The greatest literary virtue of the Trinidad-born writer VS Naipaul, who has died aged 85, was instant readability.
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Entering life’s next phase as a woman
I’ve been going through a period lately that I can only describe as “excruciatingly exhilarating;” an oxymoron if I have ever heard one, but so intrinsically true to my latest life experience. In fact, to describe it as a “period” may be somewhat of a fallacy, a little misleading to what the true nature of my experience entails. It’s more like nearing the cessation of “my period,” and the beginning of the next phase of my life—my next rite of passage as a woman. In a few weeks I will celebrate my 45th year as a child of this Universe. That in itself is a milestone achievement. I have lived for two score and some, and survived to tell the tale.
I have had the pleasure of conceiving a child, the pain of bringing her into this plain, and the privilege of bringing her up to be the beautiful, well-rounded individual that she is today. I have borne the immense burden of a potentially debilitating illness, not knowing for years that it even existed within my “self.” Discovering that it was a part of who I am at the core, and learning to manage it through the years has turned out to be an adventure that I will never regret, no matter how familiar my feet became with the terrain of Hades at times. For there were also the mountaintop experiences. I have achieved success in my career—winning several international creative awards—and more so, the trust of employers and contractors as a brilliant mind that can deliver sharp, cutting-edge marketing and reading material, on time.
I have thrown caution to the wind and followed my dream—taking all of my savings (and some of a friend’s) and investing it in a coffee shop that met my dream of a quieter life —but not the requirement of the necessary noisy dollars to keep the coffee brewing. My shop closed after one year. And so, I suffered loss and disappointment. I have written several children’s books, self-published one, and marketed it with a great measure of satisfaction. I am currently writing a romance novel—if only I can find the time to complete it between the demands of life, and work, and headaches, and intermittent diarrhoea, and hot flashes!
Yes, my new “period,” like I said, is more like the ending of “my period”—I’m smack in the middle of pre-menopause. Most days I forget that I’m at this juncture of my life, and am usually jolted to the reality of my situation by intensely hot ears, calves, arms, neck, and hands, or sometimes by a racing heartbeat.
At times, by a sudden headache. I’ve also gained weight. Other symptoms are occurring, too—some too private to convey in black and white. Menopause has been traditionally viewed as a period of shame for a woman—the time when she has lost all her usefulness and is essentially winding down, getting ready to rock her way to the grave. At this time in her life, when a woman perhaps needs the most support, she is ridiculed and spurned. The disparaging “crone” or “old hag” replaces her previous identity and honourable status of “woman.” Today, although things are changing slowly, there is still the debasing, deriding statements, the smirks and reference to depleting “usefulness,” and there is still ridicule of a woman who is evidently distressed by night sweats and hot flashes.
There is more need for men—and some younger women too—to wake up to the reality that this woman’s rite is a woman’s right! Not to be denied her; hers to enjoy. Acceptance and empathy or not, I intend to experience my hot flashes in style, with flair, in stride, and safe in the knowledge and power that I am now able to press pause! And that’s the true value of menopause—the privilege of gracefully surrendering all the things that marked the period of active productivity, and embracing a period of quiet production of a personal product that is in sync with the Universe and its Maker. This is the time to press pause, sisters. Where’s the shame in that? Where’s the shame in having less or no office days? Where’s the shame in writing your memoirs that could one day touch the world? Where’s the shame in enjoying children without the anxiety and pressure of breastfeeding, dirty diapers, SEA, CXC, or college grades?
Where’s the shame in having the time to listen to all the Frank Sinatra and Sparrow songs your ears can stand? Where’s the shame in making love slowly? Where’s the shame in having the time to take better care of you, meditating and exercising more, eating better, dressing sensibly, and growing wiser with every passing day? Excruciatingly exhilarating!
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