I’m in my luteal phase, an important concept I only uncovered today. Since I’ve been feeling so seemingly crappy, and it’s not yet time for my ‘period’, I decided to pause and investigate.
Even as I type this, some part of me is saying, “Shhh…don’t talk about these things.”
As a teen, my education about cycles and menstruation included being handed pads from around the bathroom door when I first got my period, and jokes from men about PMS.
Throughout the month I would push through my angst and irritability, try to resist or ignore my feelings, and continue to exist in the world as usual — my output ongoing, with forced determination.
Each morning this week I’ve awoken feeling a heaviness in my body and a fog in my mind, trying to navigate routines like getting my kids off to school, cleaning up the kitchen, and then sliding into my white leather chair to begin work on my laptop.
But there was a nagging resistance, thoughts of, “I don’t feel like doing anything right now.”
Picking myself up and going outside to switch the laundry (yes, my washer and dryer are outside), my body seemed to weigh a thousand pounds and it took every bit of will I could muster to direct it towards this simple task. Pull the wet, heavy clothes from the washer and heave them upward into the dryer. Ugh, I just want to nap.
But first I want to gaze lovingly at the red ixora clusters in bloom, to stroll around the block and look up in awe at the white wisps of clouds in an cerulean sky, and to feel the last remnants of a cool Miami breeze on my cheeks before the sweltering summer.
Sounds magical and romantic, except that I would usually pull myself out of this la-la land and try to get back to my task list, and then shame myself for the struggle within.
Why does everyone and everything around me seem so annoying? Why can’t I concentrate? Why do I have an elusive sense of pending doom while feeling literally uncomfortable within my own skin?
I tried some of my newfound self-soothing tools – CBD mixed with THC, essential oils, deep breathing, and a few forced minutes of yoga on my bedroom floor. Then I’d submit to mindless scrolling as I turned to mush within the softness of my bed.
On social media I stumbled across a beautiful bohemian woman in a Jewish hair wrap teaching women about the waxing and waning of their menstrual cycles and phases. She seemed so earthy, so comfortable and at peace.
I could pay for her classes, and perhaps I will. But in the meantime I decided to start doing some research, and I discovered that during this luteal phase that I now find myself in, my body produces lots of extra progesterone, as other chemicals like estrogen and testosterone (!) fluctuate.
I learned some strange scientific terms to explain what’s going on inside myself and stumbled into a rabbit hole of charts and studies tracking the phases of a woman’s hormones, brain function and mood.
Basically, I’ve been trying to go against those natural ebbs and flows of my body, and judging myself. Trying to be super-productive, for example, when my body needed downtime.
Learning to recognize what’s happening throughout my cycle — Every. Single. Month. — is an opportunity to reconnect with my Divine self. I’m also starting to understand the deep wisdom in Judaism’s taharas hamishpacha and how, in all its painstaking details, it actually honors the sanctity of our cycles.
I’m learning to do what my mind and body need, to express my creativity when it feels right, and sit by a river in the woods (or, more realistically, walk to the neighborhood park) when everything my husband says or does seems to trigger me.
I’ve been in this body for 45 years, including 32 of them menstruating. That’s like 1,700 cycles. It seems that the most important part of my existence went nearly unnoticed, as I focused my energy externally.
But my G-dly femininity continued sending me messages — “Pay attention to Me, look within, I’m all you need right now.“
Though I don’t yet understand it all, I’m learning to recognize my own intuition and internal wisdom, which are innate and infinite.
I’m getting to know myself for the first time in my life, which feels phenomenally empowering. And I’ve already started talking to my daughters about my magically mysterious discoveries of womanhood.
Because this is something special that’s meant to be shared, respected and even celebrated — as we learn to love and accept all of our womanly selves.