fitness

A menopausal inquiry: the start of a series

I wrote a post in 2018 about being 53 and still menstruating, and every month when Sam looks at the top ten most read posts on the blog, it shows up. (Well, along with one on upskirt shots that clearly isn’t being search from a feminist lens. But that’s another story).

For a while now, I’ve basked in the pride of being a Menstruator Emeritus, having periods well into my mid-50s. But my reign with this particular sash is coming to an end: I’m turning 56 in three weeks, and I haven’t had a period since September. That doesn’t mean I won’t have another one, but it’s definitely a signal that things have changed.

Photo of fan by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

What I have had is constant hot flashes, disrupted sleep, and a special kind of aphasia where I can’t remember names. (I had to google the name of our previous provincial premier the other day, the first out queer premier in Canada, a woman whose farewell convention I went to last March, a woman I almost named my cat after). I wake up with sweat dripping down my back. I invested in two expensive Dyson fans, one in my bedroom and one next to my desk. I’m the woman in bare feet and tank tops deep into a Canadian winter. I am still having steady, weird cramps related to changing hormones.

So, true to form, I’m going to do a little inquiry into menopause and what it means at this moment in history. This is the start of a series over the next few weeks, structured around the ideas in this book: The Slow Moon Climbs. In it, Susan Mattern argues that menopause has historically been seen as a powerful, transitional time to a new phase of life. When we medicalize it, we pathologize it. There’s a good discussion of the book on this CBC Ideas podcast.

I’m going to read the book (the publisher gave me a review copy), and write about it one chapter at a time. (It’s a LONG book, and the first chapter seems to be all about Genghis Khan). I’m going to explore other books about power in post-menopausal life, like Women Rowing North and The Last Gift of Time.

A lot of the writing about post-menopausal life presumes a traditional earlier life of marriage, cis-femaleness wifehood, motherhood, and looks at one’s 50s and 60s as a reprieve from those roles. That’s not my experience and nt my life story. But I do think this is about a new space in life. I want to look closely at what does it mean to shape middle and older age with meaning, with intention, with continued fitness and strength. Like these folks at the Feisty Menopause podcast, whose motto is “it’s time to hit play, not pause.”

Most of all, I will explore what it means to me. I made a comment to a friend that if I’d known September might be my last period, I might have done something ritualistic. I joked about “burying the last tampon,” and I didn’t exactly mean it, but I felt a kind of loss that I hadn’t marked this moment.

So I’m investigating.

What do you want to know about menopause? What are you experiencing? What are you afraid of? What are you looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to exploring with you!

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who is spending a lot of time in barefoot inversions in Toronto right now. This series will be tagged #makingmeaningofmenopause

Sat with Nat

Nat is definitely experiencing peri menopause

A year ago I stood in the family planning isle of the pharmacy staring at pregnancy tests. It had been 40 days since my last period. For 4 years I had fastidiously tracked my periods in a phone app. They clustered tightly between 21 & 31 days. Oh to know then that those variations were a tightly clustered data set.

On the one hand I was 44 with a tubal ligation 17 years earlier and my partner had a vasectomy around the same time. On the other hand, statistically, it was highly unlikely I was pregnant but it wasn’t a zero chance so I needed to check.

I wasn’t pregnant but it was my first skipped period that signaled the start of a year where the time between periods oscillated wildly from 18 to 52 days. There’s no planning around that data set.

My mood started to mirror these fluctuations and my sex drive skyrocketed while I also was fed up with everyone and could cry at any moment. It has been tumultuous times.

The unpredictable periods, sometimes so heavy it interfered with exercise, activities or even leaving the house were coupled with many other symptoms.

I started laughing recently when a Canadian sketch comedy show Baroness Von Sketch posted a short about peri menopause. It’s hilarious. Also at many junctions the protagonist asks “I don’t know, is it? No, it couldn’t. I still <insert young life affirming thing>”

It basically narrates the past year. But nothing is more compelling or persuasive than the graph of my period frequency.

A line graph showing a big mountain of period variations after many years of tightly clustered data.

Oh yes, I’m definitely in the peri menopause now friends. Some great advice from my friend & colleague Patti was to embrace the tumultuous times, just like I did when I was pregnant.

I’m trying. 😀

And I’m letting go of any expectations that exercise will transform my body or make it youthful. It’s simply a way to support my health & mobility while sometimes allowing me to appreciate what my body can do.