Another fitful sleep. Soaked in sweat one moment, shivering the next. Finally I arise from my bed, even though my body and brain are crying for more sleep. I know if I lie there, it will only make things worse.
The dogs enjoy seeing me awake at this ungodly hour of 5:30am. Dan wags his tail, lifts his heavy bulk from his bed in the living room, and heads straight for the front door to head outside for a pee. Then I hear our weiner dog, Roxanne, scrambling out from under the covers of M’s bed so she can join Dan outside on the wet lawn.
I make tea. Stand around in the kitchen, waiting to hear the dogs yipping to get back inside. My face feels like parchment paper, my skull heavy. My body is sore with the night’s tossing and turning.
But I’m so glad I got up. Outside, a periwinkle hue falls over the cool damp morning. It’s a secret time, not many are awake. Only me and the dogs. Grass is soaked with rain; branches, twigs and buds droop in stillness, waiting to raise their eyebrows to the coming sun.
All is well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.
Menopause hit me suddenly – and early, like this spring morning. I hadn’t even considered it, until it began to happen. My periods had always come very regularly, predictably, heavily. The cyclical opening and closing of this sensitive heart/mind/body wound seemed permanent and reliable, until one month it just didn’t come. I was only 41.
The next month it was back. But then a couple months later, absent. It’s known as peri-menopause. The process continued for two more years with the spaces between periods lengthening. Then, for a couple more years I only bled during the fertile summers and never in the fallow winter.
And then it ceased completely, 18 months ago. I am now in full menopause. The cyclical wound has closed up and healed for good. I hold my wise blood inside.
When I first realized I was leaving my fertility behind, I felt a pang of sadness and fear. Maybe I would lose my libido and be completely unsexy. I would lose bone density and skin elasticity. I was growing old. Already! Only halfway to 80 and I was already old.
The funny thing is, as I’ve progressed through menopause, I feel nothing but peace and satisfaction. I feel like the girl I once was, who never had to worry about painful cramps and bleeding. I feel my inner masculine, the person who is driven to create and do things without being hindered by the ups-and-downs of fertility: achy soreness, searing cramps and exhaustion, interchanged with heightened emotion and excitability, irritability, raging libido and fussiness. (At least this was my personal experience from age 11 to 40.)
I do experience bouts of sleeplessness and months of uncomfortable hot flashes. It’s quite interesting to engage in a normal conversation with the sudden interruption of being soaked to the bone, several times daily. I’ve become careful about layering my clothing, which peels on and off at various intervals with no rhyme or reason. I’ll start out for a walk dressed in a coat, scarf, toque and sweater, which will all be stripped off down to my t-shirt after five minutes (and usually handed to M, to be draped over his strong waiting arm), then re-applied layer by layer.
And the process repeats.
With insomnia, I’ve learned that my spirit speaks most persistently at night. When everyone else is asleep, that’s when thoughts, dreams, callings come in. So instead of fighting it, I get up and answer. What do you want from me? And often, something beautiful is waiting to be felt, written, heard, painted or drawn. Also, curiously, letting go of the need for sleep makes me more likely to have a better one the next time I hit my bed.
The strangest thing about menopause is how it reveals my aging process and eventual death. Just like the seasons, our life cycles are inevitable – but this isn’t something we tend to think about when we’re young. During my “spring” and “summer” seasons, all I thought about were lovers and babies. Now, approaching my “fall”, I think more often about spiritual matters, community, and creative projects.
I’ll never again experience youth, pregnancy, nursing a baby. That feels strange, since those experiences were so visceral when they were happening. They are fading away now, and my inner self becomes a refuge of silence and observation.
I hold my wise blood inside.
I hold my children in their youth.
I hold my artistry in my aching hands.
I hold all this now, in a seasoned offering to my community.