Hot Flash

As life gives me challenges, I use the feelings as fodder for essays, stories or poems. Getting hot flashes was very personal, but I got an essay out of it. I put pen to paper. This essay “Hot Flash” was published. See link and copyright below….

It has started – the beginning of the stopping.  Contradiction. Transition. They say it’s like a transmission in a car stopping, shifting gears, transferring itself into another stage, a quieter stage.

I wondered about the hushing quiet of this secret thing my mother shared that happened to her friend. Now I know.  Friction – skin on flesh rubs against the other igniting. The heat pulls at my hide, a tiny spark of pricks at me signaling a burner’s lit.

Then my bones spread the heat from the center where the ribs circle my middle. The burning radiates to my toes, my feet sweat inside my shoes. It shoots through my arms and up to the cranium.  Each hair sweats.

This heat from within is oddly forced, panicked, artificial, itchy, random. When heat comes from outside the body, although synthetic, it seems more honest. One knows the source – a glowing-red ember, candle flame, stove, a house burning.

The fuel within me, the hormones which shift and prick and drip from my soul, leave me different, changed.  Hot-cold. Sweating-shivering. Transition-transmission. Starting-stopping.  Shush-hush.

So what profound meaning does this give me? That once I could have babies and now I cannot, although that is not entirely true, the odds rest on the barren side. So is this a big deal?  Being able to bring new life into the world seems normal and ordinary and extraordinary.

Not having odds-on-favorite eggs to match up with sperm seems normal and ordinary and extraordinary.  I’ve heard disparaging comments about mental constancy and rationality. My mind seems intact. I have no mood swings, no madness, no depressions, a few earned joys.

I get peeved at the same things as before – machinery that breaks, men who steal my ideas, timid women.  I get angry at the same things as before – children dying tops the list.  I’m happy when anyone thinks enough of me to tell me a joke or tease.

The extent of my body’s fire does not involve my personality, sense of humor.  It does not scorch my brain.  My hot bones, my cooking hot bones are a metaphor for my altered body. I seek to know more about this phase I approach. I look to books to educate me, except I find few.

Funny, isn’t it?  Every woman who has lived past child-bearing years has experienced this and shushed.  Hush this secret — this conspiracy between friends, mothers and daughters.  We teach each other valuable minutia – like how to sing, how to bake an apple pie, how to write a poem, how to drive a car.

When we speak of The Change, we loathe asking questions above a whisper because it becomes a public admission that our bones ignite like kerosene-soaked branches.  Knowing what we face ranks as pivotal minutia in women’s lives, but we defend ourselves little while quietly perspiring within our silk blouses.

I am not the first to break the silence that nourished my mother’s generation, but I feel unaccompanied into this place.  I acknowledge that although multitudes have gone before me, this is a solitary stepping off, a trek on a path that I travel alone.

I pray to know what I’m in for; directions, a compass, a map.  We dear friends, however, avoid the topic and if we speak at all, we make light of it.   We say, shush, “what’s there to talk about?”

© Irvana Keagy Wilks 1994 – First published in The Rockford Review – Original is at: link at The Rockford Review

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