Gents, I’m happy to take your calls about menopause, but it’s time for you to take charge
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My friend Paul lobbed over, armed with a bottle of rosé and a question. Was I menopausal?
Sweet Betty White in a three-man canoe, yes. That particular River Styx has been crossed. The 3am banging heart, murderous thoughts and unpredictable sentimentality are done, on paper anyway.
Are we ready to have difficulty conversations? Credit: iStock
Fantastic, said Paul. Need you to be a menopause coach for a mate. Talk him through what you know. I’ll ring him now, put him on speaker.
For the next hour, a male stranger grilled me on midlife emotions, expectations, bloating, libido. Well, stranger not stranger. He turned out to be an Australian singer who is always high on our summer playlist rotation. Hopefully, there’s a hit to be written about tamponless homes.
Anyway. My famous Padawan’s mission in finding a woman to talk about The Change with was heartening. His partner is mired in peri-menopausal quicksand and while he’ll never experience or understand what she’s going through, he wants to be an active wingman rather than hand-wringing confused bystander.
Google couldn’t give him what he’s hunting for: insider knowledge from an old stager. He knew his stuff though (“HRT – yes or no? Should I ignore mood swings or does that look like I don’t care?”) and we hashed over tips and tricks that helped me and my marriage survive the whole circus.
It’s hard to imagine men a couple of decades ago even realising anything was up with their womenfolk, let alone proactively supporting their peri-menopausal partners.
When we hung up, it felt like an unusual connection in a darkening kitchen was a tiny sign society is on the right path. One where everyone takes responsibility for their stuff. Where we take action instead of keeping our fingers crossed that the magical universe will step in and step up, or someone else will take the load because hey, it’s their deal, not mine.
That message was the big takeaway from a session I had with a psychologist a few weeks ago, too. The grim year when dancing on command multiple times a day was part of work KPIs had crept back into my head, a spreading inkblot of anxiety. Hyper vigilant, tired and mainlining sugar, I ran up the white flag.
The psychologist recommended installing myself as the director in the home movie which is my little life. Her instructions: revel in the responsibility that comes with being in charge.
Zoom out on anything that throws up bad stuff, she said. Keep zooming, keep going. Stop. Look at your life timeline. The awful bit is just a blurry tiny spot. Now focus back in on all the good stuff. Make that really clear and present. Live there.
At first, it felt too remedial – there has to be more to it? – and sure, it may not work for anyone with problems greater than humiliation by hubris-fuelled bosses. But you know what? So far, not giving trauma attention and not being a victim feels good.
Maybe too often we see taking responsibility as scary or as some kind of punishment in response to wrongdoing or hurting someone. But there are unexpected joys and power that come with reaching for it because taking responsibility shines the focus on what matters and dulls or mutes things that don’t.
Look at the Matildas’ glorious Mackenzie Arnold. Absolute beacon of responsibility. Saving those French penalty shots on goal, missing her own shot then not returning to goal keep as a broken person was unbelievable.
Then look at Daniel Andrews, a famous banger onerer about taking responsibility for what happens on his watch, now turning a blind eye to wrongdoing in his party ranks. Then there’s Harry and Meghan, selling their poor me narrative where everyone else but them (and perhaps Prince Louis) are villains.
Look again at the Matildas, at Sam Kerr when asked after the quarter-final win how she’d deal with expectations. “We just have to enjoy it,” she said, spinning pressure into living in the moment.
Love it. Responsibility equals rewards. And boys, happy to take your calls on menopause. Even if you’re not a famed troubadour.
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