Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Shifting Ground of What Makes Me Woman

There is a time in a woman’s life when the things she has relied on to remind her She Is Woman start breaking up – like a picture on a television screen with a faulty digital box. The monthly cycles of her body – the ones she has been deeply intimate with for so long – begin a process of fragmentation. Signs, symptoms, sensations – they disband, scatter, roam about like gypsies. An upheaval takes place in her temperament; in everything she has known herself to be. The steward of her code abandons ship, and an unruly voice emerges, determined to betray her innermost thoughts. Many of the beliefs she has called her own become estranged; a process of liberation unfolds. She enters unchartered territory.

It’s called menopause, or more accurately, peri-menopause.

At 48, I’ve gotten pretty good at weathering the storm, and I think I’ve even done one better – I’ve welcomed the disruption of a life tightly lived, and been grateful for the wreckage of carefully constructed ideals. But the turbulence in my body is another story. The natural ebb and flow; the yin and yang of my body’s natural rhythm is in disarray, and it has been quite an unsettling experience.

That rhythm was central to how I related. Where I was in my cycle either propelled me out or drew me in. I always knew what I needed, my cycle as my guide. Every month, the waxing, the building of the tides; the arousal of ancient passions, and the ache for a man’s penetration. Every month, the waning, the turning inward to the call of the wild. In the days approaching ovulation, my inlands would hum. I wanted contact, communion, engagement. A week before menstruation, I craved solitude, and the space to create. No matter where I was, I had my bearings.

Now, I have lost those bearings. I don’t know where I am in my cycle anymore. I don’t know when the blood will flow or where it comes from. I think I am ovulating and then...the feeling dissipates. Casual sex is out. My system is in a profound state of confusion or indecision, I’m not sure which. I can’t tell if I’m coming or going. Is the sensitive animal of my body lost? Or is she simply re-positioning herself? As I prepare for the end of my fertile phase, I know this does not mean the end of my womanhood, as popular lore might have me think. To the contrary. I am of the mentality that I am entering into the prime of my life.

Why, then, do I feel so disoriented? How do I make of this something real?