"Oomph," grunts my husband lifting my suitcase, as we prepared to leave for a recent trip. "Why is your bag so heavy?" "Maintenance," I reply.

In the post-menopausal period of my life, I find that I require a great many products, supplements, and emollients just to maintain a level of adequacy. I’m not trying to look glamorous or sexy; I’m simply trying not to frighten small children. Or myself when I happen to encounter a mirror.

For those of you who’ve followed the "hair thinning" saga, you won’t be surprised that I need to pack my special Nioxin shampoo and conditioner, my wide tooth comb and gentle brush, my two products to maximize curl, gel to help style the improved curls, a purifying rinse to get all the built up crap out of my hair from these tenacious cremes and sprays, and a special every-few-days industrial strength conditioner. That’s several pounds devoted to hair alone.

I need SPF 20 makeup foundation and powder, blusher, eyebrow and lip pencils, and lipstick. An additional special sunscreen is also needed for "outdoor" pursuits. For years, I didn’t wear makeup; now my skin is so sensitive to UV that I wear it for protection. A nice side benefit is that it smoothes out my skin tone and livens me up a bit.

Dryness is always a factor, these days. Even in Hawaii where there is a fair amount of moisture in the air, if I should skip a day of lubricants, my skin vaguely resembles an alligator handbag. (Faux alligator, of course.)

So, I need special non-drying soap and body wash, face cleanser, body lotion, and hand creme. I must take facial moisturizer, eye cream, and my favorite anti-wrinkle cream. For dry eyes, I pack artificial tears and eyelid wash. How many pounds of stuff are we up to now?

Ah supplements. Can’t forget my women’s multiple vitamin, my lo-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack, my Vitamin E, thyroid supplement, acetyl-l carnitine for memory and brain function (this stuff really works when I remember to take it), my calcium/Vitamin D chew, and my SGS defense herbs. And I require a jar of natural progesterone cream as well as my topical glucosamine cream to keep my joints nicely lubricated.

Finally, I’m ready to pack a few items of clothing and a couple of books.

Still, while my luggage may weigh more when I travel these days, I realize that this time of life has allowed me to jettison a great deal of other baggage. I’ve quit carrying along resentment, perfectionism, martyrdom, victim states, feeling inadequate, unfocused longing, feeling responsible for the state of the world, and jealousy. In a sense, I’m now traveling a lot more lightly than I ever have. And I have Menopause to thank for it.