I celebrated my fifth decade by performing a one-woman show entitled "Mime in Mental Pause." I wasn't there yet. But I was ready. Unrelenting pain, blood clots, and ruined panties were not fun, no matter how I adjusted my attitude. The universe noticed and took pity. Soon after my 50th birthday my periods diminished with barely a moan. I think it was the soy.
I do not regret being past child bearing age. I'm content to view it from afar...or close up when my daughter pops the babies out. I thought it would bother me to see her in pain, but it doesn't. I am either slightly sadistic or just happy to have grandchildren. But not once did I wish to trade places.
With the perspective of a few years free of "Auntie Flow" there is something I miss. I miss the power of "PMS" (Pre Menstrual Sinfulness) I did not need to announce I had it. My husband watched for it. There were times I cried easy and long and hard. When asked what was wrong my tongue jumped out and slapped him upside the head. Never mind what happened when he didn't ask.
After I detected a shift in the earth's orbit and said we’d all be dead in three days so we didn't need to renew our life insurance, my husband asked if my period was coming. I chastised his sexist remark and he apologized. Two days later I hid the tampon dispensers at the bottom of the trash. He caught me with a heating pad under the blanket. He’s a good man and never said “I told you so”, but he isn’t perfect. He smiled too much.
A couple years ago my daughter-in-law invited me to a women's gathering. I was the only post menopausal woman there and the topic was our periods. We shared how we learned about it, our first one and embarrassing moments. The stories were funny and sad and what I expected until a young woman said she loved her periods. Really. Just loved them. She felt a oneness with all women. She meditated on this life giving essence and was thankful for her role. She felt creative and spirit filled during this time. She did not mask the pain. She welcomed it. Other women nodded agreement. I laughed. And then told my stories of fainting and trips to emergency rooms and my gratitude to be done with them. They exchanged amused glances I recognized from my youth, when I respected elders but knew they didn't understand...and never could.
They were wrong. I do understand. What this woman expressed is the way it once was. Thinking about it makes me want a "do over", but only if I can have a moon lodge.
In Native American tradition there was a special lodge for women in their periods. Other women cared for their children and cooked for their husbands. They brought her favorite food, then circled the lodge and prayed for her. She was free from work, could rest, talk with spirits and create. She returned with new songs and geometric designs and renewed energy.
Western observers surmised the women were involuntarily isolated and considered unclean. It was never that. When asked, the medicine men explain women have a "built in" purification process. Men put themselves through sacred ceremonies to attain what women have naturally. Women in their moon cycles do not participate in sacred ceremonies because their power is too strong. It’s been known to send spirits running and crashing into things.
Without periods my life is balanced and calm. Maybe too calm. I miss not knowing what thoughts may scream their way past polite filters. The power of that made me feel beautiful. I knew I wasn’t. When pimples erupt on a middle aged face you don't claim outer beauty. But there were moments I felt like a warrior woman. She was magnificent. I wish I had honored her more, instead of reaching for the Pamprin®.
Of course there is still time. My warrior woman didn't die with PMS. She morphed into Big Fat Mama: Post Menopausal Juicy Crone. No one knows what that means, but with a perfectly executed head snap, and a cackle then a pop from any number of bodily regions, it’s scary enough to have some fun.
photos from google images
A version of this appeared in "Red Silk" A Red Tent Anthology, published by Womanspace, 2011 and on "Red Tent the Movie" web site.