Monday, April 21, 2008

Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Auntie Kauila is a kumu hula - a hula master in Hawaii. She is 84 and can bend lower than I and most of my hula sisters. She passes on her vast repertoire of knowledge of chant and dance to her students, most of whom are midlife and older. Her day job consists of teaching Hawaiian culture to elementary school children. She is active, fit, and a powerhouse of energy. And she was bubbling over the other day about a new hula she had learned. That’s right - “learned.” She is a renowned expert and she’s still learning. I want to be Auntie Kauila when I grow up.

While I admire her accomplishments, grace, and stamina, I mostly want to be her because she is so interested. In everything. And being interested makes her interesting. She gets high marks on the role model scale for the second half of my life.

I read a quote recently from a midlife woman who said “I pay attention to women older than I am. They are my future.” To discover and create our future, we menopausal goddesses would do well to pay attention to older women we admire and hope to emulate.

My mom also pegs the needle on my role model meter. She bought her first home computer about 5 years ago I now refer to her as the Internet Queen. She finds and forwards the most thought provoking, insightful, and amazing sites. Great jokes too. Sister goddess Theresa gave her the highest compliment: “I never delete Lynette’s Mom’s emails.” She’s taken up painting in oils and acrylics recently - her art is unique and beautiful. She continues to explore her creativity. Yep, I want to be Mom, too, when I grow up.

Whom do we admire? And why? That’s a question the Venuses sat down to answer during one of our meetings. Each goddess wrote down two women that she felt were glowing examples of who she’d like to be when she grew up, and listed the traits that made them such shining stars for her. Then we shared our lists with one another.

While the individual mentors we chose were illuminating, the reasons we held these women up as our ideals were considerably more important. Each of us admired different attributes: grace under pressure, living largely, empathy and kindness, strength, optimism, creativity, etc.

The most stunning insight arising from this exercise and discussion revolved around how often the qualities that a Venus admired in her two role models were the very qualities she embodied for the rest of us! And each Venus was unable to see it for herself until her sister goddesses pointed out the obvious. Can it be that what we most admire, we unconsciously already are? We saw it over and over again in our round robin about the women we most esteemed.

While it might be possible that I am already interested/interesting and creative, my midlife growing up is still a work in progress. I expect that Auntie Kauila and my mother Betty will keep me focused and challenging myself. The same goes for the other Venuses and their chosen role models. These elder women are our future. And the future looks very good indeed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Menopausal Goddess Tries to Maintain

“Oomph,” grunts my husband lifting my suitcase, as we prepared to leave for a recent trip. “Why is your bag so heavy?” “Maintenance,” I reply.

In the post-menopausal period of my life, I find that I require a great many products, supplements, and emollients just to maintain a level of adequacy. I’m not trying to look glamorous or sexy; I’m simply trying not to frighten small children. Or myself when I happen to encounter a mirror.

For those of you who’ve followed the “hair thinning” saga, you won’t be surprised that I need to pack my special Nioxin shampoo and conditioner, my wide tooth comb and gentle brush, my two products to maximize curl, gel to help style the improved curls, a purifying rinse to get all the built up crap out of my hair from these tenacious cremes and sprays, and a special every-few-days industrial strength conditioner. That’s several pounds devoted to hair alone.

I need SPF 20 makeup foundation and powder, blusher, eyebrow and lip pencils, and lipstick. An additional special sunscreen is also needed for “outdoor” pursuits. For years, I didn’t wear makeup; now my skin is so sensitive to UV that I wear it for protection. A nice side benefit is that it smoothes out my skin tone and livens me up a bit.

Dryness is always a factor, these days. Even in Hawaii where there is a fair amount of moisture in the air, if I should skip a day of lubricants, my skin vaguely resembles an alligator handbag. (Faux alligator, of course.)

So, I need special non-drying soap and body wash, face cleanser, body lotion, and hand creme. I must take facial moisturizer, eye cream, and my favorite anti-wrinkle cream. For dry eyes, I pack artificial tears and eyelid wash. How many pounds of stuff are we up to now?

Ah supplements. Can’t forget my women’s multiple vitamin, my lo-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack, my Vitamin E, thyroid supplement, acetyl-l carnitine for memory and brain function (this stuff really works when I remember to take it), my calcium/Vitamin D chew, and my SGS defense herbs. And I require a jar of natural progesterone cream as well as my topical glucosamine cream to keep my joints nicely lubricated.

Finally, I’m ready to pack a few items of clothing and a couple of books.

Still, while my luggage may weigh more when I travel these days, I realize that this time of life has allowed me to jettison a great deal of other baggage. I’ve quit carrying along resentment, perfectionism, martyrdom, victim states, feeling inadequate, unfocused longing, feeling responsible for the state of the world, and jealousy. In a sense, I’m now traveling a lot more lightly than I ever have. And I have Menopause to thank for it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Choose The Right Menopause Remedy Part II

Menopause is not a disease (although it darn sure feels like one to those of us suffering through it.) It’s a normal, albeit intense, transition. It is important for us to keep reminding ourselves of this when searching for relief. Confronted with myriad treatment options, we need to be able to CHOOSE the most effective remedies with the least potential for harm. Here are a few “rules” we Venuses recommend to help guide your choices.

Rules and Guidelines
#1 Try One Remedy at A Time
While this may seem like common sense, I cannot tell you how many knowledgeable, intelligent, and perceptive women avail themselves of several herbs, creams, and treatments at the same time to relieve their discomfort. While we menopausal women understand the desperation of a search for relief, this throw-everything-but-the kitchen-sink-at-it method obscures what really will work. Or won’t.

Try one remedy and give it enough time to work - most menopause preparations are labeled with how long you can expect to wait for symptom relief. If after the appropriate time period nothing happens, you may switch to another remedy or add one that is meant to work with the first. (for example, start with progesterone cream and later add plant estrogens - more about those later.)

#2 What Works for One Venus May Not Work For Another
Although we are strong proponents of learning about relief and modalities from other women who have experienced the wild changes of this time of life, we understand the uniqueness of each woman’s transition. (Transition used in this case is a euphemism for “barely endurable roller coaster ride”.) So as you try remedies and attempt solutions recommended to you by your own Venuses or your health care practitioners, continue to refer back to rule # 1.

#3 What Worked Yesterday May Not Work Tomorrow
Just when you’ve found the perfect balance of creams, supplements, or HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to quiet the hormonal ebbs and flows causing such disruption and discomfort, they stop working. Without warning, you are plunged back to ground zero, searching for an elusive combination of remedies that will ease your suffering. Alas, this will likely happen more than once. Get used to it. We are hoping that if you are prepared for it, it will be easier to take. Maybe not.

Take heart, though. Eventually each Venus found a remedy or combination that worked for us and our symptoms diminished. We found a new balance and health. There was even a little bonus in that we don’t have those pre-menopausal monthly ups and downs anymore. And we don't miss them one little bit. Stay tuned. We’ll have more guidelines for our sister goddesses in the next blog entry.
(Material partially adapted from our upcoming book "Venus Comes of Age: The Wit and Wisdom of Menopausal Goddesses" )