accept the moment that I am in and ask: given my current circumstances, how can I create enjoyment for myself?

Enjoy. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Enjoy myself. Enjoy everything. Enjoy conversation with strangers. Enjoy sitting against the wall, just slightly outside of the surrounding activity. Enjoy coming back to silence. Enjoy disconnection, because every time I am disconnected, I have the opportunity to find the outlet and plug back in. Enjoy life as it is given now.

I know that the biological point to this crotch-mess is to secure our survival as a species. I get that.

But perhaps there’s a deeper relationship we can cultivate with our periods besides: heck yeah, no babies this month!  (supposing that the brain-voice in question was not hoping for a pregnancy at the time of menstruation).

My period reflects back to me all of my tired, surly, confusing ways of thinking and behaving, and if I’m paying attention to it all, I have the opportunity to hold myself accountable for all of this and be kind.

I could have stayed in last night. I probably would have cocooned myself in a blanket on the floor, which is exactly what I was doing before we left for the event, and perhaps I would have had a lovely time. But I’m thinking that I probably would have just nourished a bad mood and gone to bed feeling ruffled.

So I went out instead. I went out to sit against a wall with someone I’ll probably never see again. And I had a lovely time.

I can choose to feel sorry for myself, or I can choose to get over it.

If God wants me to have a period, then I’ll learn to enjoy it (dammit).

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: me and the sysop/Flickr


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