I hope it will support many, many women in building much more uncramped, liberated lives for themselves.
What do you mean by the word "uncramp"?
This word isn't recognized by some dictionaries. It was the best word I could come up with for moving from painful and draining menstrual cycles to empowering ones.
In relation to their bodies, most people think of cramps as something a muscle does. My book hearkens back to an older meaning of cramp that we still use in daily speech, for example when we say that something "cramps our style." My argument in this book is that there are many ideas and agendas widespread in our society that cramp women, that cramp the true power of the menstrual cycle, and therefore cause literal cramps in the uterine muscles, as well as other menstrual cycle symptoms.
To uncramp means to first identify what it is that's cramping you. Then you stop allowing whatever it is to influence you so much that you experience pain, symptoms, and sickness. Once you take those steps, the potential of your menstrual cycle to support you really begins to reveal itself. In the book, I outline some of the more common "crampers" that women encounter, and I also provide techniques for identifying the "crampers" that are specifically affecting you.
What's the story behind Uncramp!?
In my late twenties, I figured out how to turn my "periods from hell" into empowering and pleasurable monthly events. I know it sounds crazy—and it's true. And believe me, I wasn't using "positive thinking" to tell myself that the pain really felt good, after all. I was able to change the whole experience of "PMSing" and bleeding into an experience that felt good and that supported my growth and development. When I began talking about this with my girlfriends, I quickly discovered that I was pretty much on my own. My friends seemed to be suffering, more or less, and didn't like their menstrual cycles, and certainly didn't see them as a helpful resource in their lives.
My response was to begin teaching classes on how I did what I did. Through the classes, about 85 percent of the women who attended successfully changed their own menstrual experience for the better during the actual time frame in which the class was held. (I don't know what happened in the lives of the other 15 percent of attendees after the class was over.) Now I've written this book in the hopes of helping many more women uncramp themselves.
How did the experience of changing your menstrual periods change your life?
The whole course of my life changed thanks to my periods. I became so curious, so enthusiastic about what each monthly cycle had to offer me that I made the decision to become self-employed so that I would have a more flexible schedule, one that allowed me to really deeply explore my menstrual cycle and its gifts, especially the bleeding phase.
I also became motivated to teach and write about my own experiences.
My relationship to society changed too. I became less likely to just go along with whatever "groupthink" was surrounding me. After all, I reasoned, the "groupthink" I'd learned had no respect or even awareness of the supportive potential inherent in my menstrual cycles. I had to discover that all on my own. I found myself analyzing and rejecting the visual and verbal rhetoric of tampon ads, which encourage women to be embarrassed by their periods, encourage women to hide them. I was amazed by how orgasmic my periods felt, and found pretty well no social outlets in my immediate surroundings where I could openly discuss my pleasure. Over time, the questioning I brought to "groupthink" about menstruation inspired me to take a similar approach to other areas of life as well. I've become a much better informed and more authentic person as a result.
Why do you see a relationship between uncramping and ethics?
Over the years, I've talked with quite a few women about their menstrual cycles. It's fascinating to me how women who have strong feminist ideals, strong religious ideals, and strong ethical ideals will often just toss them out the window when they're discussing their menstrual cycle, especially their bleeding phase.
If you believe that God is good, for example, and that God created everything, how could you say to me, as one religious woman did, that God has nothing to do with your menstrual cycles? If you believe that a person in pain needs your compassion and care, why would you talk about your own menstrual pain as though it's the enemy? If you're a feminist who believes in equality between the sexes, why would you take pills to stop your periods? Don't your periods deserve equality too?
Really sticking to your ethical ideals when it comes to your period will help you uncramp. Do you believe in caring and respecting for your body? Then you can draw on that belief to cultivate care and respect for your uterus and your bleeding time. Do you believe that God is good and made your body? Then you can explore how to align your menstrual cycle with the goodness of God. Do you believe that women are equal to men? Then you can explore how to bring your cycle into the equality equation.
Why do you suggest carrying a legally permissible weapon in your book? What does that have to do with my menstrual cycle?
Because our society as a whole hasn't yet reached its highest ethical potential, every one of us lives with daily possibilities such as murder, rape, home invasion, stalking, and assault. Emotional abuse, domestic abuse, and child abuse are all common realities as well at this time. The possibility of experiencing violence intrudes on your ability to be healthy, open, and trusting in relationships—it’s a “cramper.” It's also more challenging to learn how to form healthy relationships when you are an abuse survivor. Relationship stress, meanwhile, is a major driver of hormonal imbalance, and hormonal imbalance shows up as menstrual cycle symptoms.
Developing an ability to defend yourself skillfully is an important step towards reducing your relationship stress. When you know that you are committed to taking care of yourself if attacked, you also become more able to connect well and deeply with those who are not attacking you. A simple and effective way to begin developing your ability to defend yourself is to carry a legally permissible weapon, with the caveat that you are committed to using it for self-defence only, and only as a last resort.
What's the full potential of the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a huge creative force in the life of humanity as a whole. It plays a central role in creating each generation of people. If our society as a whole had an uncramped relationship to menstruation, in other words, if we respected it and gave it space to fully "play itself out," we would have a very different culture.
Women wouldn't hate men for being told we're hysterical and "that time of the month" is making us irrational. Instead, the changing perspectives and thinking patterns that come with the phases of the menstrual cycle would be viewed as valuable troubleshooting tools and a needed counterbalance to masculine thinking styles. Society-wide problems would be resolved more quickly.
Families that respect and honor the mother's menstrual cycle and allow her space and time needed to "be with her cycle" will be more co-operative, harmonious, and happy.
Women's work schedules would include menstruation-related flexibility. At different times of the cycle, women's productivity and even general abilities shift and naturally change. What if workplaces were set up to allow women to take full advantage of these shifts and changes? I predict that the first company that takes this idea seriously will soon be the leader in its field by miles, not inches.
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