By Cynthia Cloutier
You wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat, pajamas and sheets soaked, exhausted but too tired to change the bedding. So you stumble to the bathroom, grab the biggest bath towels you can find, and arrange them under your naked, aging body. It’s 3am in December and you can’t turn the house heat down because it’s 13 degrees outside and your children require warmth. So before you get back in bed, you briefly stick your head in the freezer, then turn the ceiling fan on high and aim the box fan at your face.
Another snapshot: You’re picking up the kids after school, chill winter winds blowing, their faces rosy with cold. But you’re blasting the AC on high because you’re roasting. When they complain, you tell them to turn on their butt heaters and point all the vents at your own sweaty body. At least you’re not opening the windows of the minivan. It could be worse.
The thought of cozying up to a fire with a cup of warm cocoa is far from your mind as you envision coal workers shoveling more fuel onto your already burning body, raising the temperature until you decide it would probably be best for everyone if you just stood sockless and hatless on your freezing porch until the dangers of hypothermia drive you back inside.
And while there are flurries in the air, you’re alone in experiencing this boiling niacin-like flush, cursing the hot flashes that a friend once described as “the off-gassing of our youth.”
You can’t really explain it to your kids, what’s happening. You’re not even super sure yourself. You read online about how you should mark and celebrate this rite of passage, but you have elementary-aged children and “going through the changes” doesn’t fit your Generation X “I’m still cool” persona.
So you suffer mostly in silence.
Instead of embracing the changes, you endure them.
Instead of plotting some kind of ritual for this big life transition, you dress in layers and find a dusty oscillating fan in the back of the basement storage room to add to your nighttime orchestra of wind.
Suddenly, reality bites in a whole new way. You’re not sure who you are – your daily lunch packing responsibilities suggest that you are still very much the mother in the maiden-mother-grandmother triad, but oh, at night, the grandmother comes creeping in for a preview visit and you aren’t quite sure what to say to her.
Shadows cross the room, the moonlight streaming in to make everything bluish, suiting your mood. It’s lonely then when you’re the only one awake, awash with sweat, and there’s no one to talk to so you can explain: I’m not ready. This is not me.
I’m still young.
What you need is a virtual community – other similarly situated women who can commiserate 24/7 so you don’t feel so alone. What you need is a hot flash sisterhood, available in the wee hours when you aren’t sure who you are anymore, and maybe they don’t know either, but at least you can be together and share in the questioning.
To join the Hot Flash Sisters, download the free app now: