I write this not to be smug or inflammatory or, God forbid, to tempt fate, but Menopause becomes me.
I had been girding my loins (had I had them) for decades, ready to do battle with hot flashes and insomnia and chin hair. The message was clear: This Way to the End of Your Life.
So imagine my surprise, when instead of a virtual death, a swift and sudden punishment for eating that dratted apple, I found myself in a state of quiet peace.
Now I know that most of you are squirming in your seats, you have been since you first landed on the title of this post, but hear me out for a moment.
It is true–all the evidence points to it–this “Change of Life,” the “Big M,” can be quite a difficult time for women, both physiologically but also socioculturally. Ours is not a society kind to aging or change of any kind or, frankly, women. We like our women youthful, beautiful, and unchanging. And when any of these three diminish or cease to exist, we (women) have reached the end of our usefulness.
What a pity.
Not that women have reached the end of their usefulness, but that we think it so.
I’m here to tell you that, for this woman at least, menopause has been the best time of my life.
In her seminal work, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christiane Northrup describes the many stages in a woman’s life as guided by physical development and hormonal changes. She writes about how menopause is parallel, in many ways, to the period of latency–that time between childhood and puberty–in a young girl’s life. Latency is a period during which young girls are maximally engaged, have great curiosity, and experience a high level of self-esteem and self-trust.
Menopause can be that way, too.
Finally, after several decades in some cases, (many) women have discharged the all-consuming responsibility of child-rearing and the keeping of hearth and home. This circumstantial shift along with the hormonal shift of menopause can free us up to follow our own curiosity, to devote more time and attention to self care.
And so it has been for me.
I get to write more, read more, and basically go down pretty much any rabbit hole I choose. Nobody needs me. For anything. Win!
But really the true win of Menopause has been the relief from the vagaries of fluctuating hormones.
Imagine sitting at the very top of a very high mountain where the sun is shining and the air is clear. There is no wind, no precipitous drops. Just breath and warmth and you can see for miles.
This is menopause.
No see-sawing emotions. No unexpected fatigue. No pain. No inconvenience.
Every day is the same and every day is calm.
I am grateful.
I realize that not all women share my experience, but more do than I would have thought. And here’s the thing, I had never considered that it could be this way. There is only one single narrative–menopause as the beginning of the end.
And I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
And better still, you need do nothing to make it so.
Just as you were not responsible for the angst and longing of adolescence, just as you were not responsible for the rage and remorse of adulthood, you are not responsible for, not for the tumult nor for the peace, of menopause.
It just happens.
It happened to me.
And whereas I realize that for many women, most women even, this is not the case, it is for me. For one woman.
And that is enough.
Enough to shift the narrative, to disrupt the status quo. We do not merely suffer and die. We are rich. We are vibrant. We are present. We are vital–both essential as well as alive.
I am we. And . . .
Menopause becomes me.
“Becomes” as in it suits me, I wear it well, but also as in “becoming” more of myself, the self I once was at 7 or 9 or 11. The true me.
Here’s what I remember from that time:
Seeing clearly – especially that the Emperor has no clothes.
Being outspoken – asking for what I want. Okay, so I do that now as well, but usually more from a place of skill than honesty.
Being fearless. And by fearless I mean not knowing that I should be afraid.
Allowing vulnerability. I cried at trifles, and felt no shame in doing so.
Feeling joy. Some of my happiest memories, my most joyous moments are from that time. Sublime.
I also remember wearing the most godawful clothes, and not noticing how unfashionable they were, how unfashionable I was.
I remember making paintings for my dad and thinking, Dayyum! That’s awesome!
I remember sucking sugarcane juice straight from the stalk and drinking cutting chai from short grubby glasses sold by enterprising vendors on zippy little bicycles.
I didn’t think Ew! or Hepatitis! Or any one of several disastrous thoughts that, in ordinary adulthood, gripped me with fear. I just followed my curiosity, my appetite, and let the chips fall as they may.
And this is how I feel now.
Whereas I once stepped carefully on evenly-spaced paving stones, I now skip though puddles and step on cracks in the sidewalk–curses be damned!
I have no shame.
I can make a mistake (or twelve) and just pull out a fresh piece of paper and start anew.
No regrets. No apologies.
I am freed from all those tethers, those recriminations.
This is a five-act play, people. And not one of Freytag’s making, pyramidal, with all the sturm and drang at the apex. Rather it is the gentler, more modulated slope of Jo-ha-kyu, where the action, begins slowly, speeds up, then ends swiftly across the five dan (acts) of Kabuki.
The first dan exemplifies the theme of “Love”–gentle, pleasant, musical.
The second dan is described as “Warriors and Battle,” generally characterized by heightened tempo and intensity of plot.
The third dan, the climax of the play, is typified by pathos and tragedy.
The fourth, is a journey, a time in the play that eases out of the intensity and drama, and (I quote here) “consists primarily of song and dance rather than dialogue and plot.”
And the fifth dan is a rapid conclusion, characterized by the tying up of loose ends and an “auspicious ending.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m done with the third act, baby!
I’m all about the fourth dan, the journey, the song, the dance.
I trust in the universe. In a cosmic plan. And when it’s time to go, I’ll simply yell, Curtain!