Can I Be Honest? This is not about being an expat, its about being a woman….
Can I be honest? Well, of course I CAN…but do I really want to? Everyone always loves to know the truth. Everyone always appreciates knowing what’s really going on, deep down. There’s something very appealing to us all when someone shares the raw, honest truth in life. Well, today, on this kinda gray, cloudy, windy morning, I’m feeling kinda blue. To be honest, this feeling has been brewing for a little while now. Just simmering inside, as I’ve been quietly trying to process exactly what is going on for me. I can’t say that I’m totally convinced that It’s just ‘one’ specific thing making me feel a little unsettled lately. I’m nearly 49 years old and entering into that time in a woman’s life when hormones are playing havoc with my head, emotions are crazy and ….who’s body is this anyways? I mean, sheesh! I look in the mirror and try to be calm about all these changes but, come on! Wasn’t it enough to have gone through adolescence….now I have to go through menopause!!! Crap! I hope you don’t find this post to be whiny, or annoying…but , if you do… well, then just stop reading right about NOW….cuz’ I’ve only just begun! Hah!
I’ve spent a better part of my life , 30 years to be exact, working closely with women. So, I’ve watched multitudes of women in my life go through this ‘change of life’ time. They all talk about it in great detail as their bodies betray them in so many ways. Some of my female friends find at a certain age, that they have to change many things about how they live their lives when they reach the age of Menopause. They all tell me to have my bone density checked because apparently our bones lose their ability to be as flexible as they used to be, making it easy to break them, Oh joy!. Some of my female friends have had to …GASP….stop drinking red wine! Yikes! There is apparently something in red wine specifically, that causes headaches and other unpleasant symptoms…Oh gawd!! I have dreaded facing the loss of my precious glass (or two or three) of red wine in the evenings! Not me! Noooo! I really, really don’t want to give that up…But…I hate to tell you, I’ve woken up a few times lately with a pounding headache! Ugh! In my life I normally very rarely have headaches…why is this happening now! It just can’t be my wine, please…I beg my body not to do that to me. And the crying…I seem to cry at the drop of a pin! Sheeeesh! What the heck is wrong with me! My emotions are a wreck. I swear! That and my tolerance for certain things that my favorite person in the whole wide world, Scott, occasionally does, just angers and annoys me to no end! This is not ME! I’m not fast to anger or to annoyance! Never have been…why now? Hah! And…the BIG one…The one symptom that I have witnessed every older girlfriend of mine go through….and I can’t even believe it’s happening to me….yep…HOT FLASHES!!!! Whaaaaaat! What is happening to me??? Is this my imagination or is it getting really really hot in here all of a sudden??? @$!?…. Scott is learning to say,” Yes, dear, it is kinda warm in here!” Lest I glare at him with a new look of disgust…Pfffffft!
So, yes, I know we all go through this. I know it’s all normal and natural. And I know I will have to begin to face the reality that I may have to make some healthier choices in my life. (and by ‘healthier’ I don’t necessarily mean giving up on my red wine!) I must say that compared to much earlier generations of women , I feel like we are so fortunate to be able to talk openly about all these unavoidable changes that go on with our bodies at about this time in our lives. It really helps to know that its not just me. And to hear all my friends talk about so many different ways to make all these things a little less intolerable. I’ve been expecting you Menopause! I knew you’d be coming, I just kinda thought maybe, just maybe, for me…you’d be a little less invasive. That somehow, for me….these changes would all be a little less severe. That I would be the exception, and my body would not change as much as everyone else’s! Hah! No, it looks like I get to go through all the same annoying things as all my friends who went before me.
And… you know that, “Honest” part I mentioned in the beginning of this post? Well, you see, the thing is…I’m feeling kinda sad and unhappy at the moment. Ugh! Okay…I said it… You gotta know how hard it is for me to put that out there. Now, I’m probably gonna get a bunch of worried emails and comments…don’t worry too much, please. I think I’m just having a bit of a transition period at the moment. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. You see, I’ve spent all my life being such a giving, helping person, surrounded by so many people who need me. My job provided me with so much gratification in so many different ways. I was satisfied artistically, socially, and emotionally. At the moment I don’t feel like I have anything quite so fulfilling in my life here . Something, some perfect opportunity will eventually come into my life, I know this. Right now it could just be that the universe is providing me time to think about myself for a change, instead of my usual tendency to give so much of myself to others. I’m very likely learning to provide for Holly and focusing on me isnt what I’m accustomed to doing. I’m not asking for advice or for answers to fix what I’m going through, I’m just sharing a moment in my life. I’m sure I’ll figure it all out eventually. I’ll find a way to find my purpose in this new life. Up until very recently I had just spent so much time rejoicing in my new, less stressful life. But somehow gradually and very recently, I’m beginning to feel kinda purposeless. Is this what it feels like to ‘drift’ along, without much purpose to your days? Well, it’s really not gonna last long for me, cuz’ somehow something will come my way that just speaks to me. And wham! I’ll suddenly realize, I’ve found my place…
Have you ever been in a place like this before? I haven’t, its new to me! I’ve always had something to focus on that had meaning and purpose. I had School, work, friends, clients, co workers, a book club, a garden to care for, a daughter, a husband, a business to run a house to maintain. I know I will soon have a house to care for, and I have lots of new friends, my cat, Scott…but none of these things really need much from me. And I don’t feel as though I have much to contribute in any substantial way that makes me feel especially useful. The most useful I feel these days is feeding the hummingbirds, the neighborhood dogs my cat, and Scott….hah! Its true! I’ve written about my joy and pleasure at not ‘having’ to go to work and not having the stress of the financial burdens of life in CA. Now that I’ve settled into this life of very little burden and stress, I’m also searching in my heart for ….now what. Sigh…Its not a matter of being bored, for those of you who had asked me what I would do and wondered if I might be bored. It’s not boredom that I’m struggling with , its finding a sense of purpose that fulfills me. Its not that I don’t have friends, because I feel so very satisfied with my circle of friends that I’ve managed to nurture here. I have so many wonderful people in my life here , people who make me feel so cared about and who warm my heart to no end. NO, this sadness and I’m talking about is not about boredom or loneliness. I do wonder if some of this period of transition is being exasperated by these hormonal upheavals that my body is going through…I’m much more emotional than I ever remember being in my lifetime.
You may also be thinking , “With that huge construction project, how can she possibly be complaining about not feeling useful?”…well, realistically the project is Scott’s passion, I mean, Its wonderful to build and design a house together but I’m just on the sidelines really. Its not my passion and I am not capable (or especially interested for that matter), of physically doing much on the construction site. I painted, and I make lunch, pick up the guys from town, take them back down the hill at the end of the day. I got to pick out all the light fixtures early on, and help in the initial design work…but it’s Scotts baby for the most part. Everyday he’s making decisions that I know nothing about. In the evenings he gets on his computer and researches all sorts of technical things about the project and sends off emails to different professionals about details I know nothing about nor do I especially care about . Scott is in his element, I am not. Scott enjoys the process, me, not so much. I mean, I love the outcome and I’m incredibly proud of him, but I don’t get much satisfaction from the day to day aspects of what he’s doing. I can’t imagine doing it any other way because its so incredibly rewarding to have created our home ourselves. But let’s be real, there’s only so much I can do most of the time.
In sharing my experiences of expatriating I’ve always wanted to be honest and real. I know I share more than many people would ever feel comfortable sharing. But, that’s just the kind of person I’ve always been. I mean, what the heck, I’m not really sharing anything so different. Don’t we all go through phases of our lives when we want to change and grow and who among us has not had periods of feeling unsettled? I don’t think what I’m going through is unique to expatriating or unique to retirement in general. I think I’m going through one of life’s many periods of natural transitions. I think it’s good to stop and look at our life on occasion and to say,”is this all there is?”. I see no harm in admitting to you that right now, right in this moment, I’m not especially happy or satisfied with what I’ve got going on in my life. Yes, I’m feeling rather unsettled and unsatisfied. Not feeling especially rewarded by much going on in my day to day life right now. But just because I’m sitting here with my laptop on my lap, talking about all this not so pleasant junk that is going through my mind today , that doesn’t mean that tomorrow I just might wake up and feel totally different. I mean….I did mention that I’m an emotional wreck at the moment, right? And….is it getting awfully HOT in here right now??? Ugh!! Someone open a window!! Sheesh! It’s sooo annoying! Hah! In spite of all that I just told you….Life is good! And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but right here looking out my window at the majestic Volcan Baru, watching the gloomy morning turn into a bright, clear, sunny day!
Aww, Holly. These posts of truth and honesty are my favorite. Hang in there, girl! You are in for a wild ride for a period of time. But, I can reassure you that it is time for YOU! Time to contemplate and look within. When I was going through menopause, my only saving grace was the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.” I must have watched that movie a thousand times and it always made me laugh out loud. Especially, the part where she bumped the car out of the parking space that she was waiting for. “Let’s face it, girls. I am older and have more insurance.” I LOVE that line!
Once your wild ride is over, you will be amazed at how strong you feel. The hormonal ups and downs disappear and you are left with one strong steady line which, for me, brought more clarity into my life. Best wishes and happy hormonal trails!
Amiga, consider this time as one for incubation and for growth. Add the swirling coctail of hormonal glitches, and it’s easy to understand why you’re having self doubt about where you are in life. You will look back on these times and marvel at how they formed you into a stronger person, one who is not scared to get quiet and like the person that looks back at you in the mirror. Anyone can breeze through life when there are distractions to keep you busy, but show me someone who is comfortable with silence and with being alone for long slices of time, and i’ll show you someone who has emerged from the same incubation chamber that you’re in right now!
You will be fine… hang in there, and rejoice once you’ve emerged from the rapids and swim in the calm placid waters!
Hi Holly, You have written one of the most descriptive essays on what it is like to deal with menopause. The term “change of life” really is much more correct that I ever realized. Have decided cultivating “patience” is the answer but somehow I haven’t managed that. It is just nice to know one is not alone in this experience. Nancy
Sent from Nancy’s iPad
Yep, I clearly remember those days…. I couldn’t believe, (nor, did I care), what came out of my mouth!
I was reading an excerpt from The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, MD. She described menopause as the “coming home to yourself”, a renaissance when many women find that they are more creative. If you think of all the wise women who have preceded us, they have made their way through the muck and come out better on the other end.
Be gentle with yourself, sit quietly, and gather your support crew! I don’t know if I’d go so far as to give up wine though – surely Excedrin…and red wine were invented by the Goddess! Save me a glass.
Hang in there, Holly. You are a strong, attractive, intuitive, funny, caring woman whom I admire very much and you will come out of this even better than you are now. I realize that all these endearing words are really no “help” to your current situation—-but the best is yet to come. Remember, you are not alone in this journey and that anytime you feel the need to be “honest” on this post, go for it!! You’ll find your place, I’m confident.
Holly, read this article and consider: It’s not you, it’s U! Hang in there, for this too shall pass…and the good news is it gets better than ever… and stays that way!
Wonderful entry Holly. Been there done that…. the tears, the impatience, the unsettled feeling, the tears, the random emotions, I remember all of that. All I can say is please believe this too shall pass. Not much consolation now, I know, but some days you just have to say come on midnight and hope the next day is better. Hang in there!!!!
I can’t relate, But this too will pass
Thank you for sharing, Holly. I get it . . . I hear you . . . xo
Yep, been there done that. Getting older is not for sissies that is for sure! But it beats the alternative. I am right there with you on the wine, try drinking extra glasses of water, you might be a bit dehydrated. And whenever I feel that extra blast of heat, I just refer to it as my “power surge”. Now if I could just do something about those extra 10 pounds that just will not budge that would be great. Be gentle with yourself, it does get better.
I’m sure you will get a big response to this post. First of all — good for you — your honesty is bound to help a lot of women. And, as I’m sure you are learning from your fan base, you are definitely not alone! The Big M can be tough (or not — I have friends who have said “no big deal”), but I’ll pass along my limited experience.
I’ve had two OB-GYNs since moving to Palo Alto in the 70”s. The first one delivered the babies and later ushered me into menopause. He was a big believer in hormone replacement therapy. I remember him saying that it wasn’t the hot flashes or the headaches that worried him; it was that so many of his patients became depressed. He said they usually didn’t say “depressed” but complained that life no longer seemed “right.” So at his urging I started taking hormones — at first a low dose birth control pill, later switching to Prempro, and I’m still on the very lowest dose of Prempro.
When my first doc retired, I found a new one I also liked a lot. This was after the studies came out recommending that we not stay on hormone replacement indefinitely, so I expected her to suggest I taper off the pills. Instead she said “Why? You have no family history of cancer. If I were you I’d take them forever — I certainly intend to.”
So there you have it. My strong recommendation is to find a doc who will write that prescription. Soon!
Big rain storm arriving in CA tomorrow. They’ve even closed the schools in SF and Oakland. Hoping this means the drought is finally over.
Lovely, honest piece, Holly. I call these periods, Going Fallow. Farmers know that a field will only produce well for so long, before it becomes nutrient exhausted and needs a period of not growing much of anything, except a few weeds, before it can be really fertile again. Huge life transition, menopause…these are the perfect time to Go Fallow for a bit. It can feel like depression. It can feel scary–OMG! My life is never going to mean anything again! It can feel empty, or fraught. You’re just recharging. What comes next will be a wonderful surprise. (OH–if the hot flashes and emotional roller coaster are maddening, PM me. Cloud Forest Botanicals has some great herbal stuff, if you are interested.).
I agree with the comment Elizabeth made about “Going Fallow”. You went through this earlier in the year, remember?
It’s my observation that you are happiest when you are doing something “creative”. You need to find your bliss, something that fills you up. How’s the concrete work, sculpting etc. going? What activities are you doing now?
Herbals are great, it’s what my doctor recommended and helped me through the worst of it. Another great book (other than Dr. Northrup’s, recommended above) is Leslie Beck’s “The Complete Nutrition Guide to Menopause”.
It’s true, this is the time of your life when you can put yourself first. It’s a difficult adjustment to make when you’re used to caring for others constantly. It’s a wonder what you can accomplish, a little at a time, when the love you lavished so greatly on others is turned inward and you realize that you need to take the time to love and nurture yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, get some exercise (an amazing mood booster). Things will start looking brighter. This too shall pass, poco a poco…remember? 🙂
Good Morning Holly! Thank you so much for so beautifully sharing how you feel. Not just on the surface but how you really feel deep down and how it is affecting you. Sending you loving energy my friend. And thank you again, because now I don’t feel so alone or crazy. tear tear. Why am I so emotional:) ha ha it’s all part of it:)
Not once in my 7 decades, for even a second, have I regretted being born male.