Remember when menopause was only vaguely referred to as The Change? I remember hearing about The Change and knowing only that it meant the end of one’s childbearing years. I think I believed for a long time you just woke up and all the periods were over and that’s what menopause was.

I don’t remember ever learning that menopause (or perimenopause if you want to use the correct term that I know I’d never even heard of until my forties) was such a lengthy time of transition. I didn’t realize The Change wasn’t one change, but rather a staggering number of things happening all at once.

Such as:

My relationship with my body. Sometimes it’s every bit as toxic as it has been throughout my entire adult life and then some, with the added fuel of bemoaning all the new aging-related aches and sags n’ flabs. But sometimes it feels like I’m on the verge of transcending hardwired beauty standards and I get these glimpses of a more gratitude-based way of appreciating my body for its capabilities past and present and not its appearance? But then sometimes I catch sight of myself in a mirror and I’m like WHO EVEN IS THAT HALF-MELTED POTATO KAREN??? It is a rich and ever-shifting tapestry!

My identity as a parent. Oh, so you’re telling me that after re-arranging my soul/brain to accommodate the constant hands-on necessities of parenthood my kids will suddenly become independent beings who only require access to my credit card and not my entire life’s ambitions, and if I hadn’t been simultaneously in-roading new hobbies and friends and interests all along I might find myself staring down the empty-nest barrel with a real sense of, like, trepidation?

My career drive. You know the saying about how early in your career you just want to be IN the meeting, and then mid-career you want to LEAD the meeting, but eventually you don’t want to be invited to the meeting at all? I don’t give work the energy I used to, when it comes to caring about office politics or fretting over managerial differences. I hold boundaries on my time. I’m not trying to reach for that brass ring. At this point, I recognize my own value, I’m uninterested in any section of the corporate ladder above my relatively comfortable perch; I’m just happy to do good/interesting work when I can.

My lady garden and its once-oceanic habitat, now best described as a desert/arid environment. Clamate change! (…forgive me I physically could not stop myself from typing that.)

My ability to see men. It’s disappearing! ON GOD, I swear I do not notice men as often as I used to. You know who I find myself appreciating more and more, though? Women. Particularly older women. Sometimes I feel like we tend to give each other a little nod of recognition when we’re out and about, maybe at Safeway or whatever. It’s like being a Jeep driver: you know, the little wave? I see you, girl.