Thursday, March 3, 2011

the man period

Can we talk about my cycle for a minute?  There have been volumes written about ladies' menstrual cycles, but I'm not aware of much in popular literature about hormonal periods in men (or really much about other types of cycles in women beyond those associated with their monthly ovulation and expulsion.)

I know a little about circadian rhythms; I have heard some theories about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but in my experience of living my own life, I have come to recognize a fairly consistent ebb and flow of certain feelings, desires, moods, and motivations that are suggestive of a system at work.

I suspect that I am not alone in the experience of these macro and micro cycles.

just for visual interest...still trying to address super long blocks of text.  and it's a nice shot!
So what types of cycles am I talking about?  Maybe a bullet point list will provide an anchor for the discussion; the following is not an exhaustive list, but shows several that come to mind right away:
  • sexual desire / libido
  • motivation to exercise
  • "productivity"
    • clean the house (nesting?)
    • increase effort at job
    • home improvement
    • give time to creative pursuits
  • attention to diet
  • tend to extra-family relationships
  • general mood
The language in the above is mostly tilted to "positive" sounding ideas, mainly because I'm in an upbeat cycle today; I could have easily bulleted a cycle of "laziness" in place of "productivity."

In terms of sexual desire, I think there are some generally recognized, macro-level cycles...can we agree here that most young men enter a period of heightened sexual energy and desire in their mid-teens that persists into the mid 20s?  And it's not like there is a continental shelf-style drop-off thereafter, but by the time a man gets into his 50s, he can still be sexually active in a healthy way while still having half as much drive as at 16 years old.

phone cam snap while hiking in the Presidio
I believe there is a generally accepted similar cycle for the ladies, supposedly "peaking" in the late 20s / early 30s.  But what I'm interested in here are sub-cycles, material rises and falls in libido during the course of a month or quarter or a given year...

I love my wife, and I'm consistently attracted to her and by her, so let's assign a baseline level of sexual interest for me at a level 5 (level 1 being "I have the flu, she has the flu, and we're staying the night at my grandmother's house" and level 10 being "it's the second night of a vacation in San Francisco and we are fully rested and have just enjoyed hyper-fresh seafood and just enough Sonoma red wine and we have nowhere to be in the morning and no distractions tonight and my breath smells just fine, thank you very much and several additional things are just right so get over here right now or we may both explode apart instead of together").

So if a normal day is a 5, why is that I find myself cycling through days-long periods of sustained 7s or a week or so of 3s?  To date, I have not found any consistent correlation to exercise or diet or good days / bad days at work...

Binder Park Zoo in MI, a must visit
I have found similar cycles in my friends and family can surely attest (thank you to not do so here in this space with too much volume) that every six to nine weeks I enter these foul mood periods, where my sensitivities spike and my relationships feel the strain.  As easy as it would be to make this all about me, I really do suspect other people have similar cycles (maybe to a greater or lesser degree than my own experience), and in that commonality, I see an opportunity to learn some things about human nature.

In terms of productivity, I have these bursts of thoughts that lead to things like the laundry shelf, and other ideas about expanding my business, or landscaping the yard, and while having these thoughts it all seems so clear: the way forward, the value of the idea, the desire to start right away.  But if life's practical considerations prevent an immediate start, often a few days after the idea struck, the inspired momentum fades...and then a sort of self-perpetuating depression cycle sets in as I try to regain that original inspired feeling.

I guess what I want is to better understand my cycles, to get a better sense of the normal duration and intensity, with a goal of managing or anticipating both the valuable opportunities and also the troubling aspects.  Sort of like how by 17 or so, young ladies start figuring out whether menses makes them too crazy (I've known women who have virtually no emotional volatility around their period, and those who really could benefit from a visit to the menstrual hut; what further complicates the situation is that some of the emotionally volatile category recognize this challenge and try to accommodate while others always seem to be surprised by those days...I'm now thinking about the possible repercussions of this parenthetical aside).

I imagine that it's not "healthy" to try to prolong the "good" periods too long, and I further imagine that the "down" parts of the cycle are also important to our emotional development...but I have to think that there are mechanisms we (I, in the event that this sort of cycle is something unique to me) could employ to amplify the positive that comes out of the "up" cycles and to mitigate the damage caused by the "downs".

my wife's first attempt at ikebana - great huh?
So?  Do you have cycles?  Do you have ideas on how to measure or manage them?

1 comment:

  1. I fear that the only answer to this is to journal, either extensively by writing daily about your mood, activity, diet, etc, or just to maybe make a few categories you'd like to track and giving yourself a number daily (like you did with the libido example). And then try to find a pattern or correlations between the different variables. I have tried to do this because my depression definitely goes in cycles that sometimes seem related to my menstrual cycle and sometimes not. It's a pain to do and hard to track, so I've never stuck with it, but I think you could gain valuable insight from it. I'd love to hear what you discover if you ever do this...