I'm 24, a youth in my womanhood. Though I've technically been a woman for 12 or so years, I'm only starting to just understand what being a woman means. And though I didn't realize it at the time, that understanding began in the fluorescent-lit thin-walled room of an OBGYN office.
At my annual gynecology appointment a couple of years ago, I had a very off-beat PA. She was a total granola cruncher in the most extreme case, complete with fingers dripping in mood rings and sun-shaped studs in her ears. As I laid staring at the ceiling, feet bracing against the stirrups, the PA rambled on about the moon and the stars and the woman's draw to Mother Earth. An already physically uncomfortable appointment, she took it to a whole new level of emotional discomfort. I was all like, lady, get your gloves on, get out the crank, and get on with it. I have no desire to be in that position for any longer than I have to be.
Irritated and annoyed, I closed my ears to her rambling as she snapped off her gloves and patted my legs, the universal signal of being done. But, oh, she wasn't done. She wanted to keep talking about all that moon cycle stuff.
Closed off to all of her radical advice, I snapped to attention when she said the words "your creative energies will flow during this week." Blinking my eyes into contact, I tried to play catch up as she advised "avoid sugar in days __ through __ of your cycle, because it will __. Try and eat less salt during this time, because it will __. Exercise during week___, and you'll feel all the more amazing."
Damn it. My lack of attentiveness led to the inability to retain the only useful information the PA had shared.
Though I've blocked out most of that appointment, I've been searching my brain for years to pull remnants from that last bit of advice I was given. Alas, my memory has failed me.
Still, I remained determined. Ok, I thought to myself, she talked about four things: creativity, sugar, salt, and exercise. I can work this out. To do so, I created a "feelings" calendar.
The feelings calendar is exactly what it sounds like--a calendar (via Google, nontheless) on which I map my feelings. If time and memory permits, I log into the calendar and mark whatever current strong feeling comes over me. Just simple phrases, like "I want to make something today," or "all I want to do is write," or "I feel anxious and anti-social, not myself," or, "I'm hungry and can't stop thinking about Goldfish crackers." All of the notations are simple and to the point. It's just me, after all, so there's no BS. Here's an example (not directly pulled from my personal calendar):
I'll admit that I haven't been as diligent as I'd like about the feelings calendar. Jotting down the notes are quick and easy, sure, but the act of being mindful of my emotions is what gets me. It takes time to recognize and process my different feelings, and I go in waves of not having enough time to spare. Which is silly, because if there's anything a woman should spare time for, it should be for getting to know herself.
I've come to recognize certain patterns, like the fact that my PMS symptoms are regular every three months instead of every other month. One month I am a raging B, one month I struggle with depression, and one month I feel vulnerable and insecure. I've also realized that I seem happiest and most driven in the first week of my cycle, creative and sensitive in the second week. I still haven't--and may never--quite figured out when I need to avoid salt and sugar, though. As for exercise, I know that I need it all of the time; the next step is figuring out when I'm most apt to get off of my butt and do it.
It may seem silly to track my feelings on a calendar, but it has helped me get to know myself a little bit better. If I feel a certain way and don't understand why, I can reference the calendar and ask, was I feeling this way around this time last month? A couple of months ago? In doing this, I've definitely had some "Aha!" moments. Right now, I'm starting to understand what my body and mind are doing. The next step is coming to learn what they need, and how to give it. The more I understand, the better.
If I were to come across that PA again, I know that I would see her differently. Instead of judging women, I now try to learn from them. All of them. We've all got something to share.
I wasn't very concerned with learning about myself a couple of years ago, and that's all changed now.