Days 21 to 12

21 days.
Between me & Menopause.
There’s something to that 21, but I can’t place it.
And then it comes…

In a textbook 28 day menstrual cycle, there are theoretically 21 non-bleeding days. So that by the 21st day, if you’re young & fertile, but not desiring pregnancy–say because you’re much too young, or in school, or you’ve just started a new job, or you’re not financially or emotionally prepared to become a parent, or to have another child, or to have any more or any at all, then it’s about 21 days when you start cupping your breasts to be sure they’re showing signs of your next menses–tender, swollen, sore.

Or conversely, if you’re desperate for a baby, having tried again and again, or having miscarried once or twice or more, or longing to give your child a sibling, it’s about 21 days when you begin looking for signs that your menses isn’t coming–cupping your breasts to be sure they remain soft & supple, just before they double in size with conception.

And then further back in memory–way back–is “the pill.”

Don’t you take it for 21 days, and then skip 7?

Wow, that’s a dusty memory.

And I can’t help thinking that even though I had to travel offshore for birth control, about 20 minutes or so, and then triple that for access to abortion, both were available to me in a climate that said: We’re trying to support you, even while we hide the very things you need so as not to draw too much attention to your pregnancy, your sexual activity, your bleed; even while your bodies are plastered on every movie screen and billboard and magazine, not to mention the Playboys tucked under the bed of your uncles and their friends who will later vote to turn back the tide of your possibilities to your mother’s and grandmother’s time–when your own bodies, and even love, were the enemy, plotting against your dreams and rendering you property of home and husband, and relegating your much needed voices to dinner and diapers, while around the world, those who impregnate continue to rule (and ruin) lives, while claiming to protect them, with the lie that we, the life givers, are the ones who forsake life by desiring full agency over our flesh.


Today’s number is 17. That is–17 days left between me & the Motherhood Archetype on the 365 Day Heroine’s Journey to Menopause. In a textbook menstrual cycle, day #17 is the day when one might wonder if she has conceived during her preceding fertile period, particularly if she is desperate to conceive, as I once was in my late twenties to mid-thirties. Conversely, if avoiding fertile days, day 17 might be the last in the agony of abstention. Alas, this is not a successful form of birth control; something that I learned, the hard way, twice, in the months before I turned 17.

(Also, 17 is the # of new messages in my inbox at this moment.)

~

15

CRONE

Compassionate
Revolutionary
Offering
New
Energy

~

The arrival at 13 days before the end my journey holds the sweet symmetry of being the number when I began, 40 years ago.

#maiden#mother#crone

~

There are 12 days remaining in this 365 day journey to Menopause, ie. a complete year without a menstrual cycle. The migraines came at the end of my journey as Maiden (first menses); a year or two after I began bleeding, and they increased in my early twenties with birth control pills, and then again with the hormones of pregnancy, and then spiked with the shifts leading out of the fertile years in my late thirties and forties. Lately, I’d almost thought they’d left me entirely, along with the hot flashes (which to be fair were only here for a short stay this past summer) and the night sweats (which took up a much longer residence, say like a bachelor’s degree, with a summer capstone intensive.) Oddly enough the three of them had been companions of sorts, like a relative whose annoyance you’ve come to rely upon. So that when I woke this morning to a migraine, it was a bit of a reunion, as I noted how every sound in the room was heightened–the door latch, the foot steps, the crinkling of paper at the woodstove, and how the morning light was felt more keenly; and it occurred to me then that a migraine and this long journey to menopause (from 37 to 54)–this surrendering of the body’s fertility–is every bit a meditation.

 

 

Excavating Old Fears

Small-plane-crashes-into-houseAs the plane approaches, I cringe on the couch beside the vaseline and the box of tissues and the glass of water.

My breath shallows. My stomach clenches. I wait, suspended, until it passes over my apartment.

Planes have been known to crash into homes. I’ve heard it on the news. I think about it every time. Even when I’m in the car.

I also worry about car crashes ever since those kids dashed out in front of us on the bike. I keep the soles of my feet on the dashboard and use them as brakes. Casey doesn’t like it because it leaves foot prints. But he’s the one who hit them. (They were fine.)

Trucks too. Obviously. But that’s been a long, long time. I still hold my breath. I have to pass them as quickly as I can.

I return to my folders. The pile of them. On the coffee table in front of me. Each one holds the contents of a different aspect of planning, labeled with marker: dresses, flowers, photography, reception, gifts, honeymoon. Inside I tuck magazine clippings and make carefully written notes on lined paper, the new recycled kind.

Now that he sees how much work a wedding is, he doesn’t want it. But it’s already in motion. And until he walks through the door after his shift, I’m afraid the phone will ring. That call. That news. That fucking truck.

I roll some more vaseline on my lips.

I have a vaseline stick in my pocket too, and in my purse, and in my car, at my desk at work, and beside my bed, the kitchen table, the office, and in the dining room which isn’t used as a dining room at all but a place where I do the Firm–Levels 1 through 6, a video workout, or Jane Fonda, or the new Sports Illustrated series, of which my favorite is the gentle class with Elle McPherson, that gorgeous model from Australia with the sweet accent, who introduces us to something called yoga, which involves holding her toes.

I don’t know what it is, but I think it has something to do with yogurt. Maybe they’re from the same place.

The first time I had yogurt was when we were visiting my Poppop in the hospital in Boston. It was like ice cream, only sour. Now there’s a TCBY off the island, and I love the white chocolate. It’s the only chocolate I can have without a headache.

Each time I figure out something else that gives me a headache, I give it up: chocolate, alcohol, meats with nitrates like hotdogs, bacon, sausage and ham (my favorite), salad dressings and other prepared foods with preservatives.

It was salad dressing that tipped me off to the preservative connection. Because I thought, this is ridiculous, how can salad give me a headache, so I got up from the table, opened the refrigerator, pulled out the plastic bottle and started reading ingredients.

I’ve been pretty much headache free since. Except weekends.

The counselor who visited work said that I should try Al-Anon. I have no idea how that could help, but it has something to do with how I told her that weekends are really stressful for me, especially Saturdays.

My colleague, the PE teacher, saw me coming out of the tiny room off the back gym where they hid the EAP counselor for the day. “Is everything okay?” he whispered.

“Everything is fine,” I said. “It was free.”

I guess I was the only one who tried it out, and now I feel kind of embarrassed, but I’m glad I did it because Al-Anon changed everything.