Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – January 28, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – January 28, 2004 – “Menopause” – now why is it that even with the change of life – we can’t get away from the ‘men’ in menopause. What’s wrong with ‘female interruptus’ – oops – the ‘male’ is still there. Okay fast forward to – woman or women – no – that doesn’t help either.
It’s very heartening to know that men go through a mid-life crisis (I mean change) and it’s called ‘andropause’ – now why on earth isn’t it called menopause? Then there’s the fact that this change is called a ‘pause’ – what is that all about? This ain’t no pause – it’s an ending. Now, I have this little rant out of my system. So let’s see – menopause.
If you’re a woman – it’s headed your way, not to a theatre near you, but right to your door. I was 46 years old when the menopause bitch – I mean fairy – sprinkled hot flash dust over my neighbourhood and some of it infiltrated my home. I was in very good shape physically – I went to the gym at 6:30 in the morning four or five times a week, I had a flat stomach (more on that later), I slept through the night, my bed didn’t look like a battleground in the morning, irritability could be explained away by circumstances, my memory was razor sharp, my skin was satin smooth and my hair was as soft as silk.
In short I was a babe. I was on my own and I still turned the odd head or two. I had sleek black tights in my closet, skinny jeans, lace teddies, cropped tee-shirts and short skirts. Sheer nylons looked good on my legs. I had beautiful, lace lingerie in colours like black, red and purple. Nothing that I wore had an elastic waist – I repeat – nothing. I was hopeful about my life. I looked good … I felt good … I did good.
I remember the day the hot flash dust perpetrated its first dastardly deed. I had an evening appointment with clients in my office. It was late February or early March. I think it may have been the year El-Nino blessed us with an incredibly mild winter because the weather, while cold, wasn’t brutal and there was just a whisper of snow on the ground. I was wearing my black leather pants, a grey wool turtleneck and a stylish leather trimmed blazer. I had street shoes on, which I had kicked off under the table. I was sitting with my clients – a young couple and we were talking about their market options.
I first noticed an unusual itching in the balls of both feet and I recall rubbing them against the base of the table for some relief. The tingling became more acute and I felt it travel up to my ankles. At this point I was unobtrusively banging my feet together under the table, convinced that they have simply gone to sleep of their own accord. Not so.
I started to feel a bit agitated as itchy-tingles travelled relentlessly up my shins and into my thighs. By the time the sensation hit my abdomen – I felt as if my body was on fire. Then the sweats descended from the top of my head, down my neck and face and into my shoulders. These two warring armies came face to face about chest level, where they settled down into trench warfare. I was on fire.
I was so hot I wanted to rip off my clothes. Good god – a wool turtle neck and leather pants! The heat in my body could have fuelled our office building for a week. I remember thinking if I don’t get out of this sweater I will go insane. I won’t be responsible for my actions, when I strip and run screaming from the building. The judge will just have to understand that I was out of my mind when I ran naked down Bayview Avenue, screaming about tingles and sweats. By this time my clients were looking at me as if I was a little unhinged, so I grinned my best Jack Nicholson grin, excused myself from the room and tore down the hall to the washroom.
I slammed the door shut, ripped off my sweater and dropped my pants to the floor. The reflection of the demented woman in the mirror was as red as a beet. Sweat was streaming down my face and I immediately thought ‘heart attack’. After five or six minutes, the itching and tingling started to fade and the sweat dried on my skin. In the next instant I felt a bit chilled and then cold. Pants and sweater were now back in place and I was as white as a sheet.
I composed myself, tweaked my cheeks to put a bit of colour back into my face and took a deep breath. My body was behaving once again. Then it hit me – this was the dawn of a new era – I’d just had my first hot flash. I decided immediately that I’d deal with this momentous event with humour. I returned to my clients and explained to them that I had lost my mind for a few minutes, but that I was better now, not considered armed or dangerous – just hot.
That was seven yeas ago and in the intervening time, my friend (and I use the term lightly) menopause and I have had a roller coaster ride together. Not just some little old roller coaster at a country fair, but the big, gut twisting “wild mouse roller coaster” at the Can-eh-dee-an National Exhibition, home of the Princess Gates, thank you very much!
The first thing that went was my memory. Then the sense that all was well with my body disappeared as it became a stranger. My belief that I might be a little bit sexy disappeared with hot flash #191. My bed became a danger zone and I thrashed and bashed about as I attempt to sleep. My sheets are crumpled and rumpled and often on the floor in the morning. Sleeping through the night was and is a distant memory and when I looked in the mirror the woman gazing back at me is oddly familiar but just a shade off true. Am I really a middle-aged person? Where was I when this happened?
Then I was confronted with the ” menopausal decisions”:
Should I take hormones?
Can I live with hot flashes, interrupted sleep and the memory of a gnat?
What is happening to my bones?
What if I don’t take hormones?
Is my doctor up-to-date on all this stuff?
Will I ever sleep through the night again?
Why am I so tired during the day? (Hint – because I can’t sleep at night).
What to do with the menopausal pounds which have attached themselves to my once slender frame?
Do I need to make friends with the little pot belly who has moved in and set up house just south of my navel?
Should I paint my face blue to match my mood?
Why didn’t I notice before that my family and my friends are idiots?
Am I capable of violence?
Is it normal to think of my car as a weapon?
If I stand in the middle of a coffee shop and scream – will I get arrested or slapped in a straight jacket and medicated?
We’ve all seen the picture of the bedraggled woman in the rumpled house dress. The captions says simply – “I’m out of estrogen and I have a hand gun”. Need I say more about menopause? I studied the literature about it until I was totally confused, so I stopped reading every article on the subject that came across my path. I’m in year seven and still don’t know if I’m through it yet or if I ever will be. I tried hormones because my bones were deteriorating. They made the hot flashes go away and restored my sleep but played havoc with my body.
I put on 23 pounds in six months on hormones. I went off medication and started on a bone builder. My bones are now healthier and I’m slowly working away at the menopausal pounds. Some nights I sleep better than others. I’m coming to terms with the changes in my body – I’m slowly accepting (sort of) the fact that I will never again have the body I had at 40.
My spirit is strong and positive. I’m looking after my health. I’m making intelligent choices about my life. My sense of humour is always fully engaged because laughter is essential for my soul. I have a great home and career and am blessed with amazing friends. Life is quite excellent after menopause – I’m coming into myself as a woman. I’m capable of grand things, one of which is really liking the person I am. I don’t give a rat’s ass (I can’t believe I said that) about impressing anyone.
I’m getting involved with things outside my usual sphere of influence. I’ve picked two animal charities to support that matter to me personally. I’ve exhausted my need to acquire ‘stuff’ and am concentrating instead on learning more about topics that are significant to me. I know I’m a survivor, and that at my core I’m as strong as steel, but I’m learning to bend with the wind.
I’m discovering the art of “going with the flow of life”. I’m working hard but not sacrificing my personal time. I want to know that when I leave this earth, it will be a better place because I had a brief tenure here. ‘Menopause’ – you gave me your best shot, you treated my body like a science experiment, but you need to get up a lot earlier to keep this woman down. Change is inevitable – accepting it is a gift and – watch out, because I’ve only just begun!