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Joy Leftow

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by Joy Leftow   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, August 22, 2005
Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2005

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The idea of menopause is not depressing. Menopause only means change. In Latin the term means the cessation of the menses, or what we loosely translate as ďChange of Life.Ē People find it depressing because of the significance they attach to it of aging and feelings of helplessness.

My entire life has passed before me in the space on one telephone call and it feels as though my life has become a series of metaphors. The lady on the line from the credit card company asked, ďAnd for security purposes, what is the date of your birth?Ē
And suddenly, I couldnít recall my birthdate. Immediately, I said to myself, Isnít menopause associated with memory loss? Maybe Iím slowly becoming senile and soon, all my memories will be wiped out. I wonít remember the most simple things ... Oh no, God, please ... Clean slate! Jesus, No! Ayuda meí por favor. Donít let me be senile.
The idea of menopause is not depressing. Menopause only means change. In Latin the term means the cessation of the menses, or what we loosely translate as ďChange of Life.Ē People find it depressing because of the significance they attach to it of aging and feelings of helplessness. We begin in this world largely unconscious beings, unable to comprehend language or other subtleties. We express ourselves by our most basic feelings and instincts which are interpreted by the adults around us into fear, discomfort, happiness and pleasure. Growing children develop linguistic abilities and then begin to verbalize. Next we enter the most difficult and scary stage, that in-between time, when the most important thing is self confidence and acceptance by our peers. The teen years are the most difficult. But I and most of the rest of us, survive that.
Surviving change is very simple, because all of life is change. We change along with the world around us, we watch the passing of time evident in the seasons, and we grow from childhood to adults, in as long as it takes to snap our fingers.
Life is one moment of compromises, followed by a continuous, repetitive cycle of compromises. The realization sinks in - deeply - I am living on borrowed time. Suddenly like a flash, I calculate the time allotted me, and think about how much I want to accomplish before I die. I realize time waits for no one.
What becomes most depressing is the idea that one day, all of this changing and entering new stages, ends. Just like that, in the time it takes a drop of water to descend from faucet to sink, our life force leaves us. I clearly recall being around 6 and 7 years old, and pondering that death awaits us all. I am frightened by the realization that one day, at a certain second in time, I will cease to be.
This ceasing to be is the same as the miracle of birth in reverse. After we are born, when do we realize we exist? Do we actually have any awareness of our being before we are born? Whence does this awareness arise? Is it later that this awareness develops, when we experience discomfort and realize that we must depend upon someone to fix it for us? There is a moment in time when we clearly see we exist. This stream of thought returns me to my childhood memories and fears, once again to face the realization that one day I wonít be here.
Menopause looms like a second childhood. Once more I am face to face with my own mortality, wondering if thereís any way around it. I spend time meditating on reincarnation or an afterlife. Iíd rather believe in anything than the alternative, that for me - life ceases to be.
I look around me assessing all Iíve accumulated over the years, and continue longing. I even consider all the knowledge Iíve gained. The longer I live the more I long for immortality. I want to be immortal, even if it means being like Lestat, anything, instead of dying. I start to feel sorry for myself. What if my life and all Iíve accomplished will only be remembered by my son, and less by his son, (if he ever has one) and so on. Then some time, in the not too distant future, I will not be remembered at all. Does this make my life in vain? How many people can have the fame and the glory? I think harder about what my goals are and where they will lead me.
I think of DEATH and reflect on all the things I wonít see anymore; buildings reflected in myriad colors on the Harlem River or the East River when I drive to work in the morning. I see a red and yellow fall tree, ice like diamonds clinging to a bare branch on a starkly naked tree ... laden with green in spring and summer, the vibrant hues exciting my eyes, the seasons of life. One day I wonít see this anymore. Iím afraid. Iím only fifty-five yet death pursues me and lies in wait to envelop me in its shroud. When I was six these same thoughts plagued me as they did again in my early adolescence, and now, they are here again once more.
I await with trepidation, acceptance and determination. Menopause is the beginning of the ending phase, the last third of oneís life. This may seem morbid yet if we think like this, it will (hopefully) effect the way we behave. Weíll have more understanding of the meaning of things if we think of ourselves as a guest here on earth.
In our hearts we carry around all the things that concern ourselves in a big bag, the things we say about ourselves and the things others say about us. Iíve begun to see the importance of how I let these things affect my life. We each seek in the other - a reflection of ourselves, to be seen through their eyes. Perhaps to reconfirm to our selves who we are, or how we want to be seen. Perhaps only to assuage our lonliness in knowledge of who the other is or who we see them to be in relation to ourselves. The other may be seen only as an extension of ourselves, or as undiscovered pieces of a puzzle or as a lost part of ourselves. How we see others and the meanings this takes on in our lives becomes more clear as we mature. We donít have to be affected by what others say about us, whether itís good or bad. We must remember that what they say only reflects their opinions and values, which is clouded by their perception of the world. So when someone praises or criticizes us, we can think, well, in their viewpoint I have done something praiseworthy or something not to their liking. Yet we donít have to lose our inner peace and balance because of their perceptions of us. Although we neednít be in agreement with their values, we can accept their kind words when praised because we can think that anyone who acted the way we did would be praised. At the stage of our lives we call menopause, we should try to remember how to maintain our inner peace when dealing with stressful situations, so we can remain calm and enjoy the remainder of our lives. Life is always much shorter than we imagine. It was only yesterday I was a child.
The most important thing to remember, even when being morose, is that change often brings great beauty and wisdom. Menopause means change, thus one enters a different stage of oneís life, something we are in charge of and can make the most of.
Itís curious sometimes, because everyone talks about hot flashes in whispered tones, and I donít even know what a ďhot flashĒ is. I was always a bit chilly before, so now I just seem a bit more warm. This was the same way I used to feel when I used to listen to other women discuss PMS. While I occasionally, on the heaviest day of menstruation, felt this low ache in my back that traveled to my lower belly, it seemed that I could mostly not pay attention, and could just get on with it. If it felt really bad Iíd take a few ibuprofen and wait until Iíd get home from work and just put an ice pack or heating pad on. Some of my friends had to call in sick to work every month during their menses. Now that that part of my life is over, and especially worrying about pregnancy month to month, I donít miss it at all.
Strange isnít it? Consider your mortality and in comparison, most of lifeís difficulties seem petty. Think of this when you want to say something mean or when you feel wounded. Even at this point in our lives, we can still make life easier, by our viewpoint and controlling our stress levels. Think of living on borrowed time in regard to all you hold dear and then you will understand what I feel in about this change in my life and its meaning. †††


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Reviewed by m j hollingshead
Reviewed by Manes Pierre, Ph.D.
Hello Joy,

Although I am a man, I am completely in agreement with this piece. I can identify with the concept of borrowed time. We are all living on borrowed time. It can stressful to know that one day, we will face the inevitable. Meanwhile, we must make the best out of every moment of life as it changes.

Great write! Your thoughts were very moving and profound.


Manes Pierre
Reviewed by Betty Torain
Thanks JOY,

Your article is well written. Being 73 years old I know the importance of holding all things dear to me, one day at a time.

Please keep writing. Love , you made my day. Betty.
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