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50/50: Embracing menopause

This whole journey started with a rapid weight gain, an extra roll of fat around my middle and some hot flashes. Menopause.

We don’t talk about it openly. It seems to be a dirty little fact of life that is best left to doctor’s offices and late-night wine time with the girlfriends. But I propose a radical new mindset: Menopause rocks!

The best analogy I’ve ever heard comes from Christianne Northrup (her book “The Wisdom of Menopause” is a good read). She says it’s like from going from AC electricity to DC.

AC is alternating current – the ups and downs that come with hormone switching strengths throughout the month. I understand that. But DC? That’s direct current – optimal energy all of the time.

As I approached “a certain age,” I began to hear horror stories about bones crumbling, skin wrinkling, energy levels plummeting, brain fog and heart attacks. All of that is diminishing talk, taking away, losing things.

Hormones are powerful things. My theory is that they act as a kind of cosmic sunscreen against the brutal burning Sun of Life’s demands. They keep our hearts, thyroid and bones protected. They shield us from all of our late hours and working when we should be sleeping. They shield us from our bad choices – smoking, drinking, bad pizza (I believe there is very good pizza so I want to make sure to clarify), and too many warm chocolate chip cookies (see my above comment about pizzas – it pertains to cookies, too).

But then our body seems to say, “OK, girl. We’ve let you live your life, but now we’re taking away your sunscreen. You’re out in that blazing sun, and now let’s see if you can figure out how to take care of yourself. You either need to put on your own sunscreen, put on long sleeves, get under an umbrella or get out of the darned sun.”

We’re used to that sunscreen protecting us. We aren’t used to slowing down. We aren’t used to speaking up when somebody has been unkind. We aren’t used to meditating, chilling out, napping, exercising, saying no – so we keep working in the full sun. And it’s at this point that we get our first sunburn.

We develop hypothyroidism because our sweet thyroid now has to start taking over even more of the burden of hormone development, and we’ve been taxing that hormone reserve for so many years our poor thyroid just can’t do it.

Our liver can’t clear that alcohol or other toxins quite so quickly, and everything gets backed up.

We see our cholesterol levels rise, our glucose numbers increase, and we start to get frightened but don’t know what’s going on. We can no longer multitask and worry it’s early-onset Alzheimer’s.

We may start on hormone replacement. We may sigh and think this is just how it’s supposed to be. The start of a steady decline.

I offer another option. How about embracing this magnificent change as a chance to do things differently to get into a more comfortable life rhythm? How about learning to advocate for yourself and lighten up on the demands you’ve been putting on your body? How about taking a meditation class?

This is not just about women. Men get into similar binds. They work too hard, don’t take care of themselves and time catches up and slaps them on the behind.

I’ve noticed a deepening in my life these past two years. I breathe more. I enjoy everyday, simple things like watching the wind blowing through the trees on my daily walk with my dog Meesha. I love the feel of the kayak paddles pushing through the water and the slight burn in my shoulders. I love cutting up the fruits and vegetables for my morning juice.

Life isn’t a long sprint to the finish. Or if it has been for you, it doesn’t need to keep being that. Get interested in what’s going on in your life. Trust your body to tell you what it needs as things begin to shift around. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends and trained professionals, and above all, entertain the thought that as you get older, you get better.

I’m stronger, happier, healthier, and so excited to be 54. It’s going to be an amazing year! And menopause? Yes, it rocks.