I was 56 last year but I totally don’t feel that age. I feel about 35. And I’ve got good genes and an animated personality, so I know I have a youthful appearance. Of course, all the photos I put online are flattering ones 🙂 But I’m not often around people who talk about aging or wrinkles or losing their memory, so I don’t think about those things much. Only last year did I begin to see fine lines appear around my smile, not many at the eyes. After I lost 50 pounds in 2005 (by dropping fat intake to 60 grams a day) I wondered if I would get saggy jowls but thankfully haven’t.
When I find myself forgetting details, it’s usually because I am multi-tasking and giving very shallow attention to each thing I am doing – not because I am losing my memory. I remind myself of that each time it happens, so I am not pre-programming the cells of my body by thinking or saying things like “Oh, here comes the Alzheimer’s.” Yogis and holistic health practitioners have known for ages to use or or lose it. Make yourself get up and move. “Exercise during mid-life is one of the best prevention strategies for Alzheimer’s disease, so people should stay active physically, and they should watch their diets and reduce cholesterol intake”.
My cholesterol stays about 120-160 because I don’t eat 4 leggeds (beef, pork, etc) and because I keep my fat grams to under 60 a day. When I ate fried foods and meat, my cholesterol was in the mid 300’s. I don’t always make time to go to the gym, but always take time morning and evening to stretch my body out and do some deep full breaths as I stretch. I know if I dress in gym clothes and shoes first thing in the morning, I’m more motivated to stop in and work out on my way back from the post office. If I don’t go out that day, I’m dressed to walk around the block a few times on the way to the mailbox. To me, being dressed for what I want to do helps keep me in the mindset to do it.
I want to be more active as I grow older, not less. I want to get stronger and more flexible and keep these joints all oiled up and these muscles long and strong. I take daily supplements to facilitate that. I have a girlfriend who is 91 and she looks 70. She can outwalk me up a mountain and toss a bale of hay, I am not kidding you. She’s got more hobbies than I have work projects, and that’s a full schedule. She’s my role model. She’s also never sat at a computer and doesn’t care to. “Next lifetime for that,” Eula Mae says.
I was 42 when I began menopause and 15 years later I still get hot flashes. These are very mild though compared to earlier in the journey. In my 40’s they came on very strong, usually drenching me heart to head in sweat, and leaving me feeling drained of energy, completely wiped out for a few minutes. I learned to wear my hair up and carry a folding fan wherever I went. I kept an extra small electric ocillating fan in the car in case I was at a friend’s doing a project and wanted a fan on me. In fact, I still live and work and sleep with a fan on me. I still get some night sweats but I don’t drench the sheets and pillow case like I did years ago. (2012 update, I had a year of stress so I had a year of night sweats every week.)
I tried all sorts of remedies and herbal hot flash formulas, and my consensus was: everything works for a while. The hot flashes lessened considerably when I went a few days without eating processed food; processed meaning anything with a label, anything other than fresh animals, fruits, vegetables. I stopped dreading the hot flashes and thinking of them as nuisances interrupting my time. I began seeing them as a signal from the Universe that it was time for a mini-sweat lodge, a ceremonial sauna to offer up anything I was ready to release in the fire. If nothing else, it helped me connect a few times a day – during each hot flash – with a deeper part of myself and symbolically purge, both emotionally and psychologically. Menopause continues to be a very sacred and healing process for me. Ok, and so after telling myself that for the last ten years, it’s finally true *grin*
Sleep, glorious sleep. I’ve never been a recreational sleeper. Like a kid, I never wanted to go to bed; I’d usually just go, go go until I crashed. I did enjoy naps, but to me, sleeping was something you HAD to do, not something you did for fun. When I hit menopause, my sleep cycles began to change – dramatically. I morphed into getting only 3-4 hours of sleep at night. If I napped during the day, I’d nap for 3 hours at a time, which I learned was four REM cycles. Even my 3-4 hours at night would not be uninterrupted. (See my remedies here.)
Often I’d just catnap through the night and sometimes awaken feeling exhausted from not getting any sleep. That’s – I later learned – because every time I’d wake up, I’d think thoughts like “Oh, here I am awake again. I need to go to sleep. I wonder why I can’t sleep. I wonder what’s wrong with me. Maybe I should go to the doctor. I have a test tomorrow. I have to be alert at work tomorrow. What if I ending up not sleeping enough and become one of those people who say they don’t sleep for years? I don’t want to take medication but what are my options? I wish I could sleep.” Since those were the thoughts I began thinking the moment I woke up at night, and those were the thoughts I lulled myself back to sleep with, that was the message I was sending the cells of my body, pre-programming them for the future.
But early on I got some guidance that if I am being woken up, then God/the Universe is calling me and I should hit the floor and see what He/She/It wants. It was during these extra times of meditation that I realized what great opportunities I was being given, several times a night, to spend a few minutes working on whatever projects I had at the time. I stopped trying to race the clock to be able to have enough hours of down time lying in bed before I had to begin the next day. I realized all I had to do was change how I perceived my waking/sleeping times, and change how I perceived when the “next day” officially began, and what my new “first thing in the morning” routine would be.
So I realized that with the correct mindset, with a change in perception to the correct mindset, I could adapt to what my body was doing and still interface without effort in my daily life, my day job and daily family duties. That was eye-opening to me. So, when you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, answer the call. Sit up a meditate for a few minutes. Have a notebook handy to write ideas as they come. Also when you sit to meditate, your mundane “to do” list will come up to tempt your attention away – if you can’t ignore it and release the thought, write it down and get back to meditating. Keep another notebook handy for writing dreams into.
I hear lots of stories of menopausal women who do not adapt well to their changing sleep cycles and my consensus is: all of them are on a quest to find deeper meaning in their lives, all would like to explore other ways of living and being, yet feel saddled with responsibilities that prevent them from setting out on their own. Empty nest – they wish! So, if you know one of them, a slight shift in perception might be all they need in order to begin adapting more easily to what Nature is doing with their body right now.
My mom never exhibited any menopause symptoms to me, but she’d had a hysterectomy and had to take “her werewolf pills” every day. They must have worked. If they hadn’t, she probably would not have told me anyway. Mom barely had any white in her hair even at 62. All the time growing up she had long, dark hair and I was disappointed in her later decision to wear it short. Kids are so selfish – it must have weighed a ton! So I decided that as I grow older, I will grow my hair longer.
And it wasn’t until I decided to stop frosting and perming my hair about 10 years ago that I realized I’ve got some really good hair. I let it grow out of that layered cut that every hair stylist ever said my thin, fine hair had to have, and discovered I had plenty of hair. I was also glad to find that my eyebrows continue to grow in, since I like a heavier brow and find it more youthful.
And also new: whiskers! I never liked the idea of tweezing, waxing or shaving, so I just rarely did any of it. I think I shaved my legs a dozen times n my life. I’m so blonde it wasn’t really noticeable. And I kinda liked how it shined in the sunlight if I was sitting outside. It made me feel very tribal. So when I began getting whiskers, it didn’t occur to me to get rid of them. Granted, it’s just a bit on my upper lip and chin, and I do trim them to train them to stay neat, but I’ve decided to happily let my whiskers grow. I’ve seen a few older women who have outright moustaches, and it’s not a bad look. Plus it just feels like a natural thing to do. We’ll see.