How to Survive Menopause


What’s the big deal? Every woman must welcome the time in her life when she doesn’t have to carry tampons in her purse or plan around her monthlies. I’m ready for the freedom that menopause can bring to my life. I just didn’t realize everything else that comes along with being fifty-four years old. I’ve been in perimenopause for a few years now. I’ve read the articles, talked to my older women friends, and thought I was prepared. Well, it’s kind of like when your birthing contractions start and you think “No problem. I can handle this!” You have absolutely no idea what kind of roller coaster ride you’re on. Maybe that’s not the best analogy. Menopause is more like being on a ferris wheel with pieces of machinery that keep falling off. First the operator goes on break, then the safety bar comes apart, then the ride speeds up, slows down, stops, speeds up again…

My body feels like that ferris wheel. I gained weight around the middle, have inexplicable hot flashes, wander around the house at night wide awake, forget the names of good friends, am impatient with nearly everyone, and am losing my place in the world.

If I were the only one in crisis, I could probably manage. But nature has conspired against me. My husband happens to be going through his own change of life. The symptoms are less visible, and maybe even harder to cope with for their inner, subtle nature. My mother-in-law, who is 89, is a challenging mixture of 3-year old mentality, 2-year old stubbornness and wizened elder. Did I mention stubborn?

My younger son, Sean, is trying out the model of living at home, but not living at home. He is seventeen and usually very responsible and tuned in to the family dynamics. But right now during summer break, he drops in only occasionally. When I’m prowling the house at 2am, I check downstairs to see who is sleeping there. It may be just the dog on the couch, or just the dog and Sean, or several boys sprawled out in that sweet way teenagers, even the most macho, have of letting go completely.

Maybe it is a blessing that the people I love are all going through a metamorphosis at the same time. My son is turning into a man and my mother-in-law is turning back into a child, letting go of her adult self in preparation for the biggest unknown. My husband and I are simply trying to keep pace.

I think, maybe, I’m finally understanding what it means to be a human being. I can witness first hand, and actually begin to appreciate, the design that forces us to change. Comfort and continuity are not to be taken for granted. Change is not to be fought against, but to be expected.

So where does all of this leave me? Learning what my body needs today to support balance. Taking my herbal tincture from Dr. Mary at the Wholeness Center. Napping in the afternoon when I can and not feeling guilty. Letting those around me have their experience without my attempts to control. Learning to breathe again and to just leave it at that.