Today’s big idea is that perimenopause does end. Technically, perimenopause ends when it has been 12 months since your last period. Then you get your wings and graduate to the next phase of your life. The average length of the transition is four years, although it can last significantly longer than that. For me, I first noticed weird cycles when I was 44 and I celebrated one year with no periods when I was 50. Some women are in that transitional period for up to 10 years. And it’s not unheard of it for it to last even longer than that.
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Before you groan and bemoan your fate, let’s spend some time focusing on what awaits you on the other side—when perimenopause ends.
I like to think of perimenopause like a reverse puberty–in the very best way. Estrogen serves many purposes in the body and in our lives. Oe of those is to help us stay focused on caring for our offspring. Since human babies require so much care to reach maturity, nature needs many ways to ensure that they get the care they need to insure that our species survives.
As the haze of estrogen lifts, you’re no longer as driven to care for others. In some ways it’s like you revert back to your 11 or 12 year old self, when you were totally confident and goofy and not concerned about what other people thought because you were too busy just being you. I mean, there’s a reason some women start wearing overalls, or Chuck Taylors, or dyeing their hair interesting colors, in their 50s and beyond; they’re just reclaiming that pre-pubescent sense of style and playfulness. And that is a beautiful thing. Of course, you’re wiser now, and that’s a real great combo–you know stuff, but you also have less to prove.
I heard Sandra Tsing Loh, author of The Madwoman in the Volvo, a great memoir about her transition to menopause that was named a notable book of 2014 by the New York Times, being interviewed on On Point. She described entering menopause as going from fixing plates for everyone to make sure they’re fed to wanting to throw plates at people who don’t pull their own weight around the house. Um yeah, I can relate to that! There’s something so freeing about giving fewer f-u-c-k-s.
There are many more pros of officially entering menopause
Here’s a quick rundown of things I have noticed and appreciated since stepping off the monthly rollercoaster of having menstrual cycles.
In no particular order, since they are all important, they are:
- No more need for birth control. I mean, that’s pretty awesome.
- No more filter. Meaning, you stop spending energy thinking about how to say or do things so that they don’t hurt other people or make you look bad. That’s a big release of energy.
- No more periods. Which means, no more being on a weekend trip and realizing your period has come and you left all your gear at home, so you or your partner has to make a mad dash to the drugstore. If you have kids, do you remember the day you packed up all the sippy cups and all the various lids and passed ‘em on to another family, and how good it felt to get all that stuff out of your drawers? Well, now you get to to do the same thing with your pads, your tampons, your period underwear. All of it can go.
- More focus on you and what you want to do. I mean, I’m still a good mom, but I’m way more likely to have a kid do whatever it is that they need done for themselves, which means I have more time to play Boggle. Kidding!! Mostly. I do have bandwidth for more stuff that fills me up, and that feels great.
- Better relationship to time. Because you’re less focused on doing for others, you’re less likely to be trying to cram too many things into a day. I’ve still got a ways to go on this one, but I’m seeing my tendency to try to fit in as much as possible through new eyes.
- Better relationship to partner. Now, this is no guarantee, but since I’m less hyperfocused on the kids I have more energy for tuning in to my hubs.
That’s really just for starters. Hey, I’m less than a year in to menopause! There’s still more to discover.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to take a few moments and either appreciate the good things about when perimenopause ends and menopause begins, if you’re already there. Or to envision how the good things will feel once you get there if you’re not. There are plenty of things about menopause that aren’t that exciting. Doing this exercise helps steer your attention away from the things that you could spend time and energy on hating, and toward the things that are actually kinda cool.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on perimenopause. On a related note, next week we’re diving in to boundaries. What they are, how to set em, and how to keep ‘em. I hope you’ll come on back for that.