Story of my life… today, anyway

Mexican rice and beans boiling in a pot on the stove

I started this pot of “Mexican style” rice and beans from a packet. When the contents poured into the pan, it was all white powder and rice grains. Not a sign of color anywhere (which worried me a little). But when it cooked up, the colors all came out.

That’s kind of how my life is, these days. Things start out looking one way, then when they get “cooking”, they turn out looking – feeling – very different from when i started.

I’m going on another business trip till Thursday. I fly out in less than 8 hours, and I’m trying to get my act together before I go. That includes cooking food for my partner for the next four days. She’s got really limited mobility, and she can’t stand for long in the kitchen, and we don’t have a microwave (hate those things) which means she needs nutritious food she can put together quickly while I’m away.

I do just about all the cooking in our household, so it’s always like this, when I go away. And that happens more often than I’d like — every 2-3 months, or so. And I’ve got even more travel coming up this spring/summer, with probable trips to Las Vegas and San Francisco in May and June. Long story short, the days leading up to my travels are pretty busy — especially the morning of, when I have to pull everything together.

It gets a little easier, each time I do it. But it has yet to feel like second nature.

Oh shit – I forgot the laundry in the dryer! Better check on that now.

{folding clothes}

OK, I’m back.

So, what does this have to do with menopause?

What doesn’t have to do with menopause with me, these days? Or for the past 10 years? I’ve been writing here as an Autistic woman, up till this point, and now it’s time to widen the perspective. Because menopause colors everything about me and my place in the world, how I relate to it, how I interpret it, not to mention how others relate to and interpret me. It affects every part of me, on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start.

And these business trips are great examples of that. They screw up the routines that I’ve developed for myself over years and years of trial-and-error, messing with my sleep schedule, my daily pace, my mealtimes and food choices, and doing it all in the context of high-stakes business trips, where the slightest slip-up can mean my reputation is damaged and my chances for advancement are reduced. It’s not just chances for advancement, actually — it’s also my relationships with my colleagues. We operate in a real pressure-cooker environment, where we all need to know we can depend on each other 100% (I won’t say 110%, because there is no such thing), and if someone comes up short, it can undermine the confidence of everyone else and potentially jeopardize the prospects of any number of present and future projects.

That goes for my colleagues at HQ, where I’m visiting, as well as my immediate group members, several of whom are traveling with me, this time. My boss and one of my peers will be flying and driving with me (I’m driving this time, heaven help me). And another peer will be joining us at HQ. I’m the only woman in the group of them, which is fine with me. They’re good guys. They have their personality quirks, but sexual predation isn’t among them, which is fortunate. I’ve traveled with a #MeToo poster-boy of a boss, in the past, and trust me, it’s no fun at all.

The problem with being the only woman in the crowd — and a post-menopausal woman, at that — is that I’m not only un-matched in terms of interests and energy focus, but it’s also incumbent on me — as a trusted colleague and team player — to keep up with activities I really don’t care about and generally try to avoid.

To whit:

  • Staying up late. My boss treats these business trips like mini-vacations away from his controlling wife, and he loves to stay up late, hanging out and doing nothing productive. At all. Not my idea of a great time. I need my sleep. I don’t get as much rest as I should when I travel, to begin with, and staying up late makes everything worse.
  • Drinking. Yeah, no thanks. I haven’t touched the stuff in over 20 years, and my life is better for it. It’s expensive, and it leads to unfortunate choices, which I’d never want to make on business trip. I think my boss has a drinking problem, anyway, and he loves to pressure everyone around him into having a drink. On the bright side, since I’m driving, I don’t have to ride with a tipsy driver — like I have in the past, when he was driving and got behind the wheel after a few drinks. No animals were harmed in that experience, but the lesson is that I’d rather be behind the wheel, myself, than rely on him.
  • Shopping. Again, with the role reversal. The guys I travel with love to shop. Me, not so much. I have a terrible time figuring out what to get people, and half the time, I get it wrong, anyway.
  • Eating out. I hate eating in strange restaurants. I hate eating in most restaurants, period, since the ambient noise throws off my hearing, and I don’t pick up half of what’s said. Also, the variations in light are a problem, and having to be social with other people after a long day is even more exhausting. Since I’ll be driving, this trip, I’m not looking forward to extending my days even longer with meals out with “the crew”, but that’s probably going to happen at least once.

And those are just the tips of three icebergs in the whole field of floating obstacles.

Which isn’t made any easier by my post-menopausal state, which is a whole lot more stable and even-keeled than the drama queens I’m traveling with. They’re younger than I. They haven’t lived in as many different aspects of the world as I have. They think all this is exciting and invigorating, but all I can think is, “Meh”.

Hah! I’m going to start calling it “Meh-nopause”. Because that’s the general effect it’s had on me.

See, when hormones like estrogen and estradiol and progesterone fade away (I have the hormonal profile of a 72-year-old woman – haha), it really shuffles your perspective on things. There’s less biological drive to connect, to get whipped up into a frenzy, to get so personally involved in sh*t that never really mattered, to begin with.

Getting free of those hormonal cycles of all the extreme ups and downs also has made me super fond of equanimity, of sparing my energy for long-term activities, and keeping a level head through it all. So, the proverbial roller coasters of emotion that used to color my life — and in many ways propelled me through the world — don’t appeal to me anymore. Not in the least.

I’m past that. I’m not being all egotistical and look-at-how-evolved-I-am. It’s just how I feel. The kinds of controversial dramas that power endless spats on social media… not to mention the mainstream press… yeah, no thanks. Once upon a time, they were fuel for my engine.

No more.

Meh-nopause… yeah, that pretty much sums it up.

So, that being said, I’ve got to get going and finish up my preparation for this trip. I have another 3 hours before I need to leave. I need to give myself plenty of advance time, so I’m not rushed at the airport — no matter how often I go there, it still confuses me, and the activity and motion and loud noises are an incredible challenge (which I somehow manage to navigate satisfactorily). And I still need to pack my bags. I’m torn between taking a big-ass biographical tome by one of my favorite scientists, or sticking with the audiobooks on my phone. I always put a lot of thought into my choices, ahead of each trip, and oddly, things never seem to align with my intentions.

Well, anyway, I can’t worry about that. Gotta run…

Later, folks.

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