health transition

The Thing I Remember About Menopause

Painted Background 270My introduction to menopause happened when I was 14 years old and we had just moved to a new city. My mom was talking and walking around in our new living room slash dining room slash kitchen circling like a caged bird. She was wearing a pink silk blouse with a loose bow and one by one she completely unbuttoned it while I was sitting there, down to her bra. Thank gawd she left that on.

Flushed, flushing, clearly uncomfortable, and laughing! She was laughing.

I also remember that her migraines stopped when she reached menopause.

And that she said “Fuck You” to me for something I did not do like clean my room or make a phone call or, as she puts it now, "something important like that" (she had never sworn at me before, nor has she since).

Her menopause was also the beginning of our separation. I was separating from her, I was becoming a young woman, discovering my sexual self and sexuality. I was coming to terms with not being a child. For her, I too was no longer a child and yet would always be her child.

Moon pic Years later, she posed for a photo that my dad took when they were on a vacation in Mexico. She looked "hot", sensual, vibrant, and sexual. And this was years after menopause. She kept her 23-inch waist, decades past menopause. She did handstands against the wall, decades beyond menopause. She gave renewed energy and voice to her role as a social activist after menopause.

Now that I myself am entering the stage of peri-menopause, she is here with me, mentoring me on what to expect with menstrual stop-and-starts and its unpredictability. The end of menstruation seems like the start of it. I am grateful that she is here to gift me with her presence, humour, honesty and sage advice as I move through this hormonal and life stage transition.

We can learn about menopausal transitions from books, websites, blogs. We can learn about them from our family doctor and team of health professionals. We can learn from our family of relatives and friends. We can learn from each other.

We think we are alone when we go through transitions but that is usually untrue. Our transitions affect those around us, usually those we love the most. They impact our children, our families, our friendships. Talking about it with them can bring us closer at a time when we can feel quite disconnected.

What is the one thing you remember about menopause? What was your introduction to menopause?

What is your body telling you about your work?

Waking up in the morning feeling unrested, pushing the snooze button a couple of times, wishing more than anything that it was Friday or better yet Saturday. Forcing yourself with all your might to get out of bed and start the washing and dressing rituals to get to work. Ugh. Work. You just know that something is out of whack here. We know how closely our bodies, health and work interconnect. We can tell after spending many hours working. And we can especially tell when we are not feeling good or even really bad about our careers or work.

Health doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It ebbs and flows with different life events, with positive and negative experiences. Certainly stressful work environments and relationships can wreak havoc on our physical, emotional and mental health.

There can be many moments during our work or career history when neither our body nor our health feel well and robust.

Sometimes it can happen because we feel bored and not challenged enough. For many of us, boredom is not conducive, maybe even harmful, to mental, physical and emotional well-being.

It might be because of our work hours. Working challenging shifts or long hours can be draining and taxing on our health.

It might be because of the physical environment where we work: no windows, no fresh air, poor lighting, tiny office spaces or little if any privacy.

It might be because of the social environment where we work: our boss or colleague is abrasive, maybe adversarial. Challenging work relationships can be stressful for our emotional, psychological and physical health.

It might be because of our work lifestyle. Not enough routine, not enough predictability, or too long a commute. Our work lifestyle can be wearying on body and well-being.

Some of us feel so stuck in our jobs, in our careers, in our lives that we are sick of it. We feel sick of it. And we sometimes become sick from it.

Our body might be telling us to make a change. Perhaps it is even yelling at us and forcing us to make a change — for our physical well-being, our mental health and sometimes for our very life.

When our work is stressful, unsatisfying or unfulfilling, our body lets us know pretty quickly. It usually speaks to us — through our sleep, our gut, our breathing, our emotions or a lack of vitality — only we do not pay attention or choose not to attend.

Sometimes it feels easier to stay with what is familiar and the status quo, stay silent and ignore, avoid or deny what your body is telling you.

The body is a powerful messenger. It has deep wisdom and knowledge that we can access at every moment. What change might your body be telling you, asking you, whispering to you, even screaming to you to consider. Are you listening?

What is your body telling you as you commute to work or get ready to start your work day? Maybe you feel anxious or uninspired about your workday. Perhaps your shoulders are hunched over, ready to protect you from the onslaught of abrasiveness, meetings, or deadlines.

What is your body telling you mid-day? Maybe that your legs and back are needing to move and stretch. Maybe that you feel tense or that your thoughts or emotions are in overdrive or overwhelm.

What is your body telling you as you leave your work or workplace? Maybe it feels tense or depleted, overstimulated or bored into super-comfort-zone.

Listen to the wisdom of your body. It knows. Its wisdom is true. It will guide you to take steps, to take care of yourself and your career.