I have never been a fan of my plumbing. From the day my mother handed me a little booklet with characters out of a John, Jean and Judy book explaining the “exciting and wondrous miracle puberty”, I pretty much knew that girls got more than their fair share of the short end of God’s stick. It starts with not being able to be an altar-boy and just goes down hill from there. I think I was in sixth grade. Not quite twelve. And big for my age. So, my mother assumed, incorrectly I might add, that it was time to bring me up to speed on the whole menstruating thing. As it turned out, I didn’t start having a regular cycle until the beginning of eighth grade and that my greatest source of information about getting my period was not my mother, who’d had a hysterectomy before I was even born and hadn’t ever had what one could call a “normal” cycle, or the charming pamphlet or even the 1960-ish filmstrip presentation the sisters at my school inflicted on all the girls when they reached a “certain age”. No, like most things to do with the nether regions of my body – I learned what I needed to know from my peers. A dubious source of information to be sure but one that has stood the test of generations of young people everywhere. That is to say – the near-blind leading the legally so.
Now that I have once again reacher “a certain age”, I am finding that my peers are once again the leading edge of information as I wander, sometimes willingly and sometimes resentfully, into the valley of the shadow of menopause.
Ironically, it is my husband who has supplied me with much of my current information as he as been down this path, so to speak, before with his late wife. All manner of natural supplements have been suggested for my own good and his comfort. Black Cohosh and red clover for hot flashes, he thinks. The hot flashes are mainly a night time thing right now and only around that time of the month. Too much information? The change is like any other phase in a woman’s reproductive and sexual existence. When it is in season, it is fair game for conversation. That’s why preteens obsess about their breasts and when they will get their firs period and teens and twenty somethings can think and talk of little else but sex. It’s why married women suffer, loudly, about baby hungry and pregnant women will divulge the most intimate (and disgusting) information to anyone without even being asked for it. Labor and Delivery stories, breast-feeding adventures, and the big C of life – we are arguably more fascinated with our bodies than any man could ever be.
I am technically not menopausal. I know this because I was having issues last spring and my wonderful doctor did blood tests and had an ultra-sound done just to make sure that nothing more sinister was afoot (which caused a fair degree of worry for both Rob and I because we are now firmly in the camp of “it can happen to us” because it has). As it turned out I am just experiencing that long and winding down part of the reproductive years. From my reading, I know that it can take up to a decade to wind down to the point of actual menopause and that your best predictor for a time frame is the age at which your mother and grandmother stopped unwinding and ground to a halt. Being adopted, I don’t have that information. But, given that I was about 42ish when I first noticed things starting to change, then 52ish is a good guess. That’s eight years. Good God. That is a heck of a long time to wait for the demise of something I have never been all that fond of in the first place, and the list of symptoms that I am/could experience just bring up the short stick thing I mentioned earlier. One of the symptoms I noticed on the list was memory and concentration problems. Oh great. First it is PG brain, then mommy brain, followed by caregiver brain and then widow-brain. Top these last six years off with the hormonal (or lack thereof) induced thinking blips caused by peri and definitely menopause and by the time I am in my “right” mind again I will be too far gone in senior “moments” to notice.
Until recently, the whole aging thing hadn’t been a big deal to me. I look a tad younger than most of my peers – which I attribute to good genes and a near shunning of the sun when I was a teen and in my youngest adult years (fat girls don’t wear bathing suits). But, the white hair is getting harder to hide with just highlights and the physical things I once did without thinking need to be thought about it, and I am not sure that when you throw hormonal imbalance on top of this that I am as indifferent to getting old as I have been in the past. Rob is always talking about having this finite number of “good” old age years. As he sees it, one can still be okay – as in fit and healthy – enough to do as they would like during the 50’s and into the 60’s but that one gets maybe about 15 years max once you reach the top of the hill and round over. That is so depressing and what is worse is that I appear to be under the elder Boomer delusion that I will still be functional as a 70+ year old. Of course, perhaps I will. I read an article in the Globe yesterday about a couple of studies down with centenarians that determined it is not simply good genes that help people live into their 90’s and hit the 100 mark. Lifestyle is key as well and that they really can’t say when it is too late to improve one’s lifestyle.
It is not easy. Undoing the damage of caregiving and the stresses of the last years. Going on six now since Will’s first troubling symptoms began. I have started Yoga and I find that if I ignore the Mahareshi side of it I enjoy it quite a bit. I walk. I even have Rob walking. I can run again but try not to overdo it as it is hard on my knees. I lift weights. Heavy ones. I am Zena. I am a near total vegan but I need to work on the fruit thing. I hate out of season fruit. It’s squishy during the winter. How can anyone think about putting squishy fruit in her mouth without gagging?
Perhaps I will do okay. 102 is a good age to shoot for, don’t you think. One can’t set too lofty a goal where living is concerned, in my opinion.