Posts Tagged ‘ middle-aged ’

Crisis? What Crisis?

I’m 43 years old. Blimey.When did that happen? In my head I’m still just a flibberty-gibbet, a teen angel, a babe in arms. But I’m not; I’m 43. Bloody hell. When I got caught smoking at school, aged 15, I had to take a letter home to my parents. I recall being terrified about my parents’ reaction, and dreaded the sound of them coming up the stairs on their return home from work to confront me – yet also recall, really vividly, that in the midst of my telling off all I was thinking was how OLD they looked, with their disappointed faces and angry folded arms. And how superior I was, with my youth and brilliance.

They would have been at least five years younger than I am now, so God knows how my kids see me when I’m laying down the law. Youngest inexplicably thinks I’m 29. He has no idea about age; he thinks his granny (70) is 43.

So, like it or not, I’m officially middle aged. The least I can do to mark such a momentous event is to take up hang-gliding, take a lover, or take a dive into insanity. I have no desire to do any of these.

I’m writing this in a French forest, at a picnic table outside our holiday home in a Yelloh! village an hour and a half’s train ride from Paris, in the complete darkness, drunk on wine and contentment, while my beautiful family sleeps and snores feet away. The thrum of busy insect life is occasionally punctuated by a scurrying beast or the incredibly loud thwack of acorn against roof. It is amazing here; a place of complete and utter tranquility. I am at peace.

It was not always thus. Three years ago, approaching my 40th birthday, I did go a tad insane. For people who have read my blog for a while, or who know me, this was proper off the rails – for a couple of weeks I was barely able to get the kids to school of a morning, let alone be much good for owt. (By the way, I’m not from Yorkshire, but it does seem to be my default setting when merry to get all “owt” and “twas” and “twat”.)

But – and it took a while admittedly, and needed the support of my ace family  – I got through it. I still have my moments of stress and anxiety, but mostly I am totally sane. (Hahaha-hahaha-hahaha *runs like loon around holiday park dressed in nothing but a figleaf and elf ears*)

The last three months have tested my sanity to the max. I have taken on a trying new role (part time, they said – part time, my arse) combined with looking after the kids, house and family stuff, and trying to drum up a bit of business of the PR variety. If I was going to lose it, I probably would have by now. Admittedly, I’ve come close once or twice. Only two weeks ago I was so caught up with juggling work demands, childcare, general household responsibility and a million other things that, in the midst of rowing with my 10 year old, I drove off after filling up with petrol at my local petrol station without paying. Thankfully a nice policeman and the garage manager trusted in my innate honesty and recognised my misdemeanour for the absolute mindblock that it was, and let me off.

Other than that blot, I have generally remained calm and collected in the face of considerable pressure. Now, finally, three years on, I feel a corner has been turned, a hurdle cleared, a lesson learned. It seems I can cope after all; I am not destined for the loony bin just yet.

I can, it seems, do a job that I am falling in love with, despite its excessive demands on my time and brain power, while also caring for and spending quality time with my kids and family. Friendships have definitely suffered along the way, but I’m desperately planning to make amends on that score over the next few months. Generally, though, I feel I have survived a tough few months and things can now only get better.

So, now what? What have you got planned now, middle age?

As increasing numbers of friends and acquaintances face up to illness and disability, to loss and pain, it’s obvious that becoming middle aged brings increasing vulnerability to the rigours of being a mere mortal. I used to feel I was immune, infallible, that somehow I was one of the chosen ones who would not succumb to such boring rituals as getting ill or bereavement. I don’t feel like that any more. It’s a shame, losing that carefree notion of a carefree life, but there it is.

Middle aged suggests midway. If that’s true, that means I will pop off this mortal coil at about 86. Now, that actually sounds like a fair deal, speaking from my 43 year old berth. I’m pretty damn sure that when I’m 85 it will be a less attractive proposition. However, I also know too many people who have breathed their last long before getting close to middle age. It is something to celebrate you know, getting this far intact!

Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips had it about right when he sang “Do you realise everyone you know, one day, will die…” I mean, it’s hardly a revelation is it, yet we all block it out, and avoid thinking about it – but we are all DOOMED.

Time really does go fast; and it is hard to make the good times last. All we can do is appreciate every drop of goodness, every day of happiness. We can watch the sun set every night, until the day we die, but only if we also remember that the sun going down is just an illusion, caused by the Earth spinning round.

My family is still sleeping. The forest is still alive with rustling and creaking and scuttling. I feel like I am the only person awake in the whole of France. A candle burns fiercely beside me, my glass of wine stays resolutely filled up, as if by some magic hand (mine, if truth be told) and the air is still. The stars are shining bright in an arc over my head. It’s a beautiful evening, still warm enough for me to be sat here on the laptop outdoors at the midnight hour. I could be in paradise. I’m not, it’s only France, but I’ve got everything I need right here, within feet of me. But most of all, right now, today, I may be middle aged but I’ve also got peace of mind and a happy heart. Who could wish for more?




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.