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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It may be my dharma, but sometimes I'd rather be Greg.

This is a post about menstruation (periods).  I do not go into the biology or specifics of it, but if the mere mention of it offends your delicate sensibilities, do not read on.

I recently had a miniphany (that would be mini epiphany, if such a word existed) about my "womanly duty," as my mom called it when I was thirteen and mortified that the subject even came up.  This miniphany has its roots in a number of sources, the top two of which include the novel Confessions of a Jane Austin Addict and the television sitcom Dharma & Greg.  In the former, the main character, who is a 21st-century woman trapped in a 19th-century-woman's life (and body), muses that perhaps her monthly visit was so short and sweet because she was bedridden for the duration.  In the latter, Dharma and her mother are crunchy, earthy women who ceremoniously celebrate every season in a woman's life.

Feeling the onset of my suffering, I set out to find some tools that might help me cope.  (Since I can't turn into a man for a week out of every month, I have to accept my fate.)  As I read, the two sources kept playing in my head.  I started to think that if I just changed the way I viewed my monthly visitor, I might enjoy its company, or at least let it sleep in the guest room instead of on the couch.  I read an article that briefly mentioned the biology of the visit, and it made me think of childbirth.  I internally pontificated about using birthing coping mechanisms to ease the suffering.  Then I thought about the best advice I've ever received about labor and childbirth: listen to your body; do what it tells you.

What does my body really tell me during these days?  Does it tell me to run around getting stuff done?  Does it tell me to stand at the sink for an hour washing dishes by hand?  Does it tell me to eat a large pizza?  No.  It tells me to rest, drink liquids and relax.  Now, life likes to get in the way of that, but is that an excuse to completely ignore my body?  No!  Can I lay in bed all day?  No, but I can still alter my usual activities to include more sitting.  I can use the dishwasher.  I can definitely work in some meditation or deep breathing or maybe a few yoga poses.  And nothing sounds better than relaxing with a hot cup of tea after the kids go to bed.

I recently watched a rerun of Dharma & Greg in which Abby, Dharma's mom, thought she was entering menopause.  At the same time, Dharma & Greg were trying to get pregnant, and Abby helped Dharma by giving her a fertility totem and fertility smoothies for both her and Greg.  Dharma & Greg were in charge of Abby's crone ceremony (but then Abby found out she was pregnant).  While I was watching, I thought of another episode in which Dharma and Abby were part of a rebirthing ceremony in honor of Dharma's birthday.  The celebration was as much about Abby as it was about Dharma.

I know a lot of women celebrate a girl becoming a woman.  Obviously we celebrate a woman becoming a mother.  In some circles, various aspects of the fertility cycle are celebrated, like for women trying to conceive or for surrogates.  We celebrate every aspect of a woman's ability to bear children, but we begrudge the monthly symbol of just that.  What if we celebrated our womanly duty as our honor?  What if we fulfilled the needs of our bodies during this time, the way we would lavish gifts on a loved one on their birthday?  This season in our lives is ripe with our dharma, our purpose in life: childbearing.  Whether or not we are actively participating in this purpose, by our choice or not, it is the very nature of being a woman.

I vote we celebrate our monthly gift as a gift.  Instead of dreading it and stocking up on ibuprofen, let's meditate on the wonders of the human body.  Let's listen to our bodies and give them what they need.  Let's give ourselves a little ceremony for the arrival of our visitor, something that reminds us how special we are, how special God made us.  Buy some special tea and a pretty mug to drink it out of.  Learn a few new yoga poses and practice them daily.  Treat yourself to some aromatherapy candles and a fluffy robe.  Take a meditative stroll somewhere, even if it's just five minutes after the kids are asleep.

This time doesn't have to be a burden.  It's part of life.  It's part of being a woman.  It's a gift.

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