Tuesday, May 5, 2015


A while back I thought perhaps a book about menopause would be a good fit.

I am of that age. 

And I do love talking about menstruation.

I bought a bunch of books for reading/research but had trouble making it past the introductions. They felt trite, cloying, sappy, medicalized, depressing. Full of cliches about enjoying golden years or celebrating freedom. 

I don't really want to be free. I like getting my period. It's comfortable, comforting, a familiar tradition that while can be painful and messy it's been with me for almost as long as I can remember. I'm fine with it staying. I don't particularly like change. I thought perhaps I would somehow avoid the whole menopause thing and just keep chugging along. 


This shit just got real. 

I haven't gotten my period in 2 months. Since 3/9 to be exact. I feel like I'm getting it. All the time. My skin is breaking out and peeling. My middle has been blown up like a cheap pool toy for weeks. I have chipmunk cheeks, strange cramps, anxiety is always hovering, a constant state of swollen has taken hold. 

I think I came up with the perfect analogy: it's like sitting on the runway on a plane that's not taking off. No one's saying why. There are issues. You can't get disembark. You can't go anywhere else. You're stuck in the unknown and  have no choice but to deal. 

That feeling one gets a few days before your period arrives of swelling, stretched skin, bloat, a phantom double chin, heavy breasts, pants slightly too tight? I am now that way ALL THE TIME. I coined a new term yesterday: perma-bloat. That's pretty much summing things up right now. 

Now that menopause isn't abstract perhaps there's a book in here for me to do. One that doesn't have rainbows or HRT. More along the lines of keeping me grounded (sorry for the bad pun) while waiting for the tech crew to get the plane up and running again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

not writing about menopause

I made a commitment to write about menopause for 40 days to see if there was a book project in there for me to dig into. 

Turns out I wasn't writing about menopause after awhile, I was more whining about it. And that, for me, isn't motivation to delve into anything. 

Menopause is what it is. I'll live through it, perhaps navigate some unknown territory, will miss my period when it's gone and that's that. As my yoga teacher said at the beginning of class yesterday, quoting from some graffiti that made her stop and stare: 

this is so fucking temporary

I LOVE that. It's honest and true and describes menopause to a T. It describes many things to a T. And that's what I'm going to hold onto as I live this phase. 

Still haven't figured out my next project. But not knowing is only temporary too. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

the other side of the sugar-free aging menopause coin

I spend much if not most of the time looking at the bright side. It's the complete opposite of how I've been for most of my life - expecting the negative runs through my blood. I'm a child of Jewish superstition and cringe when someone talks too positively about anything as if that will incur the wrath of mystical forces and something dire will soon be in the horizon. I still mutter kenahura under my breath and fervently hope ill will hasn't been set in motion. 

Ok so I haven't completely let go of old habits. They run deeper than most things. 

But, my glass is generally half full. I spend time every day saying quiet thank you's for the blessings in my life. Grateful is my usual default mode. 

I work to bring that to my aging/ menopause process. And much of the time I'm pretty successful. I can eek out positive aspects and silver linings. 

But not all the time. 

Deep down I hate that there's so little I can do. 

It sucks that I leak pee. That my elbows are covered with fine wrinkles. That even giving up sugar doesn't shrink my middle in the least. That I feel self conscious in funky stores. That I have to do foot exercises every day so I can walk after wearing cute shoes. 

That my kids will be on their own soon. 

That I bemoan harsh winter days and can appreciate why people move south.

That I have sinus problems every when the heat comes on. 

That I'm supposed to take hard to swallow calcium pills not once but twice a day. Something I never remember. 

That turning 50 means a colonoscopy, an eye exam, increased scrutiny and expectations of illness. 

That gas expulsion keeps increasing. 

That I grasp for the simplest of vocabulary words. 

That my motivation and drive are nothing compared to what they used to be. 

It's not that I've abandoned my positive outlook but it's not always quite that clear cut. Feelings about aging aren't black and white, they're literally grey. 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Hello. My name is Elissa and I leak pee.

Let me start by saying yes Mom, this is oversharing but I'm actively choosing to do it. 

And yes, I leak pee. I'm finding it annoying. Uncomfortable. Embarrassing  Humiliating. Kind of creepy. Incontinence ads and products are now harder to blatantly ignore. 

This year I finally mentioned it to my gynecologist. Last year and the year before I was too mortified to say anything but as the situation didn't  magically rectify itself I took a deep breath and said it out loud. Turns out there are specialists I can see and I could even get a Botox shot to staunch the flow (it's not really a flow, it's still just a leak). That thought was profoundly disturbing on many levels: 

A. I'm not a fan of Botox

B. I'm not a fan of needles anywhere near my bladder

C. from what I understand once Botox wears off the problem is worse than it was in the first place which could lead to

D. an endless cycle of bladder Botox shots 

In another vein entirely I spoke to a pelvic floor expert who educated me on what the pelvic floor does and how it's set up. I had no idea what there were two criss crossing bands of muscle, kind of like hammocks at right angles. And, that with concentration and practice you can work on strengthening individual bits. I can now tighten and release front, back, left and right. I only do this in private as I can't help but clench the corresponding parts of my face which I assume looks more than slightly ridiculous. 

It could be helping. It could be keeping things from getting worse. Not sure. 

That's another hard part about this aging/menopause process. There often aren't answers. And I like answers. I like finite. I like knowing. This is the opposite of knowing. 

I suppose in the general scheme of things I should be grateful that it's a pee leak and not a pee gush. 

Look at that, I found my pee silver lining. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

it's only a number

Yesterday, after having my blood pressure the nurse asked me to hop on the scale. 

Immediate reaction: boots or no boots? She said either way. So I gingerly stepped on and watched the black digital numbers quickly increase until they stopped at 145. 


And the spin began. 

I'd left my heavy shearling boots on. Plus my jeans and t shirt and sweater and scarf. That had to equal 5 pounds. 

Thoughts flooded over me. 

I weighed 142 when I started the kidney donor journey. 

137 when it was over. 

133 when I got pregnant with Iz

128 when I got pregnant with Jack. 

165 when I gave birth to both. 

123 when I was in art school desperately trying to be 118. 

106 at my anorexic thinnest. 

These pulsed through my head in mere seconds as the nurse asked questions. And then they stopped. 

Totally stopped. 

What never started, and this was the very first time in my adult life, was: 

you loser you are so fat you eat too much you have to go on a diet you don't exercise enough you pig you are so lame you'll never be thin you should be ashamed of yourself

Those repetitive, negative thoughts that were deeply embedded in me for as long as I can remember. I haven't owned a scale in close to 30 years because every time I stared at a number I didn't want to see that hateful rant would start in my head. I used to weigh myself as soon as I woke up, before and after I went to the bathroom, without clothes and then with. And I berated myself every single time. 

When I was pregnant and gained 9 pounds at the beginning the nurse chided me for gaining too fast. So I by the next visit I lost 3 pounds. We decided to keep my weight a secret from me going forward. I'd face away from the scale and she wouldn't leave my chart where I could see it. 

But yesterday, after that initial spin cycle I thought: 145. Ok. 

And then gratitude swamped me. For my healthy body. For answering no to every question on a very long, intimidating health questionnaire. For practicing yoga the day before. For donating a kidney. For walking to the office on a freezing cold day. For being fine with the clothes I fit into. For being a vegetarian. Even for giving up sugar to take care of myself. 

For appreciating this comfortable home my soul lives in.

It took until 50 to not care about what the number on the scale says. And at this point the number of my age doesn't phase me either. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

it's all sugars fault

Last night I treated myself to a heaping bowl of chocolate granola. Actually it was plain granola with chunks of chocolate throughout. In the recent past I enjoyed it so much that it became an unexpected addiction. Some days I was eating almost nothing else. And so, as I tend to do, I gave it up completely. 

Last night though I was feeling peckish (love that word) and I dipped my toe back into the chocolate granola pool. 

A. It wasn't as fabulous as I remember and 

B. I had trouble sleeping all night, waking up more than once sticky with sweat despite the fact that my bedroom was freezing cold. 

The last two times I encountered this hot flash situation (one for sure, the second time I'm not quite as certain), I'd eaten more sugar than I usually do. 

Could it be that, at least in me, sugar sets off hot flashes? 

Sigh. That would suck. I don't eat much sugar as a general rule but now that the weather is more wintery, every afternoon finds me on line somewhere, usually Starbucks, ordering a hot chocolate. With whipped cream. Mmmm. Hot chocolate with whipped cream.  
What a delicious finger warming, smile inducing mid afternoon treat. 

But pure sugar no matter how hard I try  to justify the calcium connection. 

And just perhaps it could be the cause of these night sweats. 

So, I'm giving up sugar for 40 days. Hoping it makes my nights cooler and more filled with actual sleep. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

wanting what you have

Wanting what you have.

I think that's a great concept. Something to aspire to. Appreciating how green my own grass is instead of coveting someone else's. Honestly I  live a life filled with gratitude. Most of the time. That's been one absolute bonus about getting older. My level of grateful, my ability to bypass drama far more often, my increased comfort in my own skin have been tremendous pluses during this part of the journey. 

But it's not all positive. It's not going to be all positive. With age comes good but also not so good. A first colonoscopy comes to mind. The gas output increase (my mother was rather horrified I shared that with the world). Those memory blips which can be remarkably disconcerting as I struggle to remember the name of an actress or where I put my keys or whether I already added flour to the batter. 

My drooping, purple lined, jiggly thighs (they deserve their own paragraph). 

Getting older is a microcosm of life in general. Positive and negative rolled together. Unexpected changes. Trying to maintain control but having to accept that I can't. Same old same old. 

But not really. It's never the same old same old in life. Not when you're really in it instead of just coasting. Aging can be a powerful reminder to be in the moment instead of being somewhere else. 

Hmmm. That was pretty profound. Am going to sit in that for awhile.