Here I Stand....

"Standin' on the edge of something much too deep
It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, but we can't be heard..." Sarah McLachlan, I Will Remember You

....will you join me?

I started this blog a few years ago when I was on the threshold of menopause. Now that I've passed through that particular gate, I found two more awaiting me... one called "Divorce" and the other "Breast Cancer." This is my journey through both.

I appreciate the company of friends.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Empty Nest

Little Libby's off to college.  We took her there on Friday.  The move went like clockwork - it helps that Libby's three older sibs all attended the same school.  Both my oldest daughter and my son knew exactly where we were going and the lay of the land when we got there.  We met her roommate and her family, who seemed like nice people with an older son already esconced in an off-campus apartment.  

At 3:45, as we were mostly finished unpacking, a Resident Advisor came to the door.  She reminded the girls they had a meeting on the quad at 4:15.  Then she looked at us.  "Parents should probably start walking over to the Convocation if you're staying for it.  It's quite a long way.  You can meet up with your student at the barbecue after.  If you're staying for it."

Libby wanted me to stay.   I told her I was willing but that I really didn't think she needed me to stay.  It was time for her to look forward, not back.  Then her roommate's family said they were leaving.  If we left, Libby and her roommate would start off on the very same footing. 

Libby looked at me.  "I think this is a good chance for you and your roommate to get to know each other," I said. 

She looked at her big sister.  "I have to get home to Jake and Grace," said Katie. 

She looked at her big brother.  "Lib," said Jamie.  "It's Friday night." 

Thirty one years of motherhood has taught me a lot of when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, and when to walk away.  "It's a real good chance, honey," I whispered as I hugged her goodbye.  "You'll do just fine." 

The car felt emptier than it's felt in a long long time as I drove off.   And I felt a way I haven't in thirty-one years.   

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today's the Day... in Move Libby Into College Day.  Two of Libby' siblings- her biggest sister Kate and her big brother Jamie, who fortunately has remained a big brother at least in relation to Libby - are coming to help.   The fact that a hurricane named Irene is bearing down on the state adds an extra soupcon of I'm not quite sure what. 

Students at colleges closer to the shore line are being told to evacuate once they've moved their stuff in, but Storrs, CT, just happens to be one of the most geographically safe places in the northern hemisphere.  And we already had an earthquake last week. 

But today...whatever the weekend and Irene beautiful.  The sun's rising in long golden spears of light, the mist is rising off the ponds.  The birds are calling, the roses are blooming, the world is lush and ripe and beckoning.  I'm feeling rested and strong - all that good eating and those other healthy practices are paying off in terms of energy and awareness.

And I am about to get my life back in a way I haven't had it in more than three decades.  No wonder a hurricane is roaring up the East Coast in a way one hasn't in over fifty years. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

...And Mind Malfunctions

I distinguish a senior moment from a mind-malfunction.  They're what I call when I pound up or down the steps or stride into a room with great purpose, only to realize once I arrive at my destination I have no idea what I'm there for.  Although feeling like I've fallen into a black hole in my head is annoying, it doesn't bother me to the extent the senior moment I described yesterday. 

Mind malfunctions happen when I'm trying to think of more than one thing at once.  As one reader has already pointed out, this can happen to mothers a lot.  The antidote seems to be to slow down and stop trying to multitask.  There's nothing wrong with not zipping around like Speedy Gonzales (if that doesn't date me, I don't know what does) - its just antithetical to the way our culture spurs us to live our lives.  There's nothing wrong with rejecting the multi-tasking path; it's just not encouraged. 
What I was talking about yesterday was something all together different.  When I walk into a room and can't remember why I'm there, I just retrace my steps back to the point where I was before I decided I needed or wanted whatever it is.  Forgetting who wrote Madame Bovary was an entirely different kind of experience.  There was no place to go back to.... it was simply something I knew I knew....and couldn't retrieve. 

It was, I would imagine, something like what an Alzheimer's patient might feel in the early stages.  You know you know what the object in front of you is and what you use it for.  You just can't remember what. 

So... you might wonder.  What have I done it since?  After my moment of panic subsided - because, after all, one senior moment does not an Alzheimer's patient of us make - I decided to take a long look at what the culture tells me to do about it, and what I was going to do about it - if anything.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Senior Moments

I didn't understand what a "senior moment" was until I had one myself. 

It was terrifying, in a weird sort of way because I knew exactly what was going on and what I wanted to remember; I simply couldn't summon the information out of Data Central.  It happened one morning between feeding the dogs and emptying the dishwasher, when it suddenly occured to me I couldn't remember who wrote Madame Bovary. 

Oh, you may say, what's the big deal?  After all, most people probably forget who wrote Madame Bovary as soon as they toss the book into the used book pile for donation to the library sale.  But I know stuff like that.  I remember stuff like that. Flaubert was said to have spent afternoons pondering the placement of a comma, which always makes me feel better whenever I'm stuck in the upteenth revision of whatever it is I'm working on. 

And the worst part was... I couldn't jog it out of my memory, either.  The dogs finished their breakfast and looked up at me, ready to go out.  I put down my dish towel, and where my mind used to be was a big black blank.  I stared at the dogs, racking my mind.  I know this, I said to myself over and over.  I know it. 

I would swear to you I heard my dog Buddy say - in my mind's ear of course - It begins with an F - but if I told you that, you'd think I wasn't only forgetful, but crazy as well.  At any rate, painful letter by painful letter, I dragged the name F-L-A-U-B-E-R-T out of my muddy mind and have resolved never to miss a game of Jeopardy, if I can remember to watch it, of course, again. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jane Fonda takes testosterone... say it ain't so!

That was the headline screaming across my news banner this afternoon.  I remember when Jane Fonda was my leotard'd and leg-warm'd idol, back in the days when I was desperate to get my post-babies body back. 

So I clicked on the link and found that the 80's Queen of Lean n' Mean owed much of her sculpted form and physical appearance to an artificial hormone.  I'm so glad I stopped listening to Jane Fonda.  Imagine all the time and effort I might've wasted if I'd been trying to look like her - especially if I were in my 70's.  Imagine all the people who have.  It makes me wonder what she was really taking back in the days of her exercise videos.  It seems that if she's lying now, she quite possibly started lying then.   But it's not Ms. Fonda's use of hormones that really alarms me; its what she was taking them for. 

I don't understand this tie we assume that hormones have to interest in sex.  I discovered my equipment when I was still too young to know what it was, and too young to even understand the sensations involved were pleasure.  But everything worked swimmingly when I was three and four and five and there were no hormones to speak of in my body at that point.  I see no reason why everytinng shouldn't continue to work swimmingly... assuming of course, I don't stop using it.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Whiter Shade of Gray

When you start going gray in your teens, you realize almost immediately the color of one's hair must have absolutely no correlation with who someone really is. 

My mother found my first white hair when I was thirteen.  I remember the moment as if it were yesterday, so frozen in time is it.  Oh, my God, she said, in same tone she might've used if it were a louse, you have a white hair.  A perfectly white hair.  Just like Roey.   She plucked it out and held it up, between her thumb and forefinger, so that I might see it, glistening in the light. 

Just like Roey meant just like my mother's mother, who went prematurely gray in her 20's and with whom my mother waged what I fondly recall as The Great War of my Childhood.   To be seen by my mother in any way to be like my grandmother was a fate to be avoided at all costs.  But there it was... the damning evidence of my own genes, sparkling before my eyes.  The realizaton that there was nothing that I was ever going to be able to do about this and that year by year my own hair would betray me fell around me like an albatross.  

When white hair is weighted by a sense of parental rejection, getting upset about a few gray strands as a consequence of getting older seems almost laughable.  It's not I don't sympathize; it's simply that by the time I was 18, my hair was so noticeably gray in places, one friend's mother asked me where I had it frosted.  So if we were to talk about the "real color" of my hair, by my twenties, it was steel gray.  The original color - the one I was born with and which I struggled mightly to hang on to through my thirties - was a dark brown so dark it looked black until the light shone on it. 

I gave up when I turned forty.  My hair is simply too white.  Two weeks after a touchup, the white strip on either side of my part reminded me of a skunk.  I decided to take the plunge and let it go.  Maybe, I reasoned, my hair wasn't prematurely anything...maybe it had turned the color it was supposed to be right on schedule.  And I was the one who was getting in the way. 

So I quit.  The adventure of that is another story all together because I didn't want to do the sensible thing and just cut my hair.  (I've been avoiding doing sensible things all my life.. why would I start at 40?)  But I don't regret it.  Although my hair, like I myself bear some similarities to my grandmother, my hair is its own color, in the same way I'm who I am.  How do you get it so white, a friend asked me, a long time ago, when the real color had finally grown in. 

It's just the way it grows, I laughed. 

To Color or Not to Color: THAT is the question

What side of the line do you fall? 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not By the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin or,

Tweezers are really a girl's best friend. 

I had to chuckle when one reader shared in a comment that the new row of hairs along her chin made her feel as woolly as a wombat. 

 I was prepared to go gray.  My mother found my first white hair when I was 13, and by the time I was 30, my hair was a steel gray that a hairdresser told me was most unbecoming.  By the time I decided to stop coloring my hair - the year I turned 40 - I was so gray (or white) that the line running down my head on either side of my scalp made me look like a skunk. 

But around the same time I noticed my eyebrows turning white, I noticed that among the peach fuzz growing on my chin were black hairs and a couple thick white ones that if I saw them on my husband's face, I'd call (gulp) whiskers.  

As a teen I'd tried hair remover creams and bleach...they were all smelly and stung.  My mother's injunction against shaving one's face prevents me from trying a razor.  Waxing is fine, but I don't want to spend all my time at the salon.  

Hence my new respect for tweezers.  They keep the stubble between waxes at bay and me feeling that my chin is still smoother than those of the three little pigs.  

How about you, readers? Do you have more hair....or less?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Happened Next

It wasn't so much what happened next; it was really what had been happening for quite a while. 

I began to notice changes in my body's behavior starting around 45.   Some of these changes however, were related to behaviors I could control.  For example, although in my late 30's I had been an avid runner and gym rat - one might even say I was an exercise addict - by 2003 I'd quit exercising almost altogether.  

Why?  By 2003, the circumstances of my life which had given rise to the intensity of my physical activity, had more or less dissipated.  When I paused to take stock of what had both prompted the exercise and then what made it stop, I realized that running and weightlifting had been my way of coping with the extreme stress of my incredibly brutal divorce and the protracted struggles that followed it. 

In 1995, my now ex-husband reacted badly when I filed for divorce after nearly 15 years of physical and emotional abuse.  A lawyer, he was doing everything in his power to make life as difficult as he could for me and our children, legally and financially.   Running and weight-lifting made me physically strong, which helped me feel mentally and emotionally strong.  They also channeled my agression and my frustrations into something beneficial. 

But by 2003, the war he had launched was mostly mitigated when my children and I moved in with the man who is my husband now.  When the pressure ceased, so did my need to exercise. 

So I stopped. 

It took me awhile to fall apart, but by the time I was 45, I was definitely feeling the effects.

This was what I noticed:

1.  Weight gain
2.   Muscle loss (duh)
3.  Moodiness and hormone swings
4. Migraines
5. Loss of energy and focus

What did you notice, dear companions? 

Welcome and thank you... my first ten followers :)!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What I Didn't Want: not-so-wise words from a not-so-wise woman

"You're going to feel like shit," she shrieked through the telephone.  "Unless you do something."  Do something as in take the bio-identical hormones Suzanne Somers swears by.  "She" was a fairly recent acquaintance, who didn't know me well enough to know how absolutely freakishly immobile I can become any time I'm told there's something I "must" do. 

My response is usually a silent "we'll see about that."  I had happened to share with this new friend that I blamed a recent spate of migraines on hormones and the weather.  But both would pass and I was confident I would feel fine in a few days.  That's when she began to extol the virtues of Bio-Identical hormones.  That's when I politely opined I preferred to be guided by my body.  That's when she - ordained minister, self-proclaimed theologian, international traveler, among other things - turned into a harpy. 

A few years ago, I had tried to add more soy to my diet, after reading and hearing about all the benefits to be reaped.  Soy left me with a mostly metallic taste in my mouth.  It didn't make me feel good.  At best it made me feel weirdly hollow. My body knew I was trying to trick it.  So when my new friend clued me in to her own fear of growing old - I could hear it in the timbre of her voice - I had to think about if Suzanne Somers was the person I wanted to pattern my behavior after. 

I have nothing against Ms. Somers.  As an actress, she entertained me.   But when I look at her now, and I mean no offense, she doesn't look like someone I want to look like.  And I don't believe that a woman's body needs to have things "replaced" or levels "maintained."  The way I looked at it, this is a change my body has adapted to go through.  All of the older women I knew - my grandmother and my aunts  and my mother - lived lives that seemed just fine without much artificial enhancement by today's standards at all.  Why would I want to hang on to something nature had designed me to stop?  

This was my attitude about childbirth, after all.   I've given birth to four children, all without so much as a bullet to bite on.  Admittedly, my labors were relatively fast - the longest was the first and that only lasted a textbook twelve hours.  But mostly what kept me grunting and groaning and huffing and humming was my sheer aversion to hospitals, needles and medical personnel in general unless I decide they're necessary. 

But as I said to my father, who was amazed by my ability in this regard, all I felt I had to do was get out of the way.  I reasoned then that a billion years or more of evolution had gone into the design of my body, that humans had been birthing humans since before we called ourselves "human."  I knew that if I could trust that my body somehow knew exactly what to do - in the same way a dog mother knows what to do - everything would go the way it was supposed to go.   

Well, said my father, it sure worked well for you. 

What I really heard in my friend's voice was fear.. and not so much fear of getting older...more like fear of losing youth.  And that's what I see on the frozen Barbie faces of the public figures who are clearly engaged in an all out war on Time.  

Maybe it's easier for me to contemplate giving up my youth because I did some really dumb things when I was younger. What youth has going for it is the fabulous body but no one appreciates it while it's at its meridian.  I see that in my own girls, but that's another post. 

But my body has served me well.  I've had a lot of fun with it.  It really hasn't ever let me down.  Sooner or later, no matter what I look like, I'm going to have to die.  Why would I want to torture myself into trying to look forever 35? 

So I decided that despite my friend's heart-felt warning, I would do what I do best ....which is nothing.  

And to wait  and see what happened next.  Blessed Be.   

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Wise books for Wise Women

All my life I've lived in books. 

I realize now that from the time I was a child, the voices I heard in books were as authentic to me as the voices from the people around me.  It still feels that way.

Long before I embarked on this menopausal journey, I discovered a book called The Wise Wound.  If you have not encountered this book before, I urge you to track it down and read at least a chapter or two.  When I read it, in my twenties, it both affirmed things that I had always felt to be true deep within my body, and enabled me to understand the cycles of my body in a whole new way.  I hope its perspective enabled me to offer my daughters an even more reasonable understanding of their periods than my mother had offered me.  (And my mother, Goddess bless her, as a nurse, did a great job.)

So when I began to feel changes in the mostly regular tides of my body, I turned to books for wisdom.  These listed below are just a few of the ones I found to be the most helpful - I welcome suggestions from you for more:

Susun Weed, The New Menopausal Years
Paula M. Reeves, Phd, Women's Intuition
Diann Sylvan, The Body Sacred
Carol L. McClelland Phd, Seasons of Change
Elizabeth Owens, Women Celebrating Life

Blessed be.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Honoring Hecate

Tonight, I gathered roses.  I plucked all the heads of the dead and dying roses as the gray sky darkened above the trees.... a crone's sky if ever I saw one.  There's a full moon somewhere behind all the clouds tonight, but Hecate is the goddess of the Dark Moon.  The dark gray blank above my head felt right, somehow, as ashen and dull as the face of a hag. 

I carried my roses, white and pink, scarlet and purple, trailing petals, down to the place where the driveway bridges a brook.  Whoever built this house had some sense of how energy with a capital E works - one must cross running water at least twice to reach the house.  On the bridge, on the driveway, in that place which is neither one place nor another, neither fully earth or air or water, but merely serves as the connecting space between two places, I left my offering of roses. 

I stood awhile, offering my intention, listening to the silence.  When I was ready to go back to the house, I turned to see the how those loose petals I'd dropped before spread out like a bridal path.  

Blessed be.

Eight months, ten days

That's how long it's been since I bled.  My last period began on my fifth wedding anniversary; the one before that on the summer solstice.  I knew I was supposed to pay attention to that one: it coincided with the conception of my granddaughter who was born on my birthday.

I never lack for signs, but I haven't always paid attention as closely as I should.  I want to change that.  This blog is part of that intention. 

Today is the feast of Hecate, goddess of the crossroads, gateways and trash.  In the trinity of Goddesses I honor, she is the Crone, the one who stands beside the final gate.  As I peer through this one, I can see that last one faintly outlined, taking shape.  It doesn't exactly please me, but it doesn't exactly terrify me either.  I'm  more afraid of what the manner of my death might be, than actually dying.  

So here I stand, perched on the final physical passage of my body before its last.  And what I see is a land littered by terrified women clinging to their youth on one hand and a lot of very graceful, beautiful women living rich and vibrant lives on the other.  I'm sure you know on which side of the divide I intend to fall. 

Today I dedicate myself to the journey.  Blessed be.