Sharing the Path: Perimenopause and Writing

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

In my new endeavor to highlight the individual behind the words (here on this blog), I will not shy away from discussing all aspects of my life that impact the writer/author that I have become. Though for many women this topic will be commonplace, there will be readers who will not see the connection between this issue and a writer’s life. However, since all of me contributes to the words and themes of my books (and the fact that I write at all), I must not assume any one factor of my existence plays a stronger role than another. It is with this introduction that I bring up the matter of perimenopause.

Perimenopause hit me out of nowhere, as it does most women—in fact I’d really never heard of it. I think back to the struggles my mother had during her late 40’s and early 50’s, classifying her symptoms as we all did at the time: hyper anxiety, intense stress, strange itching of her scalp, lower leg cramps, TMJ, etc. It certainly never dawned on me, or anyone else around her, to point her conditions to the onset of menopause. Instead she was just crazy and out of control.

I feel most fortunate to have hit this hormonal shift in these years (the last 10) when the online information world is so explosive and available. I can google any odd symptom and discover other women undergoing the same thing, just with their version. It has certainly been something unexpected that has changed my life. I’d say that sleep is the number one effect, causing me to be way more controlling over any overload of stimulation in the evenings, and the amount of quiet and darkness I need to keep me asleep, or I should say keep me falling back to sleep. My intense need to get enough sleep (or I feel like I cannot function the next day) has altered the way I spend much of my social life, specifically what I am willing and not willing to do between the hours or 5 and 10.

Perimenopause has also turned me inward in an extreme way. It has lined up with my need to write, both pulling me into a ton of solitude, never feeling like I can get enough time alone. These two have gone hand in hand, which I don’t mind, as spending time alone and writing are quite enjoyable for me. It is emotionally challenging, of course, to not always be in a state of writing, yet still clearing the space for it, but that is just part of being a writer. Since I began writing around the time my physical needs started to change (due to this female rite of passage), it seems relevant to mention the P/M words in my pursuit of sharing my path to authorhood (as this segment is about). As we are integrated organisms, all our behavior influenced by the various components of our lives, everything is relevant.

I have basically been perplexed (becoming less so lately) for the last 10 + years, as the intense need to clear the space for writing has taken over my life. This came after a divorce, when I believed the need to work (for money) should have been at the forefront of my priorities (which it was not). It also moved me away from other jobs and hobbies that had defined me for the prior 20 years. I just kept pulling in more and more, spending more and more time alone, in my apartment (while still raising kids), with the feeling that I had something in me that needed to come out, on paper. I journaled incessantly, and never actually knew if what I was going on and on about in this private domain was going to lead to any book. With years in this practice, though, I eventually organized information in a way that produced a first book, and then three years later a second (currently working on a third). Yet, it was only truly from the middle toward the end of the process that it was clear to me what was going on. I mention this because it is my day-to-day existence that has felt so strange for so long now. Writing is a pull toward something, and though we see the words on the page as they appear, we never really know (as with many things in life) where the activity is headed until it is complete (or almost complete) in some recognizable (acceptable) form. As writers, though we become somewhat familiar with this course, it can feel murky and unclear if all the time spent babbling into our computer/notebook is leading to a concrete “something.”

Again, I touch on this because it has been my life for the last 10 years, and I cannot separate it from perimenopause. I am thrilled to have completed the books I have, and excite in the prospect of finishing another when/if that happens, but the process is mysterious and mostly has me aware of my person/body in my apartment, with notebook in hand, alone, in silence, waiting for and watching the movement emerge. It is about the behavior of the organism, my actions, which are not detached from the organic changes occuring on all levels. As the subject of my books illuminates the physical reality of all human behavior, there is no reason to disregard perimenopause as a cause (of having suddenly turned me into a writer) any more than I would my graduate work in Communications, my dance career, or my background as a somatic educator. It is part and parcel of who I have become as I am a physical being subject to many causes.

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