Making Jam, Authenticism, And Being Good With Who You Are

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I’ve had some opinion pieces published on various news sites and magazines over the past month. And while that’s a writing dream come true, the push from editors to include as much of my personal life as possible, can feel a little invasive at times. I have always endeavored to be authentic – which is why I didn’t freak my shit when Mamamia changed the headline of my piece on women drinking to ‘I’m A Functioning Alcoholic!’ – but obviously I do have to think about the people I’m writing about as well.

When an intelligent, highly-educated woman that I stalk  admire on Twitter – who I had imagined spends her free time reading Tolstoy and writing about the paradigm shift of Ptolemy’s astronomy giving way to Copernican astronomy – tweeted the other day that she was making jam, I was surprised by her honesty. This is a woman that has created a superwoman brand on social media in terms of her professional life and it seemed like media suicide to admit to doing something quite so mundane.

I quickly reprimanded myself for being so judgy – before questioning why I never want to make jam or why no one has ever taught me how to make it. It’s so easy to feel insecure and inadequate when you consume the lives of other people on social media. Indeed, when I sat back and really thought about it, a part of me was quite envious that a) this woman had been taught how to make jam by a grandmother – perhaps – a recipe that she would pass down to her own grandchildren – (it was a particularly hormonal day);  that b) she didn’t give a rat’s arse about what anyone else thinks; and that c) her admission made my enjoyment of changing the position of my sofa pillows on an hourly basis, slightly less tragic.

Suffice it to say, I don’t believe that making jam will ever be on my bucket list. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that making jam is more likely to be on the list of things I will never do unless I am paid for it, like planting cuttings, scrapbooking and collecting stamps. But, each to their own. I’m a firm believer in advocating any self-care or activity that leads to self-fulfillment, and just as I was hasty in my judgment of  ‘jam-making superwoman’, I’m certain that there are hoards of you out there who cannot imagine anything more boring than writing.

But let me get back to this woman’s ‘authenticity’, which is is the new black in my book, and something that I have always tried to cultivate on this blog and in my own life. For me, it means never being ashamed of who we are and the choices we make. Sure, we don’t have to admit publicly to our boring AF hobbies like this woman did, but if something makes our soul sing, we must never be ashamed to pursue it because of what other people think – unless it’s illegal, OBVS.

That desire to be more authentic has become even more important to me in this stage of my life. To the detriment of my family, I have a burning desire to unleash my views about the world and where I sit in it. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy for anyone to broadcast their fuck ups – not even for me – which is why it took me months before I pushed publish on my first blog post. And yet, the more honest I am in my writing, the more confident I feel about myself – even if your toes curl at the mention of penises and excess body hair.

I love nothing more than to identify with the experiences of other people. I love to read about parents that are finding the gig tough, or that woman that lost her job or found the key to dieting – who obviously doesn’t exist. Their stories make me feel in touch and less alone. That’s why I love to admit to the world on a Saturday night that I’m in my jammies by 5pm or that I’ve gained 6kgs. We need to be as good with our failures as we are with our successes because they are what push us to keep growing. We need to be good with who we are, no matter what the expectations of those around us.

This Birthday, JOMO Replaced FOMO

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It was my birthday yesterday. In some ways, it’s hard to believe that I am now 53, in others, it feels like it has taken me bloody ages to get here. The most important part, I suppose, is that where I am, feels right.

The kids and a good bunch of friends came over for a late lunch; twelve of us squeezed around a makeshift table in our living room due to the unseasonable weather outside.

Girlfriends often ask me why I don’t just book a table at a restaurant to celebrate my birthday, but I’ve always loved the idea of a long table of ‘family’ like they do in the Mediterranean, enjoying good food, wine, and banter, with no rush to be anywhere else.

The old man knocked up his Sangria – somewhat of a tradition now – and each couple brought along a plate of food – tapas-style this year. Spanish meatballs, spicy lamb cutlets, prawns, and salads were washed down with cheese, two delicious homemade Spanish tarts and several (!) bottles of red wine.

I felt very lucky. It was a very special day, the sort that I do less frequently now that I no longer need the validation of people constantly around me like when I was younger.

My life is much more about JOMO (Joy of missing out) than FOMO (fear of missing out) these days, most likely because I feel more comfortable with who I am and how I manage whatever time I have left.

In my twenties and thirties, we entertained a lot, much to the old man’s horror. In fact, that insatiable need for acceptance pushed our relationship the closest to a fracture, until we found a compromise. Inevitable, as a Leo, I love to be the center of attention – as long as it’s on my terms with people I’m comfortable with. But if I’m being brutally honest, those gatherings were about something more than simply whipping my flowing mane around, they were about boosting my self-esteem and fuelling my ego.

Sometimes, they were necessary. Itchy feet precluded us from ever settling anywhere for too long. In fact, the old man often jokes that as soon as I start to make too many friends -squeezing him out of his comfort zone – I force him to consider the next move.  So, we were never the couple at the top of the guest list. We had to work hard for acceptance; to keep reminding people who we were. Throw some social anxiety into the equation – and my semi-permanent resting bitchface – and sometimes it felt like an ongoing battle to be included.

FOMO is normally associated with Millennials as they are thrust into the competitive, adult world of social and professional ladder climbing under the spotlight of social media.  But at some point in our lives – once we come to terms with what we have, find some peace within ourselves and discover the glaring truth that only a few things REALLY matter – we enter our JOMO phase.

JOMO means different things to different people, but for me, it means not worrying if I am in bed by 9 pm on holiday or on a Saturday night when everyone else is out partying; it means not going on that mega trip of Europe because everyone else is doing it, and it means being strong enough to say no. It means looking forward to getting into my PJs by 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, Maltesers on my lap, in front of a good movie.

I’m sure that JOMO has something to do with my body slowing down. Or perhaps, it is simply about feeling more comfortable in that body, but for me, it is also about learning to prioritize my own needs again and my time, which becomes more precious by the day. It is about listening to what I need, rather than trying to please everyone else.

We Owe It To The People Suffering To Live Our Lives To The Full

27047393_10155000472936277_225680280_o-684x1030+2The news doesn’t seem to get any better and I expose myself to it daily in search of inspiration for my writing. While physical empaths are people that absorb the physical symptoms of others, I absorb the anguish of others and the unfairness in their lives, and that transference has a direct impact on my mood and mental health.

Poor me!

Stories such as the shooting of the two teenagers by their father last week in Sydney and articles and fiction I’ve been reading about the victims of our under-serviced mental health system can turn a promising day into a bad one.

And then, occasionally, a post like this one from Victoria.com catches my eye. I shared it last week on my FB page because I recognised it as an important reminder not to wish our lives away or forget to make the most of every opportunity. Many of us are guilty of packing so much into our lives that we find ourselves looking ahead all of the time rather than relishing every precious moment. In my case,  I waste far too many hours brooding about the problems that I can’t change in the world. I consume the pain of others and carry it around with me. It diffuses through my pores and weighs me down until the shame of my privilege feels like survivor’s guilt.

And seriously, what right do I have to pretend to know anything about the suffering of the mother of those teenagers?

At one point during the lunch I described in my last post – as I was sinking the final mouthful of perfectly-cooked lemon meringue tart into my mouth whilst bemoaning the migrant crisis – one of the other guests pointed out to me the danger and futility of absorbing everyone else’s pain. The point he was trying to make, I believe, was that life is too short to waste beating ourselves up about things we cannot change. We have one journey and we need to make it a good one.

Which is selfish, right? And for a second, the serial (wannabe) do-gooder in me, reared up defensively like a snake on behalf of all of those suffering right now in the world, while I digested the perfect steak with my perfect friends. I wanted to remind him that we should all be doing more. I wanted the eight of us to get up the following morning and enlist in a world aid association or train to become mental health nurses.

But instead, I bit my tongue – because, as painful as it was to admit, I knew that he had a point.

My own time is running out. Each of us has an internal timer, and none of us knows when it will stop. And there is another part of me – that I secretly despise – that wants to put myself first now as illness begins to ravage people my age to remind me of my mortality. Life is short – indeed, it is getting worryingly shorter. We get one bite at the cherry. And while we can be mindful of the plight of others and lend our support in whatever small ways we can, we have to make the most of this, our one opportunity at living.

While I thought about those boys and their parents in Thailand, I recognised that they needed something greater than my compassion – whether that was a God or the wonderful people that risked their own lives to save them. We can’t fix everything.

I have been lucky enough to have been given the opportunity of a good life. No road is free of dips and I have been forced to fix some potholes along the way, yet I have never looked at the smooth tarmac of others and felt resentment. To use a monetary term, we live within our means, with the hand we are given.

How many times have you been shocked to hear someone who has been seriously ill or faced a tragedy admit that they are glad it happened? Because it made them recalibrate and appreciate life for what it is – in all its beauty, brevity and fragility. Those people are our inspiration, and we owe it to them to live our lives to the full. 

Why Glastonbury Is Not On My Bucket List

One thing that won’t make my bucket list – and I can say this with a certainty – is going to an outdoor music festival again. While I have the utmost respect for those fifty-somethings that decide that outdoor music festivals such as Glastonbury will make them feel young again, the idea that trawling through mud and the great unwashed (for even a couple of days) is fun, is completely unfathomable to me. audience-868074_1920

 

Looking through the photos of the fashionistas at Glastonbury and Coachella and the Australian equivalent, Splendor, I rather see myself as Sienna Miller, colored gum boots, cut-off shorts and cowboy hat, swilling my beer from a bottle as I watch bands that I have only a vague chance of recognizing – and I’ll admit that I’ve been tempted.

 

And then I remember the toilet situation.

 

To be honest, the only time I’ve come close to venturing anywhere close to an outdoor music event in the past ten years was at Opera in the Domain last year – the only reasons being the toilets at the local pub and its duration of only two hours. No sinking in mud, so crowd-surfing, no old man on my shoulders so that he could see, while I sniffed the armpits of the tall guy in front of me, and as we sat in the semi-comfort of our beach chairs, gourmet picnic spread in front of us, not an aging hippie in sight, I could relax in the knowledge that we were going home to our own beds that night.

 

The mosh pit idea is an interesting concept, whereby you pay the same money to stand amongst the crazies forced into the public by government cuts, and unless you give up your pre-drinks, there is no guarantee that you will be any closer to the band. I run a risk assessment before I buy tickets to any gig these days and my strict rules include a capacity no larger than two thousand and ample seating with clear exits to bathrooms. After a horrendous experience in the Coldplay mosh pit a few years ago, where the tallest man in Australia, (who happened to be visiting Sydney at the time), stood in front of me for the duration of Chris’ singing, thereby blocking my exit to the bathroom and the bar and pushing me in front of the path of a giant out-of-control balloon, there’s no going back.

 

We are not a family that roughs it or camps. You might think that from a financial perspective, the idea would be the old man’s idea of heaven, but even before children, the concept of communal bathrooms, roaming wildlife, having to cook for ourselves on holiday and eating off plastic crockery seemed very unappealing.

 

I am still scarred from Brownie camps with latrines and my therapist continues to work with me on long-term issues relating to a school biology field trip to the Lake District, that my brain has completely blocked out.

 

The one and only time we did go camping, I was awoken by the old man on the first morning, the tent and children already packed away in the car, as he released the valve on my airbed.

 

‘We can tick off camping,’ he said through gritted teeth. The tent and hundreds of dollars of equipment were on Gumtree that same week.

 

You can “glamp” at Glastonbury now, and there is even a pop-up hotel…OR… you can watch the festival on television from the comfort of your sofa. If anyone has seen the movie, “Bridget Jones Baby”, don’t  think that her stay in a safari tent had anything to do with fun or recapturing her youth: what it had, was everything to do with McDreamy in the vicinity, and even I might camp for a piece of that. Kind of reminds me of how much golf I used to play when the old man and I were courting…  Starting at around $1400, the tents are hardly competitively priced when you consider the four solid walls to be found in hotels to segregate you from the hippie riff raff, the offer of WIFI and the kettle and tea bags in your room.

 

No, Glastonbury will not be on my bucket list. It will be added to my ‘I’d rather fucking die right now’ list, along with skydiving, ice bars and swimming with sharks.

Why Do Some Men Get Hotter In Middle Age?

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone but I’m secretly rather worried that the old man is looking hotter than me in middle-age.

Jason Statham
Jason Statham (Photo credit: xoxrebel333xox)

Since we moved to the city he has made radical changes to his lifestyle and it’s beginning to show.

Obviously I haven’t told him that. In fact I still remind him, on a daily basis at least, how lucky he is to have me, and how no one would look at him twice now. Especially since his nosedive into the courtyard, which has left him with facial scarring that refuses to tan to the same tone as the rest of his skin.

Even so, I have this niggling feeling that he is looking younger, while I look more and more like Yoda.

I always looked younger than him before – It was rather unfortunate for him that he started to bald prematurely in his early thirties (NOT). But have you noticed how a lot of bald men start to look good around 40? Look at Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and Kelly Slater, for example.

And I KNOW looks shouldn’t matter, but…

Why do some men get better looking with age? Why do their laughter lines look  attractive, whereas women’s look like crows feet? Why do they look distinguished with greying hair, when we look haggard and old?

How is it even possible that George Clooney, Mandy Patinkin and Denzel Washington are still hot?

Mandy Patinkin, profile
Mandy Patinkin, profile (Photo credit: ygurvitz)

He has been running to and from work, though, (THE CHEAT!), and yesterday I caught him doing suspicious looking stretches on the stairs. I even spotted muscle tone on his chest and the reappearance of his navel when he came back spluttering and sweating from his run and removed his lycra shirt in order to breathe more easily.

Who the fuck chooses to wear lycra in their forties anyway? Someone who is feeling overconfident about their triceps, I think.

Come to think of it, he’s been walking shirtless around the house a lot recently.

Even his man boobs are becoming tamed. They’re still there, but they’ve diminished to an A cup now and are looking suspiciously taut. He likes to refer to himself as ‘a honed athlete’ now, as he grabs my muffin top affectionately – which makes me want to finish off the job that the courtyard fucked up, frankly.

Of course we ridicule him and goad him about looking too thin, (by some standards ‘unwell’), but the truth is that he is looking leaner.

Should I be worried?

It’s a well-known fact that exercise is not good for a woman’s looks – there’s the potential for all that sun damage, the risk of additional facial lines being created from the inner tension of having to do something you hate, the risk of the little elasticity left in your boobs stretching to full capacity and of course, there’s also the risk of uterine prolapse – which is obviously why I’ve never considered it seriously before.

But it’s also a well-known fact that forty-something men can be led astray by younger, predatory women with firm breasts, long legs and tight vajayjays – the same women who don’t consider sweat pants and dressing gowns an acceptable form of daywear.

Yoda
Yoda (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

So, do I compete with the old man and raise my game? Do I trade the dressing gown for something sexier, give up my lunches at Max Brenner and Konstantino’s Kebobs, or do I trust that he will love me for who I am on the inside?

Best dig out those running shoes then…

The Problem With Middle Aged Birthdays

I celebrated a birthday this week. ‘Celebrated’ might be an over-exaggeration. Birthdays are quite peculiar now – I don’t really know how to mentally prepare for them these days. The medication helps.MjAxMy1iMDgyYjdjZWIyYmI5MWQ5

I don’t know whether I should be celebrating the fact that I’m getting older and wiser and the kids should be leaving home soon? Or whether I should be grieving the loss of my looks and my energy and embracing mortality. 

I never experienced the panic that engulfed a lot of my girlfriends when they turned 40, even though it was just after that particular milestone that my body seriously began to deteriorate at an alarming rate of knots. One day I had a few innocuous laughter lines around my eyes, which I considered to be kind of cute, the next day I had what can only be described as a second eyelid drooping over the top of them. And then there was the sly way that everything began to seriously drop – like my body was actually challenging gravity.

I’m getting used to the looks of pity from the kids in the changing room at the local pool now, when I first remove my cozzie and my boobs make their hasty retreat south from the safety of the lycra support, with the same speed as two satellites re-entering Earth.

(Hey kids! Get your own f..cking changing room!)

I’m also getting used to not being noticed anymore (*lying*).

Actually, it f…cking hurts like hell.

Attitudes towards women change when they reach their mid-forties. You are no longer objectified, whistled at or propositioned by strange men, which I suppose is what we women have fought for – but it also bruises the ego, if I’m honest.

You become a character actor rather than the lead.

Even more irritating is the expectation that I should behave in a mature way now. Doesn’t anyone else have that little voice in their head going ‘DO IT! DO IT!’ when they are about to say something inappropriate for some juvenile shock value?

It must be just me then. I will definitely need a ‘new filter’ before a hip replacement.

Apparently it’s okay to still laugh at the twenty and thirty-somethings when they have a bit too much to drink and get outrageously raucous, but if a forty-something woman HAS A GOOD TIME, she is frowned upon and considered immature.

NC and Kurt are horrified that I still find young men attractive and (occasionally) still want to party – they assume that my middle-aged needs should ramp down to the level of my middle-aged body and I should now only find big guts and bald heads attractive.

Perhaps us women should know better than to think that we can still enjoy ourselves. So how exactly are we supposed to behave when we’re middle-aged? Are there guidelines? Should I be re-evaluating, repackaging my image and re-marketing myself into a matron, in the hope that my personality is interesting enough to make me attractive?

The problem is, I’m just not ready to commit to middle age yet, even if my liver body does complain about the pace I set for it sometimes. I still believe in the cliché of ‘being as old as you feel’, and to be honest, I often enjoy the company of the teens’ friends more than my own friends these days.

Their existence is so uncomplicated compared to mine. Why were we so full of angst back then?

We can become bitter and jaded as we get older and I admit to being guiltier of that than most. Some days nothing seems right, life seems too hard, work gets in the way – it can be frustrating when you reach your forties but are still pinned back by the constraints of work and responsibility.

The teens, on the other hand, are still enjoying that fantasy of immortality and the promise that comes with that illusion. Remember when you thought that forty was ancient? That you would live forever? Then, somewhere in your timeline between rearing babies, marriage and your career, you forgot that you were supposed to be making the most of every day.

And finally you reach 40 and realize that (FML!) you actually might be halfway through your life already. T

The pace of ageing definitely picks up after 40. Before you know it, you find yourself looking at over 50s holidays and apartments, and there are things you no longer want to do just because you’re tired, or your back hurts, or you can’t tolerate late nights or alcohol – or even an evening in the company of people who just don’t quite make the ‘interesting’ mark.

Or you just can’t be f..cking bothered. Because you know what you like now.

And what you do know is that time is a much more precious commodity, even though you waste so much of it these days worrying about your health and visiting the doctor about any minor change to what is normal for your body. Why do you think old people get up so early? Because they don’t how much time they have left.

And those pearls of wisdom that you somehow acquired along the way as you got older, turn out to be pretty cool actually, and help diffuse some of the angst of ageing. There’s the wisdom of being happier in your own skin, of knowing what you like and what you don’t like, of finally being able to accept yourself for who you are.

Have you noticed that the problem with middle-aged birthdays is that they make you over-analyse everything, which increases your anxiety? Which is why I’m still pretending that age is just a number.

Guess What My Handbag Says About Me

So I mega-treated myself to this beautilicious Guess handbag for my birthday. Yes, I admit that I am one of those sad older women who gets nearly as excited by handbags as the thought of hot young men. It was a birthday gift from the old man……but I bought it…….you know how it is. (We’ve been married a long time.)

I know that the fashionistas amongst you will smirk unkindly at my description of my Guess handbag as designer, but for me it felt like I’d won the lottery, having been fashion spending-deprived by the financial constraints of the tightus accuntus for far too long. I’ve also only recently reached the conclusion that accessories are the way forward in any future shopping exploits, as anything else looks so f*cking bollocks on my new delightfully (NOT) fuller menopausal figure. If handbags and shoes can rock Carrie Bradshaw’s boat, they’re good enough for me. 

So I spotted this bag, all wanton-looking, perched on squeaky-clean glass shelving in the Guess shop, and I simply HAD to have it.

I got all hot and flustered because it was reduced by a massive fifty bucks, which bought it down into the old man’s ‘affordable’ range, (because he seems to think that we’re on the poverty line, unless we have to buy anything Apple of course). It was still a little more than I’d usually be comfortable parting with, but because it was a birthday gift he had allowed me, (as a treat, obviously), to trade up from KMart. Have I mentioned before, that the old man is an accountant?

And although it’s new, (and so not ‘officially’ old, obviously), my spontaneity in purchasing the aforementioned bag was primarily fuelled by my (not-thinking AT ALL) shopping high, and in my mind at the time, it had a stylishly quaint, vintage quality to it. And as I live permanently in every shade of black conceivable, from charcoal to jet, (because, albeit funereal, the magazines insist that it knocks off kilos), its stylish combination of black and latte coloured leather just seemed too good to be true.

(It had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the deliciously toned, young Italian salesman with the melting chocolate accent who couldn’t keep his eyes off the tween, while collectively calling us both ‘beeeeutiful girls’.)

The thing about buying a new piece of clothing or accessory, in the world of women, is that you know pretty quickly if it’s a hit or a miss.

That’s what real friends are for. You see they put it out there if it’s a good buy, (even if a small part of them dies a little), but they’ll remain as tight-lipped as a schoolteacher if you look like a fugger.

So as much as I’m loving my new handbag, working my vintage Hepburnesque strut with it casually thrown over my shoulder, there is the slight sinking feeling in my gut that maybe it’ s not so much ‘vintage’ as bordering ‘Nana’ in style.

If you read Cosmopolitan, you will know that there is a very fine line between the two style statements, (as well as how to give the perfect blow job).

Like huge Brigitte Jones/boy-cut undies, a look tantalisingly hot on young girls, they  just look plain awful clinging to the love handles of a woman in her late forties, taking on the persona of an incontinence aid. It’s like letting your hair go prematurely grey – you can just about get away with it if you’re Kelly Osborne. Actually, you can’t.

I’m still making a stand against the aging process, although not in a Botox and fake breast kind of way, but I’m still a long way from trading alcohol for herbal tea. And I admit that I might have made a fashion error with my Guess handbag.

Because the more I look at it, discerningly, like they would on Fashion Police, the more I conjure up images of my own grandmother at Sunday afternoon High Tea, with a spookily similar handbag in which she carefully kept her handkerchief (for wiping our mouths at every opportunity), her Avon powder compact, peach lipstick and horn-rimmed reading glasses. And that image makes me shrivel with unparalleled fear.

This is exactly how it pans out, the aging process. It surreptitiously envelops you like a dark, dank fog in the night, and before you know it you’re trading social events for hot chocolate and separate bedrooms.

So I’ve begun to question my choices this week. I’ve archived the handbag for the time being, to give me time to think about how it is marketing me. And I’ve invested in some trendy little Chanel reading glasses, and re-introduced my prematurely retired breast tissue to some new-fangled, underwired, uplifting technology.

‘We will never surrender’.