March 29, 2024

Unmotivated: Menopausing My Life to Find Out What’s Next.

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I have never felt so unmotivated in all of my life.

I have never been unmotivated. I’ve been unable to do the things I was motivated to do. And I’ve become unmotivated to do one thing but then motivated to do another. But I’ve never been just completely and thoroughly unmotivated.

I’ve always wanted to do something. Or a lot of things. Or one thing. Whether it was dog mushing or child raising or gymnastics when I was eight or being a page in the Senate when I was 15, I’ve always been motivated to do something.

When we lived in Alaska, I broke my toe during the prime dog mushing season and was laid up for about six weeks. I started a farmers market to keep from getting bored.

But now I’m bored. And unmotivated. I can’t seem to get enough enthusiasm together to do anything. I bore myself. Is this menopause? Some people say this is a natural almost midlife crisis effect that menopause has on women. Maybe that’s true. It makes sense. And fine. But what do I do about it?

I’ve lived my entire life on the premise that life is short and that we have to take advantage of opportunities and explore and do what we love.

Now I don’t want to do any of it. I am almost 52 years old and I feel like I’ve done everything already. I know. I know. Go learn something, Michelle. Okay. And I’m trying. I’ve been looking for classes that aren’t full to go learn something new. I even got a gym membership to force myself out of the house and into the sauna. I row for an hour before I let myself into the sauna. I actually read that doing a sauna four or five times a week can help with menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, believe it or not, and so I’m trying it.

But I’m not really motivated. I’m motivated because I know I’ll feel a little better after and I like feeling strong and accomplishing something. Lately, though, I’m starting to doubt how much it matters. I know. I know. It’s good for my health. And my heart. And my weight. And my mental health. Sometimes, though, I kinda don’t care and I feel like I feel that way more and more lately.

I get almost jittery when I’m bored. I feel like I have to just get up and go do something. Now. And I still get that way. But then when I jump up to go do something I feel like there’s nothing for me to do. Or I could do something…something I would have done in my younger years—paint a wall, ride a bike, dance, write, plant something, bake something. And now I just go eh. Then sit back down and berate myself for not wanting to do anything at all.

Sometimes I do the thing. I’ll bake some bread or plant something or take the dog for a walk and instead of feeling like I did something, I feel irritated with myself for not doing more. Or not liking it that much.

It’s not depression, really, or at least, it’s not your garden variety type. I’m not sad. I don’t feel sad. I feel like I’ve lost my mojo. Like I had magic and now it’s gone. Or it’s just out of my grasp and I can’t quite reach it

I have an oddly photographic memory. Which is a kind of magic. But even that is fuzzing out on me lately. At least, more than it used to. Some people call it an “eidetic” memory, but I actually recall the physical thing. I can answer Jeopardy! Clues because I can see the author’s name on the cover of the book (as it is, I can see the colors, the picture, the name of the book, and so on) and apparently this is unusual. Sometimes the picture is fuzzy (especially if I’ve been drinking a bit), and I have to really screw down my memory to see it. Or focus in. If I can’t see it then I have to relax and usually, later on, it will come naturally. Like my brain knows I need it and keeps looking to focus in on the info while I’ve given up.

I’ve gotten in trouble for cheating in school because of this little quirk. And it’s rare that anyone believes that I actually “see” the things in my memory that I do. But there they are—just waiting for the next pub trivia night. But lately, even things I can “see” in my mind, I can’t seem to bring out completely. As I’ve gotten older, I can see the book, but the words are fuzzy and that bothers me so much. I thought, for a while, truthfully, that I was suffering from early Alzheimer’s (which runs in my family), and I could be, if I’m being honest with myself, but it seems to be more ageish and related to flares of a chronic autoimmune disease I have.

I stopped writing for a while. And reading. I found as I neared my 50s that I had the hardest time getting into a book. I couldn’t seem to concentrate and I reread the same paragraphs over and over trying to get in. Books were never so hard for me before—reading or writing them. Words used to just flow over and out of me. They still do, but they are loaded with so much self-doubt now. I used to think that everything I wrote and said (okay, maybe not everything, but pretty close) was worth it. That it was valuable. And as I’ve gotten older and have been devalued more times than I count. Taunted. Made fun of—even if at work in the most unintentional way. And I’ve devalued myself and my voice, which is something I never thought I would do. I thought I was strong. And I am, in some ways. In many ways, though, I fail at being strong.

While I would love to blame my self-doubt solely for my lack of reading and writing lately, I have to admit that part of me wonders what I could possibly contribute at this point? It feels like the world is just awash in the thoughts and feelings both in writing, whether on social media or in actual publications, and in video or photos. It feels like where once storytellers told stories and created worlds for us to enter, now everyone is inviting us into their worlds and then telling their stories because everyone has one.

But do we need to know them all? And is it worth it anymore to contribute? I’m not sure. It feels like white noise sometimes. So many voices, how to distinguish them all? Or even just a few?

I am filled with questions as I enter my 50s. I feel a little lost and a little angry sometimes. Not for any one reason. But often, just because. I am really wondering as I read the stories (so many stories) of women reaching this age and feeling similarly. Feeling like they have to push aside things that were once so important. Like me, these women feel angry sometimes for no reason. Or outrageously sad. Doctors say it’s hormones. Supplement sellers promise us fewer hot flashes. Some of it works. Turmeric solves all.

But what if…just what if…there’s a reason that when we hit 50 we just want to turn it all over and start again? Julia Child was in her 50s when she started “The French Chef.” Martha Stewart was in her 50s when she turned her life into “Martha Stewart Everything.” Georgia O’Keeffe. Nancy Pelosi. I could go on. And perhaps I will someday.

I guess I wonder if all of this “brain fog” and the hot flashes and decreased libido if that’s happening, aren’t really our body’s way of telling us to slow down for a bit here in the middle. Look at what you have going on. Is this how you want to spend the rest of your life?

Not all of us can make great changes. We still need to work and live and raise children and drive them back and forth and back and forth and back again. So this natural pause—a menopause if you will—is untimely and inconvenient in a modern world.

But instead of fighting it, what if we lean into it a bit?

I am choosing to lean into my brain fog and my joint pain and my hot flashes.

I went outside one brutally cold January night not long ago in my sweats, a sweater, and my socks during a pretty overwhelmingly hell-like hot flash, and I stood at the end of our deck and looked up into the winter sky. Steam poured off my skin for a second as I caught Orion’s belt out of the corner of my eye. Stepping down off the deck and onto the path, I got view of the entire night sky. A brilliant sight in the winter. I don’t know all of the constellations, but I know enough to feel like I’m among friends when I’m outside, at night, alone.

Pause. I’m hitting pause for a bit while I enter this phase of my life. I want to see what silence brings. I’ve been so aggressive to find and achieve my life for so long. I’m a little tired…and a little more comfortable not seeking. Not finding. Not achieving. Not a lot…but a little.

Unmotivated, I am. But not without motivation.


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