Menopause Overture #6 or “Can You Have PMS Without the M?”

I was sitting in dispatch this morning and a firefighter let the door slam. Now, the door slams whenever it’s let go. It slams a half dozen times a day. And it usually takes me until about the seventh slam before I want to yell, “MUST you SLAM the DOOR?!” This morning it was one slam and I’d…had…it. Done. Wanted to lock them all out of the building, never mind dispatch. It occurred to me I’d been neglecting my self-appointed role as Menopause Mentor and this was a subject worth approaching.

The short answer to the question “Can you have PMS without the m” is “Heck, yeah!” But being a good Menopause Mentor means giving you more than the short answer so buckle up, here it comes.

First, let me explain that I never had PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) symptoms until I was nearly 50. I honestly had no idea what was happening to me. I felt alternately hyper-weepy or hyper-aggravated and both those states of being were on a hair-trigger. It took me a few months to figure out that it was a cyclical thing. And, coming to that conclusion, no time at all to which cycle it was related! I was still menstruating, then, and fairly regularly so when the symptoms showed up I did a little math and thought, “OK, this will pass in a day or two.”

I apologize to all of you who suffer much more with PMS. I’ve read enough to understand I’ve got off lightly in this area.

Then I looked up, around age 53 or so and realized I hadn’t had a period in I-couldn’t-remember-how-long, at least as long as right after the previous year’s annual GYN visit. Hmm. Twelve consecutive months…BINGO! I was in menopause. Cool. I was ready.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself all hyper-weepy over some movie or other I’d seen umpteen times without crying openly about it. Or, ready to go top-story-road-rage on the very first, and only, person tailgating me in the slow lane. I did the math. I was perplexed because I knew I wasn’t going to menstruate any time soon but there it was. I was in the part of my cycle, if I was still having a cycle, that would be the PM part. Interesting.

I don’t believe I’m the only woman to experience this. Certainly not the only woman who figured it out. But did anyone ever tell me? Stupid question. No one told me anything, ever! So, did anyone ever tell you?

If they didn’t, the good news is, you’re not necessarily going crazy. The bad news is, near as I can tell, there’s still enough hormone load cycling around that a woman can have PMS without the M.

Depending on where you are in your cycle? Don’t shoot me, I’m just the Menopause Mentor delivering the message.

On Falling Off the Planet Since August

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I fell off the planet when I got hired by a fire department and started training as a dispatcher on August 11th. I’ve got a lot on my mind but there’s also a “no personal access” internet policy at work so my long hours alone overnight when there are no emergency calls will have to be filled by writing longhand **GASP** and transcribing to the e-world at a later time. Until I can figure out what type of tool will serve me best…and how to carry wireless access to the internet around with me! In the meantime, the “Baby Veronica” story is simultaneously tugging at my heartstrings and making my head spin. I have every intention of addressing that from the perspective I hold as having been shipped around to different homes after my first adoption, then being adopted again…starting at age 18 months….and how that early life experience has echoed across my years. I weep for Baby Veronica. More later. Right now the siren song of vacuum and toilet brush call as I prep my home for a “showing” that may or may not happen in 4 hours. And the beat goes on………..

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “When Do the Newsmares Stop”

I’m directing and simultaneously technically executing a newscast. I’m sitting at a technical station that is about an eigth the size of what I typically use. I cue an anchor, who is more often a reporter in the broadcast outlet with which I’m affiliated. We get into the second break in the show, the last commercial break. I give time cues to the talent/anchor but I don’t get any acknowledgement. Suddenly, the button mapping on the tinytiny switcher I’m using doesn’t have the camera I need in the primary line of assignment. I find the camera I need so I can see it in preview with just a few seconds left back from the commercial break and I see the anchor has a headset around her neck, not listening to time cues. The break is over and I have nowhere to go but to punch her up, but she doesn’t hear her cue and she’s not paying attention to tally lights.

I wake thinking, “Newsmare. Shit.” And wonder when those will metabolize out of my consciousness, if ever. One cat is pawing at the curtains, which I draw back to discover the other cat ensconced on the window ledge, making soft chittering noises as she tracks the progress of some creature across the back yard. I close the curtains, swathing her in her citadel. The sled dog yawns, responding to our stirrings. 9:11AM. Time to greet the day.

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Animals and drones and soldiers, oh my”

I’m standing at the door of a house that in the dream is similar to my grandparents’ home in Peabody, MA. It’s nighttime and I’ve let the cats out into the front yard. I see something has gotten their attention and as I run down the stairs I see they’re stalking a bunny. I pick the cats up and turn to go up the stairs and I see that an owl has climbed up the decorative metal design on the outside door and is eyeballing the bright green macaw that’s hanging from the screen on the inside of the door. As I open the door the owl cranes its head forward and tried to make a grab for the macaw. I shoulder it aside and drop the cats indoors, pulling the door closed behind me. Light comes into the sky as I putter around the house getting ready to go out and suddenly I’m in the bedroom of the house I lived in, also in Peabody, MA, until I was 11 years old. I hear a loud noise, that gets louder and louder outside the house as it gets closer. I see an unmanned military drone slowly circle the house and as it gets ready to make another pass, I close the curtains in each room.

The scene changes and …there are people milling about in the house with me and the house is no longer one with which I’m familiar in my waking life. My mother tells me that you can shoot drones down. Also that my brother and I “got their attention” and the drone will be back. I walk downstairs into the basement, find a shotgun, and begin loading it. I go back upstairs and I’m in a room with soldiers in jungle BDUs. It feels as if a briefing has just taken place and I take one of them aside, someone of high rank, and ask what the hell is going on. He’s my father in the dream but I get no answer.

The scene changes. And I’m in a TV station I’ve never seen before but I’m trying to find the controlroom so I can direct a show. I’m carrying the shotgun, awaiting the reappearance of the drone.

As I wake, I experience a hypnic jerk and the cat curled up between my legs lets out a startled mrrrrp of complaint as he leaps to the other side of the bed. I see it’s only 6:32AM as I apologize to him, then settle us both down for another few hours of shuteye.

I Remember…….

I’m locked in a struggle. This woman, wearing a very Jackie Kennedy-esque suit–pale yellow–wants me to take a nap. I have a doll, with a plastic curlyque curl on it’s forehead, clutched in my hands. I want to take it to bed with me. She, of the suit, and also a pillbox hat, wants to take it away. She thinks it’s unsanitary. Also that I’ll be spoiled if she lets me do what I want, which is to take the doll with me for a nap, instead of what she wants. We’re in a semi-darkened room, curtains drawn. The room is non-descript, a bedroom in a tract house in a bedroom community. Like all the other tract houses around it, this bedroom is square, has a small closet along the right side of the room in relation to coming in the door. The woman and I are standing next to the bed, she with her back to the door, me facing her.

This is what I believe is my first memory. I see it in my mind’s eye as if watching a movie. I don’t know whether it’s a true memory or something my subconscious has concocted over the years to exist as the defining moment of my relationship with my mother. She became my mother, after first having been foster to me, the last in a series of fosters from the time I was 18 months to the age of 2. Our relationship was adversarial until about two weeks before she died. I wonder if I made that scene up to explain how it was we came to be locked in struggle all of our lives together. But it rings true, somehow. I can feel the heavy air, the silence around us as we stare each other down. My desperation to not let go of that doll, the one constant thing with me, that was MINE, as I moved from home to home within my first adoptive parents’ extended family.

Yes, this is it. My first memory.

This is written in response to the weekly writing challenge, to check it out, and others….the link is below:

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Why is Burt Reynolds driving this pickup truck?”

I’m riding in a pickup truck with my husband, late to an event at a country club restaurant. We’re riding in a pickup truck along a beach, blasting along with no time to spare. Burt Reynolds is driving, I’m sitting next to him, my husband is on my right. Where we need to go is up a long climb, up a bluff…or something that most resembles a cliff face but it’s got lawn. Greenery. It’s a country club, so we’re going to climb up their golf course. Burt downshifts so we get good traction as we start to climb from the beach. He’s grinning the signature “Smokey and the Bandit” grin as the truck slews around the sand. The lawn/sod/golf course is being churned up by the truck but it seems like all the emerald green is being rolled up as we go so it can be laid back down. The engine roars as we climb and Burt Reynolds is laughing as we top the cliff.

We slide to a halt in front of one of the club’s buildings.

This is a fragment of the night’s action adventure dreaming. I don’t wake from this, and I don’t remember what came after. I know a cat sleeps in the bed with me, and my retired sled dog is dreaming in his crate as I experience another action adventure in my dreamtime.

This is the Stuff of My REM Time or “Where a prisoner camp, the grocery store, dysfunctional family, and a highway come together in the night”

I’m with a friend from high school and we’re in a prisoner camp where the guards are Asian/Japanese and the prisoners are Americans and Asians from other countries. We’re hiding, watching as all the Americans are let out to waiting trucks but we’re afraid to run for it, fearing being shot. Also, my friend is of Korean and American heritage and we don’t know if he’ll be kept in. The other prisoners are bunking down in a large, dormitory-like building and we decide we’ll try to hide in plain sight with them. I find a long robe with a hood and I pull it as far over my face as I can to hide myself.

The scene changes and I’m in a building in this camp, looking for an exit. I come around a corner, face-to-face with an English speaking woman who’s teaching children of the camp guards. I hear footsteps coming down the stairs I’d just descended. She doesn’t want to give me away, or lose her favor …whatever that is… in the camp so she points me to a door behind me. I turn.

And the scene changes again. I’m outside, walking slowly down a sidewalk alongside the dormitory building, hoping no one will take notice of me before I get back into the relative safety of the crowd. I’ve got the hood pulled low over my face and I hunch over, trying to walk as if I were an old woman but this doesn’t do much to disquise my 5’9″ height and large frame. A guard dressed in samurai-like garb passes me and calls out in a language I don’t understand. I keep shuffling. He lifts the bottom of my robe to reveal grey sweatpants and I know I’m given away. My friend appears and takes the guard down with one punch. I kick a guard who’s appeared to my right and we run for a nearby truck. We clamber in, he gets it started and

The scene changes and I’m in a grocery store that has skylights and is bright with sunlight. I’m in the produce section choosing red peppers to put in my cart and I see my long ago high school friend. I tell him, You were with me in a prison camp last night. He laughs, we chat. I had a huge crush on this friend so long ago. He’s still charming and kind.

The scene changes and I’m on my stomach, stretched on a bed, watching TV. I have a habit of leaving water bottles wherever I’ve finished them, intending to get them for disposal later. A woman who seems to be my mother yells at me, telling me I’m hoarding water, drinking too much water. I realize I’m a widow, and that the family of the man to whom I was married expects me in court that day, suing me for alienation of affection. I call one of my sister-in-laws to tell her that my husband is dead, and that I know his will bestows his wealth on his family, with only a small part to me. I expect that she’ll tell me everything is OK and we’ll have lunch but she is shrewish and threatening. I hang up the phone and get ready to leave the house.

The scene changes and I’m standing alongside a highway in the early morning darkness. I realize I’ve forgotten my keys and I run back to the house. The same mother-woman opens the door and hands me two sets of keys, one of which I put into the lock in the inside of the door. She has disappeared and I close the door, realizing too late that I’ve locked them inside the house.

I come to waking, the clock reading 10:21AM. I stretch and flex my feet, the cat stretched along my outseam grabbing my toe through the blanket. Some hard-wired instinct tells him it’s prey, not my foot. I look over to see my retired sled dog has…once again…opened his crate but had gone back to sleep inside it. He stretches and yawns as I softly call his name. Time to greet the day.