Thursday, September 4, 2008


So, I was talking with one of my dear friends yesterday, and she suggested that some of the dark moods I've been experiencing might be hormone-related. Ladies, drum-roll please: MENOPAUSE! Really? Not just grief, but this? On top of everything else? Well, why ever not?
Maybe it's not just me, or "bereaved me;" other, "normal" women (who would they be?) have these inexplicable moods and dark thoughts popping into their heads at this time of life. I've heard it, and seen it; I simply forgot that it might be about something other than this bitter loss, which is clearly consuming most of my waking thoughts, and not part of my "normal" way of being...that is, before Katie passed away.

Menopause. O-kay. Why hadn't that occurred to me? I thought about it a few months ago, and then forgot about it. What difference does it make what the cause is? Maybe the difference is that I could offer myself (and others) a little more compassion today.

One challenge in this period (no pun intended) is to get the filter between the brain and mouth firmly into place. That has been a challenge all of my life anyway, and I can clearly see its importance now. MB, do you remember the cartoon you drew on the napkin in the restaurant? I will never forget it: "There should be a FILTER between HERE and HERE!"

My mom and Gregg have kindly suggested that I may not be acting as cranky as I feel (maybe the same way that I don't look as unfit as I feel...a sort of mood-dysmorphia, if you will). That would be a relief. I don't like toxicity, and I don't want to be a source of it. I don't want to be blind, mindless, selfish, depressed, depressing. I do want to be useful, comforting, gentle, funny, kind, compassionate and skillful at living the life that I have.

Who knows how to live this new life, once the life they worked to construct and maintain has been broken beyond recognition? And isn't that the image of the spiritual path, anyway? What I thought it was about, and what it turns out to be, are not the same at all. And this happens over and over again. We are faced with brokenness now, and now, and now, with no way out but through it. Learning to love my broken self, and our broken life, is not easy. It is uncharted territory in our culture, but there is a great deal written about it through history.

It is hard, not having a spiritual community for support, right now. I need to seek that out, but the energy required to start over is not forthcoming. Perhaps the desire is enough to light the flame. I will be attending a weekend of teaching with Father Rohr soon, and that should be helpful. A few of us are making this into a "girls' weekend/spiritual retreat," and I can hardly wait. It's been a long time since I've been on a spiritual retreat.

One of the hardest changes in my life now is that I am not so confident and clear-headed as I was when Katie was sick. This doesn't sound as if it makes sense, but it is true. When Katie was ill, I had no time or interest in worrying about
my figure,
whether or not people liked me,
who thought what about how or what we did,
what I "should" be doing with my life, or other "shoulds,"
whether I am good enough, etc.
I was BUSY with IMPORTANT work, and it was all that mattered. I had a purpose outside of myself. I could get up in the morning and not wonder what to do, because it was mostly out of my control; I could only face what came up with the best spirits possible, with as much love as flowed into me and through me. I want that simplicity and clarity back in my life. My prayer life is not leading me to this right now.

Since life now is so "easy" (compared to life in the hospital or Ronald McDonald House), as odd as this sounds, it feels harder! What I mean is that life is easier physically, but harder emotionally. I don't understand it, but I've read the same thing in the words of other mothers who were in the trenches of caring for a critically ill child; after the child passes, they feel lost. What do we to do now with all of that love, passion, energy (when we have it, since it comes and goes without warning), skill, knowledge and hard-earned experience? Some of us go to school to become professional caregivers. Some of us lobby the "powers that be" for the sake of others. Some of us try to change the world from a grassroots level. Some of us write, sew, raise funds. But most of us feel disoriented, unlike the self we knew before our child's illness.

"Webster's 1913 Dictionary adj.
having lost one's bearings physically or mentally.
socially disoriented; withdrawn from social interactions."

"WordNet()WordNet DictionaryAdj.
1. disoriented -
having lost your bearings; confused as to time or place or personal identity; "I frequently find myself disoriented when I come up out of the subway"; "the anesthetic left her completely disoriented"
lost, confused
2. disoriented - socially disoriented; "anomic loners musing over their fate"; "we live in an age of rootless alienated people"
alienated, anomic"

"Related()Related Words abashed, abnormal, abroad, adrift, astray, at sea, bereft of reason, bewildered, bothered, brainsick, clueless, confused, crackbrained, cracked, crazed, crazy, daft, deluded, demented, deprived of reason, deranged, discomposed, disconcerted, dismayed, distracted, distraught, disturbed, embarrassed, flighty, guessing, hallucinated, in a fix, in a maze, in a pickle, in a scrape, in a stew, insane, irrational, loco, lost, lunatic, mad, maddened, manic, mazed, mental, mentally deficient, meshuggah, moon-struck, non compos, non compos mentis, not all there, not right, odd, of unsound mind, off, off the track, perturbed, psycho, put-out, queer, reasonless, senseless, sick, stark-mad, stark-staring mad, strange, tetched, touched, turned around, unbalanced, unhinged, unsane, unsettled, unsound, upset, wandering, without a clue, witless"

If you have a friend or relation who is grieving (or menopausal, or --horrors!-- both), and they behave differently than you expect them to, or unlike the self you knew them to be "before," perhaps you could remember the definition of the word "disoriented." It's likely that they are experiencing some aspects of that word. I know that I am. Maybe I'll invent a new word: Meno-disorientation.


Suzanne said...

Oh Karen, I hope you do not HAVE to add this to the mix right now.
I have heard it is not a fun time in a womans life, the mental as well as physical anguish to endure all the changes in ones body and brain.
It may be part of it, but I really think you have walked through the fire...the hardest thing for anyone to do is to lose a child.
you are allowed to NOT have a filter for some time. That is what I think anyway.
My Grandma is 95. She barely had a filter when she was 50. But Now she really says just what she thinks and we accept this, because she has earned it.
You are given a green light to be cranky and what ever other feelings you are going through.
You will get better, I know.
take care,
PS everytime you leave me a comment, I really smile and say out loud: "awww, that is so nice"
yes, my Dog knows that I talk to the computer screen.
our little secret. :)

unbashedjoy said...

Dear Karen,
I love the idea of meno-disorientation. I have a menopausal mother who is also lives with an auto-immune disease and is helping her oldest daughter plan a wedding. I am very familiar with the concept. My father and I are being nothing but patient, because we too expereince the disconnect betwen what she feel and what she says.

I wanted to thank you for the sweet comment you left on my blog, you brought me to tears. Your grandmother, as well as yourself, seem like amazing strong, wise women.

I think about you and your family a great deal, it sounds like you had a wonderful and well deserved trip :)

Dreamer girl said...

Hello Karen,

Disorientation, good definition. I can really relate especially since I have serious mood swings right before and after my period. I never used to but am on meds for my crohns. Exercise really keeps my moods up. I hate being "disoriented" because my moods are low and very grumpy. Seriously, most of my behavior referrals at school are probably at this time.

P.S. Whatever it is. Best wishes to you.

heather b said...

Wow. Isn't it interesting that we actually feel "centered" during crisis sometimes!? However, I agree with Suzanne and hope that this is not something you're going to have to deal with right now. I am sure it is so hard in these days to figure out "what's what" when dealing with so many different variables. Praying for you...

Laurie Keller said...

Hi Karen ... I loved catching up on your blog this evening. So sorry you have been up and down. I appreciate you taking time to send me blessings during our ordeal, when you have been blue. I'm glad you got away for a bit and surrounded yourself with your handsome boys. Things are settling down here, out of panic mode, but we are dealing with new challenges every day. Not so bad, just adjusting. Love to you.