by Elaine Lafferty

So. This menopause business. I have been practicing it for nearly my entire life with a degree of pride and nearly smug knowingness. The first woman I ever knew – my mother – was deeply in it by the time we were really getting acquainted with each other.

She was 43 when I was born, her first and only child. By the time she was 48 … well, dishware was flying, the thermostat was turned to 32 degrees, her recall of proper nouns was somewhat delayed. You might say she was a bit … cranky.

Most of my dearest friends, older than me, have gone through menopause, some with extreme difficulty, others seemingly not noticing. But here is what I knew for sure; when menopause occurred for me, I’d be ready! It would undoubtedly come on slowly, a gradual process, and I’d be prepared, efficient, anticipatory, overflowing with knowledge and expertise, and most of all, aware.

After 25 years as a journalist, with wonderful and profound experiences, everything from covering wars to editing magazines, I decided early this year that it was time for something completely different. It was time to take a different kind of risk, to indulge a long time passion and to also exploit talents I knew hadn’t had a real chance to flourish, namely running a successful business.

With a small group of friends, I bought a restaurant in the burgeoning wine country of Long Island, N.Y., a gorgeous, historic 200-year-old waterfront property. I knew it would be hard, grueling work, stressful … but I have spent months in war zones. Truth is, I probably like what others call stress.

Things were going very well. But guess what happened in August? Think comic book graphics here: “Bam! Pow! Holy Toledo!” Night sweats, then day sweats, heart racing, anxiety like I’ve never known and finally … well, we haven’t lost dishware, but I became a bit … cranky.

This long anticipated process was as gradual as an earthquake. But then I remembered this fabulous event I went to last year, the inaugural gala for Women’s Voices for Change. Brilliant and gorgeous and brave women. There was hope! Many of these women already knew something I didn’t last year; this time is just the beginning of a great adventure.

I have a dear dear friend who is The Princess of Darkness on the subject of menopause. “You are going to put on weight. It can’t be helped. Your memory will go,” she says. I could go on, but I won’t. I love her anyway. But the fact is we are all part of a community that is wiser and frankly, luckier, than our mother’s generation. We have role models, medicines, spirit, support and attitude. We have Pilates.

I’m 49 and just at the start of this fantastic new journey. What an opportunity to get healthier and better than ever. The restaurant is going gangbusters and, with my newfound body thermostat, I think we’ll be saving on heating bills over the winter.

Elaine Lafferty is a former staff correspondent for Time magazine, editor in chief of Ms. Magazine, and features editor at MORE. She is currently slinging hash at the Old Mill Inn in Mattituck, N.Y.

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