The pressure builds slowly, sometimes imperceptibly. I can almost forget about it. But at a certain point, the tautness can no longer be overlooked or dismissed. Lately I've conceived of this mounting pressure as a balloon filling, slowly at first, and gaining momentum as the weeks pass. By the end, before my balloon releases, the pressure demands notice, requires my attention.
One of my earliest posts was an attempt to earnestly and poetically express my feelings about my menstrual period. As a new blogger, I remember being rattled by the comment thread here at D&R that followed, and have generally avoided the topic since. Of course I don't want to reduce women and the female experience to hormones and menstruation. But to deny its impact on my life, inner and outer, would be disingenuous, especially as it relates to my sex and sexuality.
Recently I was going through old papers and files, and found over a decade's worth of my menstrual calendars. Starting at age 18, I began tracking my cycle, with various degrees of specificity. When I was learning about my ovulation, figuring out how it felt in my body, I looked at my cervical mucus under a microscope. At some points I made daily records of my physical, mental, emotional states. I tracked my food and sex cravings. Other times I barely managed to jot down my bleeding days.
On this calendar I saw the marks indicating my fitting for an IUD, and the vivid, sometimes frantic, notes that followed for each successive period. My body's attempts to expel the foreign object lodged in my uterus did not abate; eventually I had it removed eight months later.
I found the times when my period became erratic and rare, when I became unexpectedly pregnant, and when I began taking birth control hormones after terminating that pregnancy. I noted my former husband's vasectomy, and the half-year over which my body adjusted to its own hormonal cycles, once I stopped taking the pill.
Counting the days between red circles, I saw the years that my cycle hovered between 29 and 33 days, the times when it fluctuated between 35 and 42 days, and my current 30-32 day cycle. Right now I bleed at the end of the calendar month. This is subject to change, as my hormonal tide rides its own rhythm, and as February is a short month.
Now in my mid-thirties, I've watched these cycles for half my lifetime. The simple beauty of filling and flushing, creating and releasing, gives me an undercurrent to my work and creativity and emotional life that deserves acknowledgment. This isn't to say that I always love my period. Over the last six months, my emotional tides in particular have been brutal. By day 29 or 30, I'm begging my body to release the buildup in my belly. I ask to be fucked, and fucked hard, to get it started. I am weepy and sensitive and simultaneously edgy and frustrated with myself and others.
Again, none of this is to reduce me to my period. I am more than my cycles, but I am also my cycles. I am the balloon that fills and empties in my belly. The paper records, the evidence of decades of menstruation, remind me to keep riding those waves.