In my experience, the best therapy comes from friends. During a recent walk with a couple of mine, at a time when one of us was experiencing a family crisis, another made the comment above and it got me thinking.
Often, when the proverbial shit hits the fan and I am struggling to know which way to turn, I yearn for a simpler life — to climb back into the womb or at the very least to retreat from the expectation of modern society to keep all our balls in the air.
And that’s especially true for many women, who not only hold down jobs like men, but tend to pick up the slack when it comes to the emotional labour required in most families.
Hence, we are more prone to find ourselves in those lonely, moments of vulnerability, when we question what it’s all about. And those experiences are even more common during this middle stage of our lives when our confidence may be shattered by hormone imbalances, the impact of ageism on our careers, and changes in our family dynamics.
However, in my experience, while the thought of an enforced recalibration can be scary, taking the time to sit back and reflect on what’s important is a good thing.
As an educator, self-reflection is a crucial part of our work. Which is why our lack of reflection has surprised me most about the legacy of COVID — an unprecedented event that, sadly, appears to have had little effect on our our view of the world, in spite of the job losses, the devastating effects on our economies, and the appalling number of deaths.
For in spite of the benefits of social distancing — and there have been many — I see very little evidence of a longterm change in habits of people in relation to the frantic pace of their lives.
Perhaps it’s an age-thing, but I like to think that this virus has taught me a new appreciation for the simple pleasures in life — a kind of enforced mindfulness. Whereas in the past, my dream holidays were about soaking up the fast-paced culture of foreign cities, these days I find Eat, Pray, Love types of experiences more appealing, such as yoga retreats and spas. And where once my diary was booked up months ahead, recently I have taken a much more organic approach to my social life.
Of course, some of us are still in survival mode. Here in Australia, Melbourne remains in lockdown, whilst in other parts of the world, the second wave of Covid gathers pace. And yet, for those of us for whom normal life has pretty much resumed, many have returned to it with little consideration for what COVID has taught us.
I mean, surely, some good has to come from this terrible reminder of the fragility of life.
Perhaps, it’s too soon to judge. Like misplaced insects, many of us have gone straight back to the safety of who we were before. And yet, it seems likely that Trump will maintain his presidency; the rights of women have taken a step backwards; there continues to be very little evidence of diversity in the media, in spite of the Black Lives Matter protests (WTF! ABC); and politicians still behave like kids in a high school playground, putting their personal agendas ahead of ours. The Australian government is pushing for a gas-lead recovery, FFS! (SMH)
I understand that change takes time, but I can’t stop thinking that COVID should have been the wake-up call we needed to prioritise compassion over power?
I want to believe that the world is fundamentally full of more good people than bad, so why do we keep electing the same narcissistic leaders who prioritise nationalism over equal rights, and rich over poor? Surely, if we can find the money to fund abortive space missions, Olympic Games, and — I don’t know — study the effects of the sun’s UV rays on the eating habits of the maggot, surely we can keep our social benefits at a humane level? If we can build casinos, and replace perfectly-good sports stadiums, surely we can build more social housing?
COVID highlighted the important things in life — friends, family, and our health. It showed that it is possible to be happy with less and that there’s nothing wrong with simply being content.
So it turns out I haven’t quite finished writing about masks. Today, however, instead of talking about clinical masks, I want to talk about a different type of mask — that is, the mask that society forces people with mental illness to wear.
It’s the mask of being well — that many of us expect them to wear, even now, in spite of the progress made in terms of awareness.
You see, mental illness is still viewed by some as a made-up illness, or a weakness, or something we should feel ashamed about. And while there are all those wonderful memes that float around the Internet to remind us to be kind and empathetic to sufferers, the reality can be very different.
It might surprise you to know that it is still rare to find a work environment in which you can admit openly that you suffer from depression or a neurological disorder
I’ll be honest, each time someone admits to me they don’t believe in mental illness, I want to scream at them for their arrogance and ignorance. And here’s why. Because, today, with my son’s permission — I’m going to give you an insight into what it is like for him to live with it, and the effect it has on his loved ones.
A few weeks ago, we planned a long overdue family weekend away. It was overdue for many reasons, such as Covid, the cost of taking away a family of four adults (and our very practical concerns about our bar bill), and our annual leave restrictions. However, the main reason the trip was short was because of Kurt, our twenty-three year old son.
He hasn’t really left Sydney over the past two years for all the usual reasons: his bartending job as a casual — which makes it hard for him to make his rent (let alone splash out on weekends away); the organisation involved in planning and booking time away with his ADHD; as well as, erm, certain dependencies he uses to alleviate some of his ADHD symptoms, that are not (shall we say) very transportable.
The main ones, though, are his crippling anxiety and OCD
The outside world may not see what it takes for people like him to leave the house, but trust me, it is no mean feat. There are rituals that his brain insists he must carry out before any transition, there is his fear of change, his laundry (so much laundry), sensory considerations, and an elevated sense of imposter syndrome. In other words, as soon as he steps through the door, our son has to put on a mask.
In other words, he looks like a normal, functioning Millennial, who smiles a lot and converses seemingly naturally. The truth is, however, he would prefer to never have to leave his bedroom.
Few would be aware of the rituals that chain him to his home, his fear of change, or the mental effort it takes to keep himself on track
The reality is, our son doesn’t travel much because his mind won’t let him and last weekend was as much about celebrating mine and our daughter’s birthdays as it was a test for Kurt. It was an attempt to get him to push back from a negative way of thinking that is getting stronger by the day, and as a fellow sufferer (but less severe), I am aware of the dangers of letting anxiety win.
“Avoiding what makes you anxious provides some relief in the short term, but can make you more anxious in the long term. Try approaching something that makes you anxious — even in a small way. The way through anxiety is by learning that what you fear isn’t likely to happen — and if it does, you’ll be able to cope with it. ” Beyond Blue
A few days prior to our departure, he decided not to come and I persuaded him to rethink. Genuinely, I believed the change of atmosphere would do him good. As a result of changes due to Covid, he has spent a lot of time on his own of late — which is not good for over-thinkers — and I was excited at the prospect of exploring antique shops together, experiencing the hotel’s leisure facilities, and enjoying the sense of togetherness that other families appear to enjoy.
I’m his mum and selfishly, I suppose, I wanted him there with us, not only to push back his anxiety, but to help me complete the faux image of the perfect family unit I aspire to
Mental illness is often inaccurately portrayed in film. Many films focus on the quirky charisma of the neuro-diverse or mentally-ill characters, rather than the often terrifying complexities of mood disorders. While we are shown aspects of the darkness, there’s very little of the day-to-day reality of living with the illness — the self-harm, the anger, the police involvement, the desperation and the tears.
When our son is on form, he lights up a room; but when he is overwhelmed, it’s like waiting for the White Walkers to break through the wall
I don’t have any photos of the first twenty-four hours of our trip when Kurt couldn’t look at us or speak to us because he was so angry with me for persuading him to come. He was even madder with himself for “being such a cunt.” (His words).
Ahead of our trip, I thought I had prepared for every eventuality and nothing could go wrong. And yet on our first night, I booked a table at a restaurant in town (because the hotel restaurant was extortionate), and that triggered Kurt’s anxiety. He joined us, but he sat in the restaurant, stony-faced, his earphones in, and as soon as he finished his food, he left by himself. Returning to the hotel bar, he set himself up at his own table and refused to join us when we returned.
I know better than to think I can prepare for every eventuality. The unpredictability is, perhaps, the hardest part about mental illness. The three steps forward, and the inevitable four steps back
That night he texted us to say he would take the train home the following morning.
Even now, he cannot explain what triggered his overwhelm and need to isolate, but it lasted until after lunch the following day, when somehow he managed to pull himself back and block out the voices. He apologised to us profusely, told us how much he loved us and hated himself for his behaviour, and our second night together was memorable — one of the best nights we’ve shared as a family.
When family and friends ask us how Kurt is doing, we put on masks too
We wear protective masks as well — from the judgement of being bad parents, weak, enablers, and pushovers — even though we can’t fully defend our actions, out of respect for Kurt’s privacy.
What I will say, though, is that unless you walked in our shoes, you cannot understand — in much the same way that I would have a limited understanding of how to cope with a child with a physical disability or terminal illness.
A person with mental illness may look exactly like you and I most of the time, until the mask slips
That judgment forces people with invisible illnesses to wear masks, and when they slip, society is unprepared for what lies behind it, in terms of both support and resources. But in the same way that there is no shame in having gastro, there is nothing wrong in admitting that your head isn’t well. Everyone feels sad or anxious at times, but it is the magnitude of those emotions that is so different for people with depression and anxiety, or with neurological conditions that make normal life more challenging.
They can’t “snap out of it” to make the rest of us feel better
Most of the time they don’t ask for our help, nevertheless, they deserve our compassion. My desire to paint a perfect family picture of our weekend away made my son very unhappy and his mask slipped — like he warned us it would. Fortunately, this journey together has made us stronger. We have learned not to blame ourselves (or him) for poor decisions, and I’m certain that sometime in the near future we will give the experience another shot.
The outcome may be similar, but the hope is that each experience is one step further away from surrender, and one step closer to recovery.
CATEGORIES ADHD, ANXIETY, DISABILITY, DISCRIMINATION, FAMILY, HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, PARENTING•TAGS ADHD, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, MASKS, MENTAL ILLNESS, NEURODIVERSITY, TRUTH•EDIT”THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MASK OF MENTAL ILLNESS”
A week or so ago I went into my local hospital for a day surgery that required a general anaesthetic. I’m certain that a colonoscopy is a rite of passage for every hypochondriac, although I don’t recommend it unless you are truly dedicated to the cause.
The preparations for the procedure are brutal. I don’t want to scare off anyone from having it done — it’s a necessary invasion of your body if you experience any sort of bowel change over the age of fifty — but they made a mammogram feel like a walk in the park.
Put it this way, I acquired the skill to jet-wash the garden patio from my anus.
The fact is, bowel and colon cancer are on the increase, so I decided it was worth a prod up my ass to make sure everything was okay
Needless to say, my family was as supportive as ever. NC nicknamed me “poopie” as a result of the hours I spent expelling every last piece of sweetcorn from my colon, although her suggestion afterwards — that her father and I refrain from anal sex for a while — was less funny.
But this post isn’t about the state of my rectum. It’s about an experience I had in the hospital, just prior to my procedure, as I awaited my fate on the gurney.
Hospital procedure is fairly standard, I imagine: you get admitted, you get dressed into one of those silly gowns that reveal your saggy ass each time you go the bathroom — which is a lot before a colonoscopy — and then you wait for a theatre nurse to come and collect you.
For a hypochondriac and over-thinker, that waiting period can be a moment of reckoning
It is the will I, won’t I die moment we’ve been preparing for our whole lives. And to be honest, I thought I was good with it. I had accepted I was either going to die on the operating table or be diagnosed with some horrible, terminal illness.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the life-flashing-before-me moment just before I went in
I know it’s a cliche, but as I lay there under my heated blanket, desperately trying to ignore my niggling bladder, I couldn’t help thinking about what I’d do differently if I had my time again. You know the kind of stuff: I wouldn’t smoke; I wouldn’t go to uni; I’d be a better advocate for my son; I’d maybe learn a musical instrument and how to whistle. Then, fortunately, some positivity kicked in and I switched my focus to what I’d done right which carried me on an interesting detour to the realization that I wasn’t actually ready to die after all. That I’d miss my little provincial life, no matter how fucked up it seems at times.
More importantly, I didn’t want to die like this, alone, in a stark white room, with my bum hanging out
My care was first rate that day. I was treated with as much dignity as you can expect when a handsome young consultant is about to inspect your ass. But, albeit a minor procedure, it was still a scary moment. There are few good reasons to find yourself in theatre at my age, and as such, the experience felt rather like a transition, like COVID-19 does. It was a disruption that I neither expected nor wanted, that provided me with an unsavoury reminder of my mortality.
That hour in, particular, gave me a better understanding of why many elderly people choose to die at home.
Lying on a hospital bed surrounded by strangers and beeping monitors is scary, and certainly not the way I would choose to leave this earth
Many of us, young and old, are facing that terrifying situation right now. Not my privileged peace of mind day surgery, but a very real fight for their lives. Each day around the globe, people are catching this virus through chance, bad luck, inequity … call it what you will …and succumbing to it alone, without family and friends around them.
In terms of infection, we’ve been relatively lucky here in Australia. However, the second wave in Melbourne has shown us that it is not only the elderly who are affected. Many frontline workers have caught it this time as well, and many of them are young, with families, taking risks every day to do their job. To protect us.
All they’re asking for in return is that we show some social responsibility
No one truly seems to know how much masks ward off this horrible virus, nevertheless, it is a preventative measure that could save lives. I take statins as a preventative measure because of a condition in my family that increases my risk of a heart attack, and not once have I questioned if I should have to.
And I shouldn’t have to say it, but social responsibility also means not going on a pub crawl or to a large house party.
We’re not being asked to sacrifice our lives in battle for our country. We’re being asked to help prevent the loss of more lives.
Innocent lives. Old lives. Young lives. White lives. Black lives. And for the record, middle-aged lives.
Which is something we can do.
Because no one deserves to die alone.
The headline of this post was prompted by a question my son asked me during one of our many conversations about feminism. And as we’re currently watching The Morning Show (known as Morning Wars here in Australia) — the main storyline of which is the Me Too movement — it prompted me to write about the topic.
The obvious answer to his question is stop raping women.
However, the majority of us are aware that the problem is not as clearcut as that and many men are still confused by what they see as new, complicated rules around dating and their interactions with women.
For those of you who haven’t watched the television series, it is about a successful American breakfast show hosted by two anchors, a man and woman. When the popular male anchor is called out for sexual harassment and abuse and promptly sacked, the station is left in shock and potentially a commercial mess.
The other anchor, a woman in her fifties, (who has sensed the precariousness of her position for some time), reacts impulsively in her attempt to take control of her future (for the first time) by filling the position with an inexperienced female presenter who values the truth above ratings, and who inevitably goes on to shake up the show’s comfortability.
However, it is the general fallout in the aftermath of the firing, triggered by the ongoing seedy behaviour and lack of repentance of the abuser, as well as the remorse of other members of the team — some of whom turned a blind eye to the abuse — that creates the real tension in the show.
Sadly, one thing this pandemic has highlighted is that the sexual abuse and murder of women hasn’t gone away
You might find it entertaining to know that my son is potentially a young Donald Trump in the making — although, I like to think that his rumination about the ways of the world — an in particular, the differences between the sexes — is a healthy part of growing up, that I try not to hold against him.
And, understandably, these types of conversation are never comfortable. There was an inevitability, I suppose, that with such an opinionated mother and his cohabitation with two staunch feminists during his formative teenage years and the Me Too movement, he would have questions as he starts dating in a society where the rules for men are changing.
Which is why I commend him for asking them, because when I was twenty-three, the only thing I was interested in was the bottom of a beer glass.
As anyone who celebrates Christmas with family, a close emotional connection can blur the lines around the rules of battle, and discussions have a tendency to get more personal.
Kanye West and Ben Shapiro have a lot to answer for when it comes to my son’s confusion about feminism, and in particular, the Me Too movement — which he sees as a witch hunt, For no matter how many times I point out that that only certain radical feminists hate men, his response is to cite weak examples of the behaviour of a small percentage of women murderers and abusers as his defence.
He will not accept my argument that every movement needs its share of radicals — albeit, that I’m not one — because, often, it takes their self-sacrifice and idealism to get the job done. I will accept that some take their idealism too far — and belong to a different category we call nutters — although I defy anyone who equates a group of women (and some men) pushing forward equality to groups such as ISIS or white supremacists.
Let me reiterate: I am a feminist, but I do not hate men, nor do I believe that all men are rapists or, indeed, would ever hurt a woman
What I do believe is that more men violate the rights of women than many realise or choose to believe, and many men choose not to be educated about what that violation means exactly. Wherein the real problem lies. That, and the self-indulgent, victimised response that certain men demonstrate in the line of fire.
Suffice it to say, I am also fully aware of how difficult some situations are to resolve when there are no witnesses and cases end up as a “his word against hers” scenario in court — see Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. That said, I will not capitulate on my beliefs simply to keep the peace at home.
Parenting never stops, and I have a responsibility for the way my son thinks about and treats women
Like I said, I wish we didn’t have to have these conversations. Of course, I wish my son could try and see things from my perspective and, in particular, from the perspective of the women who have opened the discussion. One day, I hope that these women (like the Suffragettes before them) are honoured for their bravery in coming forward. The Suffragettes were a group of radical women who got us the vote, so let’s hope that these modern women who are waging war against more than just the office creep, i.e. against racial discrimination, child molestation, domestic violence, marital rape, gang rape, and murder, effect the same changes.
Thirty women have already been murdered in Australia this year (Destroy The Joint)
That’s why I’m glad my son is asking questions. It is one step for him, but potentially a giant step for womankind, and if every man of his generation did the same, maybe those statistics will change. One day, I hope he believes me when I tell him that I don’t believe that all men are rapists. However, as long as society allows our system of patriarchy to prevail, his male sense of entitlement will be difficult to extinguish.
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CATEGORIES DISCRIMINATION, EQUAL RIGHTS, EQUALITY, FEMINISM, MEN, RELATIONSHIPS, SEXISM, WOMEN•TAGS #METOO, CONSENT, MURDER, RAPE, SEXUAL ABUSE, SEXUAL HARRASSMENT•EDIT”‘WHAT DO MEN HAVE TO DO TO STOP WOMEN ACCUSING THEM OF RAPE?’”
Bitter, much? Well, yes, if I’m completely honest.
There are only so many bouquets on Instagram that you can pretend like. And I’ve been forced to accept this sad development (or downturn, which is my preferred term) in our marriage because otherwise I would be a hypocrite.
For as my husband reminds me each time I brush the cobwebs off my one and only vase around the time of my birthday and our wedding anniversary, I am a feminist, and as such I shouldn’t expect any special treatment.
I am a feminist, hence I shouldn’t expect special treatment in the romance department…apparently
But isn’t there an argument for the hormones, greater sentimentality and heightened emotions of the female gender? Because meeting every demand of feminism is hard. And when it comes to flowers, I’m definitely what they call a “guilty feminist” — someone who stands by the majority of the political principles and beliefs of the cause, but who also has a teeny tiny weakness for certain aspects of the chivalry of the past — eg. men buying women flowers.
And…hear me out…I’ve even got a solution to this problem that suits both genders. Perhaps, the gift of flowers could be one way to balance up the inequality meted out in our biological makeup. Flowers for periods, say?
Or periods and menopause? Is that fairer?
We’re celebrating our anniversary this Friday, and I’ve booked us lunch at a swanky restaurant — not because I’m taking the romantic lead but because I don’t want my husband’s input which may fuck up my chances of going where I want to eat — and dutifully bought him an anniversary card.
We’ve reached the professional stage of taking each other for granted in our marriage
Which is what we agreed to do going forward, some years ago, now we’ve reached the professional stage of taking each other for granted in our marriage. We don’t splash out on gifts anymore because he pointed out we agreed that was a waste of money — I think he said something about us not needing material things to prove our love, and I fell for it — although, while the romance isn’t exactly dead, our relationship may need some oxygen.
I think he said something about us not needing material things to prove our love, and I fell for it
Twenty-seven years ago, he used to take me out to dinner and bought me a large bouquet of semi-alive flowers from the servo (nearest petrol station), for which I was grateful. Sometimes, I got chocolates as well, if he wanted a shag. And was it only fifteen years ago, when the kids were still young, that his female workmates he used to plan and cook a three-course meal for me — which, surely has to be definitive proof that I’m worth a bunch of flowers? After that we hit a large road-bump…hmmm… when we sunk to a take-out and found ourselves on the verge of divorce.
Hence, the dinner out was reinstated.
But not the flowers.
Why is it the longer most couples stay together, the less effort they make?
I UNDERSTAND FROM A FINANCIAL PERSPECTIVE THE POOR PLANNING WHEN IT CAME TO THE DATE OF OUR ANNIVERSARY — WHICH LANDS SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL FOUR FAMILY BIRTHDAYS.
But…he didn’t worry about unimportant things like money when we first met.
He married an old-fashioned girl who likes flowers… and that’s why I will be buying them for myself him this year.
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Recently, I wore a cropped sweater to work and one of the kids accused me of not dressing my age.
I was so outraged by the comment that I demanded to know why she expected me to kowtow to society’s construct of the way women should dress in middle-age?
And needless to say, she looked back at me blankly
The comment reminded me how much I despise the assumption that the minute they turn fifty, women should be expected to dress in a certain way. Which is why this week I decided to forgo another doom and gloom commentary on the state of the world (or mention of the word Victoria, for those of you here in Australia), and instead provide you with some light relief on another topic I’m also not very qualified to write about.
I’m talking fashion, ladies!
Before I go any further, let me say that I do understand the unbridled bliss experienced around the globe by middle-aged women as a result of the Covid-related excuse our governments provided us with to wear our activewear all of the time. BUT…if you’re anything like me (who quite likes getting dolled up once in a while), you’ve got to be pretty excited about the reopening of stores and the prospect of not having to spend a large proportion of your week in the “returns” aisle at your local post office.
Don’t get me wrong, I love comfort, but sometimes I also like to dress up, and the past four months of sanctions have been hard on those of us who are not naturally online shoppers. Added to which, I’m feeling a bit more body-confident, having lost 5kgs in a torturous diet imposed on me by my shaming, fitness-crazy husband between January and March, the results of which I am eager to flaunt.
And let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time before I get back on the carb bandwagon
Fortunately, we’re in winter at the moment here in Australia, and the best part about this three months of the year is that we can camouflage the truth. We can tuck the muffin top away in stretch jeans, hide the bat wings under oversized jumpers, and conceal the greys under caps and woolly hats. But my list of wardrobe essentials work for most of the year, wherever you are in the world. So if you’re a middle-aged woman who enjoys clothes and getting dressed up (on the rare occasion there’s nothing on Netflix), CHECK THEM OUT, and let me know what you think:
1. Skinny jeans — I know, I know, but hear me out, because it might surprise you to know that whatever your size, you can probably carry these off — especially now they’re available in a wide range of stretchy fabrics. In terms of Australian stockists, I like the Zara ones and the Decjuba “Riley” style, but I recently bought some at Country Road that are surprisingly flattering — because normally, nothing fits me in there. Make sure you get the high-waisted version for tucking in the muffin top and full-length — which gives you the option to roll them up. You may as well write “middle-aged” on your forehead if you go for the cropped version.
2. White Sneakers — I’m not sure why I avoided this trend for such a long time, but when I found a pair in Sportsgirl (for only $40), I couldn’t resist. Needless to say, I’ve worn them to death. The great thing about these shoes is that they’re neutral in colour (so they go with literally anything) and you can dress them up or down, depending on the occasion and your mood. Here’s Elle’s guide to the best white sneakers.
If you follow my socials, some of you will know that I splashed out on a black pair of sneakers from Guess this week. My son assures me they’re not too glitzy, but put it this way, I could compete with Tutankharmun’s tomb for the amount of bling on them.
3. The denim jacket — Another classic, which is a wardrobe staple for most of my friends in the UK that I decided I was too old for until I saw the one below in Katie’s (at 50% off). This is another wardrobe must-have because it’s just so versatile. And guess what, denim on denim is back, so you can pull off a Justin/Britney moment if your partner’s up for it. But if you’re not brave enough for that, this jacket is the perfect compliment to your patterned skirts and culottes as we move into spring.
4. Culottes — Love em or hate em (and I BLOODY LOVE them) — these are here to stay. Culottes are as contentious a topic as Vegemite and Marmite between women, but I think they flatter most body shapes and are more versatile than cargo pants. I’ve got culottes in a range of colours and fabrics, but I get most use out of my neutral ones. From a comfort perspective, I couldn’t live without them. I haven’t made a decision about the wider, longer 30s-style ones to recently hit the stores, but I’m sure we’ll be wearing this style of pant for a while longer. (Culottes below from MinkPink).
5. High-neck jumpers and tops — Whatever season you’re in right now, the roll-neck is back for some seventies comfort and style. There are long-sleeved, chunky versions for winter, and short-sleeved options if you’re in summer. Polo-necks, (as I was brought up to call them), are classy (in the same way as the twin set) and send out the message that you are a thinking, sexy women. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about high-neck jumpers on men — unless they’re Idris Elba, a Russian spy, or a sexy, young professor in search of their Mrs Robinson. Personally, I’ve always loved high-necked jumpers because they hide my eight chins, and I love this top from Seed.
Anything you’d like to add to the list?
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CATEGORIES ADVICE, AGEING, BEAUTY, BODY IMAGE, CLOTHING, FASHION, HUMOR, MIDDLE AGE, MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, SHOPPING, STYLE, WOMEN•TAGS CULOTTES, DENIM, DRESSING YOUR AGE, FASHION, MIDDLE AGE, SNEAKERS, STYLE, TURNING FIFTY•EDIT”5 WARDROBE ESSENTIALS EVERY MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN SHOULD HAVE”
Full Disclosure: As I write this post, I am sitting at my desk full of remorse at my complete lack of control around a wine bottle this weekend. Hence, I am probably the last person you should listen to about making the necessary improvements to your life to improve your longevity…
I read somewhere recently that scientists have discovered that genes and family history are a much smaller risk to our mortality than previously thought — that’s the good news. The bad news is that middle-age is apparently the optimal time (or last chance saloon) to make the necessary improvements to our lifestyle that improve our chances of living longer.
Hence, my hours of self-flagellation today.
What are “lifestyle improvements”? I hear you ask — not really
They’re all those boring things we have to do when we get old, like cutting back on drinking, stopping smoking, eating yucky green stuff — basically, you have to stop doing anything fun.
Now, some of you may know that a couple of years back (in what I now recognise was an out-of-control episode of health anxiety), I decided to take up jogging — or walking more quickly, as the old man likes to refer to it.
Why? I hear you ask. Well… as a result of a pretty scary family history of heart problems and certain other not-so-great life choices, I woke up one morning and knew that I should be exercising.
However, I am a realistic and quite naturally lazy person, so I also recognised that for me to stick with it, my chosen exercise had to:
- Be over as quickly as possible (relatively speaking), primarily because (as I mention a few times in this post) I hate it with a passion,
- Couldn’t take too much time out of my day, due to other hobbies such as drinking and eating lots, and
- Had to involve getting my heart-rate up to counter-balance aforementioned cray-cray family history.
To start with, I set myself the completely unrealistic goal of the 4kms Mothers Day Classic — which is basically a public pelvic floor challenge disguised as a fun run — which, God knows how, this one-time exercise-intolerant, slightly chubby, middle-aged woman managed to knock out of the park.
I’m lying, of course. I didn’t finish it quickly or with any great finesse — because even after months of training, I still HATED exercise with a passion — but I did finish
However, you can dismiss that inspiring little image of me crossing the finish line jubilantly that has mistakenly formed in your head, because any exhilaration I expected to feel at the end of the run never materialised. The reality was that I was knackered, swore I’d never run again, and then undid any good by vacuuming down a full English breakfast.
However, that false image of me does segue quite nicely into the “choices” we make with what time we have left that I talked about in my last post. Because no matter how much I continue to despise exercise, having lost my mother as a teenager, perhaps my biggest personal goal is to defy my genes and remain on this planet (to nag my children about how they’re not living up to expectation) for as long as possible.
As long as I continue to be in reasonable health.
Tbh, exercise that involves pain is not what I’d thought I’d be doing in my fifties and obviously not something I would normally choose to do in the little spare time I have, because…
It hurts… like everywhere. And that’s not the only downside when you’re middle-aged. So far, I’ve been lucky with my knees, but I’ve had a few wake-up calls when it comes to bladder control, I’ve found that I can’t knock back a couple of vinos the night before a jog, and some mornings my body aches so much I’m pretty certain it has finally succumbed to one of those terminal illnesses I’ve been waiting for my whole life — you can read about health anxiety here.
But while I would much prefer to go on a brisk walk with my girlfriends — with the added incentive of a wine milky coffee at the end of it — I know that’s not enough
Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or lie about how jogging gets easier. I’m not even trying to sell the jogging idea per se to you — there’s a huge selection of exercise options that may be more realistic or suit you better — what I’m trying to do is remind you about the importance of maintaining a level of fitness at our age.
Did you know that you can tell the state of someone’s health by the speed they walk? Sounds obvious, I know, but the next time you’re out with your friends, take a furtive look at how they cope with hills or distance. Because, once you hit fifty, it becomes glaringly obvious who is fit and who isn’t.
And trust me, it’s a slippery slope once you lose your fitness — one day you can’t get out of a chair, the next you struggle to walk up hills, and before you know it you can’t wipe your own arse
But there is a silver lining — and I’m not trying to sweeten the pain because Fitness First or any other torture chamber is paying me to. There are some actual benefits to exercise beyond the physical ones, such as:
- The impact on your mental health: Everyone has those days when they get so engrossed with work that they put off going outside and end the day in a slump at their desk. That used to happen to me all of the time until I realised how much that change of scene centred me. Whether it’s the beauty of nature, the increase in my heart-rate, or the free therapy from friends, I can guarantee that I feel more inspired and creative when I return. It’s like when you reset your computer. I am far more productive after exercise.
- The boost to your mood and confidence: I’m not going to promise that you’ll lose weight from exercise as I believe that what you put in your mouth is the biggest determiner of that, but I do think that a healthy diet with consistent exercise can help. Added to which, for middle-aged women, improving muscle tone and being a healthy weight will most likely increase your confidence. A dramatic boost of dopamine works wonders for mood — that’s why the crazy exercise junkies get addicted.
- The broadening of your community: Whether it’s a yoga class or a walk with friends, group exercise encourages connection — another vital component of longevity. It is believed that one of the reasons men die younger is because they lose their social connections as soon as they retire.
- The increase in your sense of empowerment: That whole idea about how you enjoy things so much more when you’ve worked hard for them (that our parents used to try and drill into us to make us do chores) is actually true. I feel so much more empowered about everything once I start to achieve personal goals. And I’m not afraid to reward myself generously for them.
I can guarantee you’ll enjoy that evening wine so much more when you feel like you’ve earned it
Anyone who was at school with me will tell you that I couldn’t run the length of the netball court without falling over, so if I can commit to exercise, anyone can. I know I preach about doing what you love — which if you are anything like me does not involve wheezing your way around the block, scaring old people and children — but life is about choices, and this is a necessary evil of middle-age.
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Have you felt really exhausted lately?
I know that excessive tiredness comes with the territory of menopause and living through a pandemic, but what I’m feeling at the moment is more like a heavy weight pushing down on me, squeezing every drop of energy from my body.
And I know exactly what it is — it’s frustration. The frustration of not being able to do everything I want to do in the free time at my disposal. You see, in the hours outside of the (vaguely) routine areas of my life I feel like I’m on a treadmill — running, without actually getting anywhere
I’m running, without actually getting anywhere
Coronavirus shone a brighter light on this problem, which if I’m honest has been niggling under the surface for years. It triggered a renewed urgency within me to get on with the stuff that brings me joy (in the words of Marie Kondo), which for me involves doing more, cramming as much new learning into whatever time I’ve got left.
I respect other women my age who choose to sit back and relax for this last chapter of their lives, but new learning empowers me, which has a positive knock-on effect on both my mental health and my relationships.
I’m simply not ready to slip quietly into the middle-aged woman box
When I moaned about my frustration with friends of mine, they suggested it might be linked to the pressure many of us feel about the need to achieve — that social media has intensified — to justify our right to equality in some way. But I don’t think it’s that. I’m old and ugly enough not to feel the pressure to have to impress anyone else and I’m also in the fortunate position where I don’t need to keep on “achieving” for financial reasons.
So what’s really stopping me from getting out there and kicking ass? Am I just a serial whinger or is it truly harder for women our age to kick our goals?
Where do I start?
1. My Body. Whilst I’VE accepted (sort of) that I look older (funny, that!), that’s not always the case when it comes to my work colleagues. And if the ageism that denies some middle-aged women their invitation to get jiggy at work social events isn’t bad enough, there’s the fact that some of us are treated like idiots. I’m certain that your average twenty-something isn’t actually aware of the memory lapses caused by menopause, and yet they can’t help talking to us like we’re two-year olds, or making assumptions about what we can and cannot do (particularly when it comes to technology). Snubs like these are hurtful and do nothing to alleviate our problems with concentration.
2. Mood Swings. Anti-depressants for anxiety (which help combat hot flushes), and an endometrial ablation for very heavy periods convinced me that I’d sail through menopause. So I wasn’t fully prepared for some of the other symptoms — in particular the mood swings, anger, and paranoia. Any idea how hard it is to get the creative juices flowing when you can’t stop obsessing about why your husband still can’t clean a bench top properly?
Men have no idea how exhausting it is to have to pretend you’re human when you feel like an axe-murderer on the inside
3. Lack of confidence. I know there’s no one else to blame but myself if I don’t achieve what I want, but I do believe that society and the way it views women of a certain age should share some of the responsibility. So often, the “What if I fly?” excitement in my head about a new project turns into a “What’s the point?” negativity when I’m confronted by discrimination. Added to which, some days, putting my goals first seems bloody impossible with the responsibilities of a day job, my home life and the emotional labour that goes with it. It feels like Imposter Syndrome to think that little me can do anything amazing.
4. Gratitude — I can’t ignore the voice in my head that says I should be grateful for what I’ve got. I’ve read a lot and listened to a ton of podcasts on the subject of privilege and I know I should feel more grateful than I do. I’m white, I’ve had a good education, and I’m relatively financially secure. But I still want more. Whilst I am incredibly grateful for what I’ve been given, I can’t be that sincere happy-clappy kind of grateful that some expect of people in my position. I still have dreams. And because being grateful is evidently not enough to make my happy, I’m starting to question if I’m just an inherently angry, selfish person.
5. That lack of me-time I keep mentioning, whichis (I admit it) turning me into that middle-aged stereotype I hate so much — the crabby Olive Kitteridge version. Lack of time to do what I WANT makes me resent people who make unnecessary demands of my time or who take advantage of that small part of my nature that can be generous. I begrudge the expectation that I should be responsible for all of the emotional labour in the family. This constant push and pull I experience about WHAT I SHOULD BE versus WHAT I WANT TO BE is exhausting and I’m tired of saying “yes” to everything and then hating myself and others for putting me in that position.
So, there it is…
If you’ve ever wondered why our age-group is portrayed as cantankerous old bitches, you might want to look beneath the surface. Frustration at feeling like we’re up against the clock all of the time is one cause of our sensitivity. The fear of not having enough time to complete everything we want to achieve is another.
Of course, I hope I’ll be remembered as “a good, caring person”, but is it so wrong to want more? Is it wrong to want something for me? To be ambitious? It”s not like my goals are unrealistic in any way — they are very highly achievable given the opportunity to prioritise them rather than have to fit them around everything else in my life.
When the virus first struck I put aside MY goals because I was worried about its impact on my mental health and the knock-on effect that might have on my ability to do my job, care for my family etc. I made a conscious decision not to take anything new on that might prove challenging… apart from crocheting — who was I kidding? — and removed myself from anything with the potential to trigger stress. In other words, I put everyone else first again and sacrificed my right to happiness. Being busy doing stuff I enjoy energises me; being busy making everyone else’s life easier doesn’t.
But perhaps my biggest problem is self-perception
Which brings me back, again, to that hurtful stereotype of the middle-aged woman, which contributes to the way we are discriminated by a society that, frankly, doesn’t needs any help in that department.
Middle-aged celebrities like Cindy Crawford who have “aged well” (Yuck!) may think that they are empowering women our age by looking fantastic and fit — but are they really? To me, it’s a bit like how porn educates young boys about sex, isn’t it? The women who inspire me are the ones who are authentic — middle-aged women such as Frances McDormand and Helen Mirren, who haven’t traded their looks for success. I have no problem with women who use their looks for their careers, but I do have a problem with women promoting the beauty of middle-age with surgical and financial help.
Brene Brown knows from personal experience how impossible it is to attain success and experience true happiness when we feel vulnerable. She believes that the people who are successful have to be totally confident in who they are, what they’re doing, and what they want. These people remove toxic people from their lives and they say no.
The truth is that successful people have to be a little bit selfish
And by “success”, I mean personal success, and achieving personal goals. And that’s, sadly, the realization I’ve come to as well. I’ve resolved to be more selfish from now on and place boundaries around my time.
But first of all, I need to manage my time better, which means going back to the drawing board and making a list of all the things I can’t give up (my day job and my family responsibilities), and the personal goals I want to add (new learning, publishing my manuscript, launching my writing business properly, exercise, travel and good food). And finally, I’ll decide what to cut from my life — because those things no longer bring me pleasure (Thanks again! Marie Kondo), because they aren’t value for money, or simply because they are a symptom of my weakness for taking on everyone else’s problems as well as dealing with my own.
I know it may sound crazy to do a complete re-evaluation of your life in your fifties, but how lucky are those of us who still have choices that are denied to so many?
Anyone else feel selfish about putting themselves first at this stage of their lives?
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CATEGORIES ADVICE, AGEING, BODY IMAGE, DISCRIMINATION, EQUALITY, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, MENOPAUSE, MIDDLE AGE, MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, WOMEN•TAGS AMBITION, MIDDLE-AGE, PERSONAL GOALS, SELF-AWARENESS, SELF-CARE•EDIT”MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN: WE NEED TO PUT OURSELVES FIRST NOW”
The question of whether black lives matter shouldn’t even be on the table right now. The questions we should be asking are how the system broke and how corrupt, exactly, are our police departments.
Anyone with half a brain cell understands that the colour of our skin doesn’t determine who we are, in the same way that anyone with a basic knowledge of history knows that the majority of white people have enjoyed a privilege denied to the majority of people of colour — something for which many of us are trying to make amends.
We can’t change history, but we can try and compensate for it.
George Floyd’s death has shone another light on the cancer in the US Police Department and the plight of the brave souls that are targeted by it. People of colour in the US have been scared for a long time, but this latest death has pushed them to their tipping point and triggered a united stand against racism and police brutality and corruption.
I will admit that as I write this post I fee scared too, in a different way. As a white woman of privilege, I’m scared about adding my personal thoughts about racism and injustice. I’m worried about using the wrong terminology; I’m worried that I don’t have the authority to write about the emotions of people of colour from my ivory tower. Most of all, I worry that my good intentions will be misinterpreted. And so all I can hope is that support, in whatever shape or form it comes, is welcome.
Fear and entitlement feed corruption in the police force.
It’s not like racism and corruption are endemic to the US, after all. The unmitigated fear linked to “difference” and the power struggles that emanate from it are worldwide struggles. As author Jordan P. Peterson states in his book “12 Rules For Life,” power play is part of the human condition that we see in many facets of life. There is a “dominance hierarchy in our society”, he confirms, although (unlike in the animal kingdom where dominance is a question of survival) there is also a level of chaos that our society hierarchies should never reach. And we are seeing that now, being leveraged by idiots like Trump.
Police brutality affects many groups of people — from people of colour to the LGBTQIA community, and the mentally ill.
In spite of the rise of fascism over the past few years, I’m not surprised we’ve reached this point. I still cling to the hope that the tide of discrimination is turning, and that ultimately we will learn to live more harmoniously together. I see signs that our sense of compassion is increasing and while social media has its dark side, this reaction has demonstrated a positive side to its visual evidence of injustices like George Floyd’s horrifying death. The harrowing footage of his last minutes must help educate us about the unfair treatment of those less fortunate than us. They also incite anger, which is needed to effect change.
It is clear that the powers of the police are too great and there is not enough accountability for what they do with them.
Watch any TV show like The Shield, In The Line of Duty or The Wire and you’ll see how easy it is for bad seeds to abuse their badge and take matters into their own hands, whether that’s out on the streets or on the inside — the justice system’s inability to jail “bad cops” is proof of that — so how can we make the system safer?
Could any of the ideas below help reduce the number of black deaths?
- Could removing some of the pressure off police officers — and in particular financial targets that increase the danger of prioritising economics over life — make a difference?
- What if we vetted applicants more closely? Without wishing to stereotype, there does seem to be a “type” that enters the police force. Or perhaps it is the nature of the job that causes “compassion fatigue” — a numbing detachment that is common to many first responders (which I wrote about here).
- Or if there was more training vis a vis the risks of poor impulse control and the “pack mentality” in high emotion situations?
- How about we reduce the number of armed police officers? We know that having a gun increases the risk of its use, and we also know that the British have one of the most successful police departments in the world — and the majority of their officers don’t carry guns.
- And finally, if we worked out a way to encourage more female police officers to join, could we make it mandatory for a woman to attend every crime scene in order to reduce the threat of physical violence?
It’s easy to criticise the police, I know…
And would I do the job of a police officer? Not on your life. Every one of us has been in a flight or flight situation that we’ve handled badly and the police encounter those situations every day. No one wants to find themselves with that split-second choice between their own life and someone else’s. That is also why other vulnerable young men like Elijah Holcombe died. Read Kate Wild’s coverage of his “accidental” death in her book Saving Elijah.
Sadly, many of these cases point to a sense of entitlement in the police force that increases the risk of violence.
Australia’s own indigenous population is targeted in the same way as the people of colour in the US, which has led to an increasing number of them being unfairly incarcerated. There have also been countless deaths in custody that remain unaccounted for — even after lengthy investigations. And to my mind, the way certain police behave on the streets — bullying young people for minor breaches of the law such as drinking in public or possession of recreational drugs for personal use demonstrates an abuse of their powers. My own son was once strip-searched in the back of a police van for looking “shady” and because he had a warning for personal possession of a small amount of marijuana on his record.
It has taken many deaths to expose the corruption in the police department, and George Floyd is one of many martyrs to lose their lives for the lives of others. But what a price he has paid to expose the corruption of the people employed to protect us!
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CATEGORIES CULTURE, DEATH, DISCRIMINATION, EQUAL RIGHTS, EQUALITY, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, NEWS, POLITICS, RACISM•TAGS ENTITLEMENT, FEAR, GEORGE FLOYD, POLICE CORRUPTION, PRICE, RACISM, US RIOTS•EDIT”THE SAD PRICE GEORGE FLOYD HAS PAID TO EXPOSE POLICE CORRUPTION”
Are you genuinely still social-distancing?
Or are you just socially anxious like me, and pretending you still have to?
If so, let me plan out next weekend for you because Angela at Heritage Films has asked me to give a shout-out for this wonderful, feel-good movie starring Renee Zellweger that they are premiering online between the 29th and 31st May. It’s called “Same Kind Of Different As Me,” and for each ticket sold (drum roll) a donation will be made to the Salvation Army and its Red Shield Appeal, who have been hit really hard this year.
Check out the movie trailer here:
A bit about the movie…
Ron Hall, played by Greg Kinnear in the movie, wrote the original story of “Same Kind Of Different As Me” — about a couple, whose lives change forever when they develop an unlikely friendship with Denver Moore, a homeless man — and sales from it have raised over $100,000 towards homelessness. As soon as Angela described it as “a true, inspirational story about a woman who transforms a city with kindness,” I knew it would be right up the street of a feel-good movie aficionado like me…especially now, during these dark, COVID times.
Who hasn’t loved Renee Zellweger since she dished up blue soup in Bridget Jones?
Evidently, Angela knew that flattery would get her everywhere (when she described me as a blogger with compassion in her pitch to me), but there are other (less shallow) reasons I want to endorse this movie premiere. Firstly, there are those massively important donations to The Salvation Army who “leave no-one in need” — and I know from personal experience how easy it is for any of us to suddenly find ourselves in a position of dependency on awesome charities such as these — and secondly, this is not just any old movie, it is a story with heart and soul, with an amazing cast, and I think most of us could do with a little of that right now.
Did You Know That Ugly-Crying Actually Enhances Your Mood?
This movie is guaranteed to release all those pent-up emotions of the last two months — which is a good thing because (interesting fact) a big, ugly cry actually ENHANCES your mood. And, frankly, it sounds like a) the perfect antidote to the Corona blues and b) the ultimate way to waste a lazy weekend afternoon for the professional couch potatoes among us.
But if those aren’t big enough incentives, remember that feel-good stories like these force us to think about how lucky we are — a really important reminder for those of us fortunate enough to come out of COVID-19 relatively unscathed.
Anything that gives us pause for thought and time to reflect on our priorities is a good thing, right?
AND FINALLY, THE BEST BIT. With your invitation to watch this movie, you are ALSO invited to the pre-movie program which includes interviews with the stars and the author, i.e. the perfect excuse to put on your glad rags for the first time (in what feels like a decade) and crack open a bottle of bubbly.
You can buy your movie pass HERE, and once you receive it you’ll get 48hrs to complete the movie and two weeks to start it.
And remember, the MAIN reason I’m giving you permission to take an afternoon off is because single and family movie passes make a direct donation to this year’s RED SHIELD APPEAL.
And while I’m on the subject of THE BEST FEEL-GOOD MOVIES, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few of my own. I’m not an idiot, so I realise that anyone worth their salted popcorn (when it comes to tearjerkers) will have seen most of these already, but if you haven’t, hit up a box of Maltesers, get out the blankets and give them a shot.
- The Green Mile — Starring Sandra Bullock, the queen of feel-good movies.
2. When Harry Met Sally — Who hasn’t been in the situation this couple finds themselves in “the morning after”? Harry’s expression says it all. It always reminds me of the look on the old man’s face the morning after we (drunkenly) decided to try for a baby.
3. Chocolat — Anything French is “HOT AF!” I would definitely turn for Juliette Binoche.
4. Love Actually — So yeah, in terms of political correctness, this movie hasn’t aged the best, but who can forget the magic of that wedding, THAT funeral, or the brutal bedroom scene caused by Snape’s infidelity.
5. Notting Hill — The fairytale. “I’m just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking him to love her.”
6. Steel Magnolias — The best story about friendship. Hankies a must.
7. Ten Things I Hate About You — Heath Ledger. *Sob*
8. Pride and Prejudice — Where Mr Darcy’s awkwardness is almost as sexy as a man carrying a baby.
9. Four Weddings And A Funeral — This movie always reminds me of the year of our wedding, minus the funeral. So many memories, so embarrassingly nineties.
10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding — John Corbett at his sexiest. We learnt what a bunt was and we’ll never say I.A.N the same way again.
11. Forrest Gump — An epic journey of kindness.
12. The Shawshank Redemption — The best bromance.
14. The Holiday — Cutest cottage, kid, and dad.
13. Bridget Jones Diary — The most accurate depiction of those angst-ridden years of our late-twenties and early-thirties. The best song to sing with a hairbrush.
15. Grease — The first movie I saw at the cinema with friends.
16. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape — The subtle introduction of Leonardo to the world.
17. Silver Linings Playbook — The most romantic take on love with mental illness.
18. Dead Poets Society — Robin Williams “Oh captain, my captain…’
19. Bend It Like Beckham — An inspirational tale for young girls everywhere.
20. My Left Foot — The courage and determination of Christy Brown.
21. The Full Monty — Finally, some titillation for the ladies.
22. Bridesmaids — Too many hysterical moments in this movie to mention, but…every bride’s worst nightmare has to be a bad case of diarrhoea in your wedding dress.
23. The Untouchables — A mesmerising story of friendship and hope.
24. The Body Guard/Field Of Dreams/Dances With Wolves — Something for everyone. Who knew that Kevin Costner was such a feel-good film maker?
25. Benny And Joon — A beautiful film about love and “difference”.
Any movies I need to add to my list?
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CATEGORIES ADVICE, DISCRIMINATION, EQUAL RIGHTS, FEEL-GOOD MOVIES, FRIENDSHIP, HAPPINESS, HUMOR, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, MOVIE REVIEW, MOVIES, MOVIES, RELATIONSHIPS•TAGS FEEL-GOOD MOVIES, INSPIRATION, KINDNESS, MOVIE, MOVIE OFFER, MOVIE REVIEW, MOVIES, PREMIERE, RENE ZELLWEGER, SALVATION ARMY•EDIT”THE 25 BEST FEEL-GOOD MOVIES FOR LAZY WEEKENDS”
What’s surprised me most about this virus and its impact on my life is WHAT I HAVEN’T MISSED in isolation. While the 5 O’clock shadow above my lip is evidence of how much my body has missed the minimal amount of upkeep it demands — there’s loads of stuff I thought my happiness depended upon that I haven’t missed of all.
Obviously, I’ve missed certain elements of my life — going to restaurants, weekends away, and trips to the movies, to name a few — but what this virus has gifted me is a window to put into perspective what’s truly important in my life and what isn’t.
Below are 5 surprising things I haven’t missed in isolation:
FRIENDS, before you rush to Facebook to unfriend me, hear me out. Because I’m not talking about people per se, I’m talking about people I don’t really know that I’m forced to mix with at large social events or in the work environment. You see, one of the chronic sides to my anxiety is my social anxiety, which I’m sure is not that obvious to most people — because I’m a professional at disguising it, AKA an alcoholic — but it’s a problem that explains why a big part of me is loving this excuse not to leave the house right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t become a recluse in isolation whose only source of happiness comes from her dog and bullying her husband — I’ve been working my butt off within the four walls of our home — but I think the extra enthusiasm for work has derived from my contentment at being alone, rather than under the gaze of others.
The work required to socialise is what kills me, i.e. the diplomacy required to fit everyone in and not offend anyone. So while I’ve kept myself busy during this time, I’ve not missed being socially busy and I’ve embraced the extra time and energy to pour into projects I WANT TO DO that I’ve had to put on the back burner in the past.
There’s not much point in clothes shopping when there’s nowhere to go — not that that stopped me before — but on the rare occasion I’ve visited the mall for “essentials”, I’ve discovered that my desire to shop has all but disappeared — cue fist pump from hubby. Materialism really does feel unessential right now.
And it’s nothing to do with not having the cash to splash, it’s about that change in my priorities again. I used to waste hours at the mall, trying to live up to unrealistic expectations that now seen ridiculous. Like many women, treating myself and spending compulsively used to make me feel better about myself — now I wonder why.
3. My Anxiety
This is a strange one when governments around the world are preparing for a mental health emergency, but it makes complete sense to me. Aside from the ramifications of certain domestic triggers (hmmm…), my anxiety hasn’t been exacerbated by COVID-19 — if anything it has reduced, and recent research in Japan confirms that I’m not alone. This may be because triggers such as work have been removed, or it may be (my theory) that the threat of the virus trumps most of the fears anxious people like me ruminate about on a daily basis. COVID-19 is the disaster of epic proportions we over-thinkers have been waiting for our whole lives, and now it’s here it feels somehow more tangible. It’s like looking the enemy in the eye.
Added to which, health anxiety simply isn’t an option right now — I mean, NO-ONE in their right mind wants to end up in the ER at the moment, right? On the personal front, while having Kurt back at home has added some tensions, it has also removed the fear those calls in the middle of the night caused. Enabling or not, it is much easier to support him during this pandemic under our own roof.
4. “The Treadmill”
The treadmill issue ties in with people and my anxiety. While I like my routine, I don’t necessarily enjoy all of the functions on my personal treadmill. At fifty-four, I’m still trying to shape my life into the one I want i.e. working for myself (preferably from home); and doing something I feel passionately about that scales well with my work-life balance. This break from certain outside pressures has paused the tension that usually mounts. It has provided me the opportunity to step back and do exactly what I want for a short space of time, when I want to. I’ve been able to step off the treadmill and roll around in the bedding.
5. The Weight Of Expectation
I am aware that it is my personal responsibility to control the weight of expectation I feel — or so my therapist says. Everyone wants to succeed, but for those of us who measure success in terms of work- life balance rather than financial reward, that weight of expectation can feel heavier and be difficult to keep in proportion. This difficulty is interlinked with my anxiety and I can only describe it as needing to nail everything, to be there for everyone, not to let anyone down even if when I’m drowning. With less expectation, my head has bobbed back to the surface of the water again.
Of course, these thoughts may just be symptomatic of middle age
I can’t deny that I’ve had an innate desire to find more inner peace for some time, and for those of us lucky enough to come through this virus unscathed, a positive of this COVID-19 experience has been how it has highlighted areas of our lives we took for granted. Nature, family relationships, and my health have been pushed back up to the top of my priority list. I may be missing the opportunity to explore countries I’ve never travelled to before, but I won’t miss the anxiety that used to accompany those trips, in much the same way I haven’t missed my invisibility at our local pub.
Is there anything surprising you haven’t missed in isolation?
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CATEGORIES ADVICE, AGEING, ANXIETY, HAPPINESS, HEALTH, HUMOR, LIFESTYLE, MENTAL HEALTH, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, SHOPPING, WORK•TAGS ADVICE, AGEING, ANXIETY, COVID19, ISOLATION, MENTAL HEALTH, MIDDLE AGE, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, PEOPLE, SOCIAL ANXIETY•EDIT”THE 5 SURPRISING THINGS I HAVEN’T MISSED IN ISOLATION”
To be honest, I thought I’d done my time in share houses until COVID-19 attacked our shores, but it turns out that the most confronting change brought about by this virus is not my fear of catching it but my forced cohabitation with two men.
Some of you know that when the country shut down, like many adult kids working in hospitality, our twenty-two year old son was forced to return home due to financial concerns. In general, I’m not one to praise this government’s policies, but on this occasion I’ve got nothing bad to say about its generosity in terms of financial bailouts — other than it could have stretched to bar-tenders, who have a preference for nocturnal hours and making cocktails in the middle of them. But unfortunately, the considerable financial commitment required to live in a rental property in Sydney has sealed my fate and I’m back living in a share house.
I have to say that it’s been some time since I witnessed firsthand the huge chasm between men and women that cohabiting highlights. I know I’m generalising here — because no one can compete with my daughter for the world’s untidiest bedroom — but while (in general) I embrace the contrasting skills that gender diversity brings to the table, living in close proximity to two men again has been a stark reminder.
And it’s not like we weren’t prepared. The old man and I thought long and hard before we welcomed our son back into the fold. I’d go so far as to say that we thought we had our new living arrangement sussed when we decided that the best way forward was to treat Kurt as a tenant. That way, we justified, there would be less danger of me resorting back to “nagging Mum” — which I hate even more than him — and Kurt would show us the respect he would a landlord.
The truth is, it’s only taken Kurt a few short weeks to wear the trousers again — or not, as the case may be — making it more and more difficult to find that balance.
I mean, it’s not like your average tenant would walk around the house naked or steal your booze and expect to get away with it, is it?
Even though Kurt is a Gen Y Metrosexual (with a liberal dose of OCD), the usual share house conflicts in regard to cleaning and cooking responsibilities have already been triggered. Although, they’re not as bad as another issue, that I wasn’t expecting — THE FIGHT FOR THE BALANCE OF POWER.
And how come men get so brave in a group?
Below are some of the triggers I’m talking about:
- No-one ever sweeps the bloody floor apart from me! — Allow me to put that indignant comment in some context. I AM THE ONLY ONE BLOODY WORKING at the moment, and yet it appears that men can quite happily trample over last night’s dinner preparations, stray dog biscuits, and poop stains (that the old man walked in from the garden) on the floor, without getting grossed out.
- The toilet brush is invisible — I gave up trying to explain to the old man what the toilet brush was for a long time ago, but I truly believed that I had educated my son about what it was for. Silly me.
- The distinct bromance/brotherhood/pack mentality that has emerged — That whole “what happens on tour code” has been reinstated since the Prodigal Son returned. It seems that men become uncharacteristically brave when there is more than one of them. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but over the past few weeks there have been signs of a possible male coup when it comes to power. Suddenly, I am the butt of all jokes, our TV viewing has been limited to violent, comic-book, sports or science-fiction movies, and my gourmet cooking (once prized by the old man) has been ridiculed while his pathetic attempts to successfully plate up a baked potato have been bigged up.
- The new location of the dishwasher is apparently in the Bermuda Triangle — Apparently, the distance between the kitchen sink and dish washer is insurmountable.
- Our new method of communication is farting. While not so vocal when it comes to smalltalk (or discussions about whose responsibility it is to sweep the floor), the men in my house are fluent in the language of farting. Where does that amount of gas come from, and why are they so damned proud of it?
- Nudity is a perfectly acceptable dress code ANYWHERE in the house. No, I don’t want your dick in my face when I’m drinking my morning coffee. PUT SOME BLOODY CLOTHES ON!
- The length of time men can spend in the bathroom. And why their optimum pooping window is always just before I need to use it?
- The old “replacing the toilet roll” conundrum — And what exactly are they using when there isn’t any toilet roll in the bathroom?
- The cold — I hadn’t realized before that we were living on Everest. Exactly how many fingers and toes am I expected to lose before I’m allowed to turn off the air con?
- All men do think about is food — When are they NOT thinking about their next meal, snack, second or third breakfast? The only three words I can guarantee from my two boys in 24 hours which are “What’s for dinner?”
- That privacy is subjective — Kurt informed me in no uncertain terms that I was to knock on his door before entering his room — in case he was doing something no mum should ever see. However, when I requested the same courtesy, I was laughed at. That’s why I make no apologies for the number of times he has found my tits in his face — although his assuredness that I’m past it continues to irk.
Anyone else had their boys return home?
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CATEGORIES EQUALITY, FAMILY, HOME, HUMOR, MEN, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, PARENTING, RELATIONSHIPS•TAGS COHABITATION, COVID19, GENDER DIFFERENCES, GENDERDIVERSITY, HUMOR, MOTHER/SON RELATIONSHIPS, SHARE HOUSES•EDIT”11 PAINFUL TRUTHS ABOUT LIVING WITH MEN”
Historically, c-words have had a bad rap. For example, the c-word “c*nt” is described as a vulgarism for female genitalia on Wikipedia, and the euphemism for “cancer” used to be the archetypal c-word. That is until recently, when a far more sinister c-word entered our vocabulary.
I suppose it is fortunate, therefore, that the negative connotation of some words evolve over time. “C*nt” and “cancer”, for example — words deemed so terrible in the past that they had to be given euphemisms — have become increasingly popular in modern conversation.
Which I’m rather glad about. You see, I’m rather partial to the word “c*nt” — in spite of how Americans feel about it. In my opinion, there is no better word to describe someone who is, frankly, more of a “c*nt” than a “knob” or a “dick”.
And it might surprise you to know that for many modern women, “c*nt” is not seen as a derogatory word. It is actually an empowering word for some of us, because we don’t see our genitalia as threatening, ugly or something to be ashamed of. We see them as a thing of beauty, a valuable weapon for our sex, and the embodiment of womanhood. It is my pride in my sexuality that empowers the word.
Modern women don’t see women’s genitalia as threatening, ugly or something to be ashamed of
Australian comedian Judith Lucy demonstrates her liberal use of the word in her wonderful podcast “Overwhelmed and Dying”. Indeed, so comfortable is Judith with the word “c*nt” (and pretty much every other modern expletive), recently she had a portrait of her c*nt made — You can hear about it on the episode “Hanging Up My Vagina” here.
Cancer was another c-word that was only ever mentioned in hushed tones
“Cancer” was another of those words no-one talked about either. During my childhood, the disease was only ever referred to as the c-word for reasons I’m still not clear about. Ignorance, perhaps, or a symptom of the anxiety that followed two world wars in which society had been encouraged into a short term, false sense of stoicism that the disease ignored. Of course, it didn’t help its popularity that cancer was seen as guaranteed death sentence back then.
Even today, medical researchers implore doctors not to use the word cancer (unless absolutely necessary) due to its power to induce panic.
Fortunately, prognoses have improved for many cancer sufferers, as has their level of public support and our general awareness about the disease. So much so, some cancer sufferers are quite comfortable to talk about their journey, including what they LEARNED from it — whether that’s a greater appreciation for life or a timely reminder to make changes before it’s too late.
As Martha Carlsen says: “Don’t be afraid of the C word. Go ahead and fear or despise cancer itself and what the treatments may bring. But don’t be afraid of the word. Saying it out loud won’t make the disease worse or cause your treatments to fail or scare your friends away,” here
And now this new c-word has reached our shores
So is COVID-19 the new c-word? Because the living hell that it has unleashed around the globe makes it is damned near impossible not to drop its name into every conversation or to lap up every detail of it’s trajectory like a dog with a bowl of ice-cream. This virus will leave a hideous legacy. It has taken innocent lives, threatened others, and its overall impact is certain to destroy far more than public health.
Yep, it’s a bit of a c*nt!
Nevertheless, I don’t think so.
I think some good can come from this virus
It may not be blatantly obvious YET, but this virus is responsible for some seriously good shit. It has given us pause for thought. It has forced us take a break, sit back and reflect on our lives and the choices we are making. It has made some of us stop taking our relationships for granted, drawn a line under the relationships of others, and redefined life goals for many. It has helped us acknowledge the previously undervalued foundations of our society who are now out there on the frontline, battling to save lives.
Maybe some of the changes it causes will be positive?
I hope so. While the toll on our mental health will be enormous and the impact on the world economy is yet to be calculated, I’m certain that the legacy of COVID-19 won’t be all bad. Positive changes are already being seen in the workplace, for example, and as a result of social distancing rules it’s likely that when employees come out of isolation in search of jobs, their priority will be ones that offer greater work flexibility for a better work/lifestyle balance; the responsibility of childcare will be shared more evenly between couples, and there will be a greater investment by the government into healthcare.
And while we have yet to see the full benefit of isolation on our environment, the signs are positive in terms of pollution and its effect on climate change as well.
On a personal note, this period has reminded me of how lucky I am that I married my best friend
Even I have noticed subtle changes in my own thinking over these past few weeks. Check-ins from friends and family have moved me and served as a valuable reminder to service my relationships more often; this taste of retirement has reassured me that I will have plenty of purpose when the time comes, and I have never felt more grateful about being married to my best friend.
And so, while c-words are never good, it is handy to remember that most clouds have a silver lining
What subtle changes have you noticed in your life?
CATEGORIES ADVICE, FEMINISM, GRATITUDE, HAPPINESS, HUMOR, LIFESTYLE, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, RETIREMENT•TAGS ADVICE, COVID-19, POSITIVE VIBES, POSITIVITY, SILVER LINING, WOMEN•EDIT”C-WORDS LIKE COVID-19 ARE NEVER GOOD, BUT MOST CLOUDS HAVE A SILVER LINING”
It’s very easy to get sucked in by the words on those memes about writing a novel or finding a cure for cancer during this period of isolation, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me.
After all, who doesn’t want to defy the challenge posed by this pandemic and come out at the end of it with a Nobel Peace Prize?
Personally, though, I prefer the memes that focus on simply getting through these trying times. Loser talk for some, I know, but it’s important to remember that not all of us are driven by competition or what “The Jones” are doing. For some of us, the best way to handle this type of crisis is by taking each breath carefully.
And that’s okay.
This week, I noticed several people on Twitter mention the need to grieve the loss of time caused by this pandemic, and in an article by Geoffrey Mak in The Guardian, he concurred that “Some days grief entails languishing in bed, because that is surviving.”
That’s essentially what I’m doing — I’m taking each day at a time as we wait for the finale of this virus’ terrifying journey.
Having Kurt back at home has helped distract me and forced me to set clear intentions each day as I’ve watched him discover the importance of setting them for himself. ADHD does not like being locked up in isolation or a lack of a routine.
His four goals the other day were to learn a new trick on his skateboard, to memorise a new song, have a bath, and edit a chapter of my manuscript that he’s sat on for at least six months, and by the end of the day he had ticked off three out of the four. And that’s okay.
Self-awareness from past disappointments has taught him the need to be realistic in his intentions.
Elaine Lipworth discusses the benefits of clear intentions to combat anxiety during crises such as this in her piece on Thrive Global here. She reiterates the importance of not “setting yourself up for failure and mentally beating up on yourself for not being able to achieve your goals,” (which is a quote from Khazan, author of Biofeedback and Mindfulness In Everyday Life).
I.e. The importance of setting up achievable goals.
Anyway, it turns out that I am very similar to my son in the respect of intentions. I am much happier with a routine and that’s why I’ve been setting my own clear intentions over the past week, along with some “ideal world” ones are are more like goals. You see, unless I keep myself busy, I find it impossible to escape the vortex of the media’s depressing post-mortems about every aspect of COVID-19, which exacerbates my anxiety.
These are my daily intentions at the moment:
- Daily exercise — Typically a walk or a short run.
- Pitching — Sending ideas for articles to editors
- Eating — Enjoying at least one special meal a day, or even trying out a new recipe
- Writing — Articles, my blog posts, and manuscripts
- Reading — As much as I can
- And clearing out my inbox daily
Things don’t always go to plan. Yesterday, for example, I had to forego my exercise due to a dodgy stomach that the old man insinuated was caused by too much Easter chocolate.
And that’s okay.
When it comes to those “ideal world” intentions — which again, I admit are closer to goals — I’m not putting any real pressure on myself to achieve them, but they include:
- Online learning — Completing a content marketing course and commencing an advanced web design course with TAFE — did you know that they are running some free, online short courses during lockdown? Check them out here.
- And I’m also teaching myself how to crochet — a skill I had hoped I’d have nailed by now and could share with the kids back at school, but I’m not certain that will happen this school year!
Some of you will be thinking WTF! right now, while others among you — the would-be high-achievers — will be seriously questioning what I’m doing with my time. And that’s because we’re all different, and each one of us is handling the impact of this virus the best way we can, within the limited scope of what we understand about it.
And we’re not all in the same boat. Some of us will be balancing these intentions with work and homeschooling kids, while still others will be coping with the onset of mental health issues triggered by the virus and struggle to get out of bed each morning.
And that’s okay.
But if you ARE that person who is focused on simply “surviving” — i.e. whose best intentions are to watch Netflix, brush your hair daily, or make it downstairs, you can still try to be specific in those intentions. Don’t short-change yourself. Make them meaningful in some way is what Elaine suggests.
For example, you might try out some new healthier recipes when you cook, or try dying your hair. If you’re feeling strong enough to give a new “exercise” a go like Kurt, set yourself a specific goal linked to it. And if Netflix is what slows down those bad thoughts in your brain, try to prioritise some shows with educational benefits as well as entertaining ones.
On paper, this self-imposed isolation looked like “the dream” to some of us, but the truth is, that’s not always the case. Why? Because people need connection.
While there’s nothing to prove at the end of this period, clear intentions will help keep you focused on the end goal and a healthier outlook for what’s left of the year.
Who knows, you might even unleash some undiscovered creativity! Although I’m not sure mine will have anything to do with a crochet needle.
What your clear intentions at the moment? What’s working for you?
CATEGORIES ADVICE, ANXIETY, HEALTH, HOME, MENTAL HEALTH, MIDLIFE OBSERVATIONS, NEWS•TAGS ADVICE, CLEAR INTENTIONS, CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19, FOCUS, GOALS, MENTAL HEALTH•EDIT”“CLEAR INTENTIONS” MAY HELP YOU FOCUS IN LOCKDOWN, BUT TREADING WATER IS ALSO FINE”
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