I’m a Fountain of Creativity!
My name is Peyton. I was born in 1939, and I went through menopause at the age of 50 on the dot. I had some hints that it was coming, because my periods got very strange—either too much or not much at all—and then the month of my birthday I had my last period. I believe I had some depression, though I’m not sure it was related to menopause because that’s been an issue for me ever since I had post-partum depression when my daughter was born when I was 30. I also had hot flashes, but not anything intolerable. I did not do any estrogen or other hormones; I’ve never tampered with myself, other than taking Prozac, which I’ve been doing since I was around 60. It wasn’t so much for anxiety, but I found myself to be in this leaden kind of state where the smallest efforts had become unmanageable; I felt as if I were moving through molasses, everything seemed heavy and problematic. This kind of depression runs in my family, and my older sister had great luck with Prozac, so I tried it at a low dose and it was a miracle, it was amazing. It turned me around and I’ve been happy trails ever since, with only the occasional day or two of feeling lousy. My niece also had serious depression and lost a lot of weight on Paxil, so I tried that and it made me hallucinate, so obviously I gave up on that idea.
I started writing when I was five, and I had a small metal box at my bedside and I’d write little pieces and stash them in there and put a lamp on top of it so nobody would know what was inside. In college I took quite a few creative writing classes and got good responses to that. Then I hit the career world, where no, women don’t write, women can’t write, so I had to sneak in by being a secretary and then talk myself into doing some advertising copywriting; then, I graduated to being a real copywriter. I did that in California for about five years, then moved to New York and was hired at Conde Nast to work at Glamour as a feature writer. I had my own column called “On Becoming Eighteen”, and I wrote articles about the sexual revolution and other kinds of tongue-in-cheek fun stuff, and I did very well with all of it. Then, when I got pregnant at 30, I went into freelancing and being part-time on staff at various places. I wrote a number of books; one was a teenage guide for McGraw Hill, another was for a book packager about how men and women felt about each other. There were five books in total, none of which I’d like to publicize as being representative of what I did. When I was about 50, after writing over a hundred-and-fifty magazine articles, I felt as if I were repeating myself, so I made a list of things I’d always wanted to do; one was clay and another was weaving. I never got to the weaving, but I’ve been doing ceramics for fifteen years. I worked in a studio here in New York on Jones Street in the Village for eleven years and got pretty good at it; then I worked at a community college in Colorado, and later at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass. After that I did a little more writing, though I had a hard time of it until after I moved back to California where my concentration and interest in writing came back, and now I’m literally a fountain. I’m in a women’s writing group, and my work has evolved into a different kind of writing, probably because I’m more in focus with myself. I couldn’t be happier, I’ve never been this happy in my life. I would love to be younger and thinner, but I wouldn’t trade it for the peace of mind and sense of having evolved as a conscious being—I wouldn’t go back for anything. I think getting rid of a marriage was extremely important because it can strangle the hell out of you. With all good intentions you love this person and want to make your lives satisfying and satisfying together, but somehow you end up choking yourself to death, and you don’t even realize it until it’s over and you see life from a looking-back perspective. After everything that was defining my life was gone I saw it as an opportunity to remake myself, and it’s been wonderful.
When I moved from Key West to California in 2013, I rented a few places while I looked around, then I found this wonderful little old 1919 cottage in Santa Barbara on a hill that looked like something out of an Irish bog. I still had my place in Key West, and tried going back and switching houses there to see if I could get comfortable, but I realized after a short time that it had gotten to be too small for me, that, as a friend of mine described it, the ceiling was too low, so I decided to leave and go back to Santa Barbara.
I have somewhat of a psychic streak in the form of flashes of awareness that turn out to be premonitory. In 2006, when I was 67, one day I went out onto my deck and felt the world shift and the ground move under me; I knew, psychically, that everything was about to change, that my world, as it was, was going to die. It was momentarily alarming but shortly after it happened I forgot about it. And then, within three months, I discovered that I had ovarian cancer, that my daughter and her husband wanted no more to do with me, which remains the case to this day, and then the last week of chemotherapy my husband approached me to say “this isn’t working”. We’d been together thirty-two years, and I said what do you mean it’s not working? Well, he just didn’t want to go on, and I was astonished and traumatized. We separated and moved to different states, and that made my life very different. It took a long time to heal that wound–having longing for this person you loved, and at the same time rebuilding and making a new life, which is just as real. Slowly the new life overlaps the old one, and you reach a point where you realize you no longer dream of wanting to go back. And that was the big shift.
I remade myself by focusing on spiritual work. Most instrumental in getting me through the really difficult parts was Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, which helped me look pain in the face. And I had been a reader of The Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford since the early 1980s, which has always been uplifting to me. I see that we’re on this earthly hamster wheel, but there’s a whole other being inside, and I wanted to try doing things that would broaden me spiritually, like going to the Chopra Center in San Diego.
When I was going through my cancer, which was terribly frightening, I had the most caring care. First, I had surgery in Boca Raton with a physician I call Dr Cut-and-Run, and then I was immediately tossed onto some sort of an assembly line for chemotherapy; my husband’s brother had done fundraising for a cancer center in Arizona, and they called me and said come here, so I did. I wrote a lot about it—my hair falling out, and the incredible pain that comes and goes—but all in all I had such support, though the form it took from my husband wasn’t physical or practical but more intellectual and research oriented. Later, after we broke up and I kept going back for check-ups, my oncologist told me that my husband had annoyed the hell out of him because he acted as though he knew more than he did! I never thought I was going to die, though apparently everyone else did, and now it’s been nine years and I don’t even think about it.