Now that I have found myself in one of the many stages of menopause, a memory from my first year of teaching elementary school keeps coming to mind. The gal across the hall from me was my age now. She'd often come over and say, "I had an accident. Can you see anything on the back of my skirt?" I was of course helpful, but in my 23 year old head I was saying, "Geez, at your age you would think you had the whole period thing figured out." HA! Life has come to bite me in the butt. What I am figuring out is that menopause is much like going through puberty all over again. Your period chooses not to follow a predictable schedule, your physical body becomes unrecognizable, and your hormones have a life of their own. No matter what the temperature outside, I am always overheated in the morning. I take my coat off in class, complain about how unbearably hot the classroom is, then remember to look up and see that most of my students are still in their coats bundled up. Okay, it's me, not the heat.
Going through a major life change is not easy, that's for sure, but it's not all terrible. Once Margaret started her period she would automatically join "the group". Menopause is no different. You instantly feel connected to the middle aged woman in a crowd who is also fanning herself non-stop. While puberty left you feeling insecure about all your new feelings, the stages of menopause bring a certain calm. You have "been there, done that" enough times that you know what you want and generally how to get it. You have begun to enter the "bitchy old lady" stage (I often tease my mom that she is solidly in this stage) where you aren't afraid to go after what you want or tell people how you feel. You realize you don't have time for things in life that bog you down and zap your energy. Perimenopause, which I guess technically is where I am right now, is a very reflective stage. You take time out of your day to appreciate the little things. You have satisfaction that your children are growing up well and you were a huge part of that process. You now have quiet nights alone with your husband which might be a little odd at first, but something you quickly grow to love. So, maybe in the end, the benefits outweigh the annoyances and I just need to remember to go heavy on the deodorant and avoid buying the nice snugly sweaters and instead opt for cool breathable shirts.
*My mom bought me a box set of Judy Blume's books for Christmas one year. I remember reading non-stop and feeling such a connection to the characters, even if their experiences were quite different than mine. In 6th grade, I read "Forever" and passed it around the classroom for others to read. It was conficated and I never got it back. We used to joke that our strict elderly teacher was secretly reading it during recess. Love my Blume year memories.