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Suzanne Giesemann has an Awakening

Suzanne Giesemann at the helm I’ve spoken to women at boat shows around the country and in Canada about the joys of the cruising life.

I’ve advised thousands of women to take a look at whatever it is about cruising that they didn’t like, then examine their thoughts about that issue. Often a mere shift in attitude can make all the difference as far as our enjoyment of boating goes.

So imagine my dismay during the first three months of our current cruising adventure to discover that no matter how much I tried to adjust my attitude, I was not a happy sailor.

In fact, I pretty much hated everything about this lousy cruising life.

I think I did a good job of hiding my thoughts from my husband. After all, why should both of us be miserable?

But what the heck was wrong with me? I was the woman who wrote an entire chapter on attitude in my book, It’s Your Boat Too.
How could I not be enjoying myself?

I chalked my irritability up to Seasonal Affective Disorder. We barely saw the sun in the three months since we splashed the boat in Norfolk and worked our way to Maine.

I figured that was my problem, but when the sun came out to stay and my mood swings didn’t go away, I began to seriously worry.

I love cruising! I told myself. Most people would kill to be out hereWhy wasn’t I enjoying myself more?

I felt like a hypocrite and a traitor to my sea-sisters.

Then came my awakening. Sure, my monthly “visitor” had been “visiting” a little erratically for quite a while, but when it came a’calling quite a bit earlier than expected, I couldn’t believe I’d been so blind for so long. Maybe it’s because my husband tells me that I’m only 28 and inside that’s how I feel.

Okay, so the calendar says I’m actually 48, but those wild mood swings that every woman must eventually face don’t start until she’s … uh … hmmm … right around … 48.

ebb and flow Rather than being dismayed at the reality of my stage in life, I was elated. This duh moment not only brought awakening, but tremendous relief. I wasn’t a hypocrite about women in cruising, after all.

Simply knowing that my irritability was hormonally induced made it ever so much easier to accept the mood swings and to ride them out.

When the desire to scream at some insignificant annoyance passed, I was once again able to enjoy the same things about cruising I’d always loved.

Now that I’ve arrived at this milestone, I realize that I’ve never heard a single woman discuss how menopausal mood changes might cause some of the dissatisfaction that a lot of women face on their boats.

Yet, think about it … what’s the average age of most cruising women? I don’t think the world is ready yet for a seminar on the topic at your local boat show, but I’d love to hear others’ thoughts …

In the meantime, I’m sitting here off a gorgeous rocky island in Penobscot Bay, looking at a scene that’s about to change as we head to another stunning spot.

Almost everything about the cruising life involves change … ever-changing anchorages and ports of call, ever-changing weather, sea state, even friends.

And now that I realize what’s causing me to experience the cruising life a little differently for a while, I can see The Change as one more element in this ever-changing, ever-evolving lifestyle I’ve chosen.

About Suzanne Giesemann

Suzanne and her husband Ty have been cruising aboard their 46’ Morgan sloop Liberty since 2003. She retired from the Navy as a Commander after completing 20 years as a Fleet Support Officer. Suzanne writes a monthly column for Blue Water Sailing magazine and is the author of several books including It’s Your Boat Too: A Woman’s Guide to Greater Enjoyment on the Water and Living A Dream.

More info:

  • Read about Suzanne and Ty’s cruising adventures aboard sv Liberty on their cruising website LibertySail.
  • Visit Suzanne Giesemann’s website. Suzanne has written several non-nautical books which are found here, plus her blog.
  • Check out her cruising books on Amazon: It’s Your Boat Too and Living A Dream.
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6 comments to Suzanne Giesemann has an Awakening

  • Beverly Feiges

    I shouldn’t say I got a laugh out of your misery, but been there, done that. I couldn’t help but think about how “snappish” I got at about the same age, but I blamed it on the hormone pills I was taking on my doctor’s advice, because I had had a hysterectomy a few years before. Now, at a much older age, I find myself getting “snappish” again, and again, it is, I think, just the human condition, in this case age, and nothing to do with cruising. Glad you reached that conclusion too, and can go back to enjoying the cruising life.

  • Loved your comments, Bev. And now, an update. I used to take a wonderful vitamin called Levity Plus for PMS symptoms. It worked wonders then, so I figured I’d try it now for these menopausal mood swings. Well, ladies, I’m just shy of one month of taking Levity Plus and I feel like my old self. I wake up in the morning without that awful “blah” feeling. No more does every little think iritate the heck out of me. In fact, we’ve been pushing hard for the past 4 days, sailing in some pretty high winds and rough conditions, and I’ve enjoyed the heck out of the sailing. The real proof of the vitamin’s efficiency came this morning when I spilled my coffee all over the cockpit. My reaction? “Oh well.” Last month I would have been in a rage. I can’t say enough good things about Levity Plus.

  • I think I had an easier time with the (pre)menopausal mood swings because another cruising friend shared her experience and I knew to be on the lookout for mood swings. Of course, people who know me may have a different assessment… ;) What did require a bigger adjustment for me was living with my changing temperature.

    I had always been cold-natured and chilled easily. But now I get HOT aboard. I’ve become fanatical about ventilation aboard: wind scoops and port scoops, as well as 12-volt fans strategically located around the boat, especially over the bunk.

  • Thanks, Suzanne, you always make me feel less alone in this life! It is strange how we can be in the middle of one of these mood swings and still not realize it. I’ve learned that my first clue is when I say something like, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a mack truck.” It’s a feeling of all over heaviness in body, mind and spirit. Countless times I have said that and been deaf to it as a clue to what was on the horizon. Irritability and jaw dropping (at least for my partner, Chris, who is usually within a few feet of me – how can he not be on a boat, righ?) sailors mouth. I will ultimately let out a stream of profanities that I can’t seem to control. Poor guy wonders where is Hula Girl At Heart went. I’ve learned to realize that the mood swings will be coming soon when I hear myself saying it, now. And I, too, have found what I call my “happy pills” (aka Estroblend). As soon as the down moods begin, I take my pills and they seem to help. Plethora or real thing, who knows? I like to think it is helping. For how can we be unhappy when we are Living the Dream, right? Thanks for bringing up this topic. Fairwinds,

  • Hey Suzanne – I wish we *could* have a seminar on this topic, but alas, we may have to pass around whatever chemical it takes to drop the inhibitions and get everyone to participate :) I had my very last period the month that I quit work and moved into a boat yard at 52. There was no wishy washy period (pardon the pun) about it – it was never to be seen again. So, most of my peri-menopausal strife occured before that, and honestly, I think it may have been worse, as far as the mood swings go, than full blown menopause. However, I should probably ask Skip (my husband) about that. Actually, in many ways I feel *better* than I have since puberty, as if loosing my hormones also gave me my brain back. I don’t make too many emotional decisions anymore, for instance, and in restropect, I can look back on a great many poor decisions I made in my life and see that they were often hormone driven. 15 years ago, I could wake up in the morning, stick my head out the front door, and think my yard was bursting with color. The very next day, under identical circumstances, I might find myself seeing nothing but weeds. Once that emotional flip-flopping left with the onset of menopause, I ceased to wonder which was the “real” me – which was a very welcome relief. I haven’t taken any HRT, although, aside from watching my skin age 10 years in the last 4, the main side effect of menopause for me has been libido. Anyone who knows me well, also knows that I tend not to do things I’m not in the mood to do, even if everyone else is doing it. So, based on that little character flaw, our sex life took a bit of a dive. I still don’t have the answer to how to improve it; testoterone pills didn’t help for long (although, initially there was some improvement in libido). Going off anti-depressants after 15 years definitely helped, but even so, I miss the way it used to be, and I’m sure Skip does too. If anyone has any useful tips on that front, I’d be grateful to hear them. Having said all this, we all live in the most amazing circumstances that relaltively few dare to enjoy, and being with our partners 24/7 is part of that. I know that I, for one, am grateful to have the partner I do, who graciously accepts me as I am, and loves me through the changes we’re going through

  • Ruth Allen

    I don’t believe I suffered from ever changing moods, thank goodness! I do however seem to be switching from one temperature to another with no bearing on the actual conditions around me. It is rather disconcerting and sometimes uncomfortable. It does seem to be lessening, at least I think it does. HRT is not an option for me, given the death of my sister from ovarian cancer before she was 42. Adding soy to my diet seems to help. In any case things appear to be settling down. Isnt life an adventure?

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