When I was 15 years old, I saw the movie Rocky 12 times because I felt that I WAS Rocky Balboa.
I was often the smallest in my class or the newest student in school or the consultant in a predominantly male environment. I've always been Rocky, taking on the biggest opponent and thriving for yet another day.
Yes, I even considered becoming a boxer but decided I couldn't take the repeated blows to the head, mostly due to the fact that I'd already had five concussions on my own. Plus, I could never drink a glass filled with raw eggs.
Now that I'm in my 50s and experiencing menopause, I'm going to have to leave Rocky for the movie which best describes who I am today -- The Shining.
My late 40s were filled with hope and plans for my next decade. I was ready to be Gloria Steinem, holding my arms out and saying, "This is what 50 looks like." Instead, I became Jack Torrance, the writer, sitting in front of my computer at the Overlook Hotel.
My youth stood like those two creepy girls at the end of the hallway, mocking me. And every time I tried to reach out to them with new make-up, a new hairstyle or a pair of Spanx, the hallway grew longer and longer and longer. My youth was now unreachable, the only option being plastic surgery that would only provide the look of youth. Not the real thing.
I remember the day I realized that I actually couldn't turn back time and that I would have to accept myself as I was. It was a good day. My mood was positive, my future seemed bright, and I looked in the mirror and smiled.
The next night was a sleepless one. I would fall asleep for 30 minutes only to be awakened by a hot flash. Then I would fall asleep again only to be awakened by another hot flash. I got up and stumbled into the bathroom around 4 a.m. and noticed my lipstick was on the counter. I looked into the mirror and saw it. Redrum.
The next morning I told my husband to jump on the Halloran and try to escape the house just like the mother and son did in The Shining. He mentioned that we didn't have a Halloran and that maybe I should just try to take a nap. My mood improved for a while.
I sat in a meeting a week later and prepared for my presentation. Right in the middle of the essence of my pitch, I completely lost my point. Like the ghosts in the Overlook Hotel, the idea faded away and left me with an eerie feeling.
The point finally returned to me five hours later while I was on the phone with my mother. As she told me about her day, I suddenly yelled out, "We need to capitalize on human behavior! That was my point!" My mother grew silent, and I suspect a little afraid.
The haunting followed me into a variety of conversations. The other day I met a friend for breakfast and completely lost it. The interaction sounded something like this:
"Good morning, Donna, how are you?"
"I am doing great. What about you?"
"I'm doing great as well."
"Well, then we're both awesome. Let's order breakfast!"
[Laughter ensues as Donna tries to pull her phone out of her purse and knocks it off the chair. Her lipstick rolls under a table.]
"Oh my God, are you kidding me? I can't do ANYTHING right anymore!!"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Donna, let me get it for you."
"NO! Just leave it there. I hate it anyway. The color makes me look like Elvira. Plus the end of it is smashed because I wrote on my bathroom mirror with it the other night. Screw it."
I went home that afternoon and sat at my keyboard, in my office, all alone. I typed furiously, and then read my words. Over and over and over again I had typed, "All menopause and no energy makes Donna a dull girl."
And, yes, my house is built in an area where the Pamunkey Indians were slaughtered. Seriously.
I have my good days, when everything feels new and fresh again. But then something catastrophic happens like I drop my pen, or there are no paper towels, or someone pulls in front of me in traffic and goes really, really slow. And I feel it happening.
I hope I don't leave this earth while still menopausal. If so, I can envision me approaching heaven's door with a fire ax, poking my head through the splintered wood and declaring, "Heeeeere's Donna!"
Little by little I'm feeling my Redrum moments diminishing. Moods are more often light than dark, and I am liking the way I look. I can feel Jack Torrance losing out to Rocky Balboa. Give me a little time, and before I know it I will be standing with a fire ax held high over my head, jumping up and down.
I will let the world know that I took on the Overlook Hotel called menopause and came out victorious.
Then I will stop jumping and wonder why in the heck I was at the top of the stairs. I will turn down the thermostat and carry on. Because that's how life goes.