The Calm Before the Storm
“There’s a calm before every storm,” my paternal grandmother used to say. “And light behind every cloud.”~ Tera Johnson-Swartz
Meet our special guest author, Tera Johnson-Swartz — the founder of MidlifeIt.com — a virtual place for women who are “midlifing-it”, navigating through the second half of life’s journey.
She lives in suburban Denver, Colorado. She’s a wife, mom, fiction writer and blogger who doesn’t hesitate to take on a side hustle to support her creative outlets.
As the visionary behind Midlife It, Tera shares personal stories, tips, and facts about midlife, menopause, and beyond. MidlifeIt is a safe and welcoming haven for women that are curious about, in the middle of, or at the end of menopause. As she says, Midlife It is the place to “…gather and laugh, cry, and empathize all the good, bad, and ugly parts of this midlife journey.”
Tera describes herself as “…one of those brutally honest friends with wit, warmth, and a little fire to keep you moving.” And we are so pleased and excited to have her contribute her story, “Calm Before the Storm”, here on the Fabulous Boomer Sisters blog. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
The Calm Before the Storm
When Cathy and I decided to exchange blogs, I didn’t know what to say. I was burned out. Still am actually and spent a good part of my morning trying to come up with an inspiring story or blog to share. Except I don’t have one. Not really anyway. Just a storm percolating in the back of my mind about what’s next. And for that nugget of wisdom, I have no idea.
I know this though…
I started my period early – when I was 10 years of age and in fifth grade barely able to say the word out loud let alone admit I had officially started mine.
There were so many feelings that rattled my confidence each month when it came – excitement that I was quickly ascending my title from girl to woman, with equal uncomfortable realizations that, according to biology, my body could carry a child (“how disgusting,” I thought).
My hormones were raging. Each day felt like a battlefield of emotions. I hated everyone and no one. I wanted to be alone and yet not alone. How did I cope? How could I? I was 10. And each storm was so different – so unpredictable and yet so deeply personal.
Fast forward 30 years and I’m back in the trenches of a new completely foreign phase – my menopause story. Many of those similar feelings have resurfaced – the battlefield of emotions and anxieties except this time they’re not about the panic and overwhelmed feelings of adapting to a monthly menstrual cycle. Quite the opposite. How to adapt to it ending? How to cope. I’m 41. And some days I hate everyone and no one and want to be alone but not so alone. each storm now is so different – so unpredictable and yet so deeply personal.
For some women, the idea of no longer carrying the burden of juggling monthly periods, is a gift. They’re more than happy to say goodbye to Aunt Flo and welcome the new quiet to their home. Perhaps after years of inconsistencies, moodiness, and inconvenience I’ll feel the same. But currently the idea of losing that part of myself feels…wrong, though I’m perfectly aware just how right the Universe is.
To me, to have a period has become my arc, my definition of what I have accomplished and what I have survived. Thirty-plus years – over three decades – of my own battles, war zones, and conquests. My sweetest loves and greatest heartbreaks. My menstrual years have given me the strength to endure life’s births-deaths-rebirths on a level I can’t describe. I’ve learned my moods. My timing. My flow. I’ve learned my power and my truth, my weaknesses and my secrets. What will happen when that ends?
I can’t clock it or prepare in the same way.
At an oasis where trees and gardens are plenty, nature warns us of a coming storm. Birds sing a different song, animals scatter to the hills, and plants and greens show their underbellies before the sky turns a hint of gray – warning there is something coming.
What warns a desert? The animals are few and hidden in any weather. The plants and trees look just as dead. And with the occasional rain, they just tease a nomad into believing a mirage of an oasis awaits.
I suppose this sounds bleak. Here I am painting a picture of desolate times while I truly revere the oldest, most saged women and crones in my life. They ended their periods decades ago and don’t seem the least bit bothered by it.
“There’s a calm before every storm,” my paternal grandmother used to say. “And light behind every cloud.”
It’s times like these I wish she were still alive so I could call her to protest. “What is my light NOW, grandmother? Who will I be, AFTER?”
When I’m quiet in my mind and spirit I hear her honest answer. I know what she’d say:
“What do you want it to be?”
The petulant child of my inner self resurfaces. “I don’t KNOW.” Or rather, when I think I do, I feel another uphill battle is on the horizon, and the fight in me feels so incredibly tired.
I’ve been quiet in my blogs on Midlife It since January. I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to say or share. And full disclosure, I didn’t feel as though anyone was reading or gave a shit anyway. Besides, I’ve been writing my novel for over 3 years and am at the brink of query time. Or maybe not. Depends on who you ask – some days it feels just right, others I don’t know. I’ve had the beta reads. Dozens of critiques, too many revisions to count. What do I want? An agent. A pub deal. Hell, maybe a drama series or film script of it. But in the darkness of the query world, so far I’ve gotten crickets.
Now, I’m no thin-skinned writer. I’ve worked in the entertainment world and am very well versed in rejection. Yet…this time. Right now, in my life…the vulnerable, fearful girl beneath my sunkissed armor and silver crown, just wants a break. Or at least some guide to point her in the right direction. Her machete is dulling from all the brush it’s cleared in the past.
Maybe I’ll find her someday. That fearless leader that I knew so well – particularly when she birthed her children, with all her might and selfless glory. That woman was a badass. She was a warrior that knew exactly what she was doing. She knew that the girl that started her period 20 years before was strong – she just needed a guide, and who could better teach her than the mother she would one day become.
This woman – the older, wiser, less fruitful one, has no idea who to follow. Who is she on the inside? An old woman? A crone with herbs and tinctures and tarot? This is the phase I love to watch older women be and enter. I embrace and worship their strength and conviction. Yet, sometimes, in my calm before my storm, I’m terrified of myself becoming one of them. But not because of the superficial parts- not the gray hair, the wrinkles, or the roundness of my middle. Okay, maybe just the roundness of my middle. But ultimately, it’s because of the inner shifts and workings.
Because while I know who I am and what I want, with age and little sense of direction, I haven’t the foggiest idea how to get there.
“Believe in yourself,” is what I tell so many people in my life. And maybe I say that because I’m terrified to say it to myself. Because I DO believe in myself. I do. But from the looks of things – my success to failure ratio in dreams I’ve chased – clearly believing in myself has little to do with how others perceive me. Rather, the ones that have the “power” or magic wand to grant my wishes.
Maybe that’s where I’m at right now. The calm before the storm – but the great storm. The one that rips the debris and shit from the land to make way for beauty and peace. I’d be down for that. If it’s true. If there’s a diamond in the ruff I’m about to discover.
Either way. This phase is hard. And if you’re reading this and feel it wholeheartedly, I’m with you. We’re women. And we don’t leave each other alone in a storm…
Thank you, Tera, for your fabulous post! Your narrative is raw but real and it touched a chord in our hearts. We are sure many women can relate to your story. It is an honour to share it here. We hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship and we would love to have you contribute a post on the Fabulous Boomer Sisters again!
Lovely readers, if you want to read more from Tera — find her on the web at the links below. Did we mention that she is always on the lookout for another girlfriend to help her start some trouble? (Tera, if we are ever in Denver, we’ll be ready to get something going!)
Tera kindly extended the Fabulous Boomer Sisters an invitation to write a post for Midlife It. Find out what we think of ditching the dye here.