It Wasn’t The Lack Of Compassion That Hurt, It Was The Lack Of Understanding about Mental Illness and Addiction

I had been feeling upbeat over the past few weeks, ahead of our run for breast cancer – which we nailed by the way, raising in excess of $800 for research. And then I stumbled upon a FB share of an old article of mine that was published by News.com last year.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

As a writer of contentious topics (for some) – ADHD, feminism, inequality, mental health – I realise that I put myself in a glass house when one of my articles is published, and I have learned not to read comments from trolls.

This particular article was a highly personal piece about Kurt, detailing his struggles with his mental health, and my reasons for coming full circle on my views about cannabis legalisation. It was an opinion piece – hence, bait for comment and constructive criticism – to which I am always open.

However, many of the comments were not constructive. They were subjective – targeted directly at me as the author and mother. They laid the blame for Kurt’s issues squarely at my feet, and it was that lack of understanding about mental health and addiction that hurt the most – even more than their lack of compassion.

It was a slap in the face to realise that in spite of the attempts of fantastic organizations such as Lifeline and Headspace and various media outlets to improve awareness about mental illness, (as well as the increasing numbers of kids that are taking their own lives), that many people still believe that kids with mental health issues deserve no support, and should even be punished for not towing the societal line.

I am used to being held responsible for Kurt’s choices. Sadly, blame starts with the parents when it comes to ADHD, although there has been a gradual shift in attitude in recent years, thanks in part to the increasing acknowledgement and support of the condition by world governments.

And I can (sort of) see why. A child with impulse control or oppositional issues can look like a monster when you peer in from the outside. However, that refusal to show compassion or to probe more deeply into understanding the condition is why so many of these kids end up being bullied, isolated and rejected, leading to depression, self-harm, OCD and self-medication.

When it comes to inclusion, attitude is the biggest problem we face. But trust me when I tell you that any child with mental health issues who self-mutilates or lines up pills on the carpet is not “attention-seeking” (by our common acceptance of the term). They are seeking attention for help.

Beyond the public condemnation, perhaps the hardest part of the journey for parents or carers is the lack of support, the sense of isolation and the self-blame. That’s why I wrote that article. For others out there, like us, going through what we did and feeling alone.

It has taken years for me to come to terms with the fact that I am not to blame for Kurt’s struggles.

Sure, if I had my time again I would handle some things differently, but I know that no child could have been loved more. We raised our kids identically. We put the same boundaries in place that we did for NC, and like any normal teenager, she tested those boundaries. The difference was, NC was able to distinguish which of her strikes for independence were worth the consequences – unlike Kurt, who was encumbered by poor impulse control.

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt – at the very least until I have all the facts or I have met them personally. Rather than judging a book by its cover or from local gossip, I arm myself with as much information as I can before I draw my conclusions. When did we stop doing that as a society? When did we decide that it was acceptable behaviour to take a pop at someone for our own entertainment?

Surely, there can be no excuse for ignorance when we have access to information at our fingertips?

Social media has made it easy to bully without consequences and I fear that we are losing our sense of compassion. So before you jump right in with your heart rather than your head, remember that there is a real person at the other end of posts or comments, who is often motivated by doing good. That person has a heart and possibly a full wardrobe of skeletons that you know nothing about.

Are Old Dudes Getting Hotter Or Am I Simply Getting Older?

I suspect that the main reasons behind my increasing attraction to old dudes are my age and my deteriorating eyesight. You see, these days, any woeful stirring in my loins is caused far more often by images of distinguished old dudes on Instagram, than the hairless, chiseled chests of men half their age.

I like to think that this change of direction in sexual attraction is a rare kindness bestowed on me by a creator who was obviously male – a necessary evolutionary shift, perhaps, to stop old women such as myself from running off with younger men, thereby driving procreation to a devastating halt?

Doubtful, though…

Attractive older man with grey hair and beard.
Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash

Nevertheless, it is a strange phenomenon. You see, not that long ago, I would have gagged at the idea of pashing a silver fox – rather like my twenty-four-year-old daughter. My head has always been turned by the younger cubs, for whom (in my prime) I would gladly sacrifice quality for quantity for the promise of a firm chest and as little post-coital conversation as possible.

I was also one of the doubting Thomas’ that shuddered at the idea of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ and Michael Douglas, and Di and Prince Charles. Albeit that the Welsh actress has had the last laugh. Evidently, she had the foresight to appreciate that a twenty-eight-year gap between her and her husband guaranteed that he was never really likely to look better than her.

Although, admittedly, it’s a close call. Michael isn’t looking that bad for his age if his appearance on “The Kominsky Method” is anything to go by. And neither did Robert Redford in “The Old Man And The Gun” and Clint Eastwood in the trailer for “The Mule”. In fact, I struggled to follow the plot in Redford’s movie, so mesmerized was I by the wrinkled tesselations on his face.

Or maybe I’m simply getting old…?

No. There’s definitely something very attractive about a man with a grey beard, who obviously went to Specsavers. Indeed, the only shame of my newfound appreciation is that mature women aren’t branded in the same positive light as our “distinguished” older men such as George Clooney and Richard Gere.

“Vixen” has yet to match the connotations of “fox”.

And while I despise the trope of middle-aged women as sour-faced and sexless, I’m glad that the ageism tide in Hollywood has turned for men at least. No one is immune to the passage of time, and there is much for our younger generations to learn from the wisdom of the old – especially now that family communities are so divided. And the lines of time and experience add a realistic dimension to characters – a fact that, sadly, Hollywood has chosen to ignore up until now.

Nevertheless, the treatment of women in cinema still has a way to go. While I hold fast to the notion that some men MUST find women their age attractive – a tricky presumption, admittedly, based on our visibility in the media – it is impossible not to notice how many of the female partners (of the actors above) were still in nappies when their leading men were in high school. The gap might be narrowing, but Sissy Spacek is 69 and Robert Redford is 82; Michael Douglas is 74 and Nancy Travis is 57.

I suppose I should be grateful that at least the aging process is somewhat of a leveler – one that provides us with a better understanding of “visibility” once the covers of our books begin to deteriorate. No more pretense; no more rushed, awkward conversations as the eyes of the man you’re talking to wander to your gorgeous best friend.

There will always be evergreen, “visible” beauties such as Kylie Minogue and Helen Mirren – some with young hotties firmly attached to their arm. And good luck to them! I’m comfortable now with the springy grey hairs in my parting and a beauty that is defined by my brain, my spirit, and my convictions.

Dig a little deeper, men, for you may strike gold. And above all, don’t believe the hype. Once our biological clocks stop ticking, we women can afford to be choosy, and what we want at this next stage of our lives is “substance”. We won’t settle for anything less. And “substance” is about the man who values us – not as a trophy, but as an equal partner, in intellect, passion, and curiosity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power Of The Voice

crawl-1076324_1920I shared an article on my MY Midlife Mayhem Facebook page the other day, written by Clementine Ford, called “We need to move past the idea that everything is up for debate”.

 

For those who don’t know Clementine, she is a writer, a leading feminist and advocate for equal rights in Australia, as well as a graduate of gender studies. She has had several books and numerous articles published on the subject. The reason behind this particular article was her dismay at being pitched against a panel of similar experts (?) in the field recently, in front of a live audience, that turned out to be completely ill-informed on the subject.

 

As she says, ‘fair and balanced commentary around, say, climate change does not mean that we have to counter the weight of an actual scientist and their quantifiable research with the opinions of someone who loftily refers to themselves as a “climate change sceptic. It’s an insult to the time and energy spent by people working at the forefront of their fields to suggest their expertise is little more than one side of the story.’

 

Thanks to social media, each of us has a voice now as well as a forum to use it, which fundamentally, I still believe to be a good thing. Even if the majority of Trump’s tweets make us wince at their ickiness and ignorance, some insight into the machinations of the crazy brain that is currently leading the Western world has to be useful. (Let’s ignore the Trolls for a moment – the bullies and aggressive naysayers, who have nothing to contribute but bile ie. the abuse of the empowerment provided by technology).

 

NC and I were at a talk the other night by Anna Krien,.who recently published an essay about climate change called The Long Goodbye. She raised a similar point on this topic when challenged (again – yawn) about whether climate change is real. For a lot of reasons – many of them political and therefore the result of spin – some people still continue to argue against the scientific evidence behind global warming that has been determined by years and years of research and government investment and carried out by the top brains of our countries. These people believe that because their voices are louder – or because they have the verbal dexterity to spin their words better than the average nerdy scientist locked up in a lab all day – that what they say is right.

 

I have a similar analogy as the parent of a child with ADHD, and the cynicism from teachers, medical professionals, and FRIENDS levelled at the condition and its validity – that, in spite of the millions spent on research, the documented evidence of the condition since the early twentieth century, or indeed its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It seems that if the Daily Mail says the condition is a myth that has been a) invented by bad parents or b) created by the large pharmaceutical companies, then it must be so. I do wonder if the same journalists that have poured petrol on the fire ever consider what that cynicism does to the parents of these kids, who are already falling apart at the seams?

 

For the record, I parented NC as badly as I have Kurt, and she is now model child material.

 

Not that we want the pendulum to swing the other way or for our voices to be shut down. Anyone who is lapping up The Handmaid’s Tale like I am and trying to ignore the uncomfortable comparison of the Republic of Gilead to our own society will understand how dangerous it can be when that happens.

 

What I am trying to say, (and as Clementine Ford much more eloquently put it), is that we are entitled to an opinion and we have a voice to air it publicly. However, that opinion needs to be substantiated; to be informed by facts and evidence.

 

I’m not saying that every scientist is right all the time. They make mistakes, too. You only have to look as far as the atom bomb and Thalidomide to know that. (And let’s hope Bill Gates isn’t right this time in his prediction that bioterrorism could wipe up out 33 million people in less than a year).

 

Now, I am no expert, but the following are facts – substantiated by research:

 

Fact: The Barrier Reef will die, no matter how many plastic bags we replace with paper. If we do switch to renewable energy, we might save twenty percent of it – max.

 

Fact: ADHD is a real condition. The naming of the condition is unfortunate, granted – and I will hit the next person that tells me how active their child is – but these children’s brains do not function in the same way as ours, in much the same way that the schizophrenic’s mind doesn’t.

 

Fact: Trump is a racist, bigoted c**t.

 

 

Why We Hate Millennials

In the same way that we’ve had to forgive our parents for screwing us up, Millennials need to stop blaming Generation X for just about everything.

 

Or that’s what I used to think…, because I’ve not been averse in recent times to some millennial-bashing on this site; guilty of writing the odd scathing comment or two about this whining, entitled generation of our offspring from the personal experience of having two of them that STILL live at home.

 

But I’ve read a lot more about what motivates them lately and so I’ve decided to take a more balanced view. According to my daughter, they have been judged unfairly and do have some backbone with evidence of marrow. So I may have under-estimated them.

 

For example, their much-ridiculed desire to do the job THEY want, certainly emanated from us. Every generation wants the next generation to improve on what they did and ours is no exception. We Xers were the product of a shallow, capitalist era where we forfeited depth and sold our souls for material gain, so wisdom told us to advise them to choose carefully. With a greater understanding of what contributes to happiness now, the sharing of ideas and experiences, (thank you Internet), as well as the worrying increase in mental health issues, many of us are have very different views in middle age about what’s important in life, and a job that is fulfilling, (hence comes with limited stress), is a priority that is not to be mocked or ignored.

 

Equally, I can  appreciate that some of the functions of the Internet ‘aint all that’, even though these kids can have no concept of the pain of researching from books. Conversely, they have to deal with cyber-bullying and seeing selfies of their friends in their underwear at breakfast time.

 

Then there is their so-called fear of hard work. Now I’m not certain whether it’s a culture thing here in Australia or a Millennial thing, but NC went out to work younger than I did and the expectation here is that you work your way through further education. I, on the other hand, received a grant from the government for university, which allowed me to earn my degree the old-fashioned way, by drinking lots of subsidised beer and then working during the holidays to pay off the shortfall.

 

However… this generation does seem to moan a lot more than we did, particularly for a generation whose life has been so revolutionised by technology. My two Millenials moaned for years about the trendy analogue clock I bought for the kitchen because it had no numbers and neither of them could read it. What I initially thought was an ADHD-related problem turned out to be a Millenial problem because many of them can only read digital.

 

So is life that much easier for them, really? Or are they just different to us? Or are we jealous of them, hence all those accusations targeted at them about how they have it easy?  These are questions Scott Ness asks in his TED talk Who Are They And Why We Hate Millennials, the main gripe of our generation being the Millennials seeming entitlement of the extended holiday between dependence and independence while they find themselves.

 

NC gnashes her teeth with rage whenever I slyly forward her articles about the entitlement and laziness of her generation – typically as payback for all those bleats about poor WIFI, no food in the house, or the look of indignation when I mention that the dishwasher needs unloading or the dog needs walking. 

 

Remember washing up chores, anyone?

 

And I’m always on their case about their phones, being the hated breed of overprotective parent that continues to worry about their social communication skills even thought they are adults, because (call me old-fashioned), but I refuse to believe that you can build solid foundations of a relationship via text, memes or emojis.

 

Which elicits responses such as this:

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And reminds me about the uni/TAFE debts many of them are saddled with, (even though half of them probably shouldn’t even be at uni), and the impossibility of buying a property in such a crazy market bubble that has no sign of abating, which forces them to remain at home . Which isn’t much fun for any of us! And don’t get me started on the effect of text on their grammar…proven by the lack of full stop in the comment above, she says, starting a sentence with “and”.

 

I suppose we can’t really blame them for progress in technology because that has improved life for all of us – except for when they update…obviously. And who would we call to fix those tech problems if they weren’t savvy? At least in our day when we didn’t want to talk to anyone, we could unplug the phone and didn’t have to worry about being tracked down or stalked on social media.

 

 

When You Realise You’re Competing With Beyonce’s Bump

pregnant-1905043_1280I was somewhat perturbed by Beyonce’s visual introduction to the world of her impending twins. Beyond excited, OBVIOUSLY, because this is Beyonce we’re talking about, but the prude in middle-aged me dared to question why a grown woman would announce such a special event to the world in her bra and undies. Here’s the link.

 

Imagine when she shows her bump photos to her teenagers.

 

Eww!, Mum, gross! How could you do that to me?

 

But according to NC, that’s how it’s done these days in this new world of Social Media and sharing everything. You create an artistic interpretation of your bump, so it looks all natural and organic and healthy – I believe she may actually be sitting on kale –  even though the reality is, well…Photoshop.

 

How things have changed.

 

Twenty years ago during my two gestations, it was only just about legal for women to leave the house when pregnant and you were still given the stink eye if you wore maternity swimmers in public. You certainly didn’t flaunt your growing bump wedged between a tiny bikini in public.

 

We had surpassed the smock dress, I think, although I would like to thank Natalie Portman for her recent outings of the vintage fifties model – but we still concealed our changing bodies under swathes of unflattering fabric or in leggings with huge baggy tee shirts.

 

So it made me think that perhaps I could share my own ‘love and happiness” and show you how the great Lord has ‘blessed me’ in middle age with my new bump, with a similar Beyonce-esque, arty, Insty-style approach.

 

We’re hoping it’s twins, and by the size of it there’s a good chance, and we’re naming them Chardonnay and Lindt.

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Ageing, Cosmetic Surgery and Harmful Vacuousness

As I lay on my bed nursing my hangover and reading the papers on Sunday, I  knocked my phone onto the camera setting accidentally and got the most horrific above the shoulder shot. Sometime recently, it appears, my chin has sought sanctuary within the very generous folds of my neck. 

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All About Cosmetic Surgery by Ian Smith from flickr.com

It’s ugly but it’s one of those genetic things that my dad kindly passed down, which I suspect I in turn have passed onto NC because sometimes we have chin fat selfie competitions to see who can look the most gross.

 

If I’m completely honest and I had the money, if there was no pain or time off work involved and I knew that the old man wouldn’t ridicule me for my vanity, I’d get it sorted with a two-for-one deal to include tummy tuck.

 

Even though I know that in certain circles cosmetic surgery is still as frowned upon as having an ADHD child.

 

Which I get…to a degree. Because I’ve never really understood why women resort to cosmetic surgery unless there is some medical reason behind the decision, although I am open-minded enough to think ‘each to their own’. I spend far too much of my hard-earned cash on cushions and a lot of my friends don’t get that either.

 

Although some do.

 

The discussion about cosmetic surgery cropped up over lunch at the weekend when a friend told me about a friend of hers (yes, she was asking on behalf of a “friend” !) who wanted surgery because her husband likes big boobs.

 

And therein lies the rub, because on absolutely no fucking account would I have surgery because someone wanted me to, to improve me, mainly because (and you can call me old-fashioned) I’d assumed that falling in love was about the whole package. What the fuck does it say if someone can no longer commit unless you fix one small part that is not quite perfect?

 

The last time I researched thoroughly, women don’t have the option to change men’s penis size, so what right do men have to sculpt out perfection in their partners?

 

Many middle-aged actresses in Hollywood have finally begun to fight the sort of sexist ageism that has pushed so many of them in the past under the knife, in order to secure work. Because we now know that one of the main reasons teenagers suffer from such poor self-esteem is because they aspire to be like their idols, and the problem is further compounded by the way boys judge women from what they see on porn movies.

 

It’s one thing for Her Vacuousness, Kim Kardashian, to bang on about there being nothing shameful about nudity as she gets her body out for the media for the gazillionth time in a day, but it’s quite  another when you flaunt your fake assets as something attainable and real.

 

It’s misrepresentation, actually, and particularly damaging to vulnerable young girls who are at an age where they are desperate to fit into society.

Why Women Are Owed Celebrity Dick Pics

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It’s a penis, FFS!

In case you haven’t heard, the actor Orlando Bloom – the very same hunk of gorgeousness who sparred and smouldered his way through LOTR as Legolas, went on to marry Miranda Kerr, and is now dating Katy Perry – got papped with his kit off last week. 

 

As in FULL FRONTAL. PENIS.

 

You might also be aware that it’s huge news when a celebrity gets caught in the buff, but even more so when it’s a male celebrity, because there aren’t equal nudity clauses in movie contracts when it comes to men and women, so the penis has become somewhat hallowed in its appearance.

 

Whereas we’ve been exposed to the complete smorgasbord of tits and fannies through our lives – I used to have to look at them on page 3 of The Sun every morning at breakfast – which makes it a rare, and frankly fine day, when you get a cop of a non-sexual dick pic.

 

Somehow we ended up playing an improvised game of Charades at the dinner party we attended on Saturday night and I chose ‘Orlando Bloom’ for my opposing team to guess, (kinder, I believed, than someone else’s suggestion of ‘lasagne’), and was somewhat surprised to see that none of our middle-aged friends had heard about Orlando’s ‘paddle’ photos which had trended on Twitter and broken all records on social media.

 

Which is probably because my friends are not as a) desperate b) sad or c) bored enough to get titillated by penis photos of a celebrity – and TBH, even I’m not sure how I justify my frantic search for the uncensored photos, so I acknowledge that some might see it as rather louche for a fifty-year old mother to seek out unsolicited pictures of a young man’s dick. And definitely a case of double standards.

 

But my interest wasn’t about his dick exactly…because like the majority of women, I am appalled and affronted by the invasion of privacy when phones and computers are hacked and nude photos of female celebrities are leaked.

 

Although… in Orlando’s case, his public unveiling did take place on a beach, in broad daylight, with the blessing of Katy, in front of other bathers…and it was quite a beautiful sight.

 

And how many of us would do that if we really cared about the fall out?

 

Personally, I think that the phenomenal interest in these photos is about more than titillation. It’s because we’ve been starved of penis in the media as well as a statement of women’s desire for some catch up –  as in ‘tit for knob’ (as opposed to tit for tat). Sure, we know that it’s an invasion of privacy when we feast our eyes salaciously on Bloom and Bieber’s bits, but we also feel entitled to a bit of equality here. We’d like men to understand for once what the full glare of sexual exploitation means, and if Orlando, (like a handful of other actors who have whipped it out for their craft, apart from you, George) is prepared to play ball, I have all the more respect for him.

 

It’s a penis, FFS!, and in case you’re itching with curiosity, a nice one at that.

Has The World Suddenly Gone Mad?

One of my most special childhood memories was when I would fall asleep in the car after a long car journey and my dad would carry me into the house and put me to bed. 

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Malay Wikipedia for the 6th week, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I would pretend to be asleep. I loved that feeling of happiness and safety created by his strong arms carrying me up the stairs, the familiar smell of his aftershave and the blanket of security such a simple act of parenting afforded me.

But for even us privileged people of the western world, who sit in our ivory towers moaning about our first world problems, today feels like no one and nowhere is safe anymore.

In spite of the numerous advancements in science and technology over the past few decades, it feels as though progress has sadly augmented our vulnerability in the face of terrorism.

Just me, or does it feel to you as though the world has suddenly gone mad?

From random high school shootings and racist attacks in the US, an increase in suicide rates worldwide, kidnappings, mass genocide and rape – where did the good news go?

Is it just because we have immediate access to the news and its daily atrocities that we feel more exposed, or did such heinous acts in the name of politics and religion always go on?

Sadly, you only have to look back to the battles in Europe before the World wars, Hitler and Germany, The American Civil War and the war between Palestine and Israel to know that they did. The fact that most of the world remained immune to the genocide of Europe’s Jewish population until close to the end of the war proves it.

Innocent bystanders have always been the pawns of political and religious idealism but you’d think that progress would have taught us that war and violence solve nothing and that communication is a better way. And when the innocent are enjoying a simple night out, to be savagely targeted by cowards, without any means of protection to defend themselves, it feels all the more shameful and inhumane.

That is the work of butchers.

What has caused this decrease in the value of human life, and increase in the entitlement of extremists to push their personal idealism on others via physical force, rather than through the modern channels of communication and democracy.

No-one is safe anymore.

I lived in France for three years in my twenties and I would never have considered any deep-seated threat lurking there, or felt afraid that religion and politics – social groups that are supposed to hold and bring people together and create communities – could kill.

Not that historically anything has really changed – the innocent have long been persecuted by power-hungry dictators or small factions of self-serving murderers. Worse still, we know that our instant access to world news most likely propels the perpetrators to kill in the most public of places, to attract news coverage. As seen during the siege in Sydney, when the media had to be reminded to stop filming their minute-by-minute account of the events to protect the people still in danger.

Which leaves us in a conundrum. We cannot live in fear. We cannot let the terrorists win. We need to bring about awareness of terrorism and it’s small-minded idealism without sensationalizing or propagating it so that innocent people – that include the majority of Muslims and refugees, feel safe again.

Our thoughts are with you, Paris.

In My Quest For Eternal Happiness I’ve Realized That Some People Are Meant To Be Miserable

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Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been trying to work on myself for a while now – to become less miserable. That might sound embarrassingly self-indulgent, but certain events of the last few years have left me in a state of semi-permanent anxiety that I can’t seem to shake off, and I know that if I don’t fight back, it risks swallowing me up.

Did you know that the word ‘menopause’ is actually a synonym for ‘misery’?

So I’ve become one of those social media gluttons who laps up every piece of holier-than-thou advice published on the Net detailing new ways to enrich my life so that ultimately I will become a happier person. From the minute I wake up and snap open my lap tap, I am instantly engaged in any new article on nutrition, meditation, exercise, or how to harness greater happiness and more successful relationships.

This morning’s article was what a REAL dietician eats in one whole day – suffice it to say, I’m prepared to make subtle changes to my lifestyle, but I realise that morphing into a completely different personality just ain’t gonna happen.

But I am capable of celebrating other people’s successes in my quest for eternal happiness, virtually, and then applying their strategies to my own life. Well…until the reality check, when it dawns on me again, that living organically, in a permanent state of happiness, isn’t for everyone.

You see, I’m not necessarily one of those people that feels happy when I’m happy.

Take meditation, the newest recommendation for perpetual happiness. I downloaded the App and tried to relax, sat comfortably and contemplated my navel. But I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering; from thoughts of food, to work worries, to what I was going to do afterwards. After five minutes I began to fidget and couldn’t take the content seriously enough for it to have any life-changing effect on me.

And the guy had a really strange voice and accent as well…

I bought brown rice to cook on Friday in yet another of my efforts to purify the Maccas-lined intestines of my family, but in my excitement at getting one over my intolerant-to-healthy-food loved ones, I completely forgot that it takes fifteen hours to cook the damned stuff so by the time we sat down to eat we’d stuffed our faces with the last morsels of junk food we’d retrieved from the back of the kitchen cupboards.

In fact, whenever I’ve attempted to maintain a half-full glass, something always knocks the fucker over.

Last week I attended a forum about mental health and one of the panel recommended that we should wake up every day feeling grateful.

Sounds simple, right?

And I’ve really tried this week. But I don’t sleep well – if at all these days, thanks to night sweats, anxiety, terrifying dreams and a very needy, furry friend who insists that licking me in the middle of the night is the best time to show affection – which means I’m so grouchy by dawn, my first thoughts are generally about…

Never drinking again…

Praying it’s the weekend…

Deciding if I need to wee again?

So I’ve come to the conclusion that just like we need those ‘happy’, ‘life is great’ people in our life, we also need realists; trojans of common-sensical balance.

Perhaps, some people are just meant to be miserable.

And the art of being miserable is given a bad rap. We’re constantly told that negativity makes us a bigger target for nasty diseases, bad karma, the shit side of the law of attraction, but let me assure you, when good stuff happens to miserable people like me, the high is that much higher.

Midlife Rant: Over-Exposure And Self-Importance

Embed from Getty Images

So, two things that have got my already shrinking ovaries in a twist this week, other than the sub-zero temperatures of the winter that has hit Sydney this week: the first, the story of yet another self-important breastfeeding mum who insists it is her right to whip her boobs out and bare all in a public place; and the second is the metamorphosis of Caitlyn Jenner.

Firstly, you should know that I am an intolerant, judgmental bitch at times and that I understand that not everyone will agree with my opinions here. But this sort of media hogwash clogs up my FB page, often spoils my first coffee of the day, and prevents me from reading about real news, like the story about those idiots who got married on their first date.

So…breastfeeding in public.

Sorry, ladies, I hope you know that I will defend the rights of women to my dying breath, but this is one of those topics where the miserable old fucker in me gets on her soapbox. And yes, I do realise that I could justifiably be accused of hypocrisy since I used to expose my own pert breasts to anyone and everyone on the beach in my early twenties, and pretty soon I’ll probably have the nipple melanomas to prove it.

What can I say? Things/times change.

For the record, I’m one hundred percent behind any mother who breastfeeds their baby and I have absolutely no issue with them breastfeeding in public either. But, I also believe that there has to be some modesty and consideration for the opinions/beliefs of fellow customers, when it comes to breastfeeding in a public eating establishment. Not everyone feels comfortable when forced to watch an infant munch noisily on a milk-laden, straining boob while trying to eat their Egg Benedict, and making conversation with aged parents, teenage sons or awkward husbands (who may never have seen a boob bigger than a golf ball before).

And yes, you can argue that perhaps that awkwardness is their problem, but there I have to disagree.

Of course, there should be more feeding rooms to facilitate breastfeeding for new mums, just as I think a thin muslin to veil the rogue nipple is a compromise that demonstrates a respect for those not in the early throes of wonder at new life.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing to do and I loved partaking of it when I had boobs my own babies, but it is not a sport to be Whoop! Whooped! publicly, and albeit not a sexual act, it still involves getting what some consider your private bits out in public; which is most other cases is against the law.

That is why we have to trust women to make their own judgment calls about what is considerate and appropriate behaviour towards others.

And, Caitlyn Jenner…

A TransGender-Symbol Plain1
A TransGender-Symbol Plain1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry, Caitlyn, but my discomfort at having to see your new self, wrapped only in a satin corset on the cover page of Vanity Fair, has less to do with your choice to over-expose the ‘new you’, than being completely fed up with having to look at members of your family on the cover of every fucking women’s magazine over the past five years.

And I still haven’t fathomed out how you all got there in the first place.

It is wonderful that you have now become a role model for transgender people and I’m all for evolution and change and anyone who makes the world more aware of the inner struggles of people, such as yourself, who have dealt with discrimination or the lonely life of ‘difference’ in society. But I hate the fact that while you have talked about your private struggles with your sexuality in the past, you have still taken something that was apparently so personally painful to you and in true-Kardashian style, turned it into a media circus that, frankly, paints an unrealistic outcome for the majority of transgenders.

You will argue that it is to help others, and I hope that your public story does help change the lives of others for the better, but the way you have handled your metamorphosis, complete with aforementioned Hollywood styling, still smacks of fame-whoring and self-importance to me.

I admit to having watched the odd episode of The Kardashians in the past – for research purposes, obviously – and out of all of your fame-hungry extended family, your personality always appealed to me the most. You came across as a likeable, quirky kind of guy, stoic even, and you seemed to share a genuinely closer connection with your daughters than your wife did.

Which is why it saddens me that you feel the need to sell out again, at the expense of what could have been a truly, new dawn for you, with some well-deserved privacy, a reality check and your children’s sensitivities at the top of your priorities.

Technology, Women and Middle Age

Nothing makes me laugh out loud quite as much as those text fail memes sent from, (shall we say), mature people.

 

Like this:

 

Technology and Middle Age

 

Or this:

Technology and Middle Age

 

These texts demonstrate our generation’s complete lack of intuition when it comes to modern technology and if my friends are anything to go by, women are generally the worst offenders.

 

Through trial and error I’ve had to make myself much more tech-savvy than I feel the need or want to be, due to the technological demands of the blogging process, but I’ve done it kicking and screaming all the way.

 

My intuition seems to magically disappear in the face of new technology. Nothing can spoil my day quite as easily as when my phone needs to be updated.

 

I was one of those women who thought that LOL meant ‘lots of love’ for a good year or so, and it’s taken me at least a year to work out a) what an emoji is and b) how to insert one. I still push every button if something goes wrong on my phone or computer in the vain hope that it will miraculously self-heal.

 

Whenever the kids catch me mid-text on my phone, squinting and with one finger jabbing at the screen painfully slowly, they snatch it from me to put themselves out of their misery, with one of those humiliating tuts of embarrassment that Gen Y have perfected so well.

 

‘Hun…….’ has become the plaintive moan from my desk at least three times an evening as I try to meet deadlines, which is usually the time that technology decides to fail me.

 

My lack of intuition with technology will be cited as a reason for my divorce, it irritates the old man so much.

 

What I don’t understand is how come using modern technology seems so much more intuitive to middle-aged men than women? Neither the old man or I were brought up with computers or phones, so it must be a gender thing, like map reading and finding things in the house – an area of the brain that functions better in one gender than the other?

 

There are, of course, many other factors that might affect this lack of intuition in middle-aged women. Some of the symptoms of menopause can be very detrimental to the seemingly simple processes of, say, synching your Ipod.

 

Fear of change and progress

Anxiety

Memory Loss

Irritability

Complete lack of interest

Text and keys that are too small for tired, old eyes

 

Because when technology is stimulating or pretty visually appealing, like on Instagram and Facebook, women pick up technology much more quickly than men and it does sustain their interest.

 

Did you know that every month, 40 million more women than men visit Twitter, yet while 32 per cent of of men keep their mobile devices up to date, only 24 per cent of women do because they are too busy ignoring the reminders in the hope they will go away.

 

Generation Y is different, of course. The younger generations have developed with the aid of technology and these days babies get tablets before they can even walk. NC has no difficulty finding her way around it. She has patiently tried to give me several lessons in how to deal with those ‘FUCK IT!’ stages of technology break down, more intuitively, rather than jabbing at every key, turning the machine off and on and finally praying for a miracle.

 

Can an old dog learn new tricks?

 

Some are definitely easier than others.

 

 

Judging The Choices Of Others Publicly: Where’s The Line?

Social media has manipulated us to the point where we now believe it’s acceptable to scrutinise, criticise and judge others publicly. Before the advent of the Internet, we only had up-to-date information about what our immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues were doing, whereas these days we can view the rest of the world with a single click of our mouse.

 

pt: Aviso de Troll en: Troll Warning
pt: Aviso de Troll en: Troll Warning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And it’s given some people a dangerous power that they obviously find hard to control.

 

Now I am the biggest advocate of dry humor, (and not such a fan of the over-political correctness that is trying to erase it), yet as Giuliana Rancic admitted this week in her public apology to the actress Zendaya, there has to be a ‘line.’

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Giuliana Rancic, she is one of the presenters of the American television series, Fashion Police, which provides a humorously acerbic look at celebrity fashion. This week Giuliana was singled out for what were deemed to be derogatory, racist comments that she made about Zendaya’s dreadlocks at a recent awards show, which stereotyped black people as drug users.

 

I was watching the program at the time and I admit that I missed how those comments would be perceived too, because the appeal of the format of Fashion Police (and it’s not for the easily offended) is that it is a sharp-shooting, fast-talking, often ad-libbed show which, (in spite of covering what some might see as very shallow subject matter), is a mental workout. Giuliana’s biting quips were off the cuff, and much like Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent comments about ‘colour’, I feel certain, were not meant to offend.

 

‘Humor’ is subjective, after all.

 

But she was castigated for her mistake, and rightly so, because her words caused offence.

 

And because we are growing tired of the fact that just because social media has given us this platform where we can be righteously opinionated, it has become acceptable behaviour to take a pop at anyone, without consideration for their feelings or the impact it will have on their family or mental well-being.

 

Social media appears to have extinguished empathy.

 

We witness this brazen attitude daily in the comments published by ‘trolls’ on networks such as Twitter, whether it is in #tweetsaboutwomen (@miafreedman: shut up Mia Freedman or else I’ll shut you up with my fist) or malicious comments about Madonna’s recent fall at the Brits, where little consideration was given to the fact that the woman might have actually hurt herself.

 

That reaction to Madonna’s fall made me really think about how we judge the choices of others.

 

Because we are all guilty of judging others – only most of us don’t do it quite as publicly.

 

We all look at photos on Facebook and think bad thoughts sometimes, such as:

 

She’s put on a bit of weight…

 

or

 

Can they really afford private education?…

 

or

 

Should she be wearing that at her age?….

 

We all do it.

 

And that’s fine, it’s human nature to analyse and compare as long as those inner voices are kept private.

 

What’s not acceptable is when those malicious thoughts are aired in a public forum, are often misinformed and then posted without consideration for the suffering that they might exacerbate.

 

That’s called ‘bullying’.

 

Conjecture about the condition of Whitney Houston’s daughter has been another recent horrific example of such trolling.

 

This level of vitriol can only emanate from envy or fear. What other reason can there be for the public decimation of a person you know nothing about, really? Yes, famous people have chosen to work in the public eye and should be accountable for their performance in the workplace, just as we all are. But their private life should remain private, because without really knowing what goes on behind their closed doors, what right do we have to judge their choices?

 

There has to be a line.

 

Dear Facebook…About Those Perfect Family Holiday Photos

Dear Facebook,

 

Why do you insist on tormenting me?

 

While the rest of the world (it appears) is basking in the Mediterranean sun in the Northern Hemisphere, we freeze (our nuts off) in unseasonably cold weather down south, yet you force me to gaze on the exotic and ‘perfect’ holiday photos of people I once knew to be friends, on a daily basis.

 

 

Dear Facebook...About Those Perfect Family Holiday Photos
Jumping in Puddles by Nick Page at http://www.flickr.com

 

I am not an envious person and do not covet what others have, generally, yet I am also not a fucking saint. Which is why I am finding it increasingly hard on these chilly winter mornings to feel happy for my so-called friends while they rub suntan lotion into their sun-kissed bodies, languish on exotic beaches, frolic in the ocean, sup on cocktails and enjoy those pivotal family moments that only holidays in the sun can capture.

 

Frankly, I don’t want to see how much better my friends are ageing or look in a bikini and I certainly don’t need to be reminded about how successfully they’ve parented their children, before my first coffee of the day. Especially when my children would rather kill themselves than pose in a ‘happy family’ photo with us.  Does that make me a really shit parent? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

 

Even worse are the photos of my old stomping ground in London, where so many of my Aussie friends have migrated for winter. There’s only so much I can take of them waxing lyrical about what a wonderful a city it is and their question as to why on earth I moved away in the first place.

 

I know that in reality, golden, tanned skin is more symptomatic of skin cancer than glowing health and that in the long term binge-gorging on food and alcohol is not the secret to happiness, but after two arduous months of wearing boots and lip balm, I am ready to risk it and chafe my skin, burn my toes in hot sand and add a few extra crows feet to my alabaster face for the sake of some precious vitamin D. I think I could forget all my troubles via a chilled Mojito or eight, served by a Greek Adonis, too.

 

 

There are only so many happy underwater family snorkelling shots I can stomach as I toil through exam time back here in the cold with a teenager who is hell-bent on failing life, self-destruction and taking me with him in the process. If I see one more photo of iridescent, tropical fish swimming in crystal clear waters, (presumably unaware that their fate will be sealed in the fishing net of some chirpy Ketut-type tour guide later that day, who feigns to like working for over-pampered tourists for the minimum wage, while his own family starve), or lavish beachside barbies full of grilled, iridescent fish, I will vomit into my flu remedy.

 

I know that I don’t HAVE TO torment myself mercilessly by subjecting myself to this daily torture, and that you have kindly given me the option to change my Facebook settings, but I am a weak and vulnerable person whose only latent talent in life seems to be the ability to live vicariously through my old friends. And you prey on that talent.

 

Regards,

 

Bitter and Twisted, Sydney