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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query madwoman in the volvo. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Menopause

C'mon.  You don't need to go "ew." 

Especially you guys.  You have your own version of this.

If I can write about my colonoscopy (which I did), I can certainly write about this.  And, really, it's much less gory.

I was inspired by a book I just finished, "The Madwoman in the Volvo, My Year of Raging Hormones" by Sandra Tsing Loh. 



It's a humorous account of Loh's navigation of "the change."  Hers included an affair, the end of her marriage and managing a nutty 89-year-old father, not to mention the physical issues that come with menopause. 

So being the impressionable little thing that I am, reading her account made me look back on my own journey, which covered much more than a year and, I thought, I too could provide some insight. 

However, my journey was far less extreme and dramatic.

I just got fat, mad and kind of crazy. 

And I wasn't mad about being fat.  I was just really mad...about everything and kind of crazy all of the time.

There was a reason my "handle" on my son's pager (remember those?) was 666.  I thought that one up, because I thought it was funny (you know, Mom calling and we hate that, you know like the devil, you know...), but I think that was my unconscious realization that the devil had somehow gotten into the details of my life, but I didn't know why.

Likewise, with menopause, especially the years leading up to it, it slowly creeps up on you and you don't really realize what is happening until suddenly Aunt Flo doesn't come to visit anymore - ever.  Anyway, that's what happened to me.

It all started in my mid-40's.  I don't remember anything earth shattering like hot flashes, but looking back I see that I was "changing" and had been for some time.

How else can I explain staying up until three in the morning watching old game shows like "I've Got a Secret" and "What's My Line?"  And I had to be at work the next morning. I cried when the Game Show Network stopped showing them.




Or getting up in the middle of the night with heartburn that I was sure was a real heart condition and thinking that having a glass of wine would solve the problem,

Or walking over to Trader Joe's (it was across the street) in my robe ("No one will notice"),

Or my one woman crusade to make sure the people who worked at Trader Joe's did not park on my street.  For some reason, having those cars parked in front of my house made me crazy (Gee, I wonder why), and I not only wrote letters to the management of Trader Joe's, I would yell at people from my front porch,

Or making my kids sleep with me when Hubby traveled because I was sure if a bad guy broke in, he wouldn't kill me with two little kids sleeping in the bed with me,

Or standing in the Safeway line and suddenly feeling like I would die if I didn't leave immediately,

Or on my Friday off (I had every other Friday off), cleaning the house and then shutting all of the curtains and sitting in the dark living room watching movies for the rest of the day (hey, I still do that!),

Or the shouting matches with my teenage son.

It's a wonder I wasn't found wandering the neighborhood in my nightgown mumbling in some language I had made up.

Looking back on all of that, I can only shake my head and wonder what the hell was I thinking?

Well the answer was, I wasn't thinking.  My hormones were ordering me around.

And because I didn't really have any physical symptoms (except for that middle of the night heartburn and those panic attacks), I didn't realize what was happening and didn't know to ask for any treatment from my doctor. I thought it was just ME.

You see, I was always considered a bit "high strung," or that's what my parents would say about me when I would get upset at my brother teasing me at the dinner table and stomp upstairs and lock myself in the bathroom. 

That said, I was now a career woman, a mother.  I could juggle many plates, dammit.  I wasn't prone to prowling around in the middle of the night with my hair standing on end like Medusa and my eyes spinning in my head.  What the hell was going on?

That is why the onset of menopause is so insidious.

I think perimenopause (that period, pardon the pun, leading up to "the big finish") and menopause are kind of like Alzheimer's.  I'm not being disrespectful here. Hear me out. There is the crazed part of it, but, like Alzheimer's, you don't really know you have it until it's all over. The last thing we women want to believe is that we are getting old, because menopause is for old ladies, right?  In the case of Alzheimer's, you could be diagnosed with it, but until you are dead and they analyze your brain, you don't really know for sure.  You could just be demented. 

So at 45, I thought I was too young for Alzheimer's so I just thought I was a demented person.

By the time I finally had my hormone levels checked and started taking hormones, that big study came out that said hormone treatment was linked to heart attacks, so that was enough for me to ditch the pills (things have changed since then).  Besides, I wasn't much into taking pills anyway.  This here girl was pioneer and Swedish stock!  I can beat this thing.

If you find yourself in similar circumstances and exhibiting similar behaviors, take note.  The time has come.  But don't beat yourself up.  You can't help it.  I recommend doing anything and everything you deem appropriate to help you get through it.

But here is the sobering part of all of this.

As Loh points out in her book, when we are very young, we are detached.  It's all about ourselves. But as our hormones kick in, we then become attached as we seek mates and have our children. Once we are no longer able to procreate and our children have left the nest, our bodies and minds go back to being detached, not needing to nurture anyone but ourselves once again. 

However, many of us modern Baby Boomer women didn't live that "normal" biological and chronological clock of a typical woman from an earlier generation:  get married and have children in her twenties, "begin to detach in her forties...Her grown-up (say eighteen year old) children are leaving the nest; her perhaps slightly older (say sixty-ish) husband is transitioning into gardening and fishing; her aged parents have conveniently died." 

So that was an easier menopause because at least many of life's stresses had already passed when it was time to detach.

But Loh goes on to say that doesn't fit the new normal of the late-boomer/Gen X women who put their careers first and didn't get married until their thirties, got pregnant in their late 30's or early 40's, and with medical advancements, their parents are still alive.  So that means just when our bodies are telling us to detach, we still have kids at home and parents to take care of. 

No wonder we go nuts.

That is what happened to me.

The full cycle of perimenopause to menopause to post-menopause can take up to ten years.  So when I think that in the midst of those years when my body was changing from a fertile young thing into a wild-eyed crone, both of my parents went through illness or institutionalization and then died and, my son was 15-25 and my daughter was 10-20, formative years to say the least.  

No wonder I remember big eyes in the back seat when I was on a tirade or that they don't seem to share a lot of happy family memories. No wonder they now say, "You know how you are," when neither has lived with me for over 10 years, and I don't know what they are talking about.  How am I?

I was a madwoman in a Mustang.
(no Volvos for me).

But according to Loh and to me, there is good news for those of you who are suffering or about to. 

It gets better. 

I think that is what I am here to impart, because you know, I am all about providing a public service.

I'm still fat, but I'm not angry anymore, and I like to think I'm no longer crazy, though that could be up for debate.

It does get better. 

Most of those nasty hormonal symptoms do eventually go away.

You do get to detach (as in spending time with yourself). 

And with age comes some perks.

We women of a certain age come to  realize:

It's not as important as it once was to be a skinny bitch. In fact, a little extra junk in the trunk is known to prolong life, save your face and keep you from BEING a bitch.

It's not as important to have a clean house because who do we need to impress anymore?  Hubby would rather have a cheerful companion than an angry cleaning lady in a clean house. 

It's not as important to care what people think. 
It's called "The I-Don't-Give-A-Sh*t-Anymore-Syndrome."  It hits around 60.

It's not as important to be a Super Woman if we ever were.  It's important to be your own hero.

You now have the time to be grateful - for all of it.


What IS important is to make peace with yourself:
body, mind and spirit.


You will come out the other side.

Now I'm the old, but no longer mad,
woman in the Mustang!





Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
for my review of the new movie

"Interstellar." 



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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When the Lights Went Out: The Dark Side of Retirement


It was a typical Tuesday.  November 17th, to be exact.  Well not exactly typical.  I actually had to get up before my usual time of 9:30 because I had a meeting.  Yes, retired people still have meetings and, yes, I still hate getting up early.

We had been warned that it was going to be a blustery day, but off I went to my meeting, muttering to myself, "I'm retired.  Why am I going out in this awful weather?"  But the day was uneventful and I was back home and all cozy by mid-afternoon.

I actually like rainy days.  It's the wind I don't like.  We are surrounded by really tall trees, cedars and hemlocks, trees that aren't supposed to have very long lives to begin with and these trees were going on 100 years old.  Their root systems also don't run very deep, which is why they are called "Widowmakers."


We have had a couple of really bad wind storms where the wind howled so loudly it sounded like a freight train.  When the wind gets like that I am prone to sleeping downstairs.  I feel safer with an extra story above me in case a tree falls.

But on this particular day the wind didn't really seem to be that bad and by the time it was starting to get dark, it seemed to have died down.  I gave a sigh of relief.

And then it happened.

At 5:45 pm, first a flicker, then out went the lights just for an instant, then back on.  And then off again...for good. Nooooo!



I have a theory that if the lights go off and don't come right back on they are going to be off for awhile and that was the case.  In fact, they didn't come back on for another 34 hours.

I was not happy.

If you have been reading my blog posts about my retirement journey over the last two years, you know that I enjoy retirement mostly because I no longer have to do things I don't want to do.

My kids are married and successful, meaning they have their own homes and incomes, they don't live nearby, so it's OK for me to be selfish.

This may seem off-topic, but bear with me.  I read the book "The Madwoman in the Volvo" by Sandra Loh and blogged about it last November in my blog post "My Menopause."  In it, Loh talks about the detachment women experience in menopause and likens it to the detachment we experience when we are very young. When we are young, it's all about ourselves. But as our hormones kick in, we then become attached as we seek mates and have our children. But then when we are no longer able to procreate and our children have left the nest, our bodies and minds go back to being detached, not needing to nurture anyone but ourselves once again.

I think retirement is a little like that too.  Now that I am retired I don't need to nurture anyone but myself (Hubby doesn't count).  I can do what I want.


So anyway, that's just the long version of saying that when the power goes off, I DON'T GET TO DO WHAT I WANT!

The first few hours were OK even though it was dark.  Ever since my daughter sent me an article that said the Seattle area was the worst possible place to live if you were afraid of earthquakes (worse than California), because a BIG ONE was coming (worse than California), I had been hoarding emergency supplies.  So even though it was dark, we had flashlights and candles at the ready.  Huddling around the gas fireplace with a large glass of wine didn't seem so bad.



And it wasn't like I had to go to work the next day which would have been awful.

When you are working and the power goes off, you have to worry about getting up on time if your alarm clock doesn't work, fix your hair without a hair dryer or hot rollers, put on make-up in the light of a flashlight or in the car and run back and forth to the car to keep your cell phone charged.

But when you are retired that's not an issue.  You are old.  You can just go to sleep or read, right?

Wrong!

I thought I was doing just fine with my retirement.  I could do what I wanted. I had this blog, volunteer work, my dogs, Hubby, wine. I thought I was doing everything right and that I was A-OK.

But then the lights went out for 34 hours, and I was really depressed.

And the fact that I got depressed after 34 hours of no power depressed me even more.

It wasn't like I was starving in a third world country or a victim of those Paris attacks.  So why was I such a baby?  If I can't handle 34 hours away from my rituals and comforts, what does that say about me if something really bad happened?

We were not cut off from the outside world. We could hop in the car and go out to dinner every night, and we had plenty of food and supplies.  In fact, we have so many supplies that a friend once asked if we were Mormons.  And yes, we had our cell phones.

I could read by the light of the flashlight, drink wine, go out to eat, go to a movie, go to sleep.

Why wasn't I grateful for what I had and that it wasn't worse?


But, remember what I said about retirement?  It's all about doing what I want to do and that was not what I wanted to do. 

I didn't want to have to leave the house to go to a restaurant or a movie every night.

I didn't want to read by flashlight.

I didn't even particularly want to sit and drink wine if I couldn't watch TV.

I couldn't get over the fact that I was missing "Survivor" and the results show on "The Voice."

And that's the rub.

I realized over the course of those 34 hours that in retirement, I have become so accustomed to my little rituals and pleasing myself, that when I was forced to change direction and be flexible, I couldn't handle it, even if it was going out to eat at a restaurant on a Tuesday night.  I was so fixated on being inconvenienced, that I couldn't be grateful for what I DID have.

I wanted to be able to get up, fix my cup of tea, waddle upstairs to my computer, work on my blog, watch "The View," watch a movie in the comfort of my own home and not be so damn cold.  And I wanted to go to a restaurant when I wanted to go, not because I had to.

I had to come to grips with the fact that despite what I have done so far in retirement, I still have a long way to go. In my quest to please myself, I have become very set in my ways, narrowly focused and solitary.

And ungrateful.

And I don't like that about myself. That just screams old lady.  And I am not ready to go there yet.

That 34 hours of disruption to my routine was a wake-up call that I am in a retirement rut.

So what am I going to do about it?

I'm not sure, but I'm on it.  Being aware is the first step in making a change, right?

Two things I do know for sure, though.  

There is more to life than just pleasing myself and, when things go wrong, I need to be grateful for what's good, something that is particularly apropos for this time of year. 

(Happy Thanksgiving, by the way).

So it's back to the drawing board. 

I need to prepare for the next time the lights go out before they go out for good.



 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of the new movie 
 
"Suffragette" 
 
and
 
The Week in Reviews
 
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
 
and the latest on
 
My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."

 
  
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