Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com – Ammonite fossil
Disclaimer: I’m on my period. This is a little bit about that.
Disclaimer 2: It’s also about a lot more than just that kind of cycle (so men, don’t run away.)
As a woman, my life is governed by my own, very personal hormonal cycle. For years, I wore an IUD, but even then, there were cycles in my mood and body that were very obvious to me, feeling them, and to others, experiencing them through me ;-).
Recently, I started tracking my period symptoms and emotions because I’ve just gotten tired of feeling like I’m constantly at the mercy of how my hormones decide to show up. In tracking, I’m finding out things I should’ve known years ago if I was paying attention properly, such as the fact that my cycle is only 22-24 days instead of the standard of 28. Or that I actually don’t mind Aunt Flo as much as the days right before she arrives.
While I’m tracking, I’m also reading the book ‘Period Power’ by Maisie Hill to give me some insight into how these hormones function, what influence they may have and the wide variety of symptoms different women experience at similar times in their cycles. The very individual nature of these cycles makes them incredibly fascinating, at least to me, possibly because I’m a menstruator myself (though I’d like to believe they would interest me too if they didn’t affect me.)
Zooming in, cycles affect all of us throughout the day as well, not just women. We are governed by our circadian rhythms that help us wake up and find rest when needed. Our metabolism starts up and slows back down as we eat or rest, and the combination of all these bodily functions creates a cycle of attention that is different for each of us, with some feeling more productive at 8 a.m. and others at 8 p.m.
Zooming out, we can look at each year as a cycle of seasons, in which there are times of rest (either summer or winter, depending on whether you’re a man or a woman) and times of activity and change (spring and autumn). Each season has its own theme: in winter we go inside, both literally and figuratively. Spring is a time for new beginnings while in the fall we are invited to let go as the leaves fall from the trees. Summer is full of enjoyment, going out, warmth, flowers… We respond different to these seasons, and act differently in them, even aside from the climate.
Each life on its own can also be seen as a cycle. My mother turned 61 yesterday and will retire at the end of this month. She is at a very different stage in her life compared to me. I can see how she has passed through each stage as I go through it in my life. And as she goes into retirement, I see how her parents went before her into that same stage of life. From birth, through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age, we all follow the same cycles.
Somehow, this focus on the cyclical nature of time and of life, gives me a sense of peace. It reminds me that there is always a new beginning just waiting around the bend of every ending. They provide a framework, or rather, many different frameworks, in which life then takes place.
On a global scale, many of these cycles are also at play. In nature, of course, but also culturally. Societies go from more open to more closed, and back to open. We go from excess, to austerity, and back again. As if the pendulum is just bound to keep swinging. The cycle to keep on repeating.
As I look at all these cycles we go through, all the ups and downs, going in and going out, moving toward and moving away… I learn to see the value in seeing things this way. It allows for things to have their place: both joy and grief, both solitude and connection, both light and dark. We go through the seasons and they all have something to give, something to teach us. Spring is beautiful, but so is fall. They are both colourful in their own way.
When I started cycle tracking, I was trying to find a way to control my body and my life. I was looking for a system that would help me mitigate symptoms and perform at my best at each stage. And I’m still looking for that. Yet, as I’m going through it, I realise that it’s also a matter of learning to lean into the rhythm that’s already controling my body, whether I like it or not. By respecting the cycles of our bodies and our lives, we can work with them and harness their strength and momentum, rather than trying to create a reality that doesn’t have to include the dark, the moments of rest and feeling ‘bleh’ from time to time.
As a culture, we tend to think of time as a linear thing. It just goes forwards. And we compare the rest of our world against it. We look for continuous growth, continuous improvement, continuous learning. And we forget that after growth there is usually decay, after improvement there may be deterioration, and continuous learning is only possible when there is some unlearning taking place, some reflection and pruning of the knowledge we have acquired.
This cycle of life, this up and down, in and out, like a continuous breath… it gives me a sense of peace and calm. And a sense of purpose in every season, not just in the Spring and Summer.
Maybe it can do the same for you.