follow the flow
a travel journal and photography journey
I just spent this last weekend in Girdwood, AK with Terence and my parents! They came to Alaska to visit to celebrate my birthday! Yep. This gal is 26.
My parents had never been to Alaska before, and they said well, now we have the best reason to visit, you’re there! They flew into Anchorage and we showed them around Girdwood, AK. Girdwood is a super quirky and gorgeous little town about 45 min away from Anchorage. It’s got an amazing coffee shop that makes hemp milk lattes, a funky thrift store where my mom bought a tutu for Burning Man (yep we are going to the Burn! Anyone else?), a super-size chess board in the middle of its mini park, and is home to one side of one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done. If you’re checking out Alaska, Girdwood is a place that will cradle you sweetly.
The weekend celebrations were hiking this beautiful hike in the gorgeous Alaskan wilderness, visiting a wildlife conservation center—with moose and caribou and musk ox and porcupine and fox and wolf and bear! No photos sadly, I found that I just wanted to experience the animals without needing to capture them in some way, and they were magnificent—flying over glaciers in a sea plane (one of Terence’s birthday gifts for me), playing chess and cornhole in a park on a sunny afternoon, eating one of the yummiest dinners I’ve ever had (Jack Sprat y’all), and having the funnest time with my parents. Feeling so safe, loved, and joyous being around them, and so deeply appreciative of how the four of us—mom, dad, Terence and I—get along so well. That is such a gift in itself.
After my parents flew back home, most of my actual birthday was spent driving towards Juneau--we just arrived by ferry last night! But I still got to do a few of my favorite things to celebrate ME: I slept in. I ate chocolate. I stretched and massaged my body, thanking it for its amazingness. I spoke to people I love on the phone. I shared intimate moments with the man that I love. I cried (yes, one of my favorite things). And I went through the day, as present as I could be. Breathing in the beauty of Alaska, of living, of growing, of learning, of each and every moment being an effervescent surprise.
About an hour before my birthday, I wrote to myself in my journal about the feeling of transition from 25 to 26. This is something I’ve done for a few years now, a transition writing for my birthday. And the journal I currently have is on its last page. Perfect timing. One more page to fill before I move into my new dark brown leather journal purchased from my favorite Barnes and Noble in Framingham Massachusetts—the Barnes and Noble where I have sat with my best friend for years to talk and drink Starbucks and drool over all the different leather bound journals. She is the one who first inspired me to journal, simply because her journals were always so rich with feeling, and I saw the value in having a sacred space for my feelings to pour when they can’t pour elsewhere. And now I have about 5 filled journals from over the years. And in this last one, now near its last page, it is written “I love the me that I am.” And I just thought, what an absolutely gorgeous birthday gift to have given myself this year.
My period was 15 days late. I had taken two pregnancy tests that came back negative. And I had no idea what the fuck was going on.
And this is one of those realities of life that feels important and absolutely fascinating to talk about. A reality that becomes more beautiful the more I know about it. A reality that may sound strange and hippy-dippy to some of you, but is absolutely tangible to me.
I’m not pregnant, by the way, just in case that wasn’t clear. I’m traveling with Terence at the moment—as most of you know by now—and while I had heard that stress and travel can affect a menstrual cycle, I didn’t fully understand the extent of it until I experienced it myself...
I’m in love with this book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (which honestly everyone could benefit from reading, even if you’re not planning on ditching your birth control for more natural methods, even if you’re going through menopause, even if you’re not a female, beginning to understand that a menstrual cycle is actually connected to so much more than just reproduction has blown my mind...but I digress...and will probs share more about this in another writing. ANYWAY!)
In the book, Toni mentions that the body can register travel as stress. Even if you are going on a luxurious and relaxing vacation to chill the fuck out, there is potential that the body will register the change in location, climate, people, time zone, as stress. And when stress impacts the hormonal system, it’s basically saying to your body “it’s not safe to make a baby right now!” So the body doesn’t produce enough estrogen to release an egg, and without the release of an egg, there’s no unfertilized egg to get rid of, so no menses a few weeks later. Of course, without properly charting my basil body temperature and other signs of ovulation (which I had been neglectful about since travel began...silly silly SILLY me), I didn’t know that I hadn’t ovulated when I was expecting to...soooo a 15 day late period registered to myself—and likely would to most of the world—as a sign of pregnancy.
This was scary for me to say the least. Partly because I thought I had been ridiculously responsible with where I was in my cycle and when and how I was choosing to have sex with my partner. Terence and I have talked about this a lot, so I feel very supported and supportive in our communication about it. We both agree that now is not a good time, so we have been actively avoiding pregnancy, and doing a pretty good job of it. 100% success rate so far! So if a baby had been made in this time, as Terence put it, “that is one determined kid.”
It was also scary because I just didn’t know what was happening in my body. Not only from a logical standpoint of my period not coming when it was supposed to, but I also felt emotionally and spiritually off. I now know that there was a literal release of energy that wasn’t occurring. This energy usually flows out of me every month in the form of blood, but what is held in that sacred blood?... Have you ever thought about it?
I have a theory of why PMS is a thing; everything that the body is wanting to release comes to the surface so that it can be felt in its fullest form and then let go, through the blood. The sadness the anger the confusion the pain the anxiety the fear. Typical of PMS yes? There is a reason this cycle is reminiscent of the cycle of death and rebirth. But the death must be allowed to happen... And all of this was just sitting inside me for two weeks longer than I expected it to. And when energy that is intended to be released continues to sit…well, what happens to milk that’s past its expiration date when it’s left in the fridge?...
At this point what I suspect is that I either had an anovulatory cycle (no ovulation with anovulatory bleeding) or I ovulated wayyy later than I was supposed to (delayed ovulation changing the start of my period). And I may never know exactly what happened. But I do know this...
Three days before I got my period Terence and I missed a ferry from Prince Rupert to Juneau. When we missed that ferry, I fucking sobbed. I sat in our van and I let these wet heavy tears fall from my eyes and I yelled from my belly and slammed my fists on the bed for about 15 minutes. It was anger and rage and frustration and fear and confusion and pain and it wasn’t about the ferry at all. I then told Terence all of the things that I realized I had not been telling him since we had been on the road. Things that I guess a part of me thought were better not to say, but had turned into that expired milk in the fridge, weeks ago.
He listened. And I felt raw and exposed. But lighter. And free, somehow.
Three days later I got cramps. I literally bolted up and looked at Terence and said “Oh my god. I have cramps! This is amazing!” Right in front of a woman we were talking to. She was like “.....congratulations.” But I was overjoyed. It was like it was Christmas. And when I finally got my period that afternoon, a line of deep red on the white toilet paper, I started crying. Not because I then knew for certain that I wasn’t pregnant—I somehow knew that a few days prior. I was crying because the release had happened. My body had finally let go, and felt that it was safe to do so.
I realized in that moment how much I had been powering through in the last month, with travel, relationship, personal connection, sleep, food, creativity, so much. And something in me, at last, slowed down. I could hear the voices of my higher self reminding me that although my body and spirit are so strong, there are still parts of me that are so delicate. Parts of me that require more care, attention and listening than I had been offering. And that while I am on massive and exciting journeys of discovery and change, it requires the balance of the yang and the yin. Journey outward with strength, journey inward with softness.
I thought this story was just about the menstrual cycle and its epic connection to things we don’t often realize—which it definitely still is and that book is amazing and I’m still discovering rad things every day—but it’s really about letting go, isn’t it? It’s about being reminded that the body tells us, in whatever ways it can, exactly what it needs. Whether that’s feeling hungry, tired, or having a late period. “Let go,” it says sometimes, “just let it all go.”
And just to make you smile, this whole higher-self-conversation-while-crying-and-bleeding-and-having-a-spiritual-moment-thing, happened on a toilet in the middle of a Safeway with a little elderly woman knocking to get in. Sacred shit can happen anywhere people...and yeah, a sacred shit did happen then as well.