The journey to a pause…

This might seem like something different to what I usually post, but on account of what I have gone/am going through, I thought it might help someone else too or at least join me in my rant.

Menopause (if you don’t want to read about it anymore, might stop right now and move on 😉 )… First and foremost…why a “pause”. I don’t get it. What do they mean by “pause”. It is not going to come back later in life, is it? It is supposed to be the end of the menstrual cycle and it is still called menopause? OK…as usual I digressed. Back to the topic now.

For the past year and a half, I have been having the symptoms that are listed on NHS’s website for menopause (not all, mind, but at least half of them). When I told Mr M he was like “you are too young for menopause”. I was like “no…not really”. This was also the time when I have been doing a lot of yoga for my yoga teacher training and that does have an impact on your body. I can feel some sort of change happening but these hot flushes and night sweats were there even before I started my training. I had my doubts, but you know how it is with anything menstrual…it is never clear because it varies from one body to the other. What with the lockdown and all, I couldn’t have done anything about it even if I wanted to (apart from using AskMyGP which wasn’t how I wanted to discuss this because I had a lot of questions) and then slowly my periods kind of became too irregular. I wouldn’t have them for 45 days to 75 days and then have them for a day or two and then zilch. The only major impact I had because of that is my lower back pain and being grumpy for a day or two and then whooosh…it’s gone.

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted and my long-awaited cervical cancer screening which was postponed for a year got resumed, I took the opportunity to talk to my GP and they confirmed that it “could” be menopause. Mr M was like “really? at your age?”. I was like “why not? my body is tired of producing eggs when it kind of knows that nothing is ever gonna happen anymore…why bother producing it and go through all the cycle. Might as well just shut down the system and be done with it”. It might sound very callous to my body but it is the truth. Now I know that the menstrual cycle plays a very important role in a woman’s body because of all the hormones that get generated and how it is a natural cleansing process and once it is done, your body undergoes a lot of changes which may or may not be healthier for me. But having said that, I will also be happy to just let it go. I am acutely aware of the changes that go through my body and I kind of keep track of it and at the least be aware of any major changes so that I know what to look for and be prepared if I can be.

The topic of the menstrual cycle also became a forefront now because funnily enough, my parents were talking about preparing my niece who might soon be attaining her puberty. I wish I was prepared for it. I never was. And I am glad that things have changed from my times and I am very comfortable talking to her about it and letting her know that it is nothing to be afraid of. But there is not much I know myself apart from my personal experience, which was full of pain (courtesy of my mom’s genes which I have inherited in abundance and my occasional fainting episodes due to the pain). My sister on the other hand kind of breezes through it (and it annoys me to no extent). Recently I came across this podcast called 28-ish days later by India Rakusen which I stumbled upon in BBC Sounds. I am still on the 12th day of the 28-ish days, but so far I have enjoyed it because they not only go through the ins and outs of the menstrual cycle but also discuss various experiences and talk about it. It is also not a very long episode. It is short and sweet and very informative. It also helps to hear people talk about their experiences which are so similar to your own (I hated the event that happens when you attain puberty too…the drama of it all…urgh…). I hope I can use the information that I have gathered from that to help my nieces and anyone else who might need it (given that I will be dealing with girls of similar age in the school when I start teaching). If you are interested in this topic, I would suggest having a listen to that podcast.

I still don’t know for sure if I am going through a peri-menopause or just a menopause phase but either way, I don’t care so much now. The not knowing kind of irks me a bit but I guess I have come to accept that some things happen in their own time and as long as I am aware of that and keep myself as healthier as possible, it should be alright. I also know what works to help me alleviate any pain or discomfort and what symptoms I should be looking for to be prepared. But there are things that still surprise me and I am trying to be OK with it, to some extent. If I am not, I just rant about it and get over it. But what this ongoing experience and the podcast have helped me realize is that a woman’s body is a universe of its own. It is so mysterious and yet so wonderful and I can’t wait for my menstrual cycle to finish what it started and enter the menses-less phase.

What will I miss?

I am relieved of my official duties, we have shipped our things, we made our one last final day trip within the UK to a place I wanted to always visit (more on that later in the day trip post on the other blog), we have given away all the things that might be of some use to others, found my plants a new home with my friends, etc. etc. There are a few last-minute bits and pieces left to do until the next weekend when we finally board the plane. But there is one question that a few asked me for which I am trying here to find an answer. What will you miss when you go back to India?

Honestly? I don’t know. Materially I don’t think I would miss anything. Life has taught me (without being too maudlin) that it is easy to replace the material things if you have some savings left with you and you might even come to know if you absolutely needed those things in your life or not. And with the globalisation of things, we can get a lot of stuff that we get here in the UK back in India too (although I should say I remember seeing more American stuff than British stuff… times might have changed…who knows…I will update you if I do see a change 🙂 ) Jokingly, I would say I would miss the concept of a bath. Just soaking in that hot water until I turn into a prune is just heavenly during the winter. I can never have that in my place. Half of the time we have water shortages, especially in the summer. What about English Breakfast? I might have to travel to Bangalore to get one but definitely not in Coimbatore 😀

What did I miss when I moved to the UK? I am sure some folks asked me the same question when I was about to leave India. After living here for 5 years, what did I miss? Did I miss the dosa and paratha or the temples or my travel fridge magnets (100’s of them) that I had collected over the years which are now stored in a locked room? Honestly? No. What then? People in my circle, my very small circle. This circle consists of my close friends and immediate family. Thanks to WhatsApp, Skype, GatherTown, Zoom etc., the distance between them and me seems to be that bit smaller.

Having been here in the UK only for 5 years, my circle is much smaller than the one in India 😀 and since the sudden change of work, place, country etc, is gonna hit me hard next month, I guess I will miss them sharply given the way we have been together. So here is a shout out to those few poor souls who happen to be in my circle and for whose presence I am forever grateful because they made my life a bit more colourful here. (Only pseudonyms in my blog sadly… but I hope you can spot yourself in this post 😀 )

When I moved from software engineering to teaching I didn’t have much help and was floundering to find a way (thanks to some online courses and books) but Mr Millwall came to my rescue with his 30+ years of teaching experience. He just took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of education and became my very close friend. He is also the first to call me if there is some interesting news in the cricket world 🙂 I am glad he is enjoying his retirement and is doing well. Hopefully, he will learn how to call via WhatsApp soon so that I can connect with him.

The tall Croatian teaching assistant has been there to give me an extra hand whenever I needed one and kept me sane. We didn’t have anything in common and in spite o that we bonded very well. Being much more experienced than me both at work and in life, she was a good sounding board and we started hanging out of work too, sharing bus rides and life stories and eventually became friends. I am glad that I could get her a churidar from India last time I was there and she looked absolutely gorgeous in it.

Ms Iskcon was Mr M’s friend but she is now a family friend, thanks to our heritage and shared native language. We used to spend our Christmas Eve at her place playing board games and puzzles with her family, which gave us the feeling of being a part of a big loud, amazing, and chaotic family from now and then. She used to come to our place for the Sunday lunch (she had a knack for calling us exactly at lunchtime and would be invited inevitably 😀 It helped that she lived only a floor below us.) Any time we talk, we end up discussing and debating everything under the sun. I will cherish her ability to discuss anything and everything (spiritual, political, socio-economic, you name it). I sincerely hope that she can visit us in India.

Now comes the group in Swansea 🙂 Who knew that a kick (literally) would start a friendship. I keep telling Mr Half-Trousers that in terms of his age he is closer to my nephew than to me but that has only made the friendship more fun. He has tried to teach me frisbee (emphasis on the word tried…). He has also fed me so much baked stuff it feels like he was fulfilling some debt he owed from his previous life 😀 His sticky toffee pudding is one thing I will never be able to replace. I wish he keeps up with his star baker abilities in spite of his busy software engineering lifestyle, which he has taken up now. He has also been my yoga student for the past 6 months helping me in my journey.

Mr Tall and Grumpy (I can say this and get away with it because he knows he is, lol) was that person whom I thought would the quiet and studious one but turned out that he is all that and also the naughtiest. Both him and Mr Half-Trousers have been the reason I am known in my team for throwing squishy toys at people. They drove me nuts with their antics 😀 but he was also my partner in crime at work. We taught together quite a lot and that gave us a lot to share in terms of knowledge and experience. I am very glad he is having a stint at the industry now and I will miss seeing his daughter grow (hopefully he will keep me posted on that and would take a trip to India and go on a good food tour).

Mr Badmintennis is one of a kind. An old soul trapped in a very young body. He amazes me with his knowledge of all things old and historic. I should call him Mr Minecraft or Mr Gamemaker because he is very well known for that but more than that he is/was my badminton/tennis partner. We have been playing the game for a while now and I hope he continues to play it with the rest of the group. I am sure I will engage his expertise in my new job when I have to do something in Minecraft or even take us on a virtual tour of computers.

Ms OrganizedArtist joined us during the first lockdown and so there has been a delay in getting to know her but my god, she is talented. I am always happy to be associated with very artistic friends like her and Anita. They bring a lot of colour in my life 🙂 She is the second person in my life (after my friend in Bangalore) with whom I haven’t felt any reservations whatsoever, while being before their camera and knowing that they are taking my photograph. She is yet to perfect her art of hitting Mr Badmintennis on his head during the tennis/badminton games but I am sure she will get there with a little bit more practice 😉 (make sure you let me know when that happens, girl!) She did a painting of my portrait which is available on my Instagram and I am very thankful for that. It is definitely getting framed. I am sure she will definitely make her way to South India and I will get to visit her home country (Ukraine) soon.

There are a couple more people I know and are part of that small circle but this is my group whom I would like to keep in touch with no matter where I go and what I do (assuming that they feel the same 😀 ) I am again hoping that the various communication channels that helped me keep in touch with my group in India while I was in the UK would help me do the same with this lot. This is also my way of conveying my thanks to them for being part of my journey and saying a proper goodbye I guess, even though we did say our goodbyes by doing a South Indian food tour and what a day it was 🙂 So much fun.

Diolch yn fawr for everything and hopefully we will get to meet again sooner rather than later.

No Wrinkles

My nieces are at the age where they just make an impromptu video call on WhatsApp and can go on for a long time. But it has been a while since I had spoken to them as they were busy with school and exams and such. I had sent them a selfie when I had received my reading glasses and I was trying to smile and take a selfie at the same time. I am very good at multi-tasking except for taking a selfie and smiling at the same time. I have never got that right and trust me, I have tried it way too many times and have failed every single time. Something about seeing yourself in the camera and trying to smile and yet thinking about the composition… never works for me. I applaud every single one of you who can take a good selfie.

So last week, when my nieces called, the first thing my niece said to me was “Your face looks so nice and so smooth…no wrinkles”. I wasn’t sure where this was coming from and why I wouldn’t have wrinkles. I am at the age where when I try to concentrate or when I try to smile or laugh you do have wrinkles on your forehead and your mouth which are otherwise called laugh lines. Also, I wasn’t sure if this was a backhanded compliment of sorts. So I asked her what she meant about wrinkles, she told me that in the photograph I sent with the reading glasses on, my face was full of wrinkles and that I looked old but now when they see me on camera there isn’t any and I looked the same as always. I couldn’t help but laugh and be surprised at the same time.

The more I spoke to her I realised that they still see me as the person from 5 years ago. They are surprised when I look a little bit haggard, especially on a bad day and show my age. They are not able to understand how I could age so much in so little time. By the time I finished the call with her, I felt so much older 🤣. I hope that when I move back and they see me more often, these kinds of comments will reduce (not expecting it to cease but at least reduce).

What to do!?

I try not to post anything related to politics not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I do. Combined with the fact that I don’t know enough about the histories of various countries including mine (history never was my strong subject) and politics (don’t understand any of it either), I think the best thing for me to do is to keep quiet about it.

But once in a while, you are in a situation that is not about history or politics but more about humanity and that throws me for a loop too. Like now. I cannot imagine the speed with which the situation in Ukraine has escalated. There were news about it for a while (if I remember correctly since the beginning of the year) but to get into a war mode this fast was something I hadn’t anticipated. More so because I have a friend who is Ukrainian. She was there in her home town for Christmas (which they celebrate on the 6th of January every year) and she was so happy to be there with her family enjoying the holidays, especially after the relaxation of pandemic related rules. And now, she is disheartened, worried sick of her parents and doesn’t know what to do or how to help them. And I am sad that I don’t know how to help her in this situation. Interestingly, she was explaining to me the history of her country only a few weeks ago, especially the conflicts of 2014. And now this.

Her parents are still in Ukraine and she is finding it hard to concentrate on anything given the current scenario, but wanted to keep doing something to keep herself occupied otherwise she is afraid that her fear for her parents is going to bring her down and she won’t be able to cope. Obviously, as her team member and as a friend we are there for her and she does have a lot of support, but the support can only do so much, I feel. She messaged me the other day that she is grateful for all the support but can’t help but feel that people don’t really get it, that she is exhausted by it all and all she wants is for this to end so she can just get some sleep.

I am at a loss here and feel that there must surely be more to do to help my friend but don’t know what. I sincerely hope and wish that this conflict comes to an end sooner rather than later and there is some sensible solution to it all because I cannot help but think that if it isn’t resolved fully this time, there is a high possibility that history might repeat itself in the near future and possibly very soon too and that would be disastrous to not just people directly affected on the ground zero but also everyone else around the world.

2021 – In Images

Some interesting finds this year are: