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.)






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



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.



The Thing About Time

“The thing about time is that time isn’t really real…”

The Secret of Life, by James Taylor

What is it about the second time around that makes something go faster? Like when you’re heading to some new place just a little ways out of town… and you’re reading the directions for each turn… and it seems to take forever… only to seem half as long on the way back?

It was that way with my second reading of Prodigal Summer. I spotted a copy at the second hand store and brought it home to steep in its long steamy July from deep within this January snow.

I settled in for a long expected pleasure of this read, only to arrive toward the end too soon.  I was sure someone moved my bookmark. I checked the previous chapter, but I had already read it.

My suspicion lingered, even after I finished the book.  Just to be sure, I spot checked a few different chapters, but they had all been read.

I wanted more.  I wanted to know about Deanna and the baby, and follow Eddie Bondo back West.  I wanted to see Nannie Rawley kiss Mr. Walker, and to watch Lusa mother those kids, and Rickie become a man.

What is it about “more” that we think will satisfy us?  How are we all such junkies to it?– as if we’d could ever be satisfied–with just one more chapter or one more scene or one more chance to…

Moderhsohn, detail,

I got to thinking about the nature of time as I trudged up the hill outside my home.  There I was, a 47 year old child, with a sled in my hand.  I realized then, that I was finally, finally in less of a rush.  Even though I hadn’t skiied or snowshoed yet this winter, and had only skated once, there was time.  I knew there would be more winters–even within this one.

At the same time, I knew how abruptly time could shift a life, no more evident for than the day my first son was born–two weeks early. I hadn’t even laundered the diapers.

While I labored, my husband threw them into the wash, and I’ll never forget the sight of them strung on the line–Forever a reminder of how suddenly life can change. How one could be thrust into a new beginning; how something that seemed to last forever, like a summer pregnancy, could suddenly end.

–Or that a lifetime raising kids could just a quickly be something of the past, growing further and further away, until there was nothing left but memories of grown men who were once on my lap.

Last Minute Laundry, Casey Deane

I know that a life can end like that too.  When I think about those diapers on the line, I imagine my own death might take me by surprise. I imagine all the things I hadn’t yet done.

As a doctor’s daughter, I’m no stranger to death. I lost a loved one to an accident when I was young which left me acutely aware of how a single moment could be your last–How a casual rebuke of a goodbye kiss from a your husband could be something you’d regret forever.

I wish I could say that I live my life with greater respect for the moment because of this awareness, but even funeral directors don’t.  I’ve asked them.

This isn’t a very hopeful sign for our human carelessness with time. But then I remember that I don’t have to get it right in every moment, that I can get it right most of the time–this week or this month or this year or over a lifetime.

“Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real,” goes the song.”Try not to try too hard.”

Sometimes life makes so much more sense inside a song, which is how I felt as I slid down that hill in the snow–ageless me and the timeless sky.

“Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill,

but since we’re on our way down,

we might as well enjoy the ride…

sliding down…

and gliding down…

it’s just a lovely ride.”

Kelly Salasin, February 2011