My periods came to a stop. Period.
What a long way from that evening as I walked back from school. It was a sort of tradition for me to say hello to my neighbor aunty. She would invite me home for a quick Modak or Murukku (Indian snacks). Wandering into their house one day, I saw her husband in the kitchen. It was an unusual sight. I was quite the tomboy, and anything I needed to know meant I needed to know. “Uncle, why is Aunty not in the kitchen?”. Wearing his crisp shirt and a veshthi (a type of cloth wrap for the lower body), he plays his fingers on the kitchen door frame and says, “It is that time of the month. She cannot enter the Kitchen or the Pooja room”. “What time of the month, Uncle?” A gentle smile and a murukku is lovingly placed on my lap. Oil stains on my maroon school skirt would mean a stern look from my mother. I place the steel plate by my side and cock my head questioningly, still insistent on an answer. “You will know in good time, dear girl,” closes the conversation. A few days in a month, month on month, this event repeats itself.
That day came. “In good time,” he had said. So I knew, I thought. Or did I? That day, I was to be present at school for an audition for a radio program—a group song to be presented by the school choir. Excited, I get ready especially early. Swinging my school satchel onto my shoulders, I adjust my skirt. Feeling uncomfortable and having slight stomach pain, I see an unusual stain where it shouldn’t be. I tell my mother and then run to the school bus. I push my way through to my favorite window seat and put my head on the window bars. I tilt my head, and whom do I see? My father, urging me to get down from the bus. “Your mother told me you were unwell; you must come home.” The memory of that day has stayed till today.
Periods-that monthly reminder that we wait for as a mark of womanhood. Or not so monthly-in the spirit of including all women who agonise over dates because a whole bunch of us were not blessed to have it so regularly. That mark in the sand tells us that we have arrived. This is celebrated in many cultures as a day of coming of age.
A celebration of life. An ode to living. Transitioning from a girl to a woman.
We grew together through its presence and companionship over all those days, months, years, and decades. We matured through the vagaries of life. Never did I wish for a pause, for she was my life’s one constant observer. Reminding me of my roles and responsibilities. Of a life that I was supposed to live. There were days I wished for a pause. Days when it was too much to bear. Days when she embarrassed me. I dreamt of freedom from her- not knowing that her presence gave my body the strength it needed.
Decades passed. Then came the tumultuous dance of the hormones. Smart, intelligent woman of the world, and all the adjectives I gave myself when I was in a generous mood, did not prepare me for the roller coaster ride. All this when I was told I had it mild. Intellectual assimilation of material read and experiences analysed gave me a false sense of meeting this milestone with readiness, care, and comfort. A meltdown for no reason- I am alone in a strange city, I reasoned- was not attributed to the months that the hormones would take to run their course and settle down. Reminding me every day of the last mile she was running. A general conversation with a male friend reminded me of how I may have been appearing to the world outside. “ I had a rough day with my manager,” he said, recounting his nightmarish day, “but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She is in her 50s and must be menopausal with her mood swings”.
And then the final stop. Wait, was it just a pause? When I thought I was free, she returned home for a short visit. We had missed each other. A few months later, she decides I am ready; she leaves me this time for sure. A stamp- twelve months since she left. “You are officially menopausal, “my Gynaecologist declares. A retinue of regular tests, exercises, medicines, and calcium is prescribed. Life is over, it screams.
She waves a final goodbye,
leaving her home of years.
She came with life,
chaotic unbridled energy
that flowed strongly.
Sometimes with a surprising serenity
and at other times with tethered throbs.
Every moment of her presence,
a pulling cry for attention.
Her moods affected my own,
for she slowed sometimes
and raged at others.
Appearing at places unannounced,
she claimed her space unabashedly.
Abandoning her abode, she gently
cajoles me- to find me.
And so I do. I pick up the threads. The insanity of 50 years, the purposeful life gone by. Taking with it the flight of the girls who have left the nest to find their own chaos and curiosity. Taking with it my role in the corporate world. I proudly own the aches of the arches and the pains of the patellas. The throb of the torn meniscus and the soreness of the shoulder frozen speak with me and ask me to treat them with tender loving care that they have been deprived of. They are all new and all me.
I have learned to be still. I have learned to swing. For there is a separate set of hormones now raging- not created by this body of mine. The life energy floating around me, somewhere in the universe, descends. It had waited an eternity for this space to be created. It had stood by for the rebound.
Discovering new worlds within me, life appears in a multitude of hues. Who would have thought the thrall of words would set me free and pen and ink would scribble and bring back sanity to my life? Sometimes by default and at other times by slow, deliberate design, I have been propelled into tiny corners of the world waiting to be seen, read, and heard- they pack their history into the expansive porosity of my brain cells.
A sense of urgency envelopes me. My physical vigor has never been better as I embrace health, fitness, and wellness. A short stint in Charcoal drawing taught me that even beaten in the furnace, engineers could also put sense onto canvas. The unbridled joy laced with sheepishness when I found that the ubiquitous lady’s finger grew to point upwards and not downwards when I tried reviving my father’s garden.
I came into being, I was told by people around me when she first arrived. “Coming of age,” they told me. And now she, my companion of years, has left home. Leaving me with a life force that fills my every pore with awareness, excitement, and wonders. I am born again truly- letting life begin with its myriad colours and haunting hues!
Menopause, what’s that? Mark this- it is ME-NO-PAUSE.
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