My body was trying to give me a hint of what was to come. I guess I just wasn’t listening, or wanted to deny it. First it was the extra girth. Then came the bursts of body heat so intense I swear I could feel flames coming through my skin.
But try as I might, I couldn’t ignore the fickleness and then total absence of my lunar friend. Since the age of eleven, she was a faithful, though very reckless visitor. Every month, like the rising of the tides, she came bounding into my life.
When I was very young, she turned me into a raging banshee. But once I hit middle age, something beautiful happened. She became my pitchfork in the back, my wonderful instigator. She was the friend who comes over, grabs the book out of your hand, and takes you out to watch the most exquisite sunset you could possibly hope to see.
Everything became heightened. My senses became keener. My emotions changed from gentle pastels to brilliant bits of red, orange and blue glass. All bright, brazen and stiletto-sharp.
I listened to music endlessly. From the music came the stories, the characters so real that I could see them in my mind’s eye, so close I could almost touch them. That’s when I wrote. And played. And wrote much more.
At first I thought I was imagining this, but I began to see a pattern. I truly believe that my creativity heightened during the period leading up to my friend’s visit.
Is it really true? Is creativity enhanced, or even sparked, by a woman’s menstrual cycle?
Well, turns out I’m picking up on this about 2,000 years after the fact.
In her piece for Broadly, writer Gabby Bess chronicled an interesting project. Sculptor Lara Mossler took her own 28-day challenge. Using her own style of meditation to harness the power of her hormones, Mossler created art each day during her cycle and noted the changes in what she created.
Mossler said she was inspired by research on cultures and societies where, since time itself, menstruating women separated themselves from the community and went off to create.
Many female artists find that the period before ovulation helps them to produce their best work.
But what about those of us who are no longer graced by our lunar friends? It’s really strange-what I once dreaded I now miss. Terribly.
Now, it’s all about night sweats, feeling frumpy and grumpy, fatigued. But I’ll be really honest, it’s the loss of creativity that hurts the most. Or maybe it’s the loss of words. With the moods and colors came the words. The words still come, but are harder to pick out of the air. They’re just flying by, and I’m missing them. And I’m not feeling them.
Wait. I’m not giving up yet. There’s hope.
In her article in High 50, Celia Dodd makes the case for a fabulous phenomenon known as “Post-Menopausal Zest,” or PMZ. Unlike its evil step-sister, PMS, it doesn’t feature the crazy emotional swings. Depression reportedly decreases significantly. And as estrogen levels drop and testosterone increases, so do drive, motivation, sexual energy and,well, zest.
Most encouraging was Dodd’s mention of a British Psychological Society study, which found that memory and overall cognitive function improved once the symptoms of menopause disappeared. Many of the women reported that, overall, they felt better at 60 than they ever did at 40.
But what about those moods? What about those intense highs and lows? What will I harness now? The words? The music?
I’m writing almost every day, so the quantity of my output has increased. But what about the quality?
I’ve no idea, but the words of the Menopause Goddess Blog give me a glint of light in the darkness. Maybe this is a new iteration of my creativity.
My favorite part of her article is her mention of how, at our stage of life, many women just don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. We chase our creative imps anyway. Just for the hell of it. Because we’re driven to do it. Yes.
I’m going to leave this with a little prayer and a hopeful question, once posed by the poet Mary Oliver : ” Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”