Perimenopause starts in the thirties to forties for many of us. So, while we’re still knee-deep in raising our kids, managing our careers, and caring for our partners, we’re confronted with a primal change we hadn’t quite expected. At thirty-eight, it’s a bit of a shock to realize that thyroid test is right–this is menopause and not some freak temperature-regulation disorder. I expect it’s a little like seeing the little dot go pregnant-pink when it really was just that one time and honestly it had more to do with Mr. Beam than anything else. Once you recognize the turn you’ve taken, it’s too late to go back. That’s how I felt.
So, What are ya gonna do about it?
Early, average, or late, perimenopause is an unsettling time of change, both inner and outer. While men have their ridiculously tiny and expensive sports cars to mark their mid-life crisis, we have hot flashes and inexplicable bouts of weeping, anxiety and panic attacks, and that dreaded suddenly soft middle. And, we can’t just sell the car when we’re done with it, take the loss, and move on with what we were doing. Nope. Once that first menstrual flood (or absence or change) happens, we know the days of pretending we’re youthful are coming to an end whether we like it or not. That’s a lot to get used to.
Virginia Woolf must have been thinking of the real and sometimes driving need to be alone during The Change when she wrote her story. How can you make sense of all the surprisingly strong emotion, the crazy thoughts and impulses, the desires, the deep and wretched grief, the unreasonable joy at ideas that would have driven you straight to the freezer for consolation ice cream just last week, the irritation, the anger and all the other joys of The Change amidst those loving family and friends who don’t quite believe you’re really that old anyway? Hell, how can you believe it yourself? Personal space has been essential for my sanity so far. Getting it has been a bit of a challenge.
Find Your Own Space
I tried rising early. The guys began rising early within a few days, so I tried staying up late. Sure enough, they started going to bed later, too. I signed them up for extra taekwondo classes and encouraged their competitive natures, hoping they’d find more tournaments so they’d get outta my house. They went, except when they didn’t go, which they didn’t always mention until about ten minutes after they should have left, which left me not as alone as I’d planned on being. The real trouble was, I couldn’t count on having the place to myself and rarely did those crying jags happily coincide with a tournament or taekwondo class anyway.
I realized Menopause has her own schedule, and she doesn’t quite care how it rocks mine. That was when I began to long for a room of my own. I wanted a place with a big, cozy bed and space for sewing and magical workings. I wanted to count on it being there all the time, whether I needed it or not. I wanted My Own Door…And I wanted to put up a big ol’ sign that clearly stated no penises allowed. Girl space. In my male-full house, I wanted a quiet, girl place where I didn’t have to flex my muscles to get what I wanted and needed to care for myself.
Don’t Get in Your Own Way
It took a lot of angst and suffering, most of which I could have avoided if I’d have just taken my hubby’s early advice, held a garage sale or two, and did a bit of furniture shuffling. Now, I have a Room of My Own. It’s my studio and my sanctuary. I can retreat to my space when the weeping for no reason floods me or when I feel almost crazy with creative energy or when I just need to rest. I sleep there most nights not because I don’t want to be with my man but because I can be my tossing and turning, night sweating and shivering, rising Goddess knows how many times just to pee self without a lick of guilt. The freedom my own space has given me is invaluable.
I have a feeling every woman needs a Room of Her Own to ride out The Change. Some of us probably need it more than others. I’m especially sensitive. I expect that’s part of why I need to count on having my own space so much. The bumps of life usually cut right to my core, even when they’re not even nicking the surface for those around me. Even for those women who seem to be able to walk through battlefields unscathed and unperturbed, I think perimenopause is a time when finding one’s own space is essential.
Woman, Know Thyself…And Make it Happen However You Can
Like the books say, Woman, Know Thyself. If you work better with a regular, predictable schedule, then schedule me-time into your week. You may even need it daily. Ask the family to find somewhere else to be, maybe soccer practice or out with the guys. Rise early or stay up late to get a little time on your own. Clear a space for yourself, even if it means putting Aunt Rita’s turn-of-the-century parlor set in storage just so you can lay claim to the extra room for a few years.
If that spare room doesn’t actually exist in your place, make a little box for yourself. Keep a scented candle and a pretty square scarf in it. When you manage to chase the rest of the family out for awhile, drape the scarf over your coffee table, set the candle on it, and light it…or don’t light it. Do whatever it takes to make the space feel like your own. Incense, candles, special music, flowers or a small symbol that’s dear to your heart, all of these can transform the living room, bedroom, or even the kitchen table into a special, sacred space…a Room of Your Own.
Let’s face it, menopause is every bit as big a change as was our first periods. Just like we needed time alone back then to sort out all the new emotions and ideas that arose when we first started to bleed, we who are at the other end of the fertility ride need time and space to make sense of ourselves all over again. Finding a Room of One’s Own shouldn’t be a fantasy, nor should it be the first step toward oblivion as it was for Virginia’s main character, Judith. Finding a Room of One’s Own is an imperative we must heed for the sake of our own futures as much as for those who follow us.