It’s the End of 2021! What a great thing to be able to say. And the end of a week, in case you are confused. I think it’s time to launch (for myself) Five Things On Friday. I’ve been missing Seven Quick Takes, but let’s be honest, it was hard to come up with seven, which is why I so often made number seven the link to all the other takes. And some of them were super short. But overall, I loved Takes as the way to end off the week, and so I think I’m going to be completely uncreative and carry on the tradition into the new year. Only I’m going to use the more theologically precise term “Things” and I’m going to do five. Hopefully, this will keep me from devolving into Two Things on Tuesday and Three Things on Thursday or anything like that. I’ll try to save up. So off we go!
What a year! Amirite? I hate that I can type that and autocorrect doesn’t correct me. That’s one of the awful signs of the time. It’s peak 2020–which is how I am going to mark time from now on: BC [Before Covid] and Peak [Peak 2020]. Everything after 2020 can be marked Peak20. We are currently entering “the Year of Covid 02.” The shorter version is Peak02. Give it some time and it will certainly catch on.
One of the strange and difficult things about the last two years, besides all the death and chaos, was that my own body decided to do menopause as a fun thing. This was, as you might be able to imagine, totally unexpected for me. I turned 45 in August and thought that I would spend most of my 40s in that horrible “perimenopause” wasteland where everything is unpredictable, and you don’t sleep and all your hair falls out. But you also, because of that little prefix “peri” don’t think that any of it really means anything. It’s like the Braxton Hicks of labor. There you are, having a contraction, and everyone pats you and nods as if it’s not “real.”
Well, the whole “thing” came fast and furiously for me. From my first hot flash at age 40 till now, I have felt whipped along by my own flesh, hounded into what I thought was going to be hell. I must have looked hunted, sitting in my doctor’s office a couple of months ago, as she filled out a lengthy form for blood work. “It’s not an abyss,” she said smiling, referring to life with so many fewer hormones. A few days later the nurse called me and said, “You tested positive for menopause.” “What does that mean?” I asked, but she didn’t know and so I googled it and as far as I can make out it just means that the “peri” part is not a big deal anymore. It’s All Science (TM) to me, I can tell you.
For real, I would not have chosen to have this experience coincide with a global pandemic. I would not. But now that I am just up on my official one year of putting the “pause” on meno, I am pretty happy. I feel like I’m getting my bearings. I am figuring out how to live this way. In five years, baring further global disasters, I’m going to be in the middle of my best life ever.
All of which makes me grieve deeply for people like this—a Sr. Editor at The Atlantic–purposely demolishing her life (that’s the title of the article):
My husband talked to the architect; my husband talked to the builder. And I kept paring the plans down, down, making them cheaper, making them simpler. I nixed the island and found a stainless-steel worktable at a restaurant-supply store online for $299. I started fantasizing about replacing the counters with two-by-fours on sawhorses and hanging the pots from nails on the wall. Slowly, I realized, I didn’t want this kitchen. Slowly, I realized, I didn’t want this life. I didn’t want to renovate. I wanted to get divorced.
She thought about her husband this way:
I loved my husband; it’s not that I didn’t. But I felt that he was standing between me and the world, between me and myself. Everything I experienced—relationships, reality, my understanding of my own identity and desires—were filtered through him before I could access them. The worst part was that it wasn’t remotely his fault; this is probably exactly what I asked him to do when we were 21 and first in love, even if I never said it out loud. To shelter me from the elements; to be caring and broad-shouldered. But now it was like I was always on my tiptoes, trying to see around him. I couldn’t see, but I could imagine. I started imagining other lives. Other homes.
The whole thing is so so heartbreaking–because, well, what she really wanted was an “unmediated” life where she could feel the bracing wind on her face and so she went out and brought the fantasy into being. Now, she is trying to make sense of it all. Because it was what she knew she wanted, it must be good. Fantasy brought forth in the spare, undecorated delights of shuffling three small children between two apartments, pausing at every playground to push off the desolation of going “home.”
Like so many wonderful pieces of writing over the last year, this one unwittingly opens up the door for the Christian gospel. If you can’t see it, I’ll just point it out. The way she describes her husband–his mediating presence in her life, that he was a shelter, that her very identity and desires were filtered through him, is how the Christian is supposed to think of Christ, and why he is likened to a husband. We are supposed to have the “mind of Christ,” the very love of God as the ground of who we are. We are not supposed to do anything or think anything without him. His very name is a strong tower–a house if you will–into which the Christian runs to be saved. You come out of the cold, harsh wind of your own desires into the warmth of his house, his Church. But if you think that your own identity is the most important thing, you will never ever seek his.
The short-sightedness of this is, well, it’s hard to fathom. When she finally has to face the death of all her hormones, and a different kind of life at middle age, will she still be happy? Will her children be able to forgive her?
Here is the Stand Firm looking back over the year podcast. They talk about the state of Evangelicalism and make predictions for, oh my word, 2022.
My favorite thing of 2021 is this thing that I just found:
Campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen and James Max clash over the issue of 'sex-based rights' and JK Rowling's 'trans-row'.
James: "I am slightly staggered by your views."
— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) December 29, 2021
That, my dears, is really peak 2020. And now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go on a long fast, exhausting walk with my husband, for the very reason that my own #biologicalrealitymatters and I can’t just not walk and lift weights anymore. Have a great weekend!