Bad Dreams? I Blame Anxiety

Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash
Of course, sleeping in the garden might be my problem and I could simply invest in a bed.

I used to have this theory about dreaming, which was that only creative, imaginative people had them. I admit that this conclusion was drawn from the fact that the old man doesn’t dream.

As a middle-aged, menopausal woman on anti-depressants (who struggles with sleep), the only bright side to the kind of dreams I have – imagine GOT crossed with Psycho – are that as a writer, even crazy dreams offer up some wonderful ideas for content. But I can’t deny that it would be refreshing, occasionally, to have some nice, vanilla dreams. You know, the sort of dreams where I’m sipping expensive cocktails in exotic destinations or sexual dreams, with the men of my fantasies. Rather than dreams where I’m falling off cliffs or being chased by knife-wielding rapists.

Let me share the one I had last week. Interpret it as you will.

The dream began with me introducing one of my best friends to a new friend of mine, who swiftly replaced me in my BF’s affections. Unsatisfied with that, this interloper continued to torment me throughout the dream, popping up in other parts of it to enlighten me about secrets my BF had shared with her – the sort of secrets that she had never shared with me during our entire twenty-year friendship.

During this REM version of Mean Girls, I found myself back at uni in the classic dream of being late for, and not having prepared for, an exam. This time, however, I was studying for a degree in science, and not only was I late, but the only preparation I had done for it was to skim through a Year 6 book on nature.

While I was mulling over how I could make the life cycle of the amoeba relevant to a tertiary physics paper, I was also struggling to locate my seat in the massive exam hall, where thousands of candidates were waiting to take the same exam – each of whom was already in their seat and eyeballing me.

Finally, an adjudicator took pity on me. Relieved, I followed him as he directed me to my place, whereupon – and get this! – he pulled a machete from his apron and cracked open my chest to reveal my heart – which was bizarrely the first time I noticed that everyone else’s heart in the room was exposed. Even weirder, was the immediate sense of calm I felt, that finally, I was like everyone else. Hence, it was only as I shuffled about in my seat, preparing to start the exam, that I noticed that my heart was different to everyone else’s – because mine had bulging lumps in its arteries. Clots!

The finale to this horror story, was my embarrassing (somewhat deja vu) attempt to get my computer going and onto the exam program – because apparently, I was a technophobe in my dream as well as in real life. Until, fortunately, my neighbour took pity on me, setting me up in the nick of time for the start of the exam. I remember throwing him a look of gratitude as I placed my headphones on confidently as the examiner called out Start – which is when I discovered that I had no sound.

It is no secret that bad dreams and night terrors happen to anxious people, and unsurprisingly, I can relate almost every detail of that dream to current concerns about my health, work, and the fear of not living up to expectation.

But if my mind is really that bloody imaginative, why can’t I have nice dreams for a change? Why can’t I have the dream where I’m a famous author, who sells the film rights to my novel to Steven Spielberg, who then picks Meryl Streep to play my character in the book? Why can’t I dream about lunch with Meryl – where she perfects my accent, we sing Abba songs together, and she reveals all of her inner secrets to me, like the one about her best on-screen kiss?

BTW – My money’s on Robert Redford.

Why Do Some People Make You Feel That Pursuing Your Dreams Is A Cop Out?

live-your-dream-2045928_1920Currently, when I’m asked at social events ‘what I do’, I metamorphose back into a little girl, look down at the floor nervously and respond, usually in a pathetic whisper ‘I’m trying to write a book’ or ‘I’m trying to make a career out of writing’, then pray they don’t ask me about it. The look of pity, by way of response, is a given. It’s the sort of look you’d expect if you told them you were terminally ill or related to Trump or that – God forbid! – you’re a full-time Mum.

 

And because I’m a paranoid bitch with anxiety, I choose to interpret that look as they think I’m a failure and that they believe my choice of words is either a) a cover up for ‘doing fuck all’ ie. I’m a “lady who lunches”, or b) they secretly believe that as a fifty-something woman, surely I’m a bit past it to pursue my dreams?

 

Which all seems a little ironic when I thought that the fashionable thinking in regards to lifestyle is about having choices, escaping the rat race as quick as you can, (unless you love what you do), or chasing your dreams before North Korea nukes us. Literally, hundreds of memes enforce this view on my social media pages each day.

 

Perhaps I’m over-sensitive as well as paranoid, but (just occasionally) a ‘good for you!’ or a patronizing pat on the back for ‘having a go’ wouldn’t go amiss. I like to think that I am encouraging when someone describes to me what their job entails – even if secretly it does sound like watching paint dry.

 

Perhaps the reason so many writers and people who work from home appear trapped by the demons of their craft is the solitariness of the job, which inevitably breeds doubt. With no peer support or encouragement, or any chance of an ‘employee of the month’ award, you have to have a deep-seated belief in what you’re doing to survive.

 

Do people really think that I don’t know that I have less chance of getting published than flying to the moon? But will reminding myself that only 0.1% of the writing population get published – and only those with the first initials JK – spur my creativity to greater heights?

 

Even the old man looks at me suspiciously when I lie in bed an hour longer than he does of a morning, trawling through the news sites and social media in search of ideas.

 

‘Where do you think I get my ideas from?’ I snap back at him when he asks me what time I’m getting up, sensitive to the fact that I feel the need to justify my time.

 

Perhaps it is envy. When you tell your friends that you work from home, it is rather like admitting that you’ve won the lottery or you got some half-price Blahniks in the sales, and you can hear yourself play down your efforts and try to negate the luck of that swim in the ocean at lunchtime.

 

But losing an income is not all fun and games, not when that second drink at the pub with a girlfriend can cause a domestic rift; the only holidays abroad you enjoy these days are those of your friends on Facebook, that you live vicariously through, and dinners out are a luxury. And chasing my dream was about more than being paid to do what I love, it was about putting my mental health first and being more cognizant of the preciousness of each day – which doesn’t pay well either.

 

And I know I am lucky.

 

When You Use Your Age As An Excuse Not To Chase Your Dreams

I went to a workshop on freelance writing on Saturday. Pursuing the dream, seizing the day, there are a number of clichés I could come up with to describe my final charge into a job that I love. adult-1868015_1920

I learned that journalism is not for the faint-hearted these days, with cutbacks and job losses and a sizeable drop in the word rate in recent years. And like many jobs in the arts, you have to be either crazy or passionate to go into it – and there’s probably a very fine line between the two. It’s also bloody hard work, and perhaps not something sane people ‘of a certain age’ should consider when they could be winding down with Ellen each morning.

Fortunately, there appears to be less of an ageist facet to freelance writing than in fiction-writing, where you need to be able to market your work physically as well as write it. Sitting on the stage of a writer’s festival, with knitting in one hand and inhaler in the other, is probably not the promotion a publisher is looking for when they try to sell your erotica novel. So the appeal of the freelance writing gig is that I can be back of house, slouched in front of my computer, clad in jammies, hair unkempt, toes being kept toasty by the dog in winter.

I’m not naive enough to believe that you can be anything you want to be at this, (or indeed), any time of your life. I suspect that it is too late for me to become an Olympic athlete or an astronaut for NASA, but then again, would I ever have really pursued those goals with such a distaste for sports and heights?

There were about fifteen of us wannabe writers in the room – an eclectic, somewhat motley bunch, each with aspirations of making money from doing something we love and at different junctures of our writing career. The full spectrum of ages and personalities was made more evident once we were asked to share an imaginary pitch and those different views, politics, idealisms and sensitivities sliced through the room with as much subtlety as a hot knife through butter. Most writers, I suspect, are opinionated know-it-alls who seek a platform from which their voice can be heard.

At the beginning of the session, our leader took full advantage of her position of power by asking us to introduce ourselves, and flashbacks of being picked on by my English teacher to transpose Shakespeare, flooded my brain.  Funny really – when all of us in that room were confident enough to put ourselves out there; had given up our Saturday to improve ourselves. I watched as each one of us squirmed in our seats as our turn got closer. Writers are not quite as gregarious when it comes to self-proclamation and hubris with the spoken voice.

One thing I have learned over time is not to downgrade myself in these situations. I refuse to apologize for who I am these days, when in the past I would make feeble, self-deprecating jokes or give reasons as to why I shouldn’t really be there – a habit women are far more guilty of than men. Typically, the person who protested too most about her inexperience went on to deliver the best pitch and we all hated her immediately.

Most of the group, however, spoke with humility and passion and openly admitted to the rest of us strangers that they were still chasing the dream, (the unspoken words being), before it’s too late. Many of the younger ones were already in-house journalists and about to set off on travels that they would finance through their freelance work and some were already published authors, branching out in different directions of the writing industry – one they hoped would pay the bills. Several, like me, were scratching the itch.

‘Change’ is exciting and terrifying and in these situations when you have committed yourself to a situation, (and ‘flight’ is still a tempting possibility),  it would be easy to cave in to those ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ fears that mess with your brain. So it’s good to be with like-minded people, with similar goals; to be reminded that you’re not alone.

There are millions of us still searching for ideas and answers for ways to improve ourselves, and I know that I’m lucky to have this opportunity. There will be days when it is impossible to eradicate doubt from my mind, and in the same way that those progress prizes at school marked me as being not quite good enough, the old fear taunts me that I will always be known as Louisa The Trier, in Viking terms. But that’s okay.

I’ve stalled several times over the last few years in relation to taking this step, so I wasn’t surprised when ‘you’re too old for this’ rang in my ears as I walked into that meeting room on Saturday, pretending to feel confident. Youth and beauty are equated with success in our society and once you get past fifty, it is easy to disappear ‘over the hill’ unless you fight. 

It turns out that I wasn’t the dinosaur.

It’s time to change that internal rhetoric.

I Can’t Do It All

shouting-1719492_1920It was with a heavy heart that I closed the final chapter on my day job today, in pursuit of fulfilling some dreams and kicking some goals before it’s too late.

 

I’ve loved my job and at the end of my last ever face-to-face meeting with a client today, for a brief moment “doubt” stepped in. I was fortunate to meet so many interesting people in my role that helped me evolve into the open-minded/hearted woman that I’m proud to have turned into over the past few years. It also opened my eyes even wider to what the world can possibly think it is going to achieve by closing its doors to immigrants and denying all of us those precious opportunities to embrace, share and learn from different cultures.

 

I told my employer I was off to chase some dreams when I resigned because there is some truth to that story. But I’m also aware of how unprofessional it would sound if I admitted to her that in reality the balance between my work and home life has become too tricky to navigate, and something has to give. So I’ll admit it to you, my readers. I’ve been angry for a long time. I’ve sought medication and therapy to control my stress levels and calm the internal storms that keep raging, but they haven’t worked, so changes need to be made – for the sake of just about everyone who knows me. I’ve had to accept that I can’t do what we women are meant to strive for; I can’t do it all.

 

I’ll say it again, I can’t do it all, and I refuse to feel ashamed of that. It won’t be me who changes the world, and that’s ok. More specifically, I can’t support my son and his needs and loss of direction and hold down a demanding job at the same time.

 

I’m not superwoman or Gwyneth.

 

What I am, though, is bloody lucky, because I’m fortunate to have choices as a woman – they call it “privilege” these days – and I am aware that my choices are ones that many women will never have. The shame attached to that admission kept me at work for longer than I should have stayed, to the detriment of both my son and my health. But as they tell you at the gym – apparently – you need to listen to your body and your heart, so that is what I’m doing. The final justification I needed to make this momentous leap into the scary vortex of the unknown came from the old man when we were on holiday and I admitted to not coping – like he didn’t know – and he reminded me as I sat in the corner of the room rocking, that we only have one life, and that we are in the fortunate position to have choices.

 

I know. I bagged a good’un. 

 

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do: for the remainder of this year I’m going to get my son back on track, in a consultant capacity only, (as per my therapist’s recommendations), and as opposed to the way I used to try to help him as a meddling, helicopter parent. In the two weeks since my workload has lightened up a little, I’ve already seen the difference some quality time with him has made. For the past year, I have allowed his age and social presumptions dictate my own expectations for him, and I forgot that he is Kurt and he is his own person, and it has never been a good idea to compare him to his peers. His stepping stones to adulthood will happen when he’s ready, and they won’t be defined because someone has written in some parenting manual that he should be doing things at the same time as other kids his age. That never happened during his education, so it’s unlikely to happen now.

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the time to talk to him and more importantly, to listen to him. We’ve laughed together again, I’ve taken him to the doctors and for coffee and driving, and amazingly he passed his test first time – a massive boost to his confidence. And that success has infected all the complex facets of his personality and where he sees his place in the world in the best way, and on a practical level, it has meant that finally, he has some means of independence from us – a freedom he has yearned for but not quite been able to reach by himself.

 

He is already talking about travel and going back into education – without pressure from us. (Honest). More importantly, he is talking to me again, probably because I’m not barking or sniping at him at the same time as writing my endless “to-do lists” and deciding which parts of my life to prioritize.

 

So I will be here for him for a while longer, and in between the challenge of getting my son back into the realms of loving life again, (and I will join him in that challenge), I’ll also submit my book for publication and see if there’s any damned way to make the paltry sum of money I need to keep the old man off my back, from writing.

 

Concessions will need to be made, of course, so that I can chase my writing/perfect mother dreams – financial mainly, much to the old man’s delight. Because unless I sell my book (and the following twenty with film rights), we will continue to have the ugliest house in the street. The big car is already up for sale and I will have to return to the role of “house bitch” for a while as the old man works extra hours to formulate a plan of how to bridge the shortfall in our earnings. But as long as he doesn’t cut my weekly wine allowance, I will be stoic.

 

And every cloud has a silver lining – at least there will be food in the fridge again.

 

 

Change, Anxiety and Crazy AF Dreams

There are some exciting changes coming up in my life in the near future. Or at least I’m pretending to myself that they are wildly exciting even though inside my organs feel as though they’re dissolving in acid, something that happens each time I go through such changes and my anxiety goes into overdrive. The other byproduct of such an assault on all my senses is that I have crazy AF dreams about what can go wrong. halloween-997596_1920 (1)

 

These current changes involve my career, and if the dream I had last night is anything to go by, I’m not completely comfortable with them.

 

Last night’s dream involved my opening of a home and giftware shop (a long-term aspiration) where all the product is white. Logically, I named the shop ‘White’.

 

The best part of the dream was I can remember the tingle of anticipation I felt at the prospect of a whole shop full to the brim of calming neutrality because if I had the choice, absolutely everything in my house would be white…that is until the complication of real life intrudes such as children and dogs and men who can’t eat without getting food on the sofa. I’ve never quite understood how such schemes work outside of Home and Garden magazines unless you make a religious commitment to “Vanish”.

 

Evidently, there’s a little OCD thrown into my own particular brand of madness.

 

Anyway, as I was signing my first orders for ‘White’ branded tee-shirts and white fluffy cushions, I got a call from the police to say that I had to close the shop because its name was not politically correct and there had been complaints from the locals. They castigated me for overtly demonstrating my privilege in the neighborhood and as a result imposed sanctions on my potential customer base from buying from my dream store.

 

The dream was intense. Not as terrifying as those ones where you fall off cliffs or are being chased, but I remember one moment distinctly where I was looking at my beautiful new business cards, weeping onto their perfect white gloss card with its perfect black font and wondering if I could change the brand name to ‘Black and white’.

 

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many black schemes in beach-style, Hamptons homes.

 

Next was the stress of actually choosing the product. One of my intentions, when I chose my white theme, was to keep it simple, because something I have worked out with maturity is that simplicity is core to my mental stability, hence survival. The problem then was that I couldn’t decide whether I was allowed to veer off-piste and include all of those different shades of white that Dulux has invented – because then, I worried, my brand might not be authentic to its racist origins.

 

The final stress of this journey to the fulfillment of my dream career came about when I gave a customer’s child a white chocolate jelly bean at the front desk and they had an allergic reaction, entitling the mother to accuse me, very publicly, of being both a bad retailer and bad parent.

 

This is anxiety, folks. It’s how your stupid brain can turn even your dreams into nightmares.

We Need To Stop Deluding Our Kids That They Can Do Anything

Just about the only aspect of parenting the old man and I agree on is not to delude our children that they can do anything they want in life, in spite of that particular model of parenting being popular since the time we first had them.musician-664432_1280

 

We’ve both made mistakes in our careers and got over them because we’re wise enough to know that flailing around in the regret box serves no-one, but as a result of our choices we’ve always encouraged our children to a) do something they enjoy, and b) do something they demonstrate some talent towards.

 

Admittedly, it’s not always easy to convey that idea to your kids without sounding negative, especially if you have a dreamer.

 

This warped idea of lying to our children about what they are capable of has been brilliantly summed up in an article I read this week by Erica Reischer, entitled “No, honey, you can’t be anything you want to be. And that’s okay.”

 

There has been some interesting criticism levelled recently at what were seen as new-age parenting techniques when we first became parents, such as the end to smacking and enforcement of boundaries, in an attempt to provide our children with freedom of thought to become free-spirited individuals, with their own minds to encourage them to find their own way.

 

Yet what we see now is what many refer to as an ‘entitled’, narcissistic generation that has interpreted its lack of boundaries to mean that they can do anything. And they are raising their own children in an even freer style. Few of the young parents I know impose the routines we were taught to discipline our children with, and generally have children sleeping in their beds long after they are babies.

 

That said, being a badass, authoritarian parent doesn’t necessarily work either. I know that from personal experience. Which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to customise your style of parenting to the needs of your child if you can, rather like when you choose your child’s school; unless you have more than two children, of course, when I imagine you go with whatever gets you through the day.

 

But whatever style of parenting you choose, there’s no guarantee that your offspring will turn out happy, balanced or loving adults. There are too many other forces at work.

 

When Kurt first became impassioned by music around the age of seven and he told me he was going to become a rock star when he grew up, it was cute. When he was still relying on a rock star future at the age of sixteen and taking the decision to forgo mathematics classes at school – because who needed maths when they would have a manager (?) – I began to have my doubts, and was left with the daunting task of bursting my son’s bubble (just as I had with the Father Christmas bubble), with a reality check.

 

Interestingly, he refused to accept my reasoning of a back-up plan or my suspicions that he might not be the next Mick Jagger, even though I didn’t do a Kanye West and trod carefully, so as not to completely dispel his dreams. To this day he has never forgiven me for that talk and reminds me constantly of the day I shattered his dreams in each of his diatribes about what an awful parent I am.

 

But the truth is, should we really be bigging up our kids to think they are special or something they’re not? Should we be encouraging every kid to go to university when those who are pushed to go are likely to come out on the other side massively in debt and with an average-class degree, who still can’t compete with their more academically gifted peers? Aren’t we effectively condoning a waste of three to four years, (sometimes more these days with double degrees)? Which is precious time that could be spent on vocational training, apprenticeships or even travel – options of further education far better-suited to their skill set and personality.

 

By fooling these kids that they can do anything, we end up with a glut of graduates without jobs and a shortage of blue-collar workers.

 

And there is also the question of how the pressure we exert on these kids to compete at a level they are simply not cut out for, affects them. And that pressure starts at high school, where every child is groomed for university and those who can’t cope with that goal are made to feel failures or removed from the system in case they screw up the school results.

 

I’m not condemning ‘pushy parenting’ or parental support, because it has been proven that it is a huge factor in better education results and frankly some kids need a good kick up the arse to help them focus. If I hadn’t been gifted with a son with special needs I would never have seen both sides of this situation.

 

But kids are coming out of school with false expectations, fed to them by parents and schools, that the world is their oyster. This leads them to a really rude shock in the real world. Many of the kids that then enter the work place are oblivious to how hard you have to work for success, whether they’re a sportsman with natural athletic ability or an entrepreneur with the skill set for taking risk.

 

As Erica states, ‘Even if the message “you can do anything!” is broadened to include hard work, it falls short,’ because success involves more than a modicum of luck as well, no matter how talented you are.

 

How many parents do you know who sacrificed all their time and money because their child showed some talent at sport or in academia? And at the end of the school journey, what percentage of those parents had to accept that yes, their child was talented, but not elite enough to turn their talent into a living, once their kids reached their early twenties?

 

We need to encourage our children, but we also need to keep the pressure in perspective to prevent their egos from free-fall. Is it really the end of the world if a child misses a day of school or a training session?

 

We went through this with Kurt, who showed some talent musically as a young boy – still does when the mood takes him – but does he have the innate confidence or the work ethic to put himself in the right arena for success? I suspect not, and that’s okay.

 

Because talent is only one of the tools you need in the toolbox. I myself have reinvented myself a thousand times work-wise, and each time I kidded myself that my non-starter talents could be the next big thing.

 

Writing is my most recent but I haven’t given up the day job yet.

 

‘Why do so many of dislike the idea of having average children?’ asks Erica.

 

In my opinion, therein lies the crux of the problem. We’ve been forced to become so competitive as parents that when our kids become normal adults, we wonder what it was all about. Why was the idea of little Jimmy not shining at somethinganything, so terrifying? Because then he would end up just like us, and another generation of our family would pass through history without notability.

 

Average Joes.

 

But it won’t, because as everyone knows, the true measure of your success when you’re on your deathbed is not which university you went to, but how many of your loved ones are there with you to say goodbye.

Have Your Dreams Changed Now That You’re Middle-Aged?

(WARNING: Complete Waffle Alert)

 

Yes and No. Let me tell you why.

 

English: Sweet dreams dreaming of snowhite and...
English: Sweet dreams dreaming of snowhite and the seven dwarves – painting by Franz Schrotzberg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my first dreams, (aside from marrying Donny Osmond or Prince Charles), was to become a cook. I was queen of the cheese scone, Macaroni Cheese and Bechamel sauce growing up – back in the seventies, some time before they discovered Cholesterol – and I believed that I had the potential to be the next Masterchef.

“A COOK!” my father spat at me in horror, “but what about all that money I’ve spent on your education?”

 

So I didn’t become a cook – even at home.

 

Then I was inspired by a beautifully illustrated version of The Wind In The Willows, that was given to me as a Progress Prize at school, (notice the emphasis on ‘progress’ rather than ‘first’ or ‘second’ prize), and characteristically impulsive, I decided to become a writer and illustrator of children’s books instead – the only flaw in my plan being that I couldn’t draw to save my life and I was ‘progress’ level in English.

 

"Macaroni" and cheese. No macaroni w...
“Macaroni” and cheese. No macaroni was available, so I used sedanini instead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I did what every twenty-something with hidden talents and ambition does in a mild panic because their peers are all being offered fantastic jobs and I couldn’t even get an interview – I gave into my poor self-esteem. And that decision – to settle for what I COULD do, rather than what I was passionate about, has haunted me through the years.

 

But what about my personal dreams? Surely, they must have been more successful?

 

(Feminists, close your ears).

 

I’m not ashamed to admit that all I ever really wanted was to breed more of me and be happy – Disney has a lot to answer for. The old man never really stood a chance. (Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wanting the fuck off house, Mercedes and diamond rings at certain points in my life, too).

 

So, have all my dreams been fulfilled, or have they changed now that I’m middle aged?

 

Again, yes and no…

 

Have Your Dreams Changed Now You're Middle-Aged?
Disney Couples Pt 2 by G-nuinart at http://www.flickr.com

I have the beautiful children, the bald but ‘fit’ husband and a cushy life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; and for the most part I have been healthy and happy. I still aspire to be the next Helen Fielding, and Kurt may well be beautiful to me, his mum, but he has also been sent as a lesson from God, to remind me on occasion that the perfect package doesn’t truly exist in life and you have to earn true happiness.

 

But the icing on this middle-aged cake is that I have a more informed idea of who I am and what I want now. I’m a very different person to the woman I was in my twenties, who had so little confidence in her own abilities to succeed. I have ‘experience’ to fortify me now, and out of that experience, some wisdom has evolved.

 

FUCK, I sound old!

 

How many times a year do YOU catch yourself saying ‘if I had my time again? or, ‘If I’d known then what I know now,’ like I do? We say it because it’s true. if I’d had this wisdom and confidence back in my twenties, my work life would certainly have gone in a very different direction. But luckily, the wisdom of maturity that I’ve acquired with age, also reminds me that regret boxes are futile and only serve to drag us down.

 

So what I’m trying to say, (badly…and I know I’m waffling but it’s been a tough week), is that the real difference in my dreams in middle age is that I’m excited about them now – whereas in my twenties I felt threatened by them, like the walls were closing in and I was going to run out of time. The sort of sad truth is, I really AM running out of time now but just as the pressure to look good has dissipated with age into unimportance, so has the pressure to appear ‘successful’ in the eyes of my peers. I don’t fucking care what people think of me now and it’s wonderfully liberating.

 

I only care about my personal goals.

 

And perhaps my dreams are a little more realistic now, too. They still involve my family, (who remain the most important thing in my life), and my small career goals, but mostly they involve my passion to enjoy life and live it to the full with the people I care about.

 

Here are my middle aged dreams:

 

To spoil and then hand back my grandchildren, once I persuade my kids to have them.

 

To earn a living as a writer.

 

To be able to guarantee that my children remain healthy and content with their choices in life, are driven by happiness and not money, and are NEVER tempted to pour miserably over a regret box.

 

That the old man and I can tolerate each other for another thirty years and be like that couple in The Notebook and die at the same time, so that neither of us has to live without the other. Because that would be very strange.

 

That we’re not disappointed in the retirement we’ve worked so hard towards and that when we get there, the old man doesn’t start rearranging the kitchen cupboards or telling me how to food shop.

 

Have your dreams changed in middle age?

 

The Importance Of Chasing Your Dreams

This is a short story about fate or luck – you decide.

There was once a boy who was seen by society as ‘different’. He was a lovely little boy but as he grew up his parents soon realised that his executive functioning wasn’t quite the same as other children his age – he was very impulsive, got himself into trouble easily and found it difficult to communicate on the same level as his peers.

Barber Shop
Barber Shop (Photo credit: brandoncripps)

Which meant that his experience of school was very different to the other kids. He spent a lot of time sitting outside the classroom for poor behaviour, detention became an after-school activity and his mother had to have a minimum of two bottles of wine before every parents evening.

He was rarely invited on play dates, sleepovers or birthday parties and although he concealed his disappointment, his ostracization made his mother fucking livid at times.

But with every cloud there is a silver lining and luckily the little boy discovered a passion for music from a very early age and somehow it communicated to him, where his peers had refused. So much so, that music became his best friend and with its support, the boy was able to block out the judgmental looks lobbed his way daily at school.

ADHD makes you different, not defective.’ (Wendy Davis)

That boy grew up into a young man and although he faced more challenges than many kids his own age, and oftentimes caused his parents to throw their hands in the air and call upon their God in frustration, and to gnash their teeth VERY loudly, he coped the best way he could.

As he grew older the boy went through many obsessions, and lived vicariously through many of his musical idols, from Michael Jackson to Axl Rose – both worrying times for his parents.

Michael Jackson

But his obsession with music became his raison d’etre. His memory was perfect when it came to the names of bands and although he could never remember his times tables, he could recite the lyrics to all his favourite songs. He sang more often than he talked and when he was a toddler and finally spoken his first word, he spoke in lyrics (before anything identifiably logical) to his parents.

They were the words to AC/DC’s Back in Black, which was again, a worrying time for his parents.

His dream was to be a rock star and up until the age of thirteen his parents went along with that goal. Who were they to crush his dreams? He showed talent for singing and guitar and certainly conveyed the passion required, and his parents tried to support him as much as they could.

They kept the local music shops in business, funded guitar and drum lessons and were roadie parents as their evening jobs, breaking their backs as they lugged ridiculously heavy amps around some of the most unfriendly-looking pubs in Sydney, whilst trying to deflect the rages of their performer son – who unfortunately also suffered from lead-singer disorder and could be a real fucking prima donna at times.

When he reached the age of sixteen, the inevitable teenage physical changes kicked in and it proved to be a very big year for him in other ways too. Another school, a new set of potential friends, and there were definitive signs that he was catching up with his peers.

And his parents dared to breathe again.

He will look back on that year as a great year; his parents will remember it as the year they sought medication. During that year, (catalogued in the family archives as the ‘year of experimentation’ or ‘year from hell’, depending on whose entry you read), he was introduced to all sorts of terrible vices that his parents couldn’t shield him from – habits that are particularly dangerous when combined with ADHD.

But luckily, music never left his soul.

Then one day, (this week), the boy went to the local barber shop for his two-weekly scalping (even though his mum insisted the cut made him look like a hooligan) and was chatting away with the barber about his music.

When in walked another customer.

The barber introduced the boy to the old man (he must have been at least 35!) who had come into his shop and the two of them began to talk about music. And they found that they shared the same passion for British music and many other genres. Suddenly the man threw into the conversation, (all casual like), that he used to run EMI records and he asked the boy to send him some vocal tracks that he would take a listen to, with a view to collaborating in the future. And he gave the boy his email address.

The boy nearly pissed his pants, such was his excitement, but pretended to be cool. He must have jumped from cloud 9 to 8 and 7 and 6…..and back again all in the space of one minute.

He wasn’t naïve enough to think that this would make him the next Justin Bieber, (nor would he want to be), but he experienced a high that was better than any of the illicit drugs he had experimented with relied upon as a temporary coping strategy over the previous year.

And as the boy paid for his hooligan haircut, the barber leant down to him and whispered into his ear, ‘funny who you can meet in the barber shop,’ and the boy smiled knowingly.

Chase your dreams because they can come true. Carpe Diem.

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New Year To Do List

I’ve been in a bit of a rather unattractive and sweaty, sick fug for the past few days.

Unfortunately I packed ‘la gripe’ (flu) in my suitcase when we left France and it has ravaged my pathetic defenceless body with hot sweats, aching limbs, headaches and a chesty cough for the past few days. Uncharacteristically, one of my symptoms is an inappropriately insatiable desire for food, (and alcohol has proven once again to be the best form of medication), meaning that sympathy from the old man and his family has not been unconditional.

So caught up have I been in my hypochondria near death experience, that I almost forgot one of my main duties as a blogger, that of commenting on important annual events such as the advent of the new year.

English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours.
English: Peking Duck, being dried for 5 hours. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So dire has been my self-imposed exile to the bedroom and away from the hubbub and general awkwardness of being with the old man’s family for longer than 12 hours, I almost completely skipped the familial Hogmanay festivities and implications, (apart from an multipally orgasmic Chinese meal that included five Peking Duck pancaskes that I carefully packed myself with all the most succulent and un-fatty pieces of duck, and which I somehow managed to summon my last reserves of energy to inhale from their plastic containers just prior to collapsing back into bed with the Panadeine Extra and a G and T in the disguise of a bottle of water).

So I haven’t really had time to consider the full contents of my regret box of 2012, and what will no doubt end up being the dashed hopes of 2013; or even how I WILL this year change the old man’s ways no matter what the old wives might say about leapards and spots.

The old man and I do generally compile a list of sorts on New Year‘s Eve, albeit less of a resolution list and more of a To Do/How To Improve/Stay Married list.

Exercise always features prominently because we find that thinking about it does go part of the way to making us feel better about not actually doing it. Being better parents is another annual aim, but as my therapist has told me categorically NOT to focus my anxiety on mother-guilt for the time-being, I have decided to pass that particular mantle  on to the old man this year. We both had ‘new hobbies’ on last year’s and this is one I can confidently tick off with my writing, although I am not sure that either the old man’s singular bike ride to the local shop in August counts as ‘sport’ or the barbequing of sausages last Australia Day (and they were pink inside) really count as ‘cooking’ for his.

However, we may have ‘improved our lifestyle’ with our impending evacuation to the city. The old man will be cutting down on his commute and will have time to utter more than his current few words (‘to the Valley of Death’) to me before leaving for work and will not have any excuse for flashing the torturous en suite lights directly into my eyes at some ridiculously anti-social time of the night which is when he currently leaves, so that he can get in early enough to read the paper and use the office toilet before pretending to work.

The ADHDer will be donning his new ballet tights and leotard, plastering his Glee white-toothed grin across his face and all that jazz en route to becoming the next Hugh Jackman Billy-Joe Armstrong, while Nerd Queen should be happily ensconced in a laboratory somewhere in Physics Road with a bevy of equally socially-challenged nerdy Asians and a bunsen burner.

And meanwhile I will be lighting the home fires at our new terrace close to the city, anxiously waiting for a new and fulfilling career to choose me, like I have done many times before when the grass appeared greener and the family uprooted for pastures new. ‘Writing the book’ is on the list again and there is every chance that this year will be the year that I will fulfil my writing dream and think of a plot that is fluid and characters with some character.

Or maybe I’ll be really radical and just be ‘grateful for what I have’….

Unlikely though.