Dear Aunt Flo,

This is a record-breaking four-week visit! You’ve never stayed this long before. At first I was really glad you came because it had been so long (47 days to be exact) since you came around again, but now you are way overstaying your welcome.

menstrual cycle calendar menstruation forever

I guess I shouldn’t complain. You’ve been a punctual friend over the years, visiting when you’re expected, leaving promptly after four to five days. I’d come to rely on you and enjoy your visits. If you’re being a bit erratic lately, not showing up on time or staying way too long, it’s probably because we’re getting closer to saying goodbye to each other and it’s tough. For both of us.

I get more than a little bit emotional about you going away for good. I’m struck with fear and sadness at the thought of growing old and dying. Mentally I want to clutch tightly at your legs and beg you not to go. Don’t leave me. Please. In reality I’m annoyed at the inconvenience that has dragged on this long. I mean, I still manage to have a sex life, but you hold me back from giving it my all. Worries about staining sheets, partners’ reactions to blood… you know how it goes.

I’m trying not to flip out about your prolonged stay. I’ve googled it. Apparently it’s normal for this stage. I’m not going to drug myself or get a hysterectomy.

I’m going to love you. I’m going to cherish your visits. And I don’t care how long you go away in between, I’ll be happy to see you whenever you come around. I’ll treat you like it may be the last time I’ll ever see you.

I love you, you dirty bitch!

Dear Aunt Flo writing with dip pen and menstrual blood

P.S. Here’s a haiku for you.

On My Period on Facebook

A 20-year-old law student from India wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking him to add an “On My Period” button to Facebook’s status updates. Arushi Dua believes that an “On My Period” button on Facebook would promote openness in discussion of menstruation and hopefully change people’s attitude of shame toward it.

On My Period button on Facebook

While I’d love to see an “On My Period” button on Facebook, what I found most interesting about the article was her frustration with the age-old irony that society encourages (and in her culture, expects) women to have children, yet shames them for menstruating. Don’t they see that menstruation and childbearing are part of the same cycle?

Immediately after I gave birth, I spent a whole month bleeding, then nothing for almost a year. I learned that breastfeeding my child caused a delay in the return of my period. My body wisdom focused my energy toward my baby, before I was ready for a new ovulation cycle.

During that time I didn’t get my periods, I realized that in cultures in which women bear children one after another, menstruation would be a rare occurrence. If a woman is healthy, she could be with child as soon as a new ovulation cycle begins again, or at least within the next couple of cycles.

In a culture that values fertility, menstruation would be considered shameful because it signifies that a woman is either incapable of being pregnant or rebelling against her role in society. Whether she is barren by choice or by fate, a woman’s blood is seen as a failure to be a productive member of her community.

As the world shifts in paradigm from populating the earth to that of population “control,” women are spending less time being pregnant and more time menstruating. As uncomfortable as it feels for those still in the previous mindset, menstruation occurs more often in a woman’s life than it did before. It only makes sense that it becomes more a part of our society’s consciousness and conversations.

Hashtag #OnMyPeriod is already well-used on Twitter and Instagram. Do you think there should be an “On My Period” button on Facebook status updates? How would your social media conversations change?

The Dark Side

“For each of us as women, there is a dark place within where, hidden and growing, our true spirit rises… These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through that darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.”

– Audre Lorde

These are powerful words to end and begin another year, another month, another cycle.

In this blog I will focus on self-care, that deep dark place where I rest and rejuvenate myself. I’ve come to see my period as that time and place. I began my journey at odds with my body, full of PMS rage. Month after month I found creative ways to explore and meditate on my menstrual blood. As I approach my last decade or so of menstruation, I am so much more at ease with my body and my period. I’m sure many more changes are afoot, but I have grown in experience and patience with my body. I have “an incredible reserve of creativity and power.”

So here is my list of how I can better care for myself on my period in 2016. Feel free to do it, too.

  1. Sleep. I fight this all the time. There is so much more to do, I tell myself. But sleep is that deep dark place that holds our dreams, our creative energy, our power.
  2. Eat more mindfully. I reposted Nutrition and Care for the Menstruating Woman as a guide. I still think the whole of it is unattainable. I admit, I do love my chocolate and sugar fix. But I’ll put in greater effort this year.
  3. Take control of the screen. Staring into a monitor can’t be good for a woman who needs her dark time. Flowers bloom in the dark. So do we. Be more efficient with the use of the computer and devices. Be clear with tasks. Set a timer when surfing.
  4. Exercise. For me it’s house and yard work, going on photo walks/hikes, Wii Fit, yoga. You do you.
  5. Listen to and play more music. Every time I do, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Also, listen with headphones, eyes closed. Motherhood has made me put away the headphones in favor of being available to every call of “Mama,” but now that we’re all grown, I need to put the headphones back on and treat myself to music I love.

Happy New Year to all!

A toast to the dark side, menstruation, and being a woman. Cheers!