If you type menopause into your search engine, you get a long list of symptoms that sound alarm bells for men and women alike. I have witnessed several women ahead of me in the age game experience menopause and I’ve felt a tenacious panic rise in me. To be clear, the panic is unwarranted. It is tethered to the most difficult scenarios and I hadn’t stopped to look at where my disdain for this natural progression in life is coming from. If I had, I might have crossed over successfully to the other tangible experiences women are having with menopause. There are great stories out there too: deeper access to more liberated sexual experiences, welcomed hot flashes that feel like some kind of human purifier, emotional awakening that ushers in profound transformation. I thought I’d have more time to adjust and move in that direction, but life had a different plan. Six months ago I began an upended kind of initiation into the land of menopause.
It started with confusing back pain and pressure and discomfort in my abdomen. I did the thing that everyone tells you not to do and spent delirious hours on the internet reading the worst possible outcome for symptoms like mine. I dove into months of exploratory tests in regards to my reproductive health, masking my fear just slightly by an overt vigilance to ask doctors all of the right questions. After each test, I’d land in a kind of exhausted practice of repair meditation to battle my sadness and anxiety. A few biopsies, a myriad of blood tests and two surgeries followed by uncomfortable waiting for results, left me feeling that the worry and sadness was for nothing. Gratefully there was no cancer, just the reoccurrence of the repetitive anxious days of holding my breath and then relief when each result would come back benign. What they found was severe endometriosis, which had created extensive damage through adhesions and cysts. It was determined that my ovaries and uterus would need to be removed with the help of robotics in a third surgical procedure. For me, this natural, tender and sometimes tumultuous ascent away from the rhythm of the moon will happen in one two-hour surgery and I will have gone through six months of considering the loss first. Had I begun to stop shedding blood slowly, felt the first subtle sensations of my body heating up like a temperamental furnace, had I recognized the signs that my emotions had slipped sideways before knowing the hourglass had been toppled, I wouldn’t have stumbled ungracefully to my knees.
I am inclined to sculpt something beautiful out of almost everything; but here, I found, instead, Dhumavati, the goddess of decay. She is unadorned and ugly. She rides a crow and carries a winnowing basket. She is stark and penetrating. She enacts her rituals on the holy ground of a field of graves. With her, your transformation comes when you embrace the ugly—the decay and the decomposition.
So before I go towards my third surgery, I want to toast the ugliness; I want to toast the part of me that has been sallow and uncertain, my attachment to staying fertile, and young. I want to show you my tiny scars that look like nothing more than fingernail scratches on my soft belly and tell you that they are portals to the underworld of me. I found the pain inside of the pain behind the complicated squeeze of entangled tissue. Dhumavati separates the wheat from the chaff and I have decided to collaborate with her and let go of all the unnecessary debris. There has been no epiphany or pronounced revelation, just an uncomfortable unraveling of the hurt that will heal me and the hurt that no longer serves me.
The science of it, the hormonal shifts and the most common stories about menopause that I have heard over the years, feel sometimes like a kind of inevitable prison sentence. I’m taking those stories and letting them go too. I’m going to stay curious, align myself with the mystery and unknown, I’m going to turn inward and discover an enhanced libido rooted in a deeper part of me. I’m going to shift my eyes from the moon towards its buoyant reflection on the water. I’ll take one step back and imagine the way it separates in concentric circles that spread out across the expanse of ocean, making anything possible in the vast dips between light and shadow. No longer linked to the tide, I’ll cast my gaze to the depths where the light shifts spectacularly. If I am being emptied out, I’ll let that light fill the most sacred space of me. The mourning and the letting go is an essential part of the alchemy that makes room for something new. Respectfully, in this uncharted territory, I bow to Dhumavati. She is one formidable force that I am grateful I didn’t miss.