I’m only 46. And I’m currently on my period. (Sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s germane to the topic.)

Yesterday, while rehearsing for the Baroque Obama concert, I noticed that I felt flushed and was sweating. Only moments before, the bass in the quartet had opened the screen door to let cool air in from the yard, so I figured the cool air just hadn’t reached me yet.

Then I began dripping sweat. I start to panic. Do I have a fever? I’d come into the rehearsal fatigued, for no apparent reason. No other symptoms, plenty of rest the night before, just dog tired. Was I starting to come down with some sort of monster flu? I don’t get fevers very often, and when I do, they’re in the low 100 range, because my normal temp runs around 96.8, rather than the standard 98.6. So I don’t sweat when I get a fever either. But here I am sweating, heart racing, panicked.

Turns out, the heart-racing, panicky feeling is part and parcel with a hot flash. Who knew? Women who’ve had them, I suppose, and women who’ve decided to be prepared for menopause and so know in advance that hot flashes often start two to three years before the cessation of menarche. I had NO idea.

I was completely flummoxed. How could I be bleeding AND experiencing a hot flash simultaneously?

Lucky for me the soprano in the quartet recognized it at once as a hot flash. At the end of rehearsal, I hung back to ask “one more question.” The tenor and bass bolted.

“I’m on my period! Can it still have been a hot flash?” I asked, feeling like when I’d first gotten my period. Scared and confused.

When I first got my period, I was 11. I thought I was dying. Possibly cancer. I was sure that I was being punished for something I’d done. I waited almost two full days before telling my mom that I was dying and could we please go to the hospital.

She laughed and said “Oh honey, you’re not dying. This is normal.”

First time experiences for anything hold so much learning in them.

I’m holding on to the feeling of newness in this. Not sure I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life, but clearly my body is heading in that direction. When do you suppose my head will catch up to it?