The It in losing my shit

I never know when it’s going to happen, but when it does? Look out.

What’s the It? The It is “losing my shit.”

It’s probably been building for a few weeks given the b.s. time of year. What time of year, winter? When the decreased sunlight depletes my Vitamin D resources and leaves me susceptible to Seasonal Affect Disorder?

No, I’m talking the time of year that seems to happen every damn January when I show up at the Y at my normal time and suddenly have to park 3 miles away because of everyone’s bullshit New Year’s resolutions;

The time of year when you have to show up a half hour early to Body Pump to be sure you get a bar and aren’t stuck in the front row six inches away from the instructor;

That time of year when Dan Marino, Marie Osmond and now fuckin’ Oprah Winfrey are peddling weight loss deals and I’m supposed to be cleansing, eating clean and counting my calories. Fuck that shit. Fuck all that shit. Hand me the Doritos.

But this is all normal, right? This certainly isn’t the IT that made me lose my shit, right? Right. My tipping point came cloaked in fur: cats and dogs, folks. Cats and dogs. Mainly dogs, but the cats played a role, too.

Without getting into the dirty deets, a couple weeks ago we volunteered to foster a female dachshund. She arrived in our care a little distressed, a little malnourished, a little wigged out. We’ve tried to keep our door open to animals in need, but I gotta be honest. At my core I am a cat person. Dogs are too needy. And this little weiner dog definitely needed love. Lots of love. (And let’s just say two of the three house cats are p-i-s-s-e-d over this entire situation.)

Sure there are the accidents one must attend to, but the shit started getting lost last night when my husband treated our refugee with some gnarly smelling herbal flea treatment that stunk up the house. Upon realizing the stench, he promptly gave her a bath, but once that smell got in my nose, she may as well have been sprayed by a skunk. The stench stuck. And it was bedtime. And she’s taken to sleeping in our bed.

Despite my husband’s attempt to lure her into our son’s bed, she knows where Menopausal Mom sleeps. And so, after my husband fell into an unconscious sleep, sure as shit “tap tap tap tap tap tap tap” go the wee little toe nails as our stinky refugee skips across the hall and into our bedroom. She scampered, “tap tap tap tap tap tap tap,” from one side of the bed to the other, whining for someone to pick her up so she can nose her way under the covers and snuggle down.

This still isn’t the It. The It would happen eight hours later after I’d finally fallen nose blind and asleep after an awful night of stink-induced insomnia. And I’d woken to the “tap tap tap tap tap tap tap” and whining of a cold refugee because my husband had taken her was downstairs when he woke and promptly forgot about her whilst enjoying his coffee and morning computer time.

This is the It: I storm downstairs only to find puddles of pee. Dog pee on the floor next to a clean pile of unfolded laundry and cat pee on the counter . . . right. next to. the fucking coffee pot.

*sigh* Happy Monday, folks.

Like a cruel ding-dong ditch ‘em, ‘Menopause’ comes a’knockin’

Last Sunday, I sat in the fourth row at the Adler, listening to a quartet of women sing about my life. Honestly, I’d hoped the topic would sail over my head, that the theme would be some unfamiliar nether issue waiting for me many years off in the future. Sadly, “Menopause the Musical” hit every stinking note with surprising precision.

Is that “TMI” (too much information), that I’m sitting squarely in the midst of “the Change?” Tough. It has/is/will effect half the people on this planet so why shouldn’t we talk about it? And yet our culture, for as progressive as we may think ourselves (well, maybe not so much after last Tuesday) we continue to dance around the issue.

At least the musical gave good beats with which to do that dancing.

I knew I had a few telltale symptoms, but as each scene passed and the songs built one on top of the other, I was aghast at how strongly I could relate to the four women on stage. No offense, but those four women looked much older than me!

Not that they weren’t attractive, mind you, but they certainly weren’t 35. And neither am I, even though my mind would have me believe I’m still in my early 20s. Where did the last two decades go?!

I guess I can thank the women of the Baby Boomer generation for not going quietly into that dark “Change,” but I don’t know how ready I am to join you.

Once the 1980s gave way to the ‘90s and I no longer required cans of Aqua Net to set my hair skyward, increasing my height a solid 6 inches, I slowly drifted away from worrying about my looks.

Maybe it was the “freshman 15” in college or maybe it was just the style of the times: large, flannel shirts and grunge music, but somewhere along the way I lost the ability to be “girlie.”

Sure I might wear a bit of makeup, but any concept of how to accessorize scarves and beads and earrings and bangles was snuffed out by my penchant for plaid button-downs and KSwiss sneakers.

And my fashion sense hasn’t improved much. Instead of the oxford shirts, it’s race t’s. The KSwiss tennies have been replaced by whichever running shoe currently holds my orthotic inserts.

So what does this have to do with menopause? In spite of my best efforts to shun my gender, I am indeed a woman . . . and boy do my hormones ROAR!

Take the night sweats . . . the heat I emit is similar to that of a self-cleaning oven, as if I might set the bed on fire. I was running with a girlfriend earlier this week who told me that when she suffers night sweats her husband asks if she’s sick, “Do you have a fever?”

There are times I’ll wake up FREEZING and drenched, leggings, long-sleeved t-shirt and my entire side of the bed, soaking wet. Gross? Well, apparently that’s just run-of-the-mill menopause.

During Sunday’s performance, one of the characters made mention of waking up in a puddle and not knowing whether to change the sheets in the middle of the night or simply lay down a towel and go back to sleep.

Are there hidden cameras in my bedroom?! There’s only one way writer Jeanie Linders could’ve known that about me and that’s if it happened to her and a host of other women. And yes, my running buddy admitted it happens to her, as well.

And speaking of sleep, I never realized my lack of continuous shut eye was menopause related, but when the musical hit that note, I was reminded how over the last couple of years, I’m waking more and more often for no reason and struggling to fall back to sleep.

My doctor recommends I take Black Cohosh, morning and night, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference.

The differences I AM noticing are those marching across my body, starting with my face. I remember my skin being younger-looking, more like Play Doh, smooth and healthy. But now? For the first time I’m noticing wrinkles in new places. My forehead is creased with many and varied lines and my dimples no longer seem youthful, but rather sad and weathered.

And that area between my neck and chest, the décolletage? Let’s just say that if it wasn’t for the dang hot flashes, I’d wear turtle necks year round! Where did all those freckles and furrows come from?!

Maybe this is why I abandoned my “girlie” side years ago, maybe I secretly hoped that if I ignored the “girlie” part of me and focused on the “biking, running, sporty-Grrrr” part of me, I wouldn’t be bothered when age came a’knocking.

But guess what, I’m bothered.

While I’m not ready to delve into wrinkle creams, age-fighting serums, Botox and all the other “solutions” the beauty industry is hocking, I am beginning to understand on a very personal level why women pine for such treatments.

This aging business is quite disturbing. For someone like me, who really didn’t care about all that, to suddenly care about all that?! It’s weird.

I can only imagine how freaked out normal women must be, women who actually put an effort into coordinating an outfit and putting on make-up. In my effort to set myself apart from all of you, I find that I’ve been right beside you all along.

Hopefully next time you see me and I’m lathered like a horse, you’ll know I’m just struggling through a hot flash. Misery loves company, so please don’t let me suffer alone, remind me you know how it feels. I like empathy.

Girlfriends, let’s help each other through this! No matter how different we each choose to cope, let’s have each other’s backs on this and just do whatever we must. Me? I think I’ll sign up for another race . . . and slather on extra sunscreen.

Originally published 8/15 November 2014 in The Observer.