I have entered into a new phase of my life. One that is as equally exciting as it is a bit horrifying. I remember my Mother going through it when I was a kid and wondering what exactly it meant. Now, I understand. Let me take you a bit back in time.
I feel as if my blood is boiling. I lay next to an open window with a cool breeze steadily pouring through, in an oversized ratty t-shirt filled with holes, and a glass of wine with as much ice as I can pack into it without changing it to wine flavored water. “I’m SO hot,” as I stick my head into the freezer and feel only some relief while flashing all of the frozen food my unmentionable areas, and the cold air hits my skin. The AC is set to freezing. No, not a specific degree. At this low of a temperature its setting is FREEZING. I look over at my husband who is always hot, and he is bundled in a hoodie sweatshirt, sweat pants, socks, and teeth chattering under a giant blanket. What is wrong with me? Am I dying? I must be dying because I’m normally the temperature of a popsicle at all times and now, this holey t-shirt is providing too much warmth. I go to bed, two steps away from a fan blowing on high, covers off and panting like I just ran a marathon. Do I have malaria? I literally do not leave the house so there’s not much chance of catching any kind of illness. Oh no, it cannot be. I’m too young for this time of my life! I mean I’ve been a little blue off and on and somewhat weepy, but nothing major. I haven’t yet threatened to kill my husband while bursting into buckets of tears and simultaneously laughing. Although I did have a hysterectomy last year, I didn’t think this would happen so quickly. It just cannot be.
After speaking to my mother on all of my symptoms it is decided, (Pause for effect…) I am going through “THE CHANGE,” (DUH-DUHN-DUHNNNNN). For a moment my whole life stopped. I have a toddler and a teenager and I am in menopause? Come to think of it, I was also a teen when my mother went through the change. But she was in her 40’s, and I am only 34. Well… almost 35, but still. Does this mean I am no longer a woman? That my skin will start to creep and only drape my bones like a mu-mu instead of hug them firmly? Should I be looking forward to my boobs being strapped into my socks? Is my life as a woman over? Should I change my name and start wearing clothes that no longer reflect my gender? The first few days I felt like everything I knew of myself as a woman was ending. Menopause is definitely a woman, she tip-toed in so I wouldn’t notice and then laid me out with a pile-driver to the floor. It was sneak attack. One that I never saw coming. Instantly I could see myself grey-haired and slow moving, unable to remember my children’s names and not recognizing my own reflection anymore. How would my husband see me as I rapidly aged before him? As I pondered over all my self-deprecating thoughts I felt jealous for how men don’t have to go through this. They get more handsome and desirable as they age and we as women get to be shriveled up prunes in tennis shoes. I wondered if I would also be losing the color of beauty that he lovingly paints me in through his eyes, as well.
While contemplating the dried up old rag I was becoming whilst trying to talk myself down from the proverbial ledge, I realized how nothing was changing – though everything was changing all at the same time. I convinced myself that this meant that I could just be myself. I didn’t have to try to keep up with trends that always seemed to escape my sensibilities. I didn’t have to out-female other women or play a role of young, fresh-faced and hip, when I have never felt like any of those things. In all reality I am a lot more secure now as a woman, at this stage in my life then I ever was in my 20’s and lost the need to compete a long time ago. I know who I am these days. The kind of confidence and self-awareness that I only wished I had had when I was younger. I am strong in my beliefs and in my character, something else I was almost entirely uncertain that I would ever become, and it all came before this uncomfortable physiological change.
As I intermittently cried at the thought of how less attractive I would become, I thought of how beautiful my mother still is. Her skin, near flawless and looking nowhere near her age without ever having a single bit of surgery. She’s still loving and kind, feminine and vibrantly full of life. I remember when I was young and hit puberty, my mother sitting me down to tell me a story of how amazing my life would be as a woman. How lucky I was to be a part of this small, but mighty group of individuals that could bring life into this world and nurture it so. That they held so much strength, coupled with unconditional love inside of them. And how I was now part of this club, which made me special. Her eyes lit up as she told me how amazing I would come to find my body being. How someday it would create a new life and know just what to do with this life growing inside of it. And I felt lucky to be a part of this club that is woman. Although at the time, I couldn’t understand how my mother viewed menstruation as a gift when all it made me want to do was rip my ovaries out. Even so, I realize now that this change of life doesn’t remove me from this special group, it only serves to promote me. To say, you’ve done it all and now you get to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Is this change really all that frightful? It wasn’t the ability to have children that made me a woman, just as it isn’t the inability to have them that stops me from being one. It is a step of coming into my own. To owning who I am and embracing what all has gotten me here. In all reality the change makes us no less of a woman than having a few old lady whiskers make us a man! Our bodies take us through seasons in our lives. When we’re young and virtually indestructible we use that, whether it be to act as daredevils trying things that as a person in old age would shatter into a million pieces for trying. Or when parenthood strikes and we become this super version of ourselves that seemingly never needs sleep, can spring into action to protect or save our children at a whim. The ability to juggle so many tasks and responsibilities at once it would make a person’s head spin, and yet we didn’t know that we had these super powers in us until that stage of life came to be. Then we move into parenting a young adult and suffering through the grief and headaches that we could never have imagined experiencing let alone walking away still somewhat sane from. Changes in careers, friends, hobbies and interests, loss and sometimes having to start over when we least expected it. Life changes, and we continue to change with it.
I know, it is inevitable. My skin may get a little drier, my hair maybe a little thinner. My eyesight was already failing and my memory was shot years ago at the sound of my first child’s cry. But it’s a part of life. It’s a part of my life. I’m not so terrified anymore of what comes from this outward change because it is a reflection of all that I’ve survived, all the beautiful things I’ve experienced, all of the joys and the sorrows. We really do have so many coming of age moments as we grow. When we’re a young girl and entering into womanhood, when we start our lives on our own. When we become a mother and/or wife. When we find our passions and decide to seize the day to live them, no matter our age. Those are the changes that mean something. The ones that build us up in preparation for the next phase. A few hormones going rogue really shouldn’t be the changes that hold such significance.
I’ve always said how I couldn’t wait to be “old” and THIS is what I couldn’t wait for. To feel security within myself. To know the undeniably steadfast love of a partner, to be confident as a parent and content as a person. To feel strength in my abilities and assurance in my decision-making. It’s not the number of the age or the greyness of the hair, it is the feeling that you have when you’ve reached a point where your life has thoroughly become your own. When you are in a continual flow of synergy with your mind, heart, spirit, beliefs, ideas, desires and state of being. This is what age has always meant to me. In this I hold up a giant welcome sign to Miss Menopause and thank her for entering the stage, no matter how cagey her entrance was. I just pray that she shows mercy to those who are forced to be around me! :)