the heady scent of lilacs as a monarch drifts over the blooms the sand, still warm from the day the breeze twisting, twirling my long hair the lake, not too cold for bare, brave, knowing feet the sandy, wet puppy, who is not interested in me the older dog, who lets my hand gently drift across her back the dog owners, who smile and tell me their names, which I promptly forget the blue sky that was just a moment ago gray the wispy cloud that, when I notice it, mirrors the shape of the dune beneath it the cloud that looks like the softest, sweetest lamb’s coat the sun as the clouds soften its landing into the lake the breeze as it begins to chill the nearly full moon as it bursts onto the scene
Should that headline be followed by “and lived to tell about it”? Or, “and didn’t die of embarrassment”? No. No it shouldn’t. It’s just menopause, and it happens to everyone with a uterus (oh, is that a scary word, too? sorry-not-sorry), which is a lot of people. C’mon. Bodies, functions, life. No biggie.
I don’t really talk about work here because this blog is a place for me to share my film photography and personal writing, but I did write this article and a terrific co-worker through some workplace magic got it to the right person who then got it to someone who wanted to publish it. So it’s a short article about how employers can support their employees going through menopause in the workplace. I’m proud of it. But there’s so much more to say.
I’m not an expert about menopause in the workplace. I work for a great company, an HR services company that helps employers stay compliant and do the right things for employees and for their business. I read plenty of articles about keeping millenials happy and engaged, and I see a lot of images of hip looking young people attached to these articles. But, most workplaces are made of multiple generations, and so many women I know are working their asses off right now, and I’m not really seeing articles about making sure we’re happy, engaged, fulfilled, and expanding in our positions. We’re just kind of there, plugging along, holding down all the forts, because it’s what we do.
Maybe the bigger issue is that women become invisible after a certain age. If we’re not sexy, we’re not terrifically useful anymore. And menopause, apparently, is not sexy. Personally (and again, I’m no expert here) I’m kind of thinking menopause is sexy. I mean, you don’t have to plan things around periods anymore. You don’t have to travel with all the accoutrements that periods demand (pads, tampons, period underpants, which are a real thing but I still take them to mean the ugliest, oldest skivvies in the back of your drawer that you save for when you’re on your period because they’re already ruined and you can’t ruin them any worse). And hot flashes? What’s sexier than stripping in the middle of whatever the hell you’re in the middle of because suddenly your body is like this incredible furnace that can heat up a room in seconds flat?
I don’t mean to be cavalier about the health aspects of it. Menopause has some issues aside from the physical nuisances, like osteoporosis and increased risk for heart disease. But, so does aging. The alternative is not being alive, because living is aging. And that’s not where I’d like to be.
So, anyway. I wrote a little work article about menopause and I hope I can write more articles about aging in the workplace. And, I’m lucky enough to be working for a company that values and honors me and other women at this stage in our lives. I hope you can say the same. But if you can’t, maybe take a chance and start talking about it at work. Maybe don’t be afraid to tell people what’s going on with you or if you’re struggling. I’ve had some interesting conversations since the article came out, and that’s where it starts.
I’m still still here. Hoping you are, too, without having been kicked around too much by what we’ve collectively gone through, now over a year of COVID, the end of a U.S. administration that tried our humanity, the beginning of a new one that maybe helps you breathe easier, too.
I realize what I just wrote there will connect with some who read this and will cause others to roll their eyes, stop reading, unfollow this blog. But there, I’ve said it. If you don’t know me personally or haven’t guessed from previous posts, I am a liberal, pro-human, science-believing, hate-hating human. I want everyone to feel safe, secure, loved, cared for. The last four years under the former president were traumatizing, and the final year of that administration felt like the icing on a great big shitcake.
I’m breathing again. I don’t flinch when I see a news update pop up on my phone (at least not as often–there is still dire news, but our current president’s reaction to it is more appropriate, without insults or hate-tweets or disinformation). And now, because people I love are getting vaccinated, I can see them, hug them, look at their whole faces and expressions. But this country is profoundly divided. I don’t know if it’s more divided than ever; it’s always been divided. It feels deeper to me. There is no meeting in the middle with people who believe something global and devastating is a hoax, or that helping their neighbors takes something away from them, or that trump’s version of a “great” America denies Americans whose ancestors built this country.
I don’t have answers, but I have some hope. I wish I’d have written here about how I was feeling a year ago when the virus began to unfold. How I felt when a knee on a neck made people take to the streets and demand the human rights they should already be afforded. How I worried about family and friends getting sick. How I felt when a friend suffered an unimaginable loss. How navigating grocery shopping turned into a political landmine. Staying quiet has been my protective blanket to avoid the uncomfortable. Staying home got comfortable. It will take me a while to feel safe outside of the cocoon.
I’ve missed my daughter and haven’t seen her in a year and a half, but she is well and safe. And, we will see her and her partner this summer. Our son, his partner, and another friend just came and stayed with us for two days. All grown young adults in their early 20s, they were happy to be parented a bit while recovering from their vaccines. We cooked for them, and it connected me to the memory of my mother doing the same. When I was in my early 20s and came to the cottage with my boyfriend, often bringing other friends, my mom was ebullient, cooking for us, starting spontaneous dance parties, organizing late night skinny dips, howling at the moon, staying up late into the night with us, wanting to know everything about our lives in the city. This part of parenting is delicious. Like when you have little kids and they fall asleep wrapped around you and you’re sweating and need to go to work or do dishes but it’s so painfully delicious that you’re not about to disturb them and so you stay, sweating, maybe with an arm or leg cramping beneath their weight, not doing what needs doing but wrapped in the biggest, yummiest love. It feels like that. Different, but just as delicious.
I’ve been busy, though. I am grateful to have a job that has kept me busy doing something I love and working with people I respect and admire, and for a company that I know values me. Even so, I’ve given a lot over the past year and haven’t allowed myself balance. I promised myself this year I’d take my PTO and I may need reminders to do that, but I’m committed.
My cameras need some love, too. I still have a shoebox of film, although I’m down to the oldest, most expired, and weirdest rolls at this point. I shot a few rolls over the last two months but am in no rush to get them developed. I’m not bored with my usual subjects, but I’m eager for some new scenery, a new town or woods, a new photographic find. I’m painting, and trying my hand at sketching. It feels good to create. It has always felt good to create.
Anyway. I am feeling some hope in what feels like an in-between time of still not-quite-right, but starting to get a little better. Spring brings growth and that is a physical manifestation of hope, at least for me. I don’t want to go back to what was our normal, because I don’t think it was particularly sustainable. I want to go forward to something else, something with a whole lot of love. I don’t want to use any energy toward anything else.