Middle Age: Time To Stop Worrying About Our Bodies And Start Focusing On Our Brains

I’ve had a mixed reaction in my circle about my decision to shed a few kilos. There are those friends who have been supportive – in that they understand the need to manage my weight gain through menopause, if possible. Then there is the other “life’s too short to be miserable” camp, who don’t believe I should worry about a few extra rolls at this stage of my life.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Truth be told, I’m not so vain that a few extra kilos worry me, but I am conscious that carrying extra weight at my age is no good thing. I had also reached that point where I was climbing the dress size mountain a little faster than I wanted and was starting to feel the effects – physically and psychologically. There were several nights over Christmas when I had a ‘nothing to wear’ crisis, because nothing fitted.

Middle-age is hard enough when it comes to style, but it’s that much harder when you are heavier than you want to be.

However, I do believe that it’s important to put your health goals into perspective. It comes down to that balance thing that’s so hard to get right in life, which is why it saddens me so much when my girlfriends admit that they hate parts of their bodies. Because while none of us are immune to the ridiculous pressures of perfectionism created by women’s magazines and reality tv shows, I do feel that at some point we have a right (and it is healthier) to age and accept our age, along with the inevitable leaks and creaks that go with that.

I’ve mentioned before the glorious sense of liberation I have taken from the invisibility that has come with middle-age. I feel much freer when I go out without makeup, when I’m not wearing a bra, or can happily swan around the house in my pjs – and I’m loving the fact that I can get on public transport late at night without having to worry about being harassed.

In general, I feel much more confident in who I am.

However, there is no denying that we are the product of the expectations placed on our gender by the media. And many women have been victims of men who take their best years, use them as a vessel for their children, and then discard them during their mid-life crises for a younger model, thereby diminishing their confidence.

My body is a physical map of my life, that bears the scars of childbirth amongst other experiences. I am not ashamed of the physical evidence of that miracle of life or the way the intensity of my love has cracked the skin on my face. But I would point out that when it comes to ageing, there is no gender divide, and the old man’s body bears the same ravages of time as mine.

But imagine if women left men when they started to lose their hair?

I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to fit back into a size 10 and have the choice of high street fashion, or that I wouldn’t like my teeth to be whiter or my jowls to be less like my dog’s – BUT WHY? I’m fifty-four, not twenty-three.

And for the record, I wouldn’t want to be twenty-three again.

So does it really matter if the skin under our arms swings with the wind or if our faces looked like crumpled paper? I’m satisfied that I made the most of the beauty of my youth, and I wouldn’t choose to turn back time. But now is the time for my brain to shine.

Those Bloody Crises of Confidence Part 1

You may have sensed it in my writing of late, but I’m going through a bit of a crisis of confidence at the moment. I’ve tried to buoy myself up by trawling through all the memes on my Inspirational Shit board on Pinterest and drinking more wine than usual, but any writer will tell you that the rejection of your manuscript – no matter how well you prepare yourself for it – is a very personal rejection, worse even, than when your child is the only kid in the class not to get invited to a party.

girl-3316342_1920

Because I have nurtured this, my third child. I have sacrificed great chunks of life (that I probably should have spent with my own children) to get this baby out into the world. Indeed, I have probably been a better parent to my manuscript than to either of my own children. And I will shoot the next person that reminds me of JK Rowling’s sixteen rejections before Harry Potter was published.

 

And while I am still not ready to give up on it, sadly there are only so many hours in each day to continue editing and re-editing and, (as the old man reminded me so supportively the other day), these last fanatical strokes of the paintbrush of a scorned wannabe writer, might prove to be its final undoing, aiding my manuscript’s journey to its final permanent residence in the reject piles of Sydney’s publishing houses.

 

I assume that at some point you have to ask the question – is it good enough? – and if you can be completely honest and listen to your instinct screaming no, you begin the grieving process.

 

I’m not quite there yet.

 

However, inevitably, there is pressure from a certain department of the house to earn some money now that everyone has accepted that I haven’t written the next Fifty Shades – and rightfully so because wine and take-outs cost money. And honestly, what kind of feminist would I be if I expected to sit in my home office all week, being creative?

 

A bloody happy one, actually.

 

The problem with rejection is that a) it’s a fucking lie that it gets any easier and b) it seeps into every other aspect of your life. One day you’re skipping merrily through hot sand on the beach, the sun on your face, and the next, you’re a loser. Which means my head isn’t exactly in the right place to search for paid work at the moment. I’ll go so far as to say,  if I’m honest I’m feeling kind of lost at the prospect of this latest career crossroads, which feels much closer to the choice between the eighteen fucking lanes leading to the Harbor Bridge than a simple right or left turn. And I just know that I’ll end up in the wrong fucking lane.

 

Finding motivation gets harder each day because I know I’m running out of time and writing is something that can’t be rushed. That voice that used to get me out of bed, full of excitement, and tell me to keep going – that I CAN DO IT – sounds hollow now. I hate people who get published. Some days it is physically painful to listen to other people’s stories of success when I have nothing to show for my hard work.

 

And then the sun rises on another day and along comes Jacinda Ardern on my computer screen, modeling her feathered Kahu huru huru cloak, with her husband on her arm. And I look at her and I think, HOW FRICKIN AWESOME is this woman in the sort of dress-up that is way more suited to a GOT set than meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace. How bloody inspiring is it to see a young, female world leader, so proudly representing her culture, her politics, and her impending motherhood, whilst slaying the toxic gender roles of the establishment with one swish of that cape.

 

I want to be her. I want to be able to stand up like her in front of all my naysayers with that self-belief and be able to say that I did it.

 

And I looked really closely at those photos of her in the media and I did wonder if there are some mornings that Jacinda gets up, looks in the mirror and feels any doubt. Knowing that her (and more specifically her bump), would be under the spotlight, I wonder if that night she asked Tim as she got ready if he thought her bum looked too big in that Maori cape or if she looked like a bit of a dick. Because let’s be honest, not many women can work a shit-brown dress and a cape of feathers whilst heavily pregnant.

 

But I’m guessing that her inner voice wasn’t screaming negative thoughts at her. I’m thinking that the ghosts of those native New Zealand birds on her back were egging (sorry!) her on.

 

‘Go bitch! You show that Commonwealth Queenie who you are,’ they were screeching – because birds in this part of the world don’t tweet or twitter.

 

Well…whatever was going through her head that evening, she wore those dead birds like a boss, with no sign of any self-doubt.

 

And more importantly, I need that cape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Feel You’ve Lost Your Way?

I posted this meme on my Instagram page this week and it obviously resonated with my followers, so I thought I’d share it with you.

 

I have a morbid addiction to allowing those “bad chapters” in my life cloud the good ones, and sometimes the clouds get really dark and fluffy, and no matter how many “gratitude” posts I read or how many  memes about happiness I am inspired by, I can’t seem to clear them and retrieve the happiness from my soul.

 

You know that I am generally a glass half-full gal, (full to the brim if I can get away with it), who is only too aware of each person’s responsibility for their own happiness and the importance of living life to the full. And in general, I am quite proactive when it comes to soul-searching and finding impulsive short-term solutions to my problems.

 

But this time, I have struggled to find my way out of the maze.

 

I gave up one of the best jobs I’ve had a few months ago because mentally I wasn’t coping with its demands alongside the impact of other forces in my life, and I needed to take some time out to mend my broken wings. The loss of my salary – as pitiful as it is – means that we are cutting our cloth accordingly, (although not as short as the old man would like), hence the fourteenth house move.

 

The idea was to try “something else”, which was to be “writing”, you might remember, and the dream started off well. In the first month of my “sabbatical”, I returned to my manuscript, signed up for some courses, got my blog into better shape than it had been for a while and I felt excited. I was ready.

 

Not even the first rejections that began to dribble into my mailbox put me off and I managed to brush their implication aside. I know the story of JK Rowling’s difficult road to publication by heart and as I am obviously the next JK, I was mentally prepared for those evil little reality checks. What I was less prepared for was the outcome of my other dead cert plan during my time out – to get my son’s life on track while I was at home. Stupidly, I believed that under my supervision, his life would fall directly into place and when it didn’t – hasn’t – my confidence began to flounder. I questioned my purpose.

 

As a creative, you can guarantee that as soon as you start to question your purpose, your ideas dry up and all productivity comes to a grinding halt. And again, even though the advice to writers is to keep writing through a “block” – even if the only words you get onto the page are a load of old bollocks – my focus had disappeared along with my confidence and the coordination required to juggle so many different balls and I went into self-protection mode. I began to avoid the blank screen that symbolised my failure completely.

 

I lost my way – perhaps because I’m better when I’m chasing my tail with no time to over-think. They do say that retirement is dangerous and although I am not in that position, I can see where the life of the wannabe “writer” – in particular, the lack of social interaction and abundance of focus for just about anything other than putting words on a page – can be dangerous.

 

It’s time to stop watching what time the neighbors leave the house to go to work; it is time to stop checking Aldi’s Wednesday and Saturday “specials” online; it’s time to stop looking up recipes on Taste.com that I will never cook. It is time to put those bad chapters behind the Great Wall where they belong, pull up my big girl panties again and find my way back. Which is why, my friends, I am gifting you this generous page of complete bollocks.

 

 

 

2016 Will Be About Me

I’ve decided that New Year’s resolutions are just so 2015.

 

Ambition Key Means Aim Or Goal
Ambition Key On Keyboard Meaning Target Aim Or Goal

Have you noticed how women often link theirs to self-improvement rather than ambition? How we focus on the stuff we don’t do well?

 

Probably because we are continually reminded that we are not perfect.

 

And I’m the worst offender. The resolutions of my past have always reeked of what I can only describe as pathetic girliness; and I’m a feminist. They’ve been centred around how I can become a better mother, a better wife or how I can shape and improve myself mentally and physically into something I’m frankly never going to be.

 

They’re not true-to-myself, badass, ego-fuelled, man goals.

 

The majority of men don’t see the need to self-improve, which is why we continually have to remind them. They don’t settle for wishy-washy, politically correct personal goals for the sake of popularity and fitting in. Men put themselves first. They are aware of their strengths. When they go into a work review, they always ask for a raise. Most women don’t ask for a rise; they wait for it to come to them and they can wait a long time.

 

I’m not going to be that woman this year.

 

This year I’m going to take the old man’s lead and be proactive about me. I’m going to focus on selfish goals instead of putting myself last place in the family and career hierarchy, and I will force myself to eat kale patties as punishment if I ever hear myself apologising or marginalising my value or opinion again.

 

Because in the words of L’Oreal, ‘I’m worth it.’

 

We’re all worth it, ladies. We just need to make sure everyone else gets that. And I don’t need to set my goals down in stone because I am the only judge of any importance. These ideas that I have for this year have been exploding in my brain for a while now, desperate to be implemented; yet so easily thwarted by excuses when you’re a professional procrastinator like me. They are ambitious and tangible personal achievements that are unrelated to those defects of my personality or genetics that I have blamed for my failures in the past, yet can’t change.

 

I’ve wasted too much of my life focusing on what I can’t do and what I haven’t got, but this year will be about focusing on my strengths. 2016 is about not compromising myself anymore, not defining myself by what others expect of me, nor allowing my innate lack of confidence to sap at my powers.

 

This year will be about discipline, focus, taking those risks that I’ve benched for too long and seizing the fucking day.

 

I’m gonna be a BITCH this year. This will be the year where I nail every fucking goal and then some that I haven’t even thought of yet.

 

‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!’ (Coach Taylor)

 

And I will start right now by going back to bed for my first strategy session.

Anxiety and Never Being Able To Truly Leave The School Playground

I talked about the joy of anonymity in a post last week. Anonymity is a joyous experience if you seek it, but it’s not much fun when that self-imposed isolation is provoked by anxiety and fear.


Embed from Getty Images

Kitty Flanagan, a middle-aged female Australian comedian, recently admitted in an article in the SMH that she suffers from social anxiety when she is forced to mix in large groups. You often hear about comedians being described as ‘boring’ when the public meet them in the flesh, but it still amazes me when you hear about how many successful performers suffer from anxiety. It seems crazy to think that a comedian could be shy at a house party, or that some of the consummate performers of our time throw up out of fear before going on stage.

I get it, though, coming from a family that suffers from inherent anxiety. Kurt has spent a week at his youth hostel but has yet to venture into the kitchen. New people are terrifying to him. The first of my four daily calls yesterday was spent trying to inspire him with ideas for foods he can eat in his room; that don’t require preparation. Give my boy a few ciders and he’ll dominate that kitchen space; put him on a stage and he’ll perform like a seasoned professional, but when I ask him to come and say hello to my friends at a dinner party, I know that simple request will spoil his evening.

I was always shy, unconfident child. It was something my father, who was an actor as a young man and is now a respected public speaker, despised.


Embed from Getty Images

It’s not that I didn’t want to be the gobby, popular girl in the group. I was desperate to be that girl and I had all the lines, was naturally sharper than a lot of them with a mature, self-deprecating wit ahead of its time; yet, crossing the bridge from the safety of anonymity to the vulnerability of centre stage always appeared to be an impossible feat.

Even if, once on the stage, I owned it.

That shy person is still at the inner core of my personality, the difference being these days that I have learned strategies to manage my shyness and I also have the choice now whether I go to that terrifying party or stay on the sofa.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy socializing. As the old man will vouch for me, I am the biggest, small-talking, chit-chatterer there is, WITH PEOPLE I KNOW – but I have an abject horror of meeting new people.

Because when it counts, when I really want to be someone’s friend, my body shuts down from the pressure. My mouth dries and clams up, I can’t look them in the eye and my body language becomes feral and gives out all the wrong signals. Which is a problem at this stage of life, when people already have enough friends, and they slink off apologetically and give up on me unless they are truly inquisitive, have no friends either, or can distinguish enough in me to give me a second chance.

We never truly leave the school playground.