Menopause- The Unfamiliar Room in My Own House

Breaking apart as a mirror

People usually write posts when they have something they need to say or something beautiful to explore (that’s my fav), or maybe when they feel passionate about highlighting a cultural change or injustice that needs exploration. But I am posting today because I don’t have answers on this topic. It feels uncomfortable. In the midst of menopause I feel like I’m standing in a room of my own house, but with a quizzical gaze. I’m in shock that I had no clue this room even existed. How can this be true? How can you live in a house for years and not know about a room? But this is exactly what menopause hormones seem to create. They blindside you with strange, hidden parts of yourself. I’m tempted to close and dead-bolt the door to that room so I can’t find myself in there again, but there’s no doorknob, no dead-bolt, no lock.

This room is filled with remnants- items I’ve used in the past line the walls. I see books and a fully decorated Christmas tree from years gone by. I see stacks of photo albums and used furniture. I hear music and snippets of conversations from my past. It’s all familiar, but yet uncomfortable. I tear up looking around. I don’t recognize the room, but I recognize the items. Strong emotions are ignited.

The season leading up to menopause has introduced parts of myself, (albeit exaggerated), to the “front of the class”.  It’s like jr high school on steroids. This awkward version of me standing up there in the front of the classroom; almost unrecognizable. I know I must make sense of her, love her, cheer her on. I know she’ll get through this, but probably not without battle scars. It is the oddest of things not to recognize yourself. Even more odd to recognize something, like the eyes, but nothing else looks familiar.

The unstable thoughts that hurl so quickly makes me ponder this phenomenon. Where did it even come from? What awfulness has happened to cause this? Paranoia, insecurity and lack of confidence seem magnified into unreal proportions. I keep saying “this isn’t really me”, all the while knowing that I must make friends with this awkward stranger in the mirror. The most unsettling thing is not how I “look”, but how I “feel”.

As a society we seem comfortable laughing at “hot flash jokes” (we gotta laugh so we don’t cry, right?) and have come to terms with a little “menopause crazy” (even I find this crazy a little funny at times). But… paranoia, anxiety and depression? No, we don’t like to talk about that. And I get it. It’s complicated, not so easy to fix and we feel too vulnerable to say those thoughts aloud.  I guess I should say, I feel vulnerable about that. I admire strength and tenacity, perseverance and hope. This feels like the opposite and so I breathe deeply, trying not to admit this force is something I have to deal with. I try to cry silently, rage quietly, pray fervently, desire honorably…but I’ll tell you, it’s been awfully hard.

So today, I’m trying a new and honest approach with menopause as I write about it “out loud”, not because I have answers but because I have questions. Feeling isolated is not a feeling you want to feed. So, I’m attempting to starve that awful feeling and send it shrinking in darkness. I am bringing something to “light” because don’t think I was designed for this (is that a problem? I don’t know) and yet I’m here, doing what I know to do—taking supplements and rubbing cremes, asking forgiveness, praying for patience and crying a bit more than I think a grown woman “should”.

So, there it is. Maybe you’ve felt alone in this hormone abyss. I hope you take some comfort that the mirrors are all lined up along the edge of the room and a there’s a bunch of us standing in shock not recognizing what we see before us. You’re not alone. Maybe writing it out loud will help someone be ready when it happens to them? I hope. People tell me this will pass. They said that phrase in pregnancy too. They were right. They said that about the children growing and going. They were right. They say there is another glorious side to this place. (patience is required). I hope they’re right.

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mud, snow and hope

snow mud hopeI roam the paths in each season and look for hope. It’s what I do-look for hope in change. Some days/seasons are easier than others. Remember when the tree was so vibrant and then the leaves began unattaching, falling and changing resting spots as the wind blew?. And I admit I was tempted like all the rest to see this as a loss. But when the leaf was almost dust, a lacy intricate shell, I found this change almost magical. I could see the hope in change.

And I do believe that Hope is worthy.

But today the path is only muddy, a mixture of snowmelt and dirt. The leaves that turned from vibrant color to the browny dust, is now diluted, being taken somewhere else, far from me it seems. Maybe it fills a little crevice in the rock? Maybe it finds the perfect resting spot? For all these reasons, I try to imagine.

I imagine because Hope is worthy.

I know in time I will see new growth appear when I gaze up to the sky. I will see green and not gray… but is it ok to feel the sadness of longing? Maybe feeling something gives this change the dignity it deserves?

I hope so. Hope is worthy.

My autumn hikes changed me. And frankly, I feel almost ruined by it now.  Oh, I know the winter stillness has it’s own lessons to teach, and I will eventually get into my seat and listen to the instructions, but I’m rebelling today, just standing in the back of the classroom with my arms crossed, daring the teacher to try. I miss my former teacher.

But deep down I know that Hope is worthy.

Maybe change holds up a mirror and shows us what love does to a soul? One taste and we are forever seeking just one more moment of cherishing and being cherished; one more moment where nothing else matters; one more collision of peace and ecstasy. And even though remembering stings and reminds me of something past, I choose to remember. I think to myself “to fight is to hope”. And…

Hope is worthy.

 

 

 

Go Find a Mirror

Maybe I’m beingmirror too open, too vulnerable? Maybe you don’t need to hear what I’m going to say? Scroll on. It’s ok.  Maybe I just need to say it. Posterity and all that.

About a month ago I found a lump in my right breast.  Just a blatant, defiant, 3 cm, hard, round…different than normal tissue. My stomach dropped. Fear looked me in the eye.

I have a dear friend that I’ve reconnected with just prior to this finding. She shared her breast cancer story with me. Brutal. Heart-wrenching. Courageous.  Many words come to mind.  Truth is, I didn’t want those words, even the “courageous” one. After many weeks of uncertainty, I finally got confirmation yesterday that this lump is a benign cyst. The doctor said something about menopausal hormones, and more things… and that these cysts do not turn into cancer. That was what I had been praying to hear. In the weeks of waiting, I have had some growing to do.

The theme of my life lately has been “content while contending”, one hand holding Thankfulness, the other hand holding Dreams. Both very true and alive and worth pursuing. (Never mutually exclusive by the way). So, here are my thoughts to those that care to hear. My lesson of “content while contending” in relation to what I think about my body.

Sometimes we can easily think of our bodies as an expression of ourselves instead of housing our true self.  What do I mean by that? We can let the image of our body steal from the reality of who we are at the core. That is the possible travesty. My dad has always said “pretty is as pretty does” reminding us that our actions make us beautiful. or not. But in our culture, the appearance of our body has a high value. I guess I’m saying that we can be stripped of this “expression” (body) so easily. Aging, illness, injury…can take this perception and leave us feeling empty. expressionless.  I have wrestled because I think the body should be celebrated. Not idolized, but appreciated as the gift it is; a life holder. So, I have been confronted with my disgruntled attitude. about my body.  I’ve made comments about what I would change if I could. Not once while thinking I might have breast cancer did I bemoan that I would like to have my boobs any different.  Not once.

If someone asks you the question, “what would you physically change about yourself if you could?  What would you say?  I had my list. Do you have yours? Here’s my big advice. Burn the list. Destroy it. Purposefully find a place for it’s ashes. Trust me these lists just creep back up and create opportunity for daily burial ceremonies and ash throwing. 

We need to let the truth sink deep. Our body is beautiful.  Intricate. phenomenal. Whether we’re 5, 12, 21, 46  🙂 or 97. I’m daring us to stand naked in front of our bathroom mirror and smile.  Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror with kindness? Not allowing criticism.  You can actually do that. Take in the beauty of every part of you. The strength, the softness, the giving power. Stay there until you are looking at yourself with admiration, awe, and thankfulness. (I can see it now, toddlers and maybe even husbands knocking at the bathroom door to see what is taking you so long in there?) Just stay. Stay through the tears.  Stay through the angst. I have a theory that in this exact mindset, we will choose to be kinder to our bodies, choose wiser for our nutrition, exercise harder because we’re ADDING to health and beauty , and not because we are pursuing illusive beauty that fades with the next commercial (that changes the definition).

There are women who have had mastectomies, parts of them cut away in an effort to cling to life.That is beauty in it’s highest form – sacrifice. There are people who have lost limbs, eyesight, hearing, movement…they are very aware of the gifts our bodies give to us. Loss does that. accentuates truth. bores deep into ourselves what we need to know. They also will look into the mirrors too and find the Beauty and see. It is always there.

So my dears who long to love more deeply,  start with how you love and care for your own body. Go find a mirror.