I just read a great essay in this week's New Yorker. The title is "Awake" by Jenny Allen. It's about sleeplessness, how Buddha, who was the "awakened one," must have learned all about it from middle-aged women. Allen's essay inspired the following:
I am a middle-aged woman, that is if I live to be one hundred and twelve. Not even on a very good hair day do I feel like fifty is the new forty. After a night of about two hours sleep, I feel like fifty is the new one hundred and twelve. Yesterday, I went to my Eastern Medicine doctor, and I'm not dead yet, which is a huge plus as far as Dr. Liang is concerned. Dr. Liang is from China. Her mother died of uterine cancer when Dr. Liang was nine years old. Dr. Liang is a magician: She can make people pregnant who can never get pregnant; she can create sperm where there is no sperm. She stopped me from hallucinating and having one hundred and twelve nervous breakdowns when my in-laws came for a visit from Denmark for two and a half months. During the last week of their stay, my chest exploded in hives. Dr. Liang stuck a needle in the top of my head, and the hives disappeared. She also gave me this sage advice: "Keep one eye open and one eye closed." That's difficult for a writer to do, but I did it and made it through without any more outbreaks or inbreaks.
Being a woman has always been a romp, but being a middle-aged woman is just sheer bliss. Yesterday, I asked Dr. Liang when she thought I would get over this affliction called menopause. "When is it finally done?" I asked. Dr. Liang smiled. "I don't know," she said. Dr. Liang, who is sixty-something, has never experienced any menopausal symptoms. Her secret is this: eat a lot of chicken soup. I mean, REAL chicken soup, like from a chicken. It's the marrow of the chicken you're after. It has some super duper quality and chemistry for women of a certain age. Dr. Liang makes her own chicken soup constantly. She told me how to make it, but my eyes and ears glazed over and I got sleepy as I tried to listen to this recipe about putting the whole chicken into the pot and how much water, and you have to do something else, I can't remember, I don't sleep enough to remember anything, and I'm often menopausally irritable and anxious, and then you do quite a few different things at different times with the lid, and then you have to, and you should, and then you take out the chicken, and you can add...I was snoring away. I woke up abruptly when Dr. Liang stopped talking about how to make chicken soup. I felt depressed and confused and overwhelmed. But I don't have migraines any more because of Dr. Liang's acupuncture and herbs. And I'm not dead, so it's all a bonus.
Dr. Liang also doesn't drink coffee or alcohol and has a totally and completely and utterly positive attitude that rarely wavers as far as I can see, (with my one eye opened and my one eye closed), and she walks by the ocean once a week, and walks two miles to work every day, and she goes to bed no later than ten fifteen every night. Her karma is in excellent shape, too, I would imagine; she has helped people stay alive and helped people have babies and created sperm where it never existed before.
Don't get me wrong; Dr. Liang is a great physician. When I was forty-four, I first went to Dr. Liang because I had migraines from being peri-menopausal. I had no idea there was such a thing as the peri. I discovered there are many stages to menopause: peri-menopause and pre-menopause and good-old-regular-right-down-to-it menopause and post-menopause and post-post menopause and I suspect more posts are to come. Like post-modern poetry. We must be in the post-post-post stage of that by now. Anyway, Dr. Liang, with her needles and herbs, got rid of my migraines. Because of these peri-menopausal headaches, I had not been able to function. For example, I would be in a grocery store trying to buy food, and a migraine would come on, and I would vomit all over the aisle. Every single month, it was like a scene from the Exorcist. I couldn't work, eat, sleep, zero, nada, zilch. Dr. Liang came to the rescue.
Here's what she would do during our meetings:
Dr. Liang: "Let me see your tongue." "Oh."
I didn't like the sound of that "Oh."
Then I would put my hand on a tiny white pillow with a lace border. Dr. Liang would check my pulse. Then she'd check the other hand. The tiny white pillow soothed the menopausal beast within. Sweetness, nurturing, mother, sleep.
Dr. Liang: "How your emotion?"
How to describe it? Dr. Liang is straight-forward and really doesn't want fancy similes and metaphors, so I would keep my answer clear and succinct. However, here is the most accurate description of my emotion: I feel like a house with a broken thermostat. I'm too hot and too cold. I sweat all through the night and burn. I wonder how I can be this hot and live. I'm the Joan of Arc of menopause. I toss the covers on the floor, tear off my clothes and freeze. Also: loud noises and medium-loud and medium noises bother me, and everything bothers me except if it doesn't, and people scare me more than usual, I don't want too many of them in one place, maybe one is good at a time, but I don't want that person saying anything to me that bothers me, and stores are a terrible thing, too many things are in the stores, that's the main problem, and you have to talk to someone when you buy something, that's another, and then there's money to figure out, credit card machines and is this credit or debit is this yes or no do you want cash back how much hit this button no this button you didn't do it right you have to do it over again no if you want to exchange something you have to stand in that line not this line you have to do it over again why are you shivering why are you taking your clothes off we're going to arrest you we're going to give you shock treatment and a lobotomy and then you'll feel better.
That's how my emotion is.
Here is the main thing about menopause: JTM: Just Too Much, it's just too big, there is too much going on, multi-tasking is definitely not on my To Do List. In fact, this is my
To Do List:
- Go running
Or it might look like this:
To Do List
- Play tennis
- Talk to husband
To Do List
- Go see Dr. Liang
- Call sister
To Do List
- Go to the grocery store
The grocery store is such a big event, that's it for the day. I try to go to the smallest grocery store I can find with the least amount of employees, but those stores are more expensive. Oh well. And it has to be the closest store to my house because driving is another special event and parking is like climbing Mt. Everest in flip-flops.
Other than the above challenges, menopause isn't that bad. Sometimes I feel very free and light and like I was before I began the thrills of menstruation. And all the symptoms are gradually receding. There's hope. One thing I know is true: exercise as much as possible. I also get up as early as possible in the morning so I am very tired at night. I try to eat right, etc etc, go to bed at ten, yadda yadda. Soon, I might be able to take on the ultimate task of making chicken soup from, yeah, a chicken. I am HOT, I tell my husband. I am one HOT one hundred and twelve year old middle-aged gal. Now jump them bones!
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society