Yours in the Dharma:  Essays from a Buddhist perspective by Sandy Garson

This blog, Yours in the Dharma by Sandy Garson, is an effort to navigate life between the fast track and the breakdown lane, on the Buddhist path. It tries to use a heritage of precious, ancient teachings to steer clear of today's pain and confusion to clear the path to what's truly happening.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002


After checking several lost and founds, I have abandoned hope of recovering my waist. It is missing in action and I am inconsolable for it was one of my two physical features good enough for compliments.

I am also mourning for my hair. It was my other saving grace, my star attraction, because I have always had lots of it. In fact the only body I ever had to make others envious was in my hair. But to my dismay, the strands are rushing to vacate the premises. I notice it, my sister notices it and so does the young woman who every six weeks has to style what remains so that nobody else does.

Ironically, people who have not seen me for a while, even the length of decades, blurt that I still look the same. This is a Nobel accomplishment! Looking like I used to has become my day job, fulltime. Trust me: I am not crazed about appearance. In her obsessive push for inner beauty, my mother bashed cosmetic concern out of me. I am simply trying to keep up with fighting gravity, learning to live with eyeglasses and ergonomics, more water and less coffee, more exercise and less energy, more moisturizer and less choice in clothing, the right hair color and the right way to keep it out of the sun, remembering what I can’t remember and panicking at what I truly may have forgot. This all takes gobs of time.

Acquaintances are surprised to discover I am over 50, then recover by insisting 50 used to be a lot older than it is now. Even though we are zooming faster than ever nowadays everyone swears time’s slowed down enormously so that 70 is what 50 used to be. If that’s the case, why did my waist and hair abandon me at precisely the same 50 as my mother and grandmother? Does my not waiting to be 70 for menopause make me an ovarian prodigy? Or did some muckety muck who thinks he is running the world forget to tell Mother Nature about this change of life?

Do you think her machine wasn’t on when one of the experts called? Lord knows there are plenty of experts now blabbing and blithering about menopause. The cargo caravans crossing the media desert are endless; the cold war against hot flashes blinding. Everyday there are new announcements of serious pronouncements about mammograms, estrogen, osteoporosis, breast cancer and heart attacks, broccoli for calcium or maybe it’s oyster shells, the blessings and curses of coffee and wine and mare’s milk, exercise, which exercise, how much exercise? Their speech is all shifting, swirling, reversing like Saharan sands in a windstorm.

Menopause has been around, I think, a long long time--maybe almost as long as menarche—maybe I could dare say “forever.” Yet that which represents the end of growth has suddenly become a growth industry: handled, packaged and spun into a speed bump on the superhighway of elongated youth. Just like morning mouth, the marketers who picked out the problem picked up a cure for it: buy the product, read the book. Funny this should be a cause celebre just when the country’s biggest population bulge is about to boom on through it.

The Buddha who lived 2,500 years ago did not know from menopause and never would have called himself expert because he believed knowledge comes not from scanning graphs or shaking test tubes but from having been there and done that. Nevertheless the Buddha had the theory about this circumstance that I like best: impermanence. He taught that everything we know of life is a lot like chocolate candy: here today, gone today—you eat a different piece tomorrow. He noticed that because time has the restless shifting attention span of MTV, forever is a foolish word. He observed our ongoing, endlessly going on along a one-way conveyor from birth to death, nobody getting off.

So, as they say, it goes: I once lost my baby teeth, my innocence, my ignorance, my virginity. Now I’m losing my vision, libido, short term memory, waist, estrogen, hair --although alas not on my legs--and evidently my last eggs. I am turning into Me Lite, abridged. It’s scary but it’s amazing to be older than younger people think I am and comforting not to be the person I was when I had what I have lost. As Joe E Lewis once supposedly said when asked about the downside of advancing age: “I don’t want to be 25 again because I don’t have the strength to be that stupid.” Losing my waist is, I am beginning to suspect, a terrible thing to mind. ###

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