From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Living in the Hot Lane

I feel it approaching, the way you know when a train is about to pull into the station before you see it. Two seconds later it comes roaring in, the ol’ hot flash express, filling me with its suddenness, its engine steaming inside me. I hope it will pass through quickly, and I’ll be able to get on with what I am doing. If not, I will have to carry on anyway. Life doesn’t stop just because I’m living in the hot lane.

I have tried to describe to my husband what a hot flash feels like, but there is really no way he can know without experiencing it. What he does feel is the outer manifestation. He says I am “swampy.” And he is right. Rivulets of sweat flow down my body, pooling in any small indentation: the crook of an elbow, back of my knees, between my breasts.

I am grateful that I work at home. I can get up from my computer and jump into the tub when it gets too uncomfortable. I don’t have to worry about leaving a puddle on my chair at an important client meeting. I have been known to stick my head inside the freezer when it really gets to me.

One friend, who does go to client meetings, never lets on when she is burning up. She has, however, allowed her hair to grow a little longer so she can cover her ears. They turn bright pink when she flashes.

Another friend is also experiencing this transition. Her husband says she turns the air conditioner thermostat so low at night that icicles form in his nostrils. I have no sympathy. He knows where to find the extra blankets.

The standard advice for flashers is to take hormone replacement therapy. But it is not for everyone. Not for my friend with a heart condition, or for the one with a family history of ovarian cancer. Not for me with my alternative philosophy.

So we balance wild yam and isoflavones, primrose oil and dong quai, looking for the combinations that work for us. And we talk to each other, sharing our stories and laughing. A lot. One thing we discovered is that none of us feel our femininity is threatened by the knowledge that one day soon we will not be able to have children. We don’t feel any less desirable. Our sex drive is still in gear. It just isn’t an issue.

And we don’t see this as a disease that needs to be cured. It is just a natural part of the maturing process. Some of us feel it more acutely than others but we are individuals and bound to vary in our responses to this time of life. We don’t deny what we are going through; we work through it with information and accommodation and intelligence.

What we have noticed is that our sisterhood has deepened. We cannot talk about such intimate things without drawing closer. And that has many benefits. We see how we have grown over the years because we are no longer afraid or embarrassed to tell the truth. With truth comes power. We know who we are now. We accept ourselves with all the flaws and inconsistencies that come with living actively.

So what if living in the hot lane has its inconveniences? They will pass eventually, but the joy we women have in each other will remain. We are getting the better part of the deal.

Ferida Wolff

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners