By Lisa Frank
I had always heard about a mid-life crisis but thought it was mainly about men buying fancy sports cars and dating younger women, that is until I recently retired in the midst of co-vid, a new relationship, and the onset of menopause. After 25 years of teaching kindergarten, I was thrilled to be able to stay home, collect a small pension, and reinvent myself. However, co-vid stole my retirement party and saying goodbye to my students and colleagues. There was no closure. I naturally felt sad about this but still, I didn’t have to write lesson plans, figure out on-line learning, or ever deal with difficult students or parents again. No big deal, I told myself.
My new romantic relationship was a wonderful diversion from co-vid. Yes, we had moved in together rather quickly, but we were having the time of our lives -a little quarantine honeymoon for two. We took many a hike and outdoor daytrip and the sex, well, wow! It was hot, but after a few months, my Estrovan pills stopped working and I was hot with hot flashes all the time. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand for my partner to touch me. Plus, once he went back to work, I found myself doing nothing but grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Is this why I retired, I thought, to play housewife? The relationship took a nosedive.
I decided to start some major work on reinventing myself. It was time to launch my yoga and breathwork business. Trying to find an in-person training on breathwork, I drove across the country with my sister. This was exactly what I needed-a sister road trip- woohoo! After driving 13 hours, to get to what I thought was an in-person training, I soon realized, the classwork was all on-line. We had driven this far and spent tons of money to do on-line learning in someone else’s home. Still, I met some new people and the on-line class was actually good so it was still a win, right? Well actually, all that sister time and my new hormones threw me into a new state of passive aggressive anxiety. When we got home, I destroyed my relationship with my sister, and in doing so lost one of my best friends. Things were not going as planned. My sister and my boyfriend were the major relationships in my life, and I had destroyed them both. I never felt lonelier and I didn’t have the rewards of teaching and those precious little faces to cheer me up either. I didn’t know who I was anymore. My emotions were all over the place. I felt like the Goddess, Kali, the destructor. I had lost two sisters to suicide and I knew depression was not an option.
I decided to really practice what I preached. Meditate, yoga, breathwork and focus on starting my new business. I was determined to positively reinvent myself. After all, this is why I retired at 55, to launch something new and exciting, to feel passionate once again about my work and to have time to do the things I loved. I set up a personal schedule for myself at home and signed up for more on-line trainings. This time from the comfort of my own living room. My son helped me set up a facebook business page and I began advertising yoga and breathwork classes. Was this irresponsible? Classes all around me were shutting down and I was trying to get people to come into my small studio space. Very slowly, a few people began reaching out and asking for private classes. Hooray! I bought a forehead thermometer, tons of cleaning supplies and set up individual bins for each client’s mat, blankets, blocks, and straps. It was a little something. A small victory despite co-vid and my menopausal mania.
Then one day, while meditating, I was racked with a hot flash and probably because I was meditating, I really embraced it. I felt it from start to finish. It felt like my insides were boiling. It felt like my body chemistry was changing. And I had this instinct that I was going through a metamorphosis. I was physically changing. I felt like the caterpillar in its chrysalis. And I began to think, “What am I becoming? Can I become something as beautiful as a butterfly?” My life felt so messy. I felt like some creepy crawly insect. The more I thought about this metamorphosis, the better I felt. I held onto it. The next hot flash that hit, I was walking the dog. As I unzipped my jacket, I embraced the interior heat and thought, “I’m becoming something new – something braver, something stronger, something fiercer, something wiser. “
I like this new way of thinking about my hot flashes. That old caterpillar really stayed close to the ground and it got stepped on a lot. I like thinking about transforming myself into something better and stronger. I’m still making mistakes and still figuring things out in the midst of a pandemic but there’s a heat inside of me, and it’s burning away the old weak parts that no longer serve me to make room for the new and improved version of me – I’m visualizing a dragon warrior. But one with lots of compassion. For my sister, for my boyfriend, for my teacher friends, for all the victims of co-vid, and especially for myself.