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?

22 comments:

DazyDayWriter said...

It seems we are always in the process of leaving our bodies behind, as we move through life. Edging into another dimension ... seeing "form" for its limitations ... moving beyond physical realities. And, quite possibly, "shifting" into a more spiritual zone: with age, with experience, with the passage of time. Disorienting, yes, but also profound.

Intriguing thoughts, Jesse; this could evolve into a wonderful essay. (check out my blog if you get time; our topics mesh nicely -- talking about the impermanence of life and things) Best, Daisy

Jesse Mendes said...

Hi Dazy

Many thanks for your comments here. I suppose I am searching for a way to not leave my body behind -- to find the spiritual within her, not despite her. Also, I wonder if the profound can be found IN disorientation?

If folks would be interested in checking our your blog I encourage them to do so:

http://www.sunnyroomstudio.com/

I appreciate your ongoing support!

Caroline Hagood said...

Thought provoking, as usual!

jaki said...

This is such a thoughtful description of the process of change which we call peri menopause and menopause.
I think what you are talking about here is trust. You have come to trust your body to be a certain way and so to serve you in a certain predictable nature.
In the research for my book, Fifty & Fabulous! The Best Years of a Woman's Life,I learned that our definition of trust changes as we embrace our advancing years...changes for the better in my opinion
“The trust of the harvest comes from being released from the need to keep life unchanged. We replace that false sense of control with the understanding that peace and contentment does not come from a life free of pain, struggle, and challenge, but that the seeds of peace and contentment are sown by acceptance. When acceptance helps you redefine trust in your life, the ride will be a lot smoother, even over the bumpiest roads.”

Or should I say the sweatiest roads.
Menopause is a bumpy, sweaty road at times but acceptance is a wonderful cure for what ails you.
Pain is pain and it comes to life in all shapes and forms. But suffering is the fight against it. Pain is so much easier to bear when we are not wasting our energy fighting against what must happen.

The women I interviewed between the ages of 45 -102 who were at peace with aging did not struggle nearly as much with the physical characteristics of menopause as the women who were fearful about aging and worked to resist it.
The wiser women were too busy capturing all the change in their lives to see what they could make of it to worry about the physical changes which were evolving inside.
In the paraphrased words of my mentor Joan Erikson, we must be willing to begin again and again over the course of a lifetime.
Trust your body to lead you to the next stage of your life, perhaps not always gracefully, but still wisely.
Have you ever watched a chrysalis emerge from the cocoon to butterfly hood ? It looks painful and messy but wow what a result. I look forward to seeing what stunning colour and shape your new wings will be.

Jesse Mendes said...

Thank you, ladies, for your comments. Jaki what impressed me about your post is your suggestion that I "trust my body to lead me to the next stage in life". This is good, constructive advice that I thank you for. The point of my post was that I am grappling with a way to find a deeper perspective on what is happening in my body, in order to make of it something real. I am not sure if that came across to you or not, but in any case, this one (very powerful) line of yours is something I can hold and savor. Good of you to write. Jesse

Jonathan Herbert said...

Jesse,

So many of your commentators are as eloquent as you.

Uncharacteristically keeping it short:

I love this post.

Jesse Mendes said...

Thank you, Jonathan. I take your words to heart, as always.

JC Little said...

What a thoughtful post...and trust is a huge issue between me and my body right now. Basically, forget about wearing white anymore. It's just too risky!

I'm animating a little film about menopause at the moment. So it's comforting to see that others are talking about it.

Jesse Mendes said...

Dear JC

How lovely of you to write with a comment. I would *love* to hear about your animated feature on menopause. Why don't you drop back in here when it's ready and tell us about it, with a link?

Thanks again for reaching out -- please do stay in touch.

Jesse

Manu Medina said...

is a wonderful blog, congratulations

Jesse Mendes said...

Thank you very much, Manu, good of you to say. Jesse

Charles R. Hale said...

Loved your blog description at the top of the page. I'm a 62 year old male who absolutely finds woman my age very sexy. I've often wondered how I could possibly share my journey with a woman much younger than I. Wonderful and evocative.
Charles R. Hale

Jesse Mendes said...

Thank you, kindly, Charles, for your comments. It is most heartwarming and inspiring to hear from men who appreciate the beauty that comes with age, and the unique sensuality that older women embody. My gratitude for your reaching out.

Jesse

Josepf J Haslam said...

Jesse,
you just followed me on Twitter. Thank you. Am 49, and agree with your premise 100%. Younger women are 'cute' rather than attractive. Their age related lack of depth & complexity,is, well just that :-)

So blog on! Advocate away. Keep writing your wonderful writings.

new fan & supporter,
@Josepf

Jesse Mendes said...

Thank you, Josepf, the good will and support you express here. I love meeting men who support the concept, and especially, men of all ages who really "get" older women! It's such a pleasure. I do hope you will stay in touch -- write any time. Jesse

The Foot Healer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon ODay said...

"Beyond menopause" turned out to be such a place of liberation! While the process itself was mercifully easy, it's what changed in my brain that marked me the most. End of fertility, awareness of mortality, and the wake-up call that I still had an entire second adulthood to fill with what mattered most ... to ME. And it just keeps getting better ...

Jesse Mendes said...

Sharon, thank you so much for this encouraging post. I just turned 49 and have (generally speaking) been looking forward to my 50th birthday, but I really have to work at it sometimes when I hear about the hell some women have been through during their transition. I know that our descent into these places can make us stronger and more resilient if that is what we "will" but it is hard sometimes to not feel anxious about it.

In any case, I loved your thoughts -- focusing on this is what will give me the endurance I need -- I know that. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, and for talking about the positive side of aging, my real passion.

Jesse

Christine Young said...

Jesse you have wowed me again and you have given life to what I thought had died in me—the desire to express myself. I would give this post a Nobel prize if I had the power. You have touched upon every nerve in my body.

I am a good twelve years older than you, but I remember this time in my life as if it were only yesterday. I remember the confusion and the anxiety. I could not make the simplest of decisions; the “yes I wanted it” or the “no I did not”. I was neither here nor there and my passions were all waning. Believe it or not it took a long discussion with my Sensei (karate instructor) to set me on the right track. I was about to drop out of the class I had so enjoyed. Without going into details I explained to him that I was at a time in my life when “things were starting to change” and I felt I could not continue with my training. Sensei’s accustomed intuitiveness and wisdom, as he reflected on his wife’s journey down the same road, helped me to embrace rather than fear the changes that were going on in my body. The indecisions and the anxiety did not miraculously disappear with this one conversation, but he did motivate me to confront the changes that were in store for me. I refer to my karate training only because it had a major impact on my life.

You have such a way with words, Jesse. You leave me speechless.

Jesse Mendes said...

Dear Christine

The words you express here are possibly one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. That I have inspired you to express yourself is very moving. Thank you for sharing your experience of that time in your life, it does help -- just to know another woman understands, and has been through, what I went through.

Again, Christine, my heartfelt thanks.

fanofolderbeauties said...

Jesse,

Here's an article from the Los Angeles Times speculating about why menopause evolved:

www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-menopause-evolution-20130613,0,5275115.story

I'm not sure what to make of this study, but a grain of salt wouldn't hurt.

As for me, all I know is that I find older women deliciously attractive (physically and intellectually), and that if there was no such thing as menopause, I probably wouldn't bother to look at women my age (early thirties).

I look forward to your next blog post, as well as to the establishment of the SeptemberMay dating site.

Jessica Mendes said...

Thank you for the support -- and love your appreciation of older women!