Deep Sleep came back. The night after I wrote, Oh Deep Sleep, Where Have You Gone? it returned. I am sleeping through the night again. My FitBit tells me this is true. My scores have been between 80 and 90. I am waking up refreshed, full of rest that comes from the world of deep sleep, ready to welcome the day ahead. It’s a true gift. I feel like a magical fairy has blessed me with Deep Sleep again.
I’m at the age where I am waiting for things to fall apart. I am waiting for my hair to turn fully gray. I am waiting for my knees to give out. I am waiting for my belly to round like both of my grandmothers. I am waiting for my eyesight and hearing to go. I am waiting for longtime faithful companion Deep Sleep to leave me. Everyone says it’s going to happen. Friends, family members, doctors, and random shop clerks started warning me when I was 48, and then again when I turned 50. And now I’m 53, so surely I am just biding my time until all of these things happen to me.
These years of warnings are why I was so prepared to end my relationship with Deep Sleep. I set myself up to expect that losing Deep Sleep was inevitable. Some of the things I was warned would happen have happened. My hair is getting gray and my belly is much rounder than it used to be. My hearing seems fine but I’ve graduated to progressives. But, my knees are great most days and my cherished friend Deep Sleep came back!
As women age, there is an elusive magic suitcase full of unpleasant expectations awaiting us. We are prepped for all of the bad things to come. We are told in myriad ways that this, older age, is the end of the line, the stop where all the bad stuff comes. But that’s a bunch of bullshit. That’s some weird patriarchal concept designed to make women think that their only value is in their ability to procreate; that once those years are over it’s all downhill (but that’s another essay).
C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was one of my favorite stories growing up. Lucy and her three siblings are sent to the country to escape the Blitz during World War II. They stay with the professor, a friend of their parents, in a foreign town in an unfamiliar house. There, Lucy and her three siblings find a wardrobe that leads to another land.
The adventures the kids had — both wonderful and perilous — drew me in and carried me away. What if menopause is like the first stop in Narnia? It’s scary. It’s foreign. There are strange creatures and mysterious events that make us feel lost and scared and alone at times. But there are also mystical, magical adventures that make us feel welcome and happy.
There are evil characters — like the White Witch — hot flashes, sensitivity to alcohol and coffee, hormonal mood changes. And there are good ones like Asian the Lion, the brave King of Narnia who saves the children. In the land of menopause Asian would be that strong inner sense women have at this age. It is the roar of knowing that it’s time to change jobs or shake up a relationship.
And then there are Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the kind couple who welcome the children and make them feel at home. In many ways, menopause feels like that. Finally at home, free from the heavy socializing, trying to achieve more, do better, get noticed. It’s nice to feel like it’s enough to sit at home and have a cup of tea.
And for me, there’s Mr. Tumnus, the faun, who, in my menopause land, represents Deep Sleep. Mr. Tumnus is at first the kind and welcoming, nurturing and caring companion to Lucy when she arrives in Narnia. But Tumnus is under the control of the White Witch and thinks of betraying Lucy, forsaking her to the evil side of Nania. In the end, though, Tumnus’ conscience is restored and he leads Lucy back home to her wardrobe where she can rest safely with her siblings.
Lucy and her siblings escaped to the wardrobe. Their life, war-torn, sequestered away from their parents, friends, and all things known to them, was already scary. Narnia was an escape, a place to be somewhere different, to be someone different.
Menopause is like going to another land in a lot of ways. But like Narnia, the new land isn’t all bad. When I think about what came before menopause, life on the other side of the wardrobe, I feel delighted to have an escape from all of that. There’s good and bad here, but it’s also sometimes magical.