Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Fabulous Fall Guest Writer Series: Tera Johnson-Swartz "My Menopause Story"

Today I have the wonderful writer Tera Johnson-Swartz visiting from her blog, MidlifeIt, to share her menopause story (starting with perimenopause). I love her upbeat attitude and have found that a visit to her site is like chatting with a good friend over a cup of warm coffee. She recently interviewed me for info on my own menopause journey, which you can read here:

Check out Tera's story below, and then please stop by her blog for some great conversation---she'll tell you all about her midlife journey. Pull up a seat and relax---I'm sure she'll ask if you'd like some coffee.

MY MENOPAUSE STORY (A Menopause Rhapsody About My Journey From Being More Than Just Mom) by Tera Johnson-Swartz

When I was young - late teens and most of my twenties - I rated midlife age women to be the coolest, most 
free-spirited, outspoken, vivaciously beautiful humans on the planet. They said what they wanted, dressed how they wanted, did what they wanted and according to my observation, they got the respect I so desperately craved. They. Were. Strong. 

Then I turned 39…

In almost an instant all the power, knowledge, confidence, beauty, sex appeal, insert-every-other-insecurity-here rattled my spirit like no other change of life. I unraveled. And no, I don’t mean the menopause symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and irregular periods suddenly descended on my otherwise oh-hum life. 

I’ll save that part of my story for another post. 

This enlightenment, this reality in my emotional and psychological mind-fuck, came to a head as my age came closer to midlife. I wasn’t going to be considered young and cute and innocent and naive anymore. Nor would I qualify as the other side of aged womanhood: old and cute and wrinkled and wise. I was going to fall smack dab in the middle. 

I. Was. Terrified.

In the beginning, this revelation came at me in subtle waves. Over the first few weeks after my 39th birthday, my psyche felt the nudges of spiritual changes women often experience during this stage of life. 

This dress - can I wear it anymore? Should I? 

My kids sure are demanding, don’t they realize I’m more than just “Moooooom!”? 

And what about MY dreams? Wait…what were they again? And who was I before the fog of motherhood settled in? 

Then, like from a scene in a movie, gripping yet debilitating, cliché yet captivating, I knew. One night I woke from a dead sleep with a sudden urgency to stop my life chugging along as it was and shift my focus from the wants of the external world to the much more internal needs of my soul. I had to stop. Because if I kept going at the pace and frequency I was on, I’d kill my spirit and soul altogether. I’d die – and no, I’m not talking about conscious thoughts of suicide ideation

Somehow, along my 20+ year journey into womanhood, I’d trapped the wild woman I once was or at the very least hoped to become. Somehow, I caged her or let her be caged and shushed her nagging voice in my ear.

Until that night: the beginning of my Awakening. I heard her plea to get out and run free once again. I felt her rattling the bones of her prison and realized I had to stop, look, and listen. Before I killed her once and for all. And if I didn’t start evaluating the quality of the fabric of my life, just before my final breaths on this earth were sucked from my lungs, I’d be stuck with one hell of a spiritual mess. And what if that was sooner rather than later? What if I was too late?

I told my husband the time had come. A reckoning was about to shatter his rosy world and if he wanted to stick around, great, but there were going to be some major changes needed: from him, the kids, his parents, our zip code, bank account, and my purpose. Be gone the days of ever pleasing, Suzy-homemaker who has quietly put herself and her physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual needs in the last place. Oh, and by the way, negotiating and compromise weren't on the table this time.

Now, I might have forgotten to mention that all of this – my Awakening – started approximately 4-weeks before the official lockdown of COVID in 2020. So, imagine my internal rage when everything I finally had the courage to say out loud was then told to be still, patient, sit back –

WAIT! A pandemic was now going to not only ride shotgun but also be the new driver of my life? Hell. No. But some of the changes I wanted to implement immediately were near impossible. I had plane tickets to visit other states and cities to consider relocating. Canceled. I had job interviews and informational interviews in the cue. Not anymore. I had people I wanted to see, places I needed to go, but apparently, the pandemic wasn’t going to bend for my so-called midlife crisis.

So, I waited.

Two months. Mid-May. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Up to my eyeballs in homeschooling three kids with three different schedules and three different ideas of organization, endless snack and mealtime preps, a dog who very much would’ve liked to revamp her early morning walks, and a husband – now working from home – requesting a little quiet so he can concentrate. My nerves were beyond shot. I called it: ENOUGH.

Within a couple of weeks of that dropped gauntlet, my husband got a job offer paying much closer to what we needed financially some three hours away. We put our house on the market, moved in with my in-laws till the new-build house we bought was finished and things seemed to be moving closer to my vision. Except…what was my vision again?

Back to my menopause story. And my dreams.

Through all the hullabaloo and moving, planning, and speaking up, I still managed to forget myself yet again. And damn if I could remember who I was or what I wanted to do with this next phase of my life. Perimenopause was no longer a distant forecast. It was happening and I was “in it.” Luckily, in the midst of chaos, there’s opportunity for a moment of quiet, an eye of clarity that gives one a glimpse of what will be - for better or worse. 

After many meditative walks and self-contemplation, I reminded myself a few things…

Beyond “Tera”, I’m a visionary. I see great masterpieces from just a spec of paint. 

I’m an artist of words and music, canvas and gardens.

I’m a leader inspired by other leaders who aren’t intimidated by future leaders and never send armies to battle unarmed, ill-trained, or alone.

I’m a warrior, a scrapper, a potty-mouthed, small-but-mighty force, but also a passionate, loving, dreamer.

I believe in the Care Bears and fairies, Amazon women and Goddesses, angels, and Santa.

I hear symphonies in nature’s gardens and peace and quiet in the middle of metro cities.

I smell my grandmother’s lotion in the closet of my pantry, and if I close my eyes, a hint of her cigarettes and coffee too.

I feel change, empowerment, and greatness growing in the place where my gradually wilting ovaries once harvested life.

I want to gather my friends - my sisterhood of women through all stages of menopause - and build a virtual community to hunt and gather, learn and grow, and host a haven where words like midlife and menopause, waning and crone, dreams, and death aren’t sacrilege or taboo - they’re part of the creed.

Now, 40 and finally embracing the heat of hot flashes slapping me into my lane of menopause, I’m at this beautiful new beginning of my midlife journey. I’ve got loads to share and more to learn, but I’m determined to make my dream – my village – a reality.

So, if you’re a visitor passing by, hello, and here’s a loaf of bread and flask of wine for your travels. 

If you’re a wanderer, come in come in, eat and drink and rest your weary bones. 

And if you’re my sister, my friend, we’ve got much to talk about, do, and see. Thank you for finding me. Come, let’s sit by the fire.

Welcome home…


Tera lives in a ticky-tacky little house on the hillside of suburban Denver, CO. She’s a mom, wife, blogger, fiction writer, and sometimes has to get a side-hustle to pay for these creative outlets. As founder and visionary behind, she shares personal stories, tips, and facts about midlife, menopause, and beyond. She’s one of those brutally honest friends with wit, warmth, and a little fire to keep you moving. And she’s always looking for another girlfriend to help her start trouble. 

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