Middle Age Reflections

Friends, it’s been a few weeks since I blogged. No excuses, just busy having a good time, gadding about in the Wyre Forest and beyond, and NOT WORKING! Instead I have been mostly at home, playing with children, browsing in shops, doing housework and gardening, reading, watching TV, listening to music, running, taking photos. It’s the life, for sure, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

So, I’ve been keeping myself busy cooking up a couple of possible money-spinning writing projects which might or might not amount to anything (I’ll let you know if anything comes to pass) and also checking out possible job opportunities as a fallback.

In the meantime, I don’t imagine you’ve been desperately awaiting the next instalment of my life story, but I’m in the mood for a chat – so here goes.

Earlier today, I looked in the mirror. Properly looked in the mirror. It was scary but I had no choice (I was getting my hair cut).

I was surprised to find I liked what I saw. I’ve never been particularly vain or troubled by how I look, aside from the occasional going-out whine that “I’ve got nothing to wear”, or when I try on clothes in a communal changing room.

As a perennial tubby (I’ve probably been a stone or more overweight for most of the past ten years) I’ve had my moments of self-hatred and crazy dieting, but I’m pretty happy in my own skin these days.

I’ve still got my own hair (dyed) and teeth (crowned); my eyesight is still 20:20; and I have “the hearing of an 18 year old” (Kidderminster audiologist, Jan 2010). I may be on the stout side, but I can give most skinny lasses a run for their money over 3 miles; I’ve got wrinkles, aches and pains in strange places, but have escaped so far the ravages of serious illness. All in all, it’s not a bad return for no effort whatsoever.

I have decided I should try a little bit harder though. This has been triggered by three recent events. The first was on Friday, when I went out for the evening with one of my best chums. She looked gorgeous in a stunning dress, with flawless hair and make-up; I, on the other hand, turned up in scruffy jeans, sandals and a top that’s seen better days, looking like a grubby impoverished student. The contrast between us did make me think I needed to up my game a bit.

This was enhanced further when I decided to apply for a job, which I’d found on an internet seach. Applications for the job – as a part-time teaching assistant at a village school – had to be in the next day. I duly printed off and filled in an application form and put it aside ready to deliver by hand. I then promptly forgot all about it and only remembered when I saw it on the mantelpiece the next day, an hour before the school was closing. With no time to change, I just brushed my hair, added a liberal spray of perfume and dabbed some lippy on before setting off. I was in gardening jeans and a slightly grubby t-shirt, with grass cuttings on my converse trainers. I pulled on a coat and scarf, despite the sweltering heat, to hide my clothes, and hoped I could just hand over the application and disappear. Inevitably, the head was in her office and invited me in for a quick tour, all the while scanning me up and down. I must have looked rubbish as well as very hot (but not in a good way). Not the first impression I was hoping to make. Ah well, I didn’t really want the job anyway…

Finally, I was helping my son fill in a school project about healthy eating – and I realised I hadn’t eaten my five a day for at least a week. It was more like two a day. For a non meat eater this is particularly pathetic.

So now I have a ticklist – more fruit and veg and water, dress smarter and do more girly maintenance things. Easy. There’s even an app for my iphone that can tell me what I need to do and when. How can I go wrong?

I’m even planning to increase my running (but more of this in a separate blog later this week).

So, now I’ve got the plan for an improved physical appearance plan in place, the rest (the psychological stuff) will be easy. Yeah. Right.

I naively thought that with age and motherhood came wisdom and supreme confidence. I used to look at my mum and think that I would one day be able to do what she did – juggling kids, work, home, parents, finances – seemingly with ease. I thought there would come a time when I’d have all the answers at my fingertips, that I’d worry about nothing, that childish woes would cease. How silly I was. Little did I know how much she struggled to keep it all together.

I was 40 just over two years ago. I feel SO much happier, more relaxed and content with my life today than when I hit that milestone. If I’m honest, the approaching anniversary sent me into freefall – I was a mess. I was working for myself as a freelance PR consultant, feeling completely out of my depth, and had a two year old and a seven year old to look after. Suddenly it all seemed too much. I was over-anxious, easily overwhelmed, introspective and frightened of my own shadow. Everything became a crisis, a source of potential panic. Thankfully, I had a lovely family to help me find myself again, and saw a very nice man who helped me make sense of what was going on in my head. I can look back on that time now as one of those clichéd “positive learning experiences”. It was shit at the time though.

If perchance you happen to be in a similar place – well, my heart goes out to you. All I can say is that it will pass, you will learn to smell the roses again. Everything passes, honestly – both the bad times and, annoyingly, the good.

I am off out tomorrow to help a friend celebrate her 40th. I think she’s dealing with it rather better than I was. She actually wants to celebrate it for a start – I just wanted to dig a hole and get in it!

So, here’s to those of us approaching or in their middle age. A funny place to be. All sagging skin, eye creams, medication, dental appointments, Saga insurance invitations and hair dye. But it’s also a blast, if you just let yourself savour every moment. The realisation that time is ticking on hopefully helps you act, not procrastinate. I’m learning not to give a damn what other people think, and just do what I want when I want.It’s very liberating.

As Motormouth Maybelle puts it so eloquently in Hairspray The Musical: “I know where I’m going – and I know where I’ve been.”

Or perhaps I should be quoting Kermit the Frog: “It’s not at the bottom, it’s not at the top, but this is the place where I always stop…”

In other news: I’ve been taking quite a lot of photos recently but only of the snapshot variety, capturing friends and family at play. These are some of my recent favourites, taken on a camping trip near Cardigan Bay at half-term. Sunny days, boozy nights, the company of dear friends – just great. Let the good times roll, I say – while I’ve still got my own teeth.

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