Pause


Damn it, I woke at 4 am again. 

***

I couldn’t fall back asleep so at 5:00 I surrendered and picked up the book I’d been reading, The Journal of Best Practices. David Finch has Asperger’s Syndrome, and his book chronicles the two years he spent working on improving his self-centered thinking and behaviors. It’s an interesting read, but I skimmed it, really, because the same things that are annoying about his behaviors in real life can be annoying to read about chapter after chapter. What made it fascinating is seeing how his mind works, his intense need for absolute unvarying routine, his lack of empathy or ability to understand a situation from someone else’s point of view. 

One of his insights is to watch what his wife wants to watch on TV instead of what he wants to watch. He discovers that America’s Next Top Model is quite fun, actually, and it becomes their thing to watch the show together. This is Relationship 101: be willing to do what the other person wants to do, and you might end up liking it too. Allow yourself to be influenced. Give in to being changed in order to fit better with someone you love. 

Last night Hugh and I watched About Time, which I thought would be an annoying rom com and turned out to be very sweet and a bit thoughtful. The main character learns to savor life as it’s happening. He is wildly in love with his wife and their children, and he’s deeply loving toward his father and sister. No one argues in this film; the only drama comes from him wanting everything to turn out right. It’s a film about the ordinary and mundane in life, the delicious little moments that make up each day if only we allow them to be so delicious.

This is much the same message as Best Practices. His biggest lesson is to learn to go with the flow enough to have fun. He learns how to enjoy spending time with his kids, whom he loves, of course, but they are constant hurricanes of chaos, disrupting his routine and forcing him to be adaptable and empathetic, both of which are nearly outside of his neurological make up. Nearly, but not entirely, he learns how to do the best with what he has. He’s committed to developing the richest, most engaged, and happiest relationships with his wife and children. 

These are lessons I’m still learning. Let go of control. Do what the other person wants to do, and enjoy doing it. Be in the moment. Be less annoying. Be wildly in love and be deeply loving.

***

I woke at 4 am and began to analyze what that meant. It must be the food I’ve eaten because Crazy Food Lady thinks everything is about the food. Besides, if it’s the food, then I can control the food, and then I control the symptoms, right? AmIright? It’s with a mixture of fear, disappointment and ultimately relief that I remember my health isn’t tied to one meal, or even one week. Just keep eating pretty well and let it go. 

As much as I wish the Perfect Diet would ease all my symptoms, I remember that my body is shifting hormones and that this shift is unavoidable. It is blessedly, purposefully unavoidable, much like adolescence. It’s simply the door we walk through from here to there. I do my best to make that walk as easy as possible but part of the process seems to be that it’s supposed to be a bit difficult. We’re supposed to be changed.

***

Have you seen the Menopausal? We walk as if zombies. 

“I’m tired.” “Yes, me too.” 

“I’m hungry.” 

“I cry, all the time.” 

We try supplements, artificial hormones, acupuncture. We change our diet, cutting calories, upping our cardio, amping our strength training, and still we gain weight. We sweat and we flush. We do not sleep. We take care of our children and our parents and, desperately, ourselves.

Someone pointed out to me that crying, all the time, is much like being premenstrual, which it is, except in the good old days, I could point to the calendar and agree, yes, in a few days, these hormones would shift. Now, I simply wonder. Do the same hormones that make me cry at every sentimental thing also make me want to eat and eat some more? That, too, is much like being premenstrual. 

I have to remember, this is temporary. It’s just not two days and done temporary. It’s a year or two and then done. This particular symptom, these feelings, they won’t last all year, probably. But they might. 

It could be I can do many things to ease the feelings and symptoms (what else to call them? the lack of focus, the lack of sleep, the sentimentality, the hunger, all of it). It could be the only thing to do is to ride it out. Ride it out and stop trying to make it go away. Ride it out and laugh it off. Ride it out and stop punishing myself for having so little focus and too little energy. Does it matter? The bills get paid. Everything that really needs to happen is happening. Plus some. I am holding more babies. I am walking with friends. I am reading books. There’s a life beyond productivity if I’m brave enough to be there.

Menopause is like adolescence. It’s the second Time to Grow Up call. 

The first time, we learn responsibility. It’s a busy, productive time, those fertile years. 

The second time, we learn the meaning of our lives, and it’s vitally important that we allow this to happen. Why am I obsessing about food? Because I always have. It has been chronic and now is acute. I react to so many foods, or I think that I do, and in the end, besides acupuncture and herbs, I’m learning to manage it by calming the f*ck down. No, really, I want to market the Calm The F*ck Down Diet. I eat and tell myself, “I’ll be fine. I won’t react to this food.” When I have a reaction, I tell myself, “I’ll be fine. It’s temporary. There’s no harm done. I’ll relax and have some tea and feel better later.” I send the signal to my nervous system to go ahead and relax. Digest this wonderful food peacefully.

Why do we gain weight? So we can learn the meaning, or meaninglessness, of it, and we can be prompted to shift into exceptionally good patterns of eating, moving, and resting. We’re tired so we can learn it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to hang out and be slow. 

Why do we cry so much? So we can embrace the beauty. 

There’s a concept in education called disequilibrium. It’s the imbalance and confusion we feel when we thought we knew something and, in order to learn, we need to let go of what we knew and accommodate this new information. 

I’ve had 51 years to grow a relationship with my body and with food. I’ve been consciously working through this relationship for over a decade. Each year, I add more kindness and more compassion to this work. It’s an incredible challenge to me because I bring analysis, shame, fear, and tension to the process.

I’d like to eat as a normal person does -- you know, get hungry, eat, forget about it -- and that may never be my way. My new mantras (it’s temporary! it’s okay! calm the f*ck down!) remind me to look at the big picture. It’s not about each meal or each day; it’s the overall process  in which I do my best to eat well, move well, and rest well with the intention of gaining greater, sustainable health. Oh, and learn to love myself and my body more fully, more unconditionally, more compassionately and passionately along the way. 

Sometimes, I’m going to mess up. I won’t eat well or even when I think I’m doing my best, I won’t rest well. It’s a darn shame and usually very low consequence. I think of David Finch and his Asperger’s mind, learning which things are just not a big deal and he doesn’t need to flip out about them. We all have our fixations. We all have that one thing that it seems everyone else knows how to do while we’re a few miles behind. Menopause is like catch up time. It’s a good time to get a bit better at some stuff, the stuff that up to now we’ve been too busy up to focus on. 

***

I  have been writing deeply confessional, highly personal blog posts for months now. It’s been one giant Me fest. Part of deep healing is introspection. I’d like to go deeper into that healing. In the past, that’s meant gut-wrenching work. Now, looking forward, I’d like it be more loving and easier. I want to keep praying as I run and maybe, when these symptoms bother me, I’ll pray then, too. I’m going to really enjoy this ride of being highly sentimental and easily brought to tears. I’m going to nurture my powers of compassion, grow them from this seedling into a big tree. I’ve got decades in front of me, years and years in which to watch that tree grow. Like David Finch, and the character in About Time, I’d like to have more fun and enjoy the ride.  


And I’d like to write about something besides me for a while.