20 Surprising Things I Am Thankful For This Year

Anger was the main topic of conversation during my last visit to my therapist for the year. Anger about stuff I can’t control, mainly, but also anger about the world stuff I talked about here in my last post, as well as some anger issues about the usual personal frustrations.

Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash

In response, she drew that volcano on the board for me again, which is supposed to represent the three things that cause anger – fear, sadness, anxiety – but in truth, she could have added resentment, disappointment and envy as well.

Of course, anger is not an unusual emotion to experience at this time of the year, when there is so much anticipation, expectation, and erm family involvement. Which is why I have found myself pounding the pavements around my lake more often and more heavily than usual in the lead up to Christmas in an attempt to keep that woe is me vibe under control.

That’s why it was so good to be reminded that some things/people can’t be changed, and her analogy about not buying a cake from the butchers made perfect sense. And so, instead of dwelling on my frustrations about the last year in this final post before Christmas, I thought I’d give gratitude another go.

Here it is: my list of thank yous to the people and things that have contributed to my happy bits this year:

  1. The agents who have rejected my booknot really – because they’ve forced me to look at my manuscript again and improve it. I refuse to give up on this story that I know millions of women and mothers that are coping with mental illness in their family will identify with.
  2. My anti-depressants for my anxiety. Without them, there would have been many times I would have crumbled and given up. I continue to believe wholeheartedly that if you need medication for an illness, you take it, and no one should judge you for that choice.
  3. The editors who have taken a chance on me and allowed me to express my humble opinions to a much larger audience than this blog.
  4. My boss, for having faith in me, even though I keep questioning why.
  5. Old friends and family from the UK, who occasionally drop me a line and fill my heart with love.
  6. The Princess, who makes me look like a saint when it comes to unpredictable moods as she ages and who accepts me for who I am. In fact, thank you to all dogs who give so much unconditional love to their families and who provide so much entertainment on video.
  7. Toasted sandwiches – I rediscovered these halfway through the year and they are one of my new favourite comfort foods.
  8. Running – WTF!? I’m not going any further, any faster, or enjoying it any more than when I started this craziness, but it is one of the healthier ways to quash the anger.
  9. My therapist – I clicked with her the first time we met and I’m gutted that she’s moving away to pastures new. Thank you for not sitting on the fence. Thank you for sympathizing when I have those woe is me moments, and thank you for knowing exactly the right time to tell me to put on my big girl panties.
  10. My children – I want to thank NC for being my best friend, for always being straight with me, and for loving me in spite of my questionable nurturing skills. I know that her inheritance of the emotionally awkward gene makes it as hard for her to demonstrate her feelings, so let’s see just how bloody awkward Christmas can get when the two of us are forced to hug publicly again. Thank you Kurt for the many corners you have turned this year, for making me a proud mama even when you don’t think I am, for holding on, for holding out, for showing strength in the face of adversity, and for beating the old man at pool.
  11. Family – Thank you to those who stay in touch in spite of the distance I have put between us; to those who have braved a visit to the other side of the world, and to those who keep alive the memory of those that we have lost, which is far too many. A special thank to my siblings who have been through a lot of the same shithouse stuff as me, whose wings have been broken time and time again, and yet who manage to stick them back on each year and maintain a sense of humor.
  12. Wine – Thank you for getting me through many awkward social situations and personal crises, even if next year I am determined to put some distance between us. At the age of 54, I’m beginning to understand the ramifications of toxic relationships.
  13. My walking buddies – I never thought I would enjoy walking, come to hate noise, and see the point of plants. I like to think of the middle-aged stereotype I am turning into as maturing rather than growing old. Thank you to those friends with whom I have travelled kilometres, over-analysing our lives for their meaning. So many times I’ve returned from those journeys a changed woman. Our talks have made me understand how good life is when it is simple. Being at one with nature in the company of good friends is all an old girl really needs – except for no. 12, obviously.
  14. The cunts – Thank you to those people whose ignorance, discrimination, and abuse of privilege has made me wiser and stronger. To those who are too blind and too arrogant to acknowledge the inequality between men and women, the plight of refugees, or the affects of climate change. To those who refuse to accept that certain types of humour are simply not appropriate and continue to put their needs above everyone else and judge a book by its cover. To those who refuse to accept that the world is evolving, and without their massive cuntery, those changes might be for the better.
  15. To the fire fighters and other rescue services, thank you for your generosity, bravery and commitment to keeping us safe here in Australia.
  16. To the men who have shown empathy for the women who have been abused and betrayed by their gender, who have supported rather than doubted or torn them down. To the men who are determined to change toxic masculinity for their own benefit as well as ours, who knock back sexist jokes, who cry, who show their sons love and who share the emotional and physical load at home.
  17. To my readers and followers – thank you for putting up with my lack of filter, sweariness, biassed opinions and embarrassing need for attention. Thank you for validating my writing and making me feel more relevant.
  18. To the people who have made me laugh this year – Benjamin Law, Ricky Gervais, Daniel Sloss, the writers of Guilty Feminist, Wil Anderson and his Wilosophy, Kathy Lette and Tim Minchin, to name a few.
  19. To my health. Thank you to my body for putting up with the abuse I give it. Next year, I will not take it for granted as much and try to value each extra day that I am given.
  20. To my husband who puts up with my shit on a daily basis. I don’t tell him often how much I love him and appreciate him 1) because we’re reached that stage where we take each other for granted, and 2) because a lot of the time he irritates the fuck out of me. But evidently, the fact that we can still laugh together and at each other is the glue that has bound us together for another year.

A very Happy Christmas and New Year to everyone xx

Managing Anxiety and Depression: The Trick Is To Find Happiness In The Small Things

After the cabin fever brought on by the Armageddon of a dodgy weather cycle in Sydney over the past 24hrs – totally unrelated to climate change, according to our government – it was a relief to get out of the house this morning. 

After almost a month of holiday excess, I decided that I would make my comeback to fitness with a morning jog with the old man – although for those of you conjuring up an image of beautiful blogger with handsome, virile husband pounding the pavements, please take note that the image below is far more representative of the truth and I am not about to metamorphose into a wellness blogger. 

Our jog – (roughly) 1.2k to the north end of the beach (which feels like 7k) and then back again, which is driven solely by the thought of the steaming bowl of porridge waiting for us back at home – is a strategy to get us focused for the day ahead. But the truth is that typically HE runs back to the house while I stagger back, on all fours, like some crazy woman in search of the nearest defibrillator.

This morning, however, I couldn’t even manage a stagger back. Two weeks of partying in London have turned muscle into lard and it was as much as I could do to throw off my runners halfway around and pad back along the deep sand of the beach, the ocean swirling at my feet.

A choice for which I am eternally grateful .

The point is that my failure to complete the circuit didn’t affect anything other than my pride, and that walk back along the beach turned out to be one of those rare moments of unbridled happiness that can appear unexpectedly in a moment of defeat. Kathy Lette commented about such experiences on Twitter recently:

‘Society is so obsessed with happiness. If you were happy every day of your life you’d be a brekky telly weather presenter. The trick is to find happiness in small things.’ 

Kathy Lette, Twitter

In truth, it’s hard to visualize Kathy having bad days if you judge her from her social media pages. Vivacious, successful and always in the company of the type of celebrities that most people would die to be in the company of, the writer is usually papped with a glass of Champagne in one hand – one of the many reasons, (writing and humor aside), that she remains an icon to me, even if my own glass tends to be full of Aldi Prosecco rather than Cristal. However, the truth is that Kathy, like everyone, has faced her challenges. Raising a son with autism is not exactly a walk in the park.

Finding happiness in small things has become something of a mantra for me this year. I’m currently reading Matt Haig’s “Reasons To Stay Alive”  – who isn’t? – and the message that runs through the book, (and coincidentally, has always been the advice of my doctor), is the importance of building up reserves of mental strength through activities such as exercise or creativity, or whatever floats your boat, really. Everyone goes through stages of life that aren’t easy, but once you survive a bout of depression or learn to manage your anxiety, that resilience will better prepare you for the next time. 

“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.” 
― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

I might be in a bad place physically at the moment, but I’m mentally okay – well…okay by my standards, thanks to Zoloft! – and I believe that it is my focus on those small things, such as the love of family, writing, peering up into a cloudless sky – I’m in Australia, Matt! – or enjoying the sensation of sand running through my toes on the beach are what keeps my silly brain in check.

Continuing to grow is also important.

‘Continuing to grow’ is a phrase that can reduce the old man to a quivering wreck since the time I accused him of ‘waiting to die’ in an argument. Now, every time he agrees to do something that he wouldn’t choose of his own volition, he feels obliged to remind me of how much he is ‘growing.’ I equate my request that he keep on ‘living’ to the compromise I make each week when I am his target practice on the tennis court.

At 53, I continue to learn and grow, through my writing, through my work, through friendships and relationships. I continue to be curious about the world around me and about my place in it. Don’t get me wrong, our life isn’t perfect – who’s is? – and yet, finally, I’ve come to realize that it’s how we approach our problems that truly matters.

‘It’s lucky I’m a happy person,’ my uncle said to me on holiday as he drove me to the 24hr care home to see my beloved aunt who suffered a serious stroke last year.

Honestly, I don’t know what gave this gorgeous, generous and humble man such a gift of positivity, for he hasn’t had a particularly extraordinary or successful life – depending on how you measure success, of course. Indeed, he has only ever truly cared about one thing in his seventy-odd years – the love of his wife of almost half a century.

So, is he lucky?

I don’t think so. But I do believe that he chose to live his life a certain way, and it’s the right way.

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. 

‘Making Self-Love Habitual’

‘Self-lovers don’t diet. They eat what they want, when they want, but do so mindfully.’ (Jacinta Tynan, Sydney Morning Herald)

reading-925589_960_720Admittedly, I’m still working on the ‘mindful’ part of this comment, but I’ve been doing a lot of research recently about loving yourself and this article – How To Make Self-Love An Instinctual Habit – confirmed to me how easy it is to change your outlook if you look at it as something that needs and deserves the same care you give the rest of your body.

Ie. If you value yourself.

 

I also rewatched Tim Minchin’s Nine Life Lessons again  – frankly, one of the best video clips online, in my opinion – in which he recommends embracing life and taking a positive approach wherever possible, even if (naturally) you err on the side of “glass-half-empty-dom” or like him, take the piss out of people for a living. 

Recently, I have tried to mix things up a bit within the confines of my own personality – to adopt new interests and remove bad habits, so that I embrace life more proactively. Recent health studies into dementia stress the importance of learning new skills – crosswords aren’t enough, it seems, (much to the old man’s disdain) – and so, after my last stay in the Doldrums Hotel, I’ve introduced nine habits of my own (below) that I’m forcing myself to do I’m cultivating within my lifestyle to help improve my mental outlook:

  1. Reading – As a teenager, I was an avid reader – anything from Mills and Boon to Jane Austen, and loads of Jackie Collins in between. It provided escapism, fuelled my eschewed dreams of romance and relaxed me when I was feeling anxious. And then I had kids, and the opportunities for reading time dried up. I tried various book clubs – that forced me to read books I wasn’t interested in – and when I began to write seriously, fiction had to be replaced by articles, how-to-write and self-help manuals. Anyhow, recently I’ve forced myself back into reading before bedtime, and not only am I sleeping better, I’ve also been inspired by what I’m reading from both a creative and educational standpoint. You’re never too old to learn.
  2. Fangirling – I know it sounds as pretentious AF – and by way of a pathetic excuse, I will say that this new pleasure of mine is somewhat tenuously linked to my writing – but I love to listen to author talks. NC and I attended a Q and A with the writer Emily Maguire last weekend, which included High Tea and Champagne.  What better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon?
  3. Masterchef – After a sabbatical of seven or eight years, I decided to give Masterchef another go and I’ve dragged the old man in for the ride. Neither of us has massive culinary aspirations – and I’ve ignored the notebook he passes to me each time the show starts – but what’s not to love about watching the journeys of this likable, brave group of amateurs, who are willing to make mistakes so publicly in search of their dreams?  The arrogance and bizarre eating habits of the chefs are equally entertaining as is the occasional public slaying of the professionals. Miss you, Brendan – talking of fangirling!
  4. Exercise – Admittedly, I never thought I’d include this one in a list such as this, and after years of wobbling down my street in a vain attempt to shed weight, that’s no longer my goal. These days, I exercise to keep my brain fit and healthy. Nothing too strenuous – mainly walks and swimming – but just enough to stop my mind reaching into those dark corners where it prefers to reside.
  5. Simple cooking and eating – I’ve always been an advocate of four-ingredient cooking (preferably three), and recently I’ve turned my hand to a few new dishes. Soups have been my thing in these cooler months and I’ve worked out that you can basically knock up any sumptuous vegetable soup with one hero vegetable and a base of potato, onion, and stock. Comfort in a bowl. I sprinkle a handful of crisp bacon on the top to disguise the fact it’s vegetarian from the boys.
  6. Friends – I know – obvious, right?  And yet ageing and menopause can conspire to push you back into the doldrums more than you’d like, making you socially anxious. And one day, the thought of staying at home under a blanket with the dog on the couch sounds far more appealing than making an effort to see people. Having moved back to our old neck of the woods, I’m so grateful to old friends for forcing me out.
  7. Writing/Journalling – For me, writing has been a life-saver. It’s cheap therapy for me, and really, I should be paying you for listening. There was a while back there when I was so focused on my manuscript that I rarely left the house, when I felt like I had nothing much to say and I parked the blog for a while. But recently, I’ve got back into it with a renewed fervor. My world hasn’t suddenly developed more layers, but it has evolved and developed different layers, and I have begun to enjoy the writing process again. I’ve also started writing a new blog about interior styling here for anyone who is about to sell their home or is passionate about interiors.
  8. Resting – I haven’t resorted to nana naps (just yet), even if some of my friends swear by them, but I do force myself to sit down occasionally. Over-stimulation fuels my anxiety and when I am impulsive and rush, I make mistakes. This has been one of the hardest disciplines for me.
  9. Medication – In the wake of recent events, I can’t emphasize this example of self-love enough. There is no shame in taking medication for an illness – many people are forced to. There should be no stigma attached to taking medication to live a normal life, especially when a normal life is not being afraid to leave your house. Obviously,  I would love all my nine points to be based on organic, holistic ideas, but the reality is that some people need more than that. To enable a quadriplegic to ski, he needs the assistance of a specially-designed chair;  to help someone with anxiety leave their front door, a pill can work. So, what’s the problem?

Living One Day At A Time And Being Content With What We Have

4939a1e96f466bb6214bb62cd62c9e12A successful designer, seemingly with the world at her feet, takes her own life. Her body is found in her New York apartment with a note that will devastate her family and change the course of her young daughter’s life forever. One thing is certain: she achieved success in the way that the west determines success, and yet, something was still missing. She didn’t ‘have it all’.

We will never know or perhaps understand the demons that led Kate Spade to make the ultimate sacrifice, but if there is one thing to take from this tragedy, it is that happiness cannot be bought, a belief shared by a young eighteen-year-old boy in another section of the news today. Jake Bailey was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eighteen – discovered in the dentist’s chair following a pain in his jaw – whereupon he was given three weeks to live, without treatment. He survived, and his experience has taught him the invaluable lesson of embracing life, each hour, each day, each tiny, magical moment.

 

To take one day at a time.

 

Meanwhile, Matt Haig, whom I’ve quoted on this blog before  – author of “Reasons To Stay Alive,” “Notes On A Nervous Planet” (out in July), and advocate for increasing mental health awareness – is considering removing his presence from Twitter due to the abuse leveled at his comments about positivity, gratitude and empathy for those struggling with mental health issues.

 

He wrote this comment on Twitter this morning, which resonated with me after reading of the tragic death of Kate Spade.

 

‘We need to radically change the idea of ‘having it all’ so that it includes contentment. Without it, ‘all’ is nothing.’

 

Most of us are guilty of jumping ahead of ourselves, planning for the future and not living in the now. The old man and I do it. We tie ourselves in knots, worrying so much about whether we’ll have the money to retire, that we forget to “live”. We wasted many years aspiring to meaningless symbols of materialism, that for the most part didn’t make us happy – (Apart from the Lexus – the Lexus made me happy!). And then, when finally we think we have it all and yet somehow still haven’t hit the sweet spot of contentment, we question why.

 

Imagine if all we had to think about was our survival? There are many examples of tribes and cultures around the globe that only have to consider living from one day to the next, that live a happy, fulfilled existence. Whereas globally, one person suicides every forty seconds, according to the World Health Organization, and the occurrence of “depression” is highest in the US – ‘the land of opportunity and dreams.’ It is lowest in Japan, a country that has adopted a simplicity in their approach to life, such as its practice of Kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery with gold rather than replacing it with new.

 

‘While the general Western consensus on broken objects is that they have lost their value, practitioners and admirers of Kintsugi believe that never-ending consumerism is not a spiritually rewarding experience.’ (Make)

 

Or as Val Jon Farris says in the Huffington Post:

 

‘It is the practice of focusing one’s intention on life’s hidden beauty and power.’

 

Fundamentally, is loving ourselves, valuing and being content with what we have.

 

 

When You Kid Yourself That One Night At The Opera Makes You Cultured

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I had steak tonight. It was one of those spontaneous decisions brought on by the anxiety that we’re all going to die soon and I might never taste steak again because I rarely eat red meat these days. I am one of those people that get sucked into the latest health advice about what you can and can’t do, so I gave up red meat (almost) a while ago, and now I eat a lot of salmon. That is, until this week, when an article described how salmon is farmed and full of worms and artificially colored and… yuk, I’m not sure when I’ll eat salmon again, either.

And in other related news, last night I went to the opera because my latest fad for seizing the day is pushing me to try all these things that normally I’m much too lazy or terrified to bother with. This free opera event, which is held at the Domain in Sydney each year and sponsored by Mazda, is such a great initiative that I’ve decided to bore you with my experience and to extol its virtues again like I did this time last year.

Le’s be honest, when we’re getting false ballistic missile warnings, the most powerful politician in the world describes countries as shitholes, and women are vilified for  coming forward about sexual harassment, it’s time to step back and immerse yourself in whatever makes you happy, even if it has been proven to clog your arteries or makes you a pretentious twat.

And what’s not to love about a FREE event where you can pretend to be a music aficionado for a couple of hours, tick off your one and only cultural event for the year, and drink copious amounts of sparkly with no judgment. In fact, this is one of those rare events that condones getting publicly shitfaced in the name of culture, although in my book, ‘bring a picnic’ has always been code to over-imbibe.

Now some of you might think about privilege when you think of opera, but remember, this event brings music to the masses, and although the demographic may not be the same as meat raffle night during Happy Hour at the Blacktown Pub, it was wonderful to see such a diverse crowd in both age and ethnicity respond to the civilized freebie – for the proletariat, the next best thing to going to the Opera House.

However, I was surprised to see that even at the opera there are those that take the piss; who believe themselves superior to the rest and flout the rules; who tried, (unsuccessfully) to sneak in their full-height camping chairs past security, thereby compromising the view of the stage to the latecomers who hadn’t the foresight/anal disposition to arrive ridiculously early to ensure a good spot, like us. And they were dealt with accordingly, in a manner to fit the crime –  ie. hung, drawn and quartered, no matter what their objections, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, age or infirmity.

This was a festival without normal festival behavior. Bin bags were supplied for the rubbish and the toilets were clean – in fact, I felt a little disappointed not to find one speck of white powder on the toilet seats.

We went in a group, two of whom were celebrating their birthdays, so if you can imagine a middle-aged hen night, that was us. I can say with some certainty that it is unlikely any of us will be invited to join the Sydney opera in the near future, even though, personally, I thought our attempt of several different (and really quite complex) arias was inspired.

We commenced with The Flower Duet, from the opera Lakme – more famous as the music to a British Airways advertisement from the eighties – just to gain our confidence, and finished with a female version of Nessun Dorma for our finale. I promise you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time we finished; we were pitch perfect if a group of howling feral cats in the early stages of attracting a mate is your thing, so early booking is required.

Can I Please Stop Drinking Now?

We’re drawing to the end of those tricky days between  Christmas and New Year, where no one really knows what the fuck to do with themselves apart from drink alcohol at odd times of the day and gorge on left-overs.

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It has been stinky-hot here in Sydney, but at least we’ve had the coolness of the ocean to cure our hangovers and to waste the hours between breakfast and the first mid-morning drink. There are no rules during these final hours of festivity, and as each day crawls closer to the New Year and the promise of its heinous list of resolutions – typically of sobriety – my body is trying to get as much alcohol into its system as possible in preparation for the stoicism of January – that usually lasts around two days.

This is the first New Year where I’m proud to admit that I will probably be in bed before 12pm. I no longer feel that pressure to keep up with The Jones’ in most aspects of my middle-aged life. Finally, I am my own person and I do what I want to do – unless the old man disagrees – and tonight we will meet like-minded friends for dinner, drag ourselves down to the water to watch the 9pm fireworks with the mums and bubs, and then my best intentions will no doubt fly out of the window and I’ll be found, washed up on Manly beach tomorrow morning, with no memory of the night before.

I have relaxed these past few days, with long walks and long dinners, in the company of gorgeous friends and family – a good time to reflect on exactly how much my liver can withstand. Indeed, when walking back from the beach the other day, I experienced one of those rare moments of total happiness, and if no one had been around and I could actually lift my legs off the ground without pulling a muscle, I might have jumped for joy –  a serenity that I hope had less to do with the alcohol in my veins and rather more to do with where I find myself in my life right now. Then a hornet flew out of no-where and bit me on the leg – a reminder to embrace those moments fully and seize the day. I am still in pain.

Thank you to my loyal followers who have shared their own thoughts on the absurdity of life with me, or made kind comments about my writing that incentivize me to keep churning out this drivel ad nauseam.

Thank you to my family for keeping my feet on the ground and reminding me that life is about living in the here and now and about taking risks, and that the rough molds us as much as the smooth.

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2018 bring you love, happiness, good health and an abundance of belly laughter.

Please, can I stop drinking now?

 

 

 

 

Feeling Grateful…Until Your Husband Fucks Up Again

You can usually count on the old man to turn a drama into a crisis.

 

apocalypse-371947_1280I went into day surgery for a minor gyny procedure today. I won’t scare away my few male followers by sharing the intricate, gory details of the investigative procedure into the over-chartered territories of my almost-defunct uterus, but suffice it to say, it was on a par with a quarterly Council clear out, only this time linked to MENSTRUATION GONE WRONG, and the sort of uncontrollable blood loss usually sustained by a rogue shark or zombie attack.

 

It was my only visit to a hospital outside of child birth, which made me (worryingly) somewhat of a celebrity in theatre – ie. a virgin to anesthesia at the ripe old age of fifty-two – so I was grateful for the full run down of what to expect by the bevy of lovely nurses, although less happy about the million disclaimer forms I had to sign in abject panic mode. If I’m honest, the sight of those stark white walls, labeled bins, compression stockings that they vacuum-packed my calves into and the fugly hairnet on my head, all felt a bit too close to the bone at this stage of my life.

 

I can’t have read the memo properly because when I mentioned my impending surgery to two nurse friends of mine last Saturday night, they laughed at my misconception about some local, vaginal anesthetic for pain relief – on a par with Diazepam tabs they give me at the dentist because I’m such a blithering mess – and in hindsight, perhaps my misunderstanding had something to do with my Prosecco Brain or the brevity of time I was given to overthink the procedure. Anyway, it turns out that you need real, grown up drugs when they carve out the walls of your uterus like a melon before a Mad Men-themed cocktail party.

 

The old man kindly elected for me to have my op via the public health system, to get value for money for all the taxes we’ve paid, and the benefit of that was that I wasn’t given very long at all to worry about what lay ahead. Indeed, virtually no information was passed onto me until yesterday, around lunchtime, a few hours after we had commenced NC’s birthday celebrations.

 

The phone conversation went something like this:

 

Hospital Nurse: ‘So obviously, no alcohol twenty-four hours before surgery…’

Me: Looking at my empty Champagne glass and the time on my phone as I counted forward the hours in my head. ‘Does one glass of wine count?’ I asked as I made a mental note to cancel the rest of NC’s birthday celebrations that evening.

 

I have to say that the public health service was outstanding, and it made me appreciate the shallowness of my own job and how the next time I worry about whether a cushion’s piping tones with a lampshade, I will shoot myself. Not one nurse complained when I was being wheeled into theatre and asked if I could pop off the trolley to go for a pee, and when the anesthetist informed me that the pre-meds would give me the sensation of two glasses of wine and I suggested she top it up a little, even she managed to crack a smile.

 

And when I woke up an hour later – grey, groggy, yet hopeful that FINALLY, I might be able to dip my vag in the ocean all through the month without fear of attack – I felt truly grateful to be alive. Thankful even, for those closest to me who have continued to support me through those weeks of every month where I can be somewhat irrational. And I included the old man in that drug-induced “gratitude circle of love” until a few minutes later, when he decided that my back bumper needed work as well and that a minor altercation between our car and a cement mixer on the way home was the way to go about it.

Not Another F..king Post About “Gratitude”…

gratitude-1251137_1280I realised that that I make the same long bloody list of resolutions each year and then persecute myself for being such an under-achiever when I don’t accomplish them.

 

Mia Freedman wrote a piece in Mamamia in the New Year about how last year she simplified the whole process of resolutions and instead picked one word to describe her intentions for the following year, and I’m stealing the idea.

 

Her chosen word was ‘create’, and was linked to personal career goals, such as writing a book, that she found she kept putting aside to concentrate on the needs of others.

 

So in a similar vein, my word for 2017 is going to be ‘wine’…I mean ”gratitude.”

 

I know what you’re thinking, ‘not another fucking “gratitude” post!’ as you reach for the sick bucket.

 

But I need to do this because I have a tendency to be a bit of a serial whiner (hence this blog) and that layer of negativity is beginning to enshroud me. And it’s a challenge, because it’s not easy being thankful when you’re as naturally cynical and anxious as I am and you’re passing through this whole middle age/menopause phase – which is a tricky transition and attempts to thwart any positivity and requires you to learn a whole new skill set, which can be difficult for anyone old enough to remember black and white tv.

 

Sure, a heck of a lot of shit has improved our lives since our twenties and thirties (no young kids and not even having to pretend you can get into a size 8), but sometimes it’s still hard to crack a smile and be thankful. Obviously, I know now how much better it feels when my glass is half-full rather than half empty, and you can take that metaphorically or not… although I have been sober for two whole nights now at this point of painful withdrawal and so am feeling particularly smug.

 

It’s also because – and here’s that middle-aged wisdom shit again – the small step I’ve made towards a modicum of maturity via the ageing process has suddenly turned a light on what’s really important in my life right now. Although I know the old man won’t believe this when the receipts from Christmas begin to flood onto our bank statement, this new-found contentment has surprisingly very little to do with money or material stuff – apart from good wine and nice food, of course – no, it’s much simpler than that, it’s about being a complete fucking saint and realising just how much I have.

 

Not rocket science, and this new mindset may well have something to do with two weeks off work over Christmas, and like childbirth I may have simply forgotten what real pain feels like, and perhaps all I really need is a dose of reality, but below is ANOTHER list of things I’m feeling grateful for:

 

My health, because although my head tells me every day that my body is probably riddled with cancer or I’m going to cark it from a massive stroke or heart attack, (thank you “anxiety”), at the moment it’s pretending to function quite well for a 51 year-old who has abused it for most of her life. And I’m fortunate enough to be in the position where I can service it and drag my ageing, calcium-deficient bones up steep hills and along the lanes of the pool and nourish it with a good diet. It even talks to me in a language I understand now – like when I stand up too quickly and have no feeling in my legs.

 

My family and friends, because I have a family that loves and cares for me, and I quite like them too, sometimes. We’re not perfect. We fight and say mean things and the F word and the C word are the native tongue in our house, and at times we could make much more effort. But the bond is real. And even though there are many extended family members and friends that I rarely see, thankfully the memories only dim but are never completely deleted, and thanks to technology, the distance between us doesn’t feel as great as it is in miles.

 

I’m grateful for the obsessive interests I’ve developed with age, which means I have very little free time, because free time for over-thinkers like me is dangerous. Writing, walking, swimming and nagging the old man, are all equally cathartic for balance.

 

Humor – because whatever happens, I can still laugh about anything, but most importantly at myself.

 

My home, and I’m not alluding to its physical state of bricks and mortar or even the heartbeat of my house itself – as lovely as it is – but its location and surrounding natural beauty is what never ceases to amaze me. I walk most days, by myself or with the Princess, occasionally with the old man (when he can tolerate my tortoise pace), and within minutes I am sighing with happiness like the person who won the lottery and hasn’t told anyone, as each wave of fresh gratitude washes over me. I have a childish fascination again with whatever amazing new slice of landscape or wildlife we discover and those experiences have opened my eyes to the simple task of ‘living’, which continues to be wondrous. And yes, that might be the happy meds talking, but it’s a massive step for me to be able to embrace rather than tolerate my lot, and now I’m only sad that I wasted so much time getting here.

 

All of this gratitude may come across as self-absorbed and it is, because it is down to my decision to put myself first and look after ME, which I highly recommend. Go on, try it. I’m being selfish for the first time in a long time and not only for my own personal growth, but in an attempt (note how I resisted using the adjective ‘desperate’) to put some fire in the bellies of my kids to kickstart their own journey, find their own way and their fulfilment at their own destination.

 

What have I missed?

Being Grateful

dolphin-1679468_1280With a natural propensity for anxiety and a daily irrationality caused by the hormonal imbalances of middle age, I know that most of the time I am bad about feeling grateful and creating my own happiness. I might be appalled by the images coming out of Aleppo, but sadly, they don’t stop me from moaning about my trivial first world problems.

 

I know that individually we can’t solve the world’s problems – that we can only empathise with those who are grieving or in danger – but what we can do is to appreciate how lucky we have it.

 

So today I’m going to share a few precious moments I experienced on my recent holiday with you…

 

One day, a pod of five or six dolphins emerged out of the water, close to the shore line. It was ironic really, because the previous time we visited the area we each paid $50 a ticket to go on a tourist boat tour to see them and Kurt and I spent the whole time heaving at the back of the boat, so missed the one rogue dolphin that apparently swam by. The dolphin with ADHD, the performer of the group, suddenly broke free from the rest of them and caught the waves majestically into shore to perform for us and this time I didn’t even fuck up the ‘moment’, like I usually do, by frantically searching for my iPhone to record it and missing the whole darned thing.

 

After the family beach holiday the old man and I drove three hours further north to visit friends who have had a ‘tree change’ this year and bought farmland in the hills outside a beautiful country town called Bellingen. It was a sticky, thirty-seven degrees on Saturday and after trawling our way through the Christmas markets they took us to the river to cool down with a dip, where we came across these two guys playing music among the trees, apparently in harmony with the movement of the currents. One of them was playing a didgeridoo…a fucking didgeridoo in the middle of nowhere.

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Another day at the beach I decided to take myself off for a walk in a vain attempt to burn off some of the excess food consumed because we were on holiday, and as I began to walk along the cool sand I noticed the spring in my step quicken as the sensation of the water lapping around my toes relaxed me. Before I knew what I was doing, the sand became alive and I had a Julie Andrews moment, feeling energised enough to start jogging. Everything was perfect – the heat from the sun was counter-balanced by the coolness of the ocean and I could feel my body release the tension that has built up over the year like a toxin in my body, my lungs fill with clean air and my heart respond accordingly and slow down to a normal pattern.

 

Admittedly, I couldn’t get out bed the next day without falling over.golden-doodle-1626721_1280

 

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes so many opportunities for us to acknowledge the gifts that don’t cost anything in our lives. Even if the kids are so over-excited they come across as entitled little shits on the day, or lunch turns into a family fight and the dog throws up the turkey, we all need to take a moment and appreciate what we have.

 

Many people have no control over their lives or their situation so those of us who are fortunate enough to live in an equitable society, able to meet our mortgage or rental payments, put food on our table and receive love and support when we need it, should say a silent thank you.