Okay, I'll say it. I love menopause.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth version of this transition -- where my sisters lament their estrogen-deprived existence -- makes me wonder if the half-empty-cup spin is a cultural meme. You know, that it's expected that we resist leaving behind our juicy maiden and fecund mother years because we have a whole youth-worship industry to support, from cosmetic surgery to fitness boot camps to hormone replacement.
And while I don't want to age badly (so I do yoga, eat organic and dance often), I also don't feel as if this post-menstrual segue is a burden I need to Botox or hormone supplement away. In fact, so far (almost a year since my last period), it's been pretty darn good.
So, in my swim against the cultural current (okay, tidal wave) here are five ways menopause has truly improved my life.
The Rise of Muse-Driven Creative Surges. These are way better than hot flashes that are gone almost as soon as they start. Ever since menopause, I've been flooded with non-stop ideas and inspired writing. If I was a painter, I'm sure I'd have done my own version of the Sistine chapel by now. If I was an inventor, there would already exist the next generation non-fossil fuel power source, most likely harnessing the heat of hot flashes (picture this: baby boomer women fueling a whole sustainable energy program). I predict as more women stop complaining about and resisting menopause, and instead access their new muse-ability, we will have a global transformation in the arts and technology (and put the Botox industry out of business).
The Sex Drive Drop Off. Now this might sound to some women like a bad thing, the libido nosedive that often accompanies the dip in progesterone and testosterone at menopause. But for me, it's meant the end of my sex drive running the show. It used to be, mid-menstrual cycle, if I didn't have a man handy I was ready to get down with any cucumber or phallic vegetable (organic, of course). These days, sex can be instead a gourmet menu option rather than the fast food fix to satisfy a libido craving... Some times, I choose an appetizer version of sexual play (a quickie is perfect when I am busing writing) or other times I am in the mood for a five-course meal. In menopause, my sex life is where I am learning about what actually pleases me instead of what drives me.
PMS-Free Living. With my mid-cycle horny-as-hell spike gone the way of the dodo bird, I'm also free of the hormonal downdraft called PMS. Need I say more?
Emergence of Fearless Freedom. I hear some women tell me they have anxiety attacks in menopause. I am having the opposite experience. What used to make me anxious now feels like fun. I am daring to public speak and having a blast. I'm launching my own publication, and finding it empowering rather than terrifying. I am willing to ask women in power (and men) for help, contacts and advice, without feeling shy or inferior. Menopause feels like someone slipped me a Wonder Woman pill. The only negative side effect so far is a tendency towards work-a-holism, but then again, work now feels like muse-inspired play.
Invasion of New Healthy Habits. Okay, I've always been a health nut. But lately, I'm finding some lifelong vices no longer get along with this new meno-body. A 25-year love affair with red wine is turning into a bad romance. Even small amounts of the stuff leave me achy and tired the next day. Gone too is my capacity to drink more than a cup of coffee a day, without feeling like a human vibrator. Making guest appearances? Dark chocolate (now I get what people have been raving about) and a desire to master the art of gentle exercise. No more sprints and hot yoga. Instead, vigorous outdoor walks, flow yoga and lap swimming are seducing this body into a softer way of being fit.
At the end of the day, menopause reminds me of puberty. It's a time where my emotions, my body and my focus are all changing. At puberty, I was just as delighted as I was scared by the changes.
At menopause, I have learned to trust the shifts in my world as perfectly in order. There's nothing I need to fix as my body transitions from the maiden/mother stages of womanhood.
Which brings me to the upside of aging. I am pretty sure the world needs more muse-driven, fearless, free and healthy cronettes to lead a cultural counter-charge to the menopause as broken-woman-needing-repair model.
What if we embraced our sage womanhood? What if we said yes, not to growing old, but (as a menopausal friend recently said to me), to spiritually growing up?
Maybe then we'd become mentors and leaders of what truly matters on this planet. We'd start a revolution of grandmother-wisdom, full of fierce directives and intelligent solutions. And we wouldn't give a damn about hiding our crow's feet and grey hairs because we'd know these are not unattractive features but rather true beauty marks born of our wild wise feminine power.
What if menopause changed all of our lives, for the better, one new wrinkle and grey hair at a time? I'm willing to find out.