Friday, February 25, 2011

Late

PS (as in pre-script): Guys, the following may be TMI for some of you, so you may want to skip this one. Better yet, read on and possibly gain a better understanding of women.

There are two ultra-important sentences in a woman’s life that we females all understand: “My period started,” and “My period is late.” They both have a number of meanings. The first, being said by a pre-teen or teenage girl, can mean that she’s getting her period for the first time – a monumental event that changes one’s outlook on who you are. It can also be a flat statement that means, for some, that activities need to be adjusted or curtailed. Finally, it can be said in disappointment during those years when a woman might be hoping to become pregnant or in relief if, during those years, she really doesn’t want to become pregnant. The second sentence can, again, be related to a possible pregnancy and is either a joyful statement, if pregnancy is desired, or a worried statement, if a pregnancy is not then wanted. For women my age, the sentence, “My period is late,” can be the clearest indication that menopause has actually begun.

There are many indicators of peri-menopause that women can experience for years before actually entering menopause: night sweats, hot flashes, dryness, but the absence of a period is a pretty good indicator that one’s hormones have made that big dramatic shift. With the exception of the onset of menstruation in a girl’s early teens and, possibly, pregnancy, the end of menstruation and the beginning of menopause are probably the most significant bodily changes a woman experiences during her lifetime. All three of these events, onset of periods, pregnancy and menopause carry with them enormous changes, both physical and mental. Physically, there are shifts made that one cannot control (at least without supplements) and mentally there are not only the myriad of emotional upheavals that happen because of the shifting hormones, but there are also the inevitable changes in self-perception and social definition – Who am I now?

I don’t know of any woman who won’t understand what I just wrote about in those last two paragraphs and, I thought, most men probably understand as well. I happen to be married to one of the all-time best men around. He’s understanding and patient; he considers my little foibles to be endearingly quirky; I would offer him up as an example for other men who want to be good husbands. And yet, two nights ago, when I cautiously confided, “My period is late,” his response sent me into a total tailspin. He looked at me, seeming somewhat confused, and said, “So what’s the big deal?” WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?!! For me, this confession was laden with meaning. For years, I’ve anticipated this event; I’ve thought about what it will mean. I'm already past the average age for the onset of menopause. Now, possibly, here it is and I’m feeling very emotional and my husband, my best friend, my man asks, “What’s the big deal?”

Once my tears had dried (yes, his question lead my emotions to overflow through my eyes) we had a little conversation about the importance to women of these kinds of changes and I think he better understands what this all means to me so that next time he won’t be asking me that type of uninformed question. Next time, because, well, my period started.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome back, Me!

I am an optimistic person by nature. I distinctly remember the Aha! Moment when I realized that not everyone goes through life with the same outlook I always have. In my previous life as a bank trust officer, I was even nicknamed Pollyanna. Even during periods of grief, I always felt that my most basic inner-self was happy and joyful. However, for the last year, my optimism has faded and my joy receded. Even though I so wanted to feel my heart sing, the music just wasn’t there. As month followed month, I began to believe that I truly had changed – that I was leaving the Pollyanna end of the spectrum and heading toward the Rosanne Barr end. This perceived change was playing havoc with me. It’s tough when you suddenly have to see yourself as a different type of person. I remember when a friend’s husband died unexpectedly and much too early (a much more serious event than any that’s happened to me). She told me that it was hard to now have to look at herself as a single person, not as part of a couple with the dreams and plans that couples make.

As I wrote in my last entry, I recently, unwittingly, found myself taking extra special care of someone in need – myself! Then, I took some advice from my husband about mentally compartmentalizing those thoughts and emotions that have been weighing me down. I mentally put them into a drawer, tucked in the edges that were trying to sneak out and I shut the drawer! Thursday afternoon, as we were driving to our youngest son’s basketball game and listening to the radio, I suddenly felt the music move within me. I felt the joy pushing itself out, creating a crack that grew bigger and bigger. Holding back tears I said to my husband, “I feel like dancing.” I think he knew that I didn’t mean the kind of dancing where you stand up and move your feet. On Friday the crack became a chasm and my inner joy spewed out. I drove around town on a mission of errands wearing a stupidly silly smile on my face. Welcome back, Optimism! Welcome back, Pollyanna! Welcome back, Me!

P.S. Lest this sounds too syrupy-sweet, this past year has changed me – you know, older and wiser and all that, but it’s good to know that deep down, I am still the optimistic person I always believed myself to be.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Taking Care of Baby

I’ve been a wife for 33 years, a mom for almost 30 years. I was an employee for 17+ years and I’ve been a volunteer for 15 years…then there was my mom and my mother-in-law who I took care of through their last days. I run the “family” business: scheduling, driving, shopping, cleaning, bill paying and record keeping – sometimes cooking. I’m currently in the middle of several projects along with thinking about what new path our lives might take as my husband plans his next professional steps. As I’ve mentioned here, I’ve been a bit stressed lately, but I’ve experienced a turnaround (see A New Year by Any Other Name). Sometime throughout this turnaround process, though, I realized that, even before my mind took a new direction, aka a new attitude, my body had already begun the process. After two weeks of what I thought was lethargy, I realized that what was really happening was that I was taking care of ME! I didn’t go into my office except to add the daily mail to the piles of projects and paperwork already there. I worked out more. I took walks and then took naps. I did the things that had to be done – kids to the orthodontist, watching their games, keeping a basic level of food in the house, but I didn’t do anything more. I worried that I was turning into a flakey person, one of those people who commits to doing something, but then doesn’t follow through. Then, late last week, after I’d already experienced my “new year” attitude and was back at work catching up on all that I had let slide, I had one of those Aha! Moments when I realized that I hadn't been in danger of becoming a flake; I hadn’t turned into a lazy person – I was simply giving myself time to renew. No longer having a mother to take care of me, I babied myself and I feel better for it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Buy the Red Car


Saturday evening my youngest daughter and I went out to dinner at her choice of restaurant – Panda Express. As we sat down at the table, I picked up the two fortune cookies off the tray and placed one in front of her. Then, I retracted it and put both in the middle of the table. I’d had a strong feeling toward one of the fortune cookies, so I wanted her to be able to choose the one she would like. She chose the one that wasn’t calling to me. When we finished eating, my daughter opened her fortune cookie. I don’t remember what it said, but it was a typical fortune cookie fortune: You’re grandest dreams will come true – or something like that. I then opened my fortune cookie and read out loud, “Buy the red car.” My daughter looked at me with a questioning expression and said, “Buy the red car? What does that mean?” I was stunned! Not only was this not a typical fortune cookie fortune, but also ‘buy the red car’ actually has meaning for me. My favorite color is red and I had always wanted a red car – until two years ago when I bought one, without much forethought, on my own (well, I actually had quite a bit of encouragement from my friend Jill, but I did the buying without my husband doing the negotiating for me) and I did it just because I wanted to; because I wanted a red car!

So, what stunned me about the fortune is that the term, ‘buy the red car’ means so much more than just ‘go out and purchase a new red vehicle’. Right now, when I’m struggling to figure out what happens next in my life, where my story goes, ‘buy the red car’ says to me that I need to follow my heart’s desire; I need to jump in and let the water splash around me. The problem is, I haven’t yet figured out what my heart desires or how I’ll find the time to follow it once I do figure it out. In the meantime, maybe I’ll give myself some time to think by taking a drive in my red car.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A New Year by Any Other Name

2010 was not the best year for me (and for several other folks I know), so I eagerly looked forward to the arrival of 2011. I knew that 2011 would be better. I knew that I would feel renewed. I knew that life would take an upward turn. Then, during the first week of the year, we got some disturbing news and a dear friend’s dad died. The following week my Ducks lost the National Championship game and I had to put down my dear dog, Czar. 2011 was not shaping up to be what I had expected. I haven’t exactly been wallowing in the lack of turnaround evidence, but I have felt just a little twinge of sadness that 2011 didn’t come in with the big bang of goodwill I had expected.

Then, this past Thursday, I had a revelation about some of the “stuff” that’s been going on. I felt a sense of gratitude for residual effects of some of that “stuff”. My heart and mind took a new direction. I then realized that it was Chinese New Year! January 1st wasn’t the New Year I had been waiting for – I should have been waiting for February 3rd! I know that the reality is that any day can be the first day of a New Year when that year is defined by our attitudes, thoughts and actions, but it’s nice to be able to give the New Year a name. Heck, if my insights had occurred on a nondescript day instead of on Chinese New Year, I could be entering the It Rained Outside and I Wore Red New Year.