Being Un-Extraordinary

Washington is a city full of high-achieving, goal-oriented, top-o-the-heap kind of people. It’s not easy to give yourself permission to be …. normal, average, middle-of-the-pack.

Two years ago, I suffered a major bout of depression. My doc put me on anti-depressants. They were a Godsend. Between that and good therapy, I’m in a dramatically better place today.

One of the major hallmarks of my (pre-meds) depression was anger. All the time. At every little thing. Earlier this year, I had weaned myself down to a very low dosage of the meds but every time I stopped completely, the anger came back.

Last month, I stopped them again. The anger came back but this time I decided to try to explore it. I discovered that the anger shows up when I am past my limits (on sleep, food, people-contact, work, whatever). I also discovered that my limits are a lot less than they used to be.

I began thinking.....what if anger is not the problem but the symptom of a problem. That’s how I approach pain in my clients’ body and my own -- don't cover the pain till you understand why you have the pain. Don't just pop a pill to make a headache go away until you have some clue what's causing the headache (and then go ahead and pop that pill if that's the best answer right now).

What if anger is not something I have to obliterate with meds (though it was nice to hardly ever be angry) but something I can listen to and learn from?

The result? I've realized that as a middle-aged woman I honestly and simply can't do as much as I used to. I can’t multi-task like I used to. I can no longer be hyper-functional.

What?! A grown woman refusing to be hyper-functional?!? I mean, hyper-functioning middle aged women are, I think, what really holds our society together sometimes. Won't that crash our economy faster than the sub-prime mortgage crisis?

Well, perhaps we should find out. I realized that since I was 18, I've been living the life of two full-time women. It’s time to cut back to just living the life and doing the work of one full-time woman. How do I do that?

I miss deadlines. I don't step up. I don't sign up. I don’t join in. I don't come through in a pinch. I don't go above and beyond. I don't take one for the team. I do respect the 24 hour day and 8 hours of sleep. I don't rise to the challenge. I don't make it happen. I don’t excel. I don’t push through. I do what I can and then I stop. I don’t volunteer to be a savior. I accept being in the middle of the pack, not at the head of it.

I disappoint people.

When do we ever allow ourselves to do that? When does society (both men and women) accept that as a valid answer? We (especially we middle-aged women) define our value and our virtue by how much we ignore our own needs and give ourselves away for others.

I've heard women apologize for taking 30 minutes a day "away" from their families to go for a walk. They rush to rationalize how, really, it's for the good of the family because if they can stay healthy, they'll better be able to "be there" for their family. So, they aren't actually being selfish, it only looks like that. Really, even that 30 minutes is for the Good Of The Family.

Ack!!!

I jokingly refer to perimenopause as "puberty in reverse". It is but it's so much more. It's one of several major transitions women go through both physically and spiritually in our lives. Men go through less obvious transitions in the middle years as well. Our bodies can not do what they used to do, figuratively and literally.

Do I accept that? In my experience, major transitions bring both humbling loss and surprising new vistas and abilities. What new vistas and abilities will menopause bring to me? I’m looking forward to finding out (right after my nap).