Thoughts on the Twenty-Eight Days

For many women there is no such thing as the day-to-day. Life runs in twenty-eight day cycles but is strongly magnetized to other forces such as the tides, the cycles of the moon, the cycles of other women, diet, stress, and exercise. I recall immediately a trip I took to the beach with eight female friends, none of whom were menstruating the night we arrived on the hot shores of Naples, Florida and set up beach camp by moonlight. Within seven hours each woman woke at sunrise to gushes of blood and furrowed brows.

At the beginning of my cycle I experience about a week of healthy elation. There is a bounce in my step, an air of optimism, a willingness to take risks. I recognize small coincidences in life and lean into them, ever thankful.

Days eight, nine, and ten flatten like a penny left on the railroad tracks. I chart the loneliness like a cartographer. It rises and falls in elevation, dips green and deep into river valleys, ventures high into alpine territory; dwarf ecology. I experience flashes of mild depression, recognizing it as such only from the deep relationship I had with it my senior year of high school and first year of college. The loneliness is profound and pig-headed. I become a woman who cannot sit still. Meditating is frightening because the loneliness is so close to the surface of my heart-mind that facing it seems as threatening as squaring off with Medusa. I have been known to do foolish things during this time (example 1, example 2). If a phone is nearby I will call Keller, Evan, GP, or Dave (the safest idea, since he is 3,000 miles away).

Days eleven through fourteen are undeniably hazardous. Every cell in my body screams some version of “make me pregnant” – which is precisely what I do not want to have happen. This is, of course, about the time that Keller, Evan, GP, or Dave will return my phone call placed during days eight, nine, or ten resulting in a truly wicked and trying series of events.

Days fifteen and sixteen are my clutz days, whereupon I cannot seem to remember what needs to be remembered and my sense of balance is screwy. I misplace lists. I obsessively check my alarm clock before going to bed at night. I knock things over. I have to ask people to repeat what they’ve said. At some point during this forty-eight hours everything hits me, like a flashback in some significant novel where the main character finally realizes what the reader has known all along: Oh yeah, I think to myself, I’m ovulating. Then Pop! Sometimes I can actually feel the instant the egg releases.

Days seventeen through twenty-four are of course the inevitable. Except I really only “have” my period for two to four days, which is precisely the problem that Joe helps me with. The remaining four days (of the twenty-eight) are lost in time and space. Occasionally they are gobbled into other phases of my cycle, extending them in the most confusing ways.

It wasn’t always this complicated. When I was on the pill I paid no attention; I didn’t have to. The hormones made me numb to my own making, an experience of ignorance I will never repeat. But if a woman’s cycle is like a litmus test for her life, then it’s worth paying attention to all the details.

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