Rite of passage? That’s what they say.
Imagine every physical symptom you’ve ever walked through and then march with them all, one after another, again and again (with many moments of reprieve where you feel your Self) for a period of, say 10 years?
Welcome to Menopause.
Back pain, body pain, booby pain, headaches, digestion moving at a snail’s pace, viral infections (code for Herpes) and coughing for months at a time. Throw in PMS for what feels like an eternity. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. It lasts longer than two days for sure.
And then there is the heat—the “can’t even describe it unless you’ve walked through it,” kind.
I have been known to ride these flashes like waves. Like labor pains, hot flashes are the outward sign of metamorphosis. And like labor pains, they are worse when resisted. I am happily metamorphosing as I write this, I tell myself.
Oh…and there’s more.
Mood swings that insist I want to be left alone. Why can’t my husband go to the market just once without calling me to ask a question? I want to live in “The Red Tent.”
Lack of patience that sends me from zero to 10 as fast as you can say, “Madness,” no matter how many times I promise myself I’ll stay calm. And so I pray, “Help me not be such an ass.”
I almost forgot: loss of memory. No more. No how. “What is the name of that thing? Let’s Google it,” I find myself saying, but of course I forget to do so. I know I should take Motherwort, but I forget that, too.
Dream about my husband. Dreams about my daughter. Dreams about dying. Angry and sorrowful dreams. Dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night and then hit me with the wave of realization that I’m going to be up for a couple of hours. Like last night.
Thank God for my meditation. It calms me.
Sometimes. But sometimes it doesn’t.
Waiting to steal the calm right out from underneath my not so cozy bed in the middle of those long dark nights. This is when I know I must go outside and sit with the moon and listen and pray. Believe me, not my first choice at 3:30 am. But it helps.
Joie de vivre? No way Jose. Not in any recognizable ways.
The juxtaposition of raising a young daughter, who is overflowing with joyous life force, at the same time I appear to be flat lining can sometimes seem too much to bear.
I’ve been in the underworld, which isn’t the brightest place on earth, gathering the nuggets of wisdom that will make their way to the light so I can continue to shine the light for others.
I have a 20-year meditation and mindfulness practice that I am passionate about. And I help my clients to create a life that embodies deep connection. But lately this well of juicy joie is dry, dry, dry.
So I sit with what is.
Thank the stars for my sister, and my friend Erica who are also in the menopausal club, and for my best friend Sheryl, who listens like a wise old crone, even though she’s almost a decade younger and not yet there. And for a very patient husband, even though he’s so over this.
I can see his eyes rolling back right now as I write the word in slow motion. M-E-N-O-P-A-U-S-E. I’m pretty sure any word that even starts with MEN is now a trigger for him. Unless it’s, “You are the sexiest of men.” I think he’s reached his listening limit.
I seem to want to yak about it wherever I go and with whomever will listen. You basically just have to be willing to nod your head in understanding and I can go on and on.
Somehow all roads lead back to Menopause. I can’t seem to help myself. They’ve all listened to my endless low down, my insatiable desire to talk menopause shop.
Thank God for loved ones.
Sheryl talks a lot about transitions: Wedding. Birthing. Motherhood. Moving. Traveling. She helped me before my wedding, talking me out of my tree on numerous occasions. A saint she is.
Transitions have three stages: letting go, liminal and rebirth.
I know this is a huge transition demanding that I step into the deepest truth. I am floating in the second stage, the in-between of two incarnations. I can see the rebirth waiting in the wings.
But this time I have no role models who have graced the menopausal walk of pain.
No midwife whispering into my ear the secrets of what it takes to enter into the other dimension with grace. No girlfriends who have traveled ahead clearing the pathway before me, sharing their nuggets they’ve garnered from the underworld.
Sheryl and my friend Jessica birthed their babies naturally in their homes just a few weeks ahead of me. So I carried the knowledge that I could birth my daughter in this way and I took my friends with me into that sacred place that only some women are lucky enough to share. I am so blessed.
I read the books that talk about this transition as a Divine Spiritual transformation, but the text is just too flowery for me at this time. If I read one more passage about, “Menopause being a magical time for growth…” I get it. Huge transition, but transformation, like life, is a lot messier than it reads on paper.
This life of mine longs for shiny and new.
Menopause feels old, like the way your skin looks after swimming for a couple of hours. And everywhere I look, I see the imprint of old. I live in an old house, which suits me most of the time, but everything that can go wrong is arising in its menopausal structure. Our electrician tells us that the electrical wiring is chaotic, that nothing connects to anything else. Kind of like how I feel today. I guess my house and I are in this together.
My menopausal wise muse is shining a light on all the aspects of my inner house that are dormant, suppressed, unlived and unfulfilled.
I am feeling the unlived parts of my life; the creativity that has never come to light; missed opportunities; the places I yearn to visit; the longing for beginnings. This muse is asking that I shed all that is no longer necessary to carry and reminds me to pray.
So I pray for others who are struggling (and for me), that we all be filled with air and light. Air and light heal; it somehow gets into those dark places in the underworld, like Spiritual enemas. C. S. Lewis wrote:
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
Struggle in general reminds me to pray. That reminder, in itself, is worth all the myriad of change.
I did not know the barrage of the symptoms or the depth of the emotional transitions that happens at this point in life.
Just like I didn’t know what it was to be a mother. I suppose it’s the same, only no beautiful baby at the end of this labor. At least not one that sings through life and writes me love letters each day.
I write these words, as a love letter, in order to shine the light of context for those of you who are diving into the underworld. Your descent could be brought on by anything. I write to remind you (and me) that struggle is valuable and offers great treasure.
If we could all reveal the depths of our experience, then we wouldn’t have to feel so alone.
Madness or Muse I ask? You decide.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Used with permission from Elena Ray via author