Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I've been married 30 years...

My husband and I went to Maui to celebrate.  The warm sun, ocean breezes and total lack of stress inspired me to write again.  

Rambling #1: 

Going Menopausal: 
Reflections of a 51 Year Old Woman On Her Family, Her Life And Her God

My mother once mentioned how the process of menopause was a breeze for her, how she never really had any of the symptoms often mentioned and commiserated about among older females.  Not true.  I remember my mother being a crazy woman, embarrassing me on more than one occasion with her rants, her angry, emotional tirades sometimes in public, sometimes in her own home filled with guests, and often with family.  No one was spared.  I knew then I was doomed.  Doomed with illogical emotions, sudden tears, sorrow filled tirades, but far... hot flashes, dry skin and sweaty nights.  Instead, I get cold now.  Going menopausal is a fact of life for all women and there’s comfort in knowing women have been taking this journey since the beginning of time.

Menopause is actually a blessing I’ve decided.  After all I have something concrete to blame my behavior on and with doctors telling us it can last for at least ten years, I'm set.  I warn my husband often of its duration and hormonal imbalances. Then I ask his forgiveness.  He rolls his eyes. It’s nice to be able to point a finger at hormones instead of myself.

I don’t know when I began going through “the change”, but I’m sure I started earlier than most woman and I’m equally convinced it will last longer than others too.  I know this for a number of reasons.  First of all, I have five children.  Five.  What was I thinking back then?  Two were born in the late 1980s, two more in the early 1990s (all female) and then a SURPRISE male millennium baby when I was 39.  

Second of all, I became a grandmother at the ripe old age of 48.  Yes, this was a complete surprise and not a part of any plan. Of course, God loves when life doesn’t follow our plans.   

Third, my youngest child was diagnosed with cancer when he was four years old and the ensuing years of trauma aged me. I have felt extremely weary for six years, but as year seven gets closer, I sometimes sense a slight renewal of energy.  But then there’s the inevitable bouts of post traumatic stress that sneak up on me always when I least expect them which can look a lot like a crazy woman. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Managing a child’s long term medical issues does that to a person, even a strong person. 

Fourth, my husband works for a Christian non-profit raising our full financial support.  We live out of the goodness of other people’s generous hearts.  Somehow God has seen fit to give us just enough to pay our bills, barely.  Money is always tight.  

Sixth, I work and volunteer for different childhood cancer nonprofit organizations, which means I know children who die.  It doesn’t stop. Grief comes and goes rapidly as true as the solidness of the ground. It’s a tangible part of my heart, right next to joy.  I'm thinking about tattooing “Now Jesus Wept” in Hebrew or Aramaic on my body soon, probably the next time my husband  is in Africa.   I like to surprise him with something new whenever he comes home from his three week trips.  One year it was a dog.  Last year it was a totally gutted bathroom! He doesn’t like tattoos, so I've been hinting about this one.   

And lastly, I’ve been married to the same man for 30 years.  And with all of our differences, the pain we’ve endured together, the joy, the heartache, the challenges and the adventures I still look to him to complete me.  I desire him to understand my soul, see into my heart in total love and adoration, just like in the movies.  And he fails. Damn it.  He fails each and every time.  Oh, ya, that’s right!  I forget!  He is human.  With one swift butt kicking, I remind myself…again…only Jesus truly loves me, adores me, knows me and completes me. I’m learning to let my husband off the hook.  Maybe he’ll be totally off the hook by the time we celebrate our 60th.

As a woman, much of my “me-ness” has been shaped by my mother.  My relationship with her or lack of relationship, which is then connected to the matriarchal line passed down from female to female in my family.  In my childhood up into my married years my mother and I related in a way that counselors would label “enmeshed” or “unhealthy”.  Today we no longer really connect.  Sometimes it’s ok.  Sometimes it grieves me.  She chooses to live in her own “little world” isolated and safe.  I do not receive emotional support from her.  I never really did.  But it’s ok, because we each can do only what we are able.  And as author Anne Lamott’s friend says, “Lower your expectations.”  I’m working on it, but seriously, how low is low enough?

I’ve been impacted and coded with my female ancestor’s strengths and weaknesses and yet I am still “me”.   I’ve realized how I’ve merged into a feminist, a Christian feminist, in the best sense of the word.  My grandmother, Beulah, a strong, sturdy, intelligent woman, whose parents were true pioneers and whom I’ve always admired, once told me she was pro-abortion.  Being a good conservative Christian, and knowing the history of my conception, I was quite appalled.  What ensued was a lengthy discussion between two open hearts.  She heard my thoughts and I heard hers.  Her longer years on this earth with story after story of women caught in unfair circumstances and situations of our patriarchal society shaped her thoughts and convictions in this area.  As she was a devout believer in Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, a member of the Assembly of God Church, I just couldn’t mesh these two convictions at the time. I think often of that discussion.
Digging in the dirt reminds me of her.  She was a steady gardener with the greenest thumb. This was not passed down to me.  I grew children instead. And as the years have worn on me, I’ve come to an understanding of why she felt the way she did. 
Once I  watched “The Stoning of Soraya M” with its graphic bloody injustice.  On the same level of graphic violence, “The Passion of Christ”, both movies feature actor Jim Caviezel.  I did not sleep that night.  Both aching and fearing for the women of the world and thinking about my own four daughters, I was disturbed. I grieve the injustices brought onto women from the actions of Adam and Eve in Genesis. The Fall.  I thought about Beulah, her life, her death, our discussion.  Jesus came to change our faulty systems. We were created equal, men and women. Jesus brought His Kingdom of Grace, which means he was not about systems or traditions.  Jesus believed in women. He stopped to talk to the woman at the well.  He knew her.  He loved her. It's a beautiful story.

 I once heard an Episcopalian priest say how we have forgotten we are made in God’s image.  She said we know as infants we are created in His likeness, but as we grow and experience the sin of this world it gets buried deep in our hearts. Our conscious minds have forgotten.   I wondered if we would remember again at the time of our dying.  I wondered if Beulah knew this when I crawled in bed with her as she lay on her death bed, frozen in a fetal position noisily gasping for air unable to speak or move.  My mother could not bear to be there with her, her mother.  She said it was too painful.  Stroking her silver head, I whispered in her ear of my love for her, my gratitude for her life, my admiration.  I reminded her it was her time to go.  It was time for her see her Creator in the fullness of being Beulah, His perfect Creation.

 Though still pro-life at my core, I’ve softened in my convictions and ideals from my twenties and thirties.  A menopausal blurring of the edges of my idealist black and white convictions which once dominated my world view have altered me as I watch my own “Little Women” merge into womanhood.   The DNA of our woman-ness, strengths and weaknesses, have been passed from Beulah to my mom to me to J1, J2, J3 and J4.  Don’t ask me why I named them all with “J” names.  

Menopause had nothing to do with it.  

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