Content Warning: Suicidal ideation is discussed in this episode of Hello Menopause.
Meet Gabrielle Calvocoressi: award-winning poet, UNC Chapel Hill Associate Professor, Editor at Large of the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Poetry Editor at Southern Cultures.
Gabby, who identifies as nonbinary, speaks with compassion and gratitude about coming to terms with a body that never fully felt like their own. They talk about how their gender identity played a role in obtaining the medical care they needed. They also share the compassion they have for post-menopausal cis women and nonbinary/trans people who know what it’s like to feel invisible.
After experiencing heavy bleeding, depression, and suicidal ideation leading up to their period, Gabby was inspired to write the poem, “My Perimenopausal Body Cistern Disappointing How Surprising," which they recite in this episode.
Learn more about the nonprofit Let’s Talk Menopause: www.letstalkmenopause.org.
Thank you to Always Discreet for sponsoring this episode of Hello Menopause. Always Discreet because we deserve better.
Christine Maginnis (00:00):
Hey friends. The views of our guests do not necessarily reflect the views of Let's Talk Menopause. Let's Talk Menopause does not provide medical advice. The content in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions that you may have.
We feel it's important to let you know that the topic of suicide is discussed in this episode. If you find suicide triggering, you may want to skip this episode. And if you have suicidal thoughts or you've experienced depressive symptoms that get in the way of your functioning at work or at home that last more than two weeks, please seek help. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-8255, or you really can just dial 911. There is help.
Speaker 2 (00:56):
Our value is very much based on our looks.
Speaker 3 (00:59):
Sex appeal, and childbearing capabilities.
Speaker 4 (01:02):
You're either reproductive and you're young or you're menopausal and you're old.
Speaker 6 (01:06):
Nobody seems to want to know about women in their 50s.
Speaker 7 (01:10):
We're not useful anymore.
Speaker 8 (01:11):
The zeitgeist has kind of left them behind.
Speaker 9 (01:13):
And then you end up screaming, "No, I have value," and no one's listening to you.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:16):
How do things like race and gender identity or expression factor into menopause?
Speaker 11 (01:21):
Specifically Black women, symptoms are kind of dismissed very frequently.
Speaker 12 (01:24):
There's stereotypes that could come with it.
Speaker 13 (01:26):
If you know you're talking about the trans community.
Speaker 14 (01:28):
How your gender expression aligns with what's happening internally, biologically is going to play a huge role in how comfortable you feel.
Speaker 15 (01:34):
Not everyone who has a uterus is a woman, and not every woman has a uterus.
Christine Maginnis (01:42):
This is Hello Menopause, a podcast where you'll hear real menopause stories from real people.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:47):
Whispering behind closed doors, not here.
Christine Maginnis (01:50):
And we promise, it is not just in your head.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:52):
And you are not alone.
Christine Maginnis (01:54):
I'm your host, Christine McGinnis.
Robin Gelfenbien (01:56):
And I'm your other host, Robin Gelfenbien. Let's talk menopause.
At the top of the episode, we heard our Menopause on the Street segment. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is a segment where I go out on the streets of New York and ask total strangers about menopause.
Christine Maginnis (02:21):
Oh, I'm clutching my heart.
Robin Gelfenbien (02:23):
I know. I know. The woman who said, and it's funny because I can always picture who these people are, but what she said I thought was interesting in terms of being just so black and white with you're either reproductive and you're young, or you're menopausal and you're old. And obviously, there's plenty shades of gray in there, but I just thought like, oh, just hitch in the gut.
Christine Maginnis (02:47):
Yeah. It did feel like that. I had the same reaction just like this wowsa. Woo.
Robin Gelfenbien (02:52):
There's a lot of those. And then the woman who said, "Nobody wants to know about women in their 50s. We're not useful anymore." All of it just sounded so heartbreaking.
Christine Maginnis (03:02):
Robin Gelfenbien (03:03):
And I can't express that when I'm talking to people, but internally, I'm standing there going, "Yeah, yeah." And then I'm like, "Oh my God." But it's true. It's just how a lot of people feel.
Christine Maginnis (03:15):
Right? I just wish, I mean, I'm 55, so I'm on the far end of this that, why is old a bad thing? It comes with some strengths and it's just, I guess we're such a anti-aging society. In marketing, everything's like, look younger, feel younger, and I think I just wish somehow we could make it a billion dollar industry to promote the wisdom, the knowledge, the sense of self that comes with being older.
Robin Gelfenbien (03:45):
Christine Maginnis (03:46):
Maybe help me remember, I can't get the exact words, but the person who said, not every woman has a uterus.
Robin Gelfenbien (03:51):
Not everyone who has a uterus is a woman, and not every woman has a uterus.
Christine Maginnis (03:57):
Yes. I like having the conversation about what it must feel like to be born female, but to not feel female. So then having your biology at the time of menopause, start taking over your machinery, and that has to be quite a discordant feeling is the best way I can say it.
Robin Gelfenbien (04:16):
I'm glad that that was one of the questions that we asked because I think it's something people hadn't really given much thought to. And then just going back to the idea of the woman who said, "Nobody cares about women in their fifties, were not useful anymore, we're not valued." And then I think there was a counterpoint to that. I think it was from one of the men saying, "You do have a lot of value, but nobody gives you a chance," essentially.
Christine Maginnis (04:39):
Yeah, I can see that. But I also see, and I'm not naturally optimistic, but I actually see a lot of women my age who are having fabulous success starting new careers and really shining and trying things they never thought they would try. And I don't know that I really agree. I see it differently.
Robin Gelfenbien (04:59):
That's great. I mean, that gives people hope. There's so many factors that come into that too. I don't know where that woman is from, what kind of family life she has, what kind of support system she has, but I think just the notion that yes, you can reinvent yourself, you can start over, you can try something new is really encouraging to people.
Our guest for today is the award-winning poet, Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Their work has been featured in the New York Times, the Boston Review, and so many others. Gabby is the author of the Poetry Collection's Rocket Fantastic and Apocalyptic Swing and teaches at UNC Chapel Hill. Joy, compassion, and social justice are at the center of their personal and poetic practice. We were introduced to Gabrielle's jaw-dropping work through their poem, My Perimenopausal Body Cistern Disappointing How Surprising, about their experience with perimenopause as a non-binary person, which is powerful beyond words and absolutely took our breath away. We are so grateful and unbelievably excited to speak with the incredible Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Gabby, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (06:26):
Sure. Hi everyone. I am Gabrielle Calvocoress, but you can all call me Gabby. My pronouns are they/she, I identify as non-binary and also lesbian. And I live in Durham, North Carolina, although I'm from the northeast and I'm talking to you now from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. I'm trying to work on new poems for this new book of mine and a lot of whom kind of take, really think about this idea of what it is to be in a non-binary vessel. What is it to be in that vessel all of a sudden thinking about my uterus all the time? And I'll also say I'm three weeks out from surgery, where we can talk about that too. So part of this has been being perimenopausal and part of it has also been fibroids and all sorts of other stuff. So it's a complicated time and I'm really happy to be here.
Christine Maginnis (07:13):
So I want to piggyback on that and say that when we read your poem, the minute I read it, I knew we had to get you on this podcast because-
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (07:21):
Oh, thank you.
Christine Maginnis (07:22):
... it was so moving. And before I say too much more about it, I would be really honored if you would read it so our listeners can also have that experience.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (07:31):
Yeah, sure. Absolutely. This is called My Perimenopausal Body Cistern Disappointing How Surprising. My perimenopausal body cistern disappointing, how surprising bled all day, stopped bleeding, bled some more, went to the doctor who reached inside the woman body I tried to live with, make peace with, but also ignore. Sad tenant, my uterus. One day the tenant turned out to be my landlord. All day, I wonder what it means, clock. I know as well as I know anything, but also never wanted and also won't give up. In the history of my light body, it will show I could have been another, the shots, the surgeon's blade, that freedom, but I hold on, not out of fear. Well, maybe, but also this body I fought for, timid skin sack that grew into a kind of magnificence I've not expected. I tie my bow tie around my neck, that's not quite the neck I want, but still the neck survived, hours on the floor begging for my life, bent head, crying in the bathroom, bent head walking by the boys, yelling hog and dog and ugly as an animal.
It's confusing. I protect the breasts that I live without in my mind's eye. I look for hours at men's trousers and kimonos and bleed all day. My mind says, "Take it out." And though it's one step closer to the one true self I wanted also, I'd miss it in ways I can't explain. Burnt off scroll.
I'm a mirror of a mirror. When I was eight at daycare, my friends put me aside to talk about a sex change. All of us in our Catholic uniforms, Meg, Emily, Nadine, and Brian, who got kicked out because of me. That's later in this story. We drew me in the sand. We planned and wondered how much it costs to be another body, but now I know my body, I pull up my pants and feel the lack of one thing as the muffin top reminds me of the persistence of another. Me who's with me always. This pillow that looked over me, pillow of skin and fat that I'd call rubenesque. It tried its best to cover me, so I worry over it. Strange companion, this body that covers me and bleeds all day without ceasing. I say, "Come on." I say, "Stop." I used to when I'd get too scared or one of, one thing or another, God comes back to find me in the most confounding ways, me and my body who are often not the same.
Robin Gelfenbien (10:34):
It's so moving, there are just so many words to describe what you just shared with us. First of all, thank you for sharing it.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (10:41):
Robin Gelfenbien (10:41):
It's profound in ways I can't even begin to describe. I wanted to know what inspired you to write it.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (10:48):
Yeah. I would say that for the last couple of years I have been having gynecological issues, which at least in part, I think are certainly perimenopausal issues. All of a sudden I went from being someone who had a really normal, whatever normal, let's say normal is my period comes on time and it's five days and maybe I have a little cramping, but not that much. And in the last two years, I started bleeding a lot more heavily, a lot more heavily. And then I had ultrasounds and they found little fibroid, but not so much to be concerned about. And then about over the last year, around five days before my period would start, I would hit a level of darkness emotionally that, and I'm going to do a trigger warning right now, actually, I'm going to say that it is very possible today that I'm going to speak about suicidal ideation.
So anyway, so from five days before my period, and I'd be so interested if other people have had this happen, I mean, I really would... I mean, it was so dark and really hard to be alive. I just would descend and it would stay until about the third or fourth day of my period. So that was one of the things where I was like, something is really changing in my body. I mean, I've had periods of anxiety and depression, but this was really intense. And I will say that I'm someone who, my mother took her life when I was very young, and so it is something that is just in my system.
It's a gate that is open, and so I really pay attention. And so I went to my doctor and my gynecologist, who is amazing, and I'm very lucky for the first time to have a gynecologist who's really good with non-binary and trans people, queer people, it's been really important. So my doctor said, which I think is true, she said, "I think you're going through perimenopause." So she said, "Let's put you on some birth control to try and get some of these symptoms under control." And my experience of taking the birth control pill was then I bled constantly and heavily for 22 days.
Christine Maginnis (13:03):
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (13:05):
That really began a whole thing leading up to three weeks ago where it turned out I had fibroids that had really grown, but also just that my body is... I both love my body and it's a total alien. It's really alien to me right now. It's also really something learning to love an alien.
Christine Maginnis (13:25):
I found this poem to be a bit of a love hate story.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (13:29):
Christine Maginnis (13:30):
You have this tremendous unease with your body not being the vessel you were meant to be born into. But what really impacts me is that you have such a profound gratitude for that body, for getting you through life and protecting you. Do you feel that's a fair assessment for me to...
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (13:50):
Oh, totally. I mean, I think that I have never been someone who really thought of myself as female. I've never been someone who thought much about my reproductive organs. My life of sexual fantasy is not really bound up in those organs or my genitalia in that way. And so at the same time, when I had a breast cancer scare and all of a sudden there was a chance I was going to lose my breast, I was amazed. This was many years ago, I was amazed by how emotional that was for me. And the same with thinking about having a hysterectomy and I'm struck by part of it is that, particularly with my mother, having lived in a world where people chose not to stay alive, and also having gone through various kinds of trauma and things like that, there's also a gratitude for this body has gotten me through just the act of me looking even more now I've ever thought that I could look like myself.
I feel proud of that and proud of my body. But yeah, I mean, one of the things that I remember saying both to my partner and to my doctor when I was just bleeding and bleeding and bleeding, and I was so at the end of my rope as probably so many people who are listening to this can see is I just said I never wanted this body in the first place. I never wanted these organs in the first place. And I can say it now, it's sort of in this way, but I mean imagine that with a real deep growl of desperation of just like, I don't want this anyway. And I think that that's something that I always only want to speak from my own experience and not particularly speak for other non-binary or trans people because what do I know? But I don't think that's an alien thing. There's another kind of destabilization of having to all of a sudden be thinking about one's uterus, ovaries, genitalia, blood, constantly.
Christine Maginnis (15:43):
Yeah. It's like you can't turn a blind eye to your own biology.
Robin Gelfenbien (15:48):
Right. How are you able to come to terms with that or have that gratitude when you've come from such a low point?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (15:56):
Robin Gelfenbien (15:59):
I mean, that just requires a lot of discipline and I'm sure it comes and goes at times.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (16:04):
It comes and goes all the time. And what consistently saves my life in this world has been meditative practice. And I will say I was very lucky. I do think of it as luck. I'm not being facetious, and so for anyone who's going through this right now, I'm not being facetious and I'm also not assuming that this is what is going to happen to you. I had a good old-fashioned nervous breakdown in 2004, and I dropped my basket entirely. And during that time, I was really, really lucky at a time when I really kind of didn't know how to stay alive to have an amazing therapist and also to have both my psychiatrist and my GP have me do the John Cabot Zen Mindfulness Program. It was a 10-week program, and it was a program that I would say that one of the things that has allowed me to stay alive in general and in this moment on my good days to really sit with this stuff has been a lot of the techniques I learned there.
And then continuing to have a sitting practice and continuing to have a meditative practice. And one of the things our teachers said to us at the beginning, which at first I was like, "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard" was how I'm feeling right now is how I'm feeling right now. I was in the midst of a terrible moment and I said it to myself, and all of a sudden something about time made itself clear to me, and I realized I say that to myself all day long, almost every day. And specifically during this time, how I am right now is how I am right now.
Robin Gelfenbien (17:37):
I want to go back to the meditation just for just a brief second, just because you're talking about sitting with your feelings. And I'm wondering if the fact that you're a writer really helped you through that time too, because I was just curious, did it help you process what you were feeling or were you like, "This is the last thing I want to do right now"? Were you sort of conflicted, or did your writing really play a part in that?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (18:00):
Yes to all. I mean, the way you phrase that is so beautiful because I think yes to each of those things. I think that right now, my writing is helping me in this time as I really more overtly think through these things on the page is really about not just looking sort of through the tunnel, but taking in all kinds of things that are going on around you. And I think that during that time, and I do still think during these times, even on my worst days, I do think I have a capability most days to even when it's terrible and in that period of my life when I didn't want to live, just the quality of attention and patience and curiosity sometimes during this perimenopausal time, particularly when my mood has had real trouble, one of the only things that keeps me going is just something interesting happens. And I can't help but be like, "Oh, that's kind of cool."
Christine Maginnis (19:00):
I have read this poem probably 15 to 20 times. I cannot read it without choking up. Even when you were reading it today, I totally choke up because I feel like a narrative or story tells just that, a story, but poetry makes you feel what the author is writing, or at least it did for me as I read it. It's almost like for just a nanosecond, I feel what you're feeling.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (19:24):
Christine Maginnis (19:24):
What has the reaction been from others, especially from other non-binary people? Has anything surprised you about how people react?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (19:33):
I've been very lucky in my life. I've been so lucky in my life to have various poems that I have written that a fairly sizable amount of people have read and they've meant something to them. I got so many letters from people and I got so many people DMing me, but I was struck by actually how universally important it seemed to people, and that one of the things that just seems true is that this is a time in our lives where so many of us feel really alienated from our bodies and kind of betrayed by our bodies a little bit. And I think this is changing.
I think more and more people because of amazing podcasts like yours and organizations like yours, I've talked more about my body with my friends in the last seven months than I have in my whole life. I've talked about and with my non-binary friends, with friends who I identify as trans with, but also with straight women friends who I've never talked about that stuff with my straight women friends. And I think that there was a way in which this poem just came at a moment where all of a sudden a lot more people were talking about this stuff, and it gave another doorway for people to go through. And then I feel really, really grateful about that because it gave me another doorway. I felt less alone.
Christine Maginnis (20:49):
Oh, I'm so glad.
Robin Gelfenbien (20:50):
I know sometimes reading in public can feel really vulnerable, and I'm sure because of the pandemic, it's been a while since you did that, but did you find that you learned something new each time you would read it in front of an audience?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (21:04):
I just was always struck by the parts that are hard for me to read. I had a great experience with Poetry Magazine in terms of the editing, and one of the things we talked about was the phrase sex change, for instance, because that's not something people say anymore. And I think now, if you were to say that to someone, it would seem deeply problematic. And it is.
Christine Maginnis (21:30):
Yeah, I grew up hearing that.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (21:31):
But that's what it was called in the eighties. And so then we had the discussion about putting into quotes. I still feel uncomfortable even as I read it today. I feel uncomfortable reading it when it's not clear that it's in quotes. But I'm also really struck by when I do read it often, I have a lot of people from my generation and earlier who come to me and say, "Yeah, I used to think about it all the time when I was younger. This used to be a conversation I would have with myself. How would I do this? How would this look?" It's still such a difficult process and choice. And there are lots of states in this country where healthcare is not adequate for trans people.
Surgery is not available to too many people. But when I was growing up, to have that surgery was something that I dreamt of it, and it also felt totally impossible to me. And there's something in that poem too, that I think where people think about the body and the dreamed of body and the imagined body that I get a lot of people coming to me and talking to me about that.
Robin Gelfenbien (22:31):
Yeah, sure. You just said something about not enough access for transgender people to medical care, and I heard that a good number of non-binary and transgender people avoid seeking medical care due to discrimination and the fear of being shamed.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (22:47):
Robin Gelfenbien (22:48):
Does that ring true for you?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (22:50):
Oh, totally. It was always difficult because of gender stuff for me to think about having a pelvic, but I remember very clearly when I was, the first time I went to a gynecologist, I was a young, gay kid. I took antibiotics. I had no idea about yeast infections, that you could get a yeast infection. I got a terrible yeast infection. I went into the doctor's office. I was in incredible pain, and they kept asking me if I was pregnant. I was not pregnant. And then I said, "I'm a lesbian. I'm not pregnant. I'm a lesbian." And then the doctor kept asking me what kind of sex toys I use. And I hate to admit this about myself because I think people were very worldly from earlier, but I had no idea about that stuff. I really didn't.
Christine Maginnis (23:35):
Oh, that's so abusive.
Robin Gelfenbien (23:37):
Oh my God.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (23:38):
And then at the end, she says to me, "Next time I won't be so gentle." I didn't go back to a gynecologist for years. And then what I did though, and I think this is important to say, is that then I went to the Gay and Lesbian Health Center in New York, and I will say that as much as I love that organization and that organization was great for me in lots of ways, I had the other side of the coin, which was then I had a healthcare provider who didn't want to hurt me, and then the next two I tried with were so gentle.
And so I, for many years, I say both of those stories because I think I had an experience that maybe a lot of people have had, which isn't just the sadistic, abusive, homophobic doctor, but also the really caring good people who also don't want to do anything to make you even more uncomfortable than you already are. What I finally found in Chapel Hill, and if people can go to a place where they find this and it's hard to do, was I found someone who was deeply caring, deeply nurturing, incredibly good at their job, and also was like, "You need to have an exam. We need to figure out how to do this because you need to have an exam."
Robin Gelfenbien (24:51):
It sounds like you found an awesome gynecologist but-
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (24:54):
Melinda Everett at Chapel Hill, OBGYN. I'm telling you, if you live in North Carolina, but I say that because it's really hard. We worked on it for a long time, and I was 45 years old before I had had a real exam.
Christine Maginnis (25:09):
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (25:10):
Yeah, I mean, I just didn't go. I didn't believe I could get a good experience. I also was embarrassed. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn't do it. I mean, I think there's this real performance thing too, of I should be able to take care of myself. I can't. And I just felt like no one would understand. I mean, it wasn't until I said to Melinda, this is really hard for me gender-wise, like "I'm having a really hard time with this." And she was like, "Yeah."
Robin Gelfenbien (25:35):
Oh, I'm so glad you found somebody who could really take care of you and be so compassionate.
Christine Maginnis (25:41):
So back to the poem, you seem to examine two notions that we hear often when we talk to people about menopause, loneliness, and a feeling of suddenly being invisible. When I read your poems, I sense that you can see loneliness as a good thing and a bad thing, that sometimes it's a comfort to be cloaked, and that sometimes it's a lonely place to be. Is that fair?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (26:06):
And also that there is a place where loneliness and solitude come together that I think is really powerful. I think that for me, and this is just me, but the space where loneliness and alienation come together is a place where there's real suffering there. Maybe even more for me, loneliness and perceived alienation is where it's really painful. Maybe no one's alienating me, but I feel it. I think also part of queer experience, there's a kind of loneliness for me that has always been part of that, and maybe not always being in the body that I imagine for myself is kind of loneliness of being separated from the body that you imagine but doesn't exist.
Christine Maginnis (26:46):
So we've been talking to a lot of people, and even in getting Let's Talk Menopause up and running, we found this kind of interesting, Robin and I in talking about meeting with you, this interesting parallel because cisgender women who go through menopause often suddenly feel invisible after always having been visible. And they say, "People don't see me anymore. You don't get that little extra help at the gas station or you're not seen." And they find it very troubling. And I'm just curious from your perspective of having that through your life story, what are your thoughts on that?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (27:20):
Yeah, I mean, it's something that rings very true to me. I mean, there are a lot of ways in which I feel a lot of compassion through this experience for cisgendered women. I think I always felt bad for and compassion for my friends who had, and it's not just cisgender women who have babies, but for the cisgender women I knew who had babies and had difficult pregnancies and difficult births, I think that I gave a kind of support around that time, but I don't think I really could understand. I probably still can't, but I can in different ways now, just how destabilizing and how painful, how much pain my friends were in when they were sitting, and how their perceptions of their own bodies changed so much after that time. For many women, it seems to me that I know who had babies, that was also a kind of, not a beginning, but there was a way in which a certain kind of whole patriarchal medical establishment stop looking then.
Robin Gelfenbien (28:25):
So how are you feeling in your menopausal journey now?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (28:30):
It's a odd time because I have had this surgery, so I had a full DNC in part to get rid of the lining and see if that helped, but also because we don't know my mother's history, and all of a sudden it was like, "Wait, are we dealing with cancer here?" So I had, thank God, the pathology came back clean. I'm thinking of anyone today who has not had clean pathology. It's terrifying to even have gotten good news was really scary. So I had a full DNC, I do have a fibroid, and they were able to get half of it out. The other half is in the muscle wall, so they used a MyoSure, they took that out, and then they put an IUD in, in hopes of dealing with the bleeding and also helping the lining grow over the, what is the fibroid now. If that doesn't work, I'll need a hysterectomy probably.
I say that, Robin, by way of saying, so I was dealing with all this hormonal stuff and everything, and now I've got the IUD in and as they said I would, I've been bleeding a little bit every single day, and my mood is a little all over the place. And there's also just on one hand, I'm in a lot less discomfort and a lot less pain, but so much of menopause and perimenopause, I don't know if you all agree with this or have the experience. There's both that moment of feeling like, "Oh, it's better in this way," but then I don't know. For me, so much of perimenopause has been disappointment of like, "Ugh, but I'm still bleeding every day." And they said I might, so I would say where I am in my journey right now is I'm really grateful that the surgery went as well as it did, but I am also dealing with just like, "Wow, this is a long journey."
Christine Maginnis (30:09):
Yeah. Okay. So I want to wrap things up with saying that I read that all through your life, you've never felt entirely safe, and I can only imagine what that feels like. So given everything that's happening in the world right now, how do we remain compassionate in an unkind world?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (30:27):
I personally think it's really hard. I know a lot of people will say it isn't, but I think it's really tough. And I think partially for me, it's because there's so many different... There are really so many different things requiring my compassion right now and a lot of compassion. A lot.
Christine Maginnis (30:43):
I think there is compassion fatigue for sure.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (30:45):
Yeah, it's hard. And so I do think I go back to the things and I am a work in progress. I do think being curious helps me also to be compassionate. Being curious and looking at the world around me and being interested in it is something, not to say I'm so great, but I think it has saved my life. And I think one of the ways one saves one's own life is by trying not to get destroyed and eaten alive by the brutality and bitterness that can arise in the world all the time.
And I think compassion is also, in a way, selfish because it's a way of saving yourself. There are days when I'm sort of destroyed by how many people do not want me and people like me, alive, and then there are ways in which I can find compassion just by really looking at them, really listening to them. This is not everyone's strategy. Looking at them and really listening and looking at the world around them and really trying to imagine what is it to be in that body. There's something about that that it allows me to at least sit and just let certain things just happen, and then I can fight the fights I need to fight and want to fight and put some other stuff away for the day.
Robin Gelfenbien (32:05):
I feel like as you're talking about compassion, I'm just thinking, I'm so glad that you were able to find the compassion within yourself to really respect what you were going through and really move through it how you needed to. Having the compassion for your body, I think says so much about who you are.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (32:29):
Oh, thank you.
Robin Gelfenbien (32:30):
So Gabby, where can our listeners find out everything you're up to and how they can follow you and just absorb every last second of you and your gift to our world?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (32:41):
You can find me on Instagram @Gabbat G-A-B-B-A-T, but if you just put my name in Instagram, that's where I am most of the time. I have a website. I have a remarkable person who just handles my booking and just does everything to make life luminous and easier for me. Yvonne Fielder at the Field Office Agency. So if you do Field Office and Gabrielle Calvocoressi, that'll show events. But Instagram is a great place to see me and to DM me, and I'm always happy to be in touch.
Robin Gelfenbien (33:10):
Thank you so much for joining us, Gabby. It was an absolute, I can't even say pleasure, delight. No words can describe the conversation we just had. It was, I don't think I've ever cried on this podcast, but I did get choked up and I thank you for that and for being so open and honest with your experiences. So thank you.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi (33:28):
Well, I'm so thankful and thank you for having a body like mine on here, and so we could talk about this stuff and yeah, I'm happy to talk any other time. And I will say just to everyone who's listening, it's hard and amazing being you. I don't know you, but it's hard and amazing being you, and it's a hard and beautiful and difficult time, and I just really respect you all for going through it, that you're here. I really do. We're all doing it.
Christine Maginnis (34:00):
Wow. Robin, what did you think of that one?
Robin Gelfenbien (34:03):
What didn't I think of it? There was just so much, it's weird to say joy, but it felt at times joyful, unbelievably compassionate, and so heartfelt that I truly hung on Gabby's every word. I couldn't get over how open they were. The word that comes to mind is compassionate. What did you think?
Christine Maginnis (34:26):
Yeah. Well, you're stealing my line there because I had the same reaction that you can imagine the pain that Gabby has gone through and to come out of it with that much care for other humans. And I feel I have to thank Gabby because by listening to her poetry, it allowed me to understand a little bit, just the tiniest little bit, what it must feel like to be in a body that doesn't feel as if it's your own. And I don't know that I would've had as much insight into that without listening to that story.
And it's an amazing vehicle to tell it via poetry.
Robin Gelfenbien (35:06):
Yeah. Well, and I feel like their story just continues, just given everything that they were sharing about their recent surgery, just how Gabby was describing their first gynecological visit to what they experienced at the, I don't remember exactly the name of the health center and just what that's like to experience that world in their body. I mean, just how they're treated, in some cases so horribly. But then on the flip side, just all of the love and true support that they've gotten over time, whether it was in New York at that health center or now down in North Carolina. I'm so grateful to them for sharing. It's truly a huge journey. There's so much there.
Christine Maginnis (35:53):
Yes. All I can say is I cannot wait to read what Gabby writes next.
Hey, listeners, if you enjoy this podcast as much as we enjoy recording it, we'd love it If you could help us out.
Robin Gelfenbien (36:10):
All you have to do is rate and review the show, and it will help us reach more listeners. It only takes a minute and it makes a huge difference.
Christine Maginnis (36:19):
It really does. And if you want to follow the show while you're at it, we won't mind.
Robin Gelfenbien (36:24):
No, we won't. And don't forget to tell your friends to check it out too.
Christine Maginnis (36:29):
Our mission at Let's Talk Menopause is to give people the information they need so they can get the healthcare they deserve. Please visit our website at letstalkmenopause.org for a wealth of menopause information, including a symptoms checklist, information about long-term health risks, how to navigate menopause at work, interviews with health experts and so much more.
Robin Gelfenbien (36:51):
A big thank you to Always Discreet for sponsoring this episode of Hello Menopause. Always Discreet because we deserve better.
Christine Maginnis (36:59):
Hello Menopause is a production from Let Talk Menopause Made in partnership with Frequency Media. I'm your host, Christine McGinnis.
Robin Gelfenbien (37:06):
And I'm your host Robin Gelfenbien.
Christine Maginnis (37:09):
Ina Garcousha is our supervising producer, and Alana Hurlins is our producer. Laura Boyman and Catherine Divine are our associate producers.
Robin Gelfenbien (37:17):
Sydney Evans is our dialogue editor. And Claire Bidigare-Curtis is our sound designer. Hello Menopause was concepted by Jessica Olivier, Jill Bisheznik, and Becca Godwin.
Christine Maginnis (37:28):
This podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google podcast, and wherever podcasts are found.
Robin Gelfenbien (37:36):
So check it out.