Why Try Mindfulness In Middle Age? Because That’s When You Realise Just How Fucked Up The World Really Is

I took an introductory course in mindfulness a few weeks ago. I thought that the company of calm, spiritual people would wield its inner peace on me. But when it turned out that only my friends had signed up for the course, I realised something I already knew – that we’re all dealing with our own shit.

Women practising meditation.
Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

Among other living hells, Menopause is known to exacerbate anxiety, and while I have found other calming techniques for my over-active brain – such as running, writing, and drinking more wine – I keep hearing the word “mindfulness” bandied about in association with ADHD and anxiety, which is why I decided to give it a shot.

I suppose that everyone is seeking the simplest solution to cope with the trials of life, but that need becomes more pertinent the older you get, when you realise just how fucked up the world really is.

I also knew that my experience would make great blog fodder, and as I’m prepared to give most things a go to enhance the experience of this, the last, physically-able chapter of my life – apart from pole-dancing, obvs, which is a subtle reminder to my sister who, one birthday, demonstrated that my psychotic sense of humour runs in the family – I decided to ignore the natural cynicism of my inner voice that tells me that this spiritual stuff is a load of bollocks.

Indeed, I felt for the first time in my life that I had the appropriate level of maturity to handle it.

Which was where I was wrong when I got worryingly close to breaking the magical spell of silence during the walking meditation with a fart or a show tune.

But like when you give up smoking or drinking, you have to commit to new ideas such as mindfulness for them to have any hope of working, and once I got my giggles of self-consciousness out of the way, I did just that. I mean, let’s be honest, while the power of running has gone some way to combatting my anxiety, it’s far more appealing to sit in my own space and do fuck all for the same benefits.

Our teacher was lovely. Non-judgmental, with one of those soothing voices that carried us along to our safe place without too much of a fight, he managed to hide his despair at the three crotchety, middle-aged cynics in front of him, whose bodies creaked each time he asked us to change position on the floor. He didn’t even seem to mind when he told us to think about our favourite place for our first visualisation and I admitted that mine was in bed. Everyone else picked a tropical island!

Admittedly, I found that focusing on my breath was about as stimulating as Scott Morrison’s election campaign, but I loved the soothing effect of the chanting bowl. I defy anyone who has worked a full day and managed to get back out of the house for a mid-week evening meeting, not to find some relaxation in the sound – so much so, I’ve decided to invest in one for the next finance meeting with the old man. And the walking meditation was an interesting exercise in self-control and fitness as the five us us walked slowly around the room together, first like zombies, and then like Neil Armstrong on the moon, while I fought a personal battle to keep a straight face.

But there were many ideas and exercises that I loved. One of the exercises was to connect our heart to someone we love. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I picked the old man as the recipient of my limited levels of love – that are rather like the permanent level of cyan ink on our colour printer – but I suspect it had something to do with guilt. I’d been a complete bitch to him that week. Funnily enough, he didn’t mention feeling any different when I arrived home, which confirmed my suspicion that he likes being “treated mean.”

Anyway, I found this article on the web, which provides a really good beginner’s guide to mindfulness. So keep your mind open. It’s not easy, but focusing on what you are grateful has to be a far healthier way of getting through this crazy old thing called life. Since the course, I have inadvertently incorporated the deep breathing exercise when I feel anxious, and it has worked wonders for eliminating the shame I feel about pouring that extra glass of wine.

Mothers: Admit It, We Never Stop Worrying About Our Kids

Mothers, be careful with those little comments you drop into the conversation each time you see your adult kids (who have left home) and look like they haven’t eaten a square meal that month.

You know the type – How much fruit are you eating? ARE YOU EATING? You’re looking a bit pale, or How firm are your stools? The type that all of us mums just can’t help ourselves from asking.

Well, take my advice and shut the f..ck up, because those comments could come back to haunt you. Such is my fate since I foolishly peered into my son’s fridge and made an innocent comment about his beer diet.

‘Well, I was thinking…’ he replied the other night when he came around to ours for what looked like his first feed this month, (having obviously decided that this was the perfect window of opportunity for some long overdue Mum -manipulation), “that maybe you could deliver me a care package, once a week, for those difficult days leading up to pay day?’

‘What does a care package entail?’ I asked naively.

‘You know…a batch of Shepherd’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak – I’ll even eat your Lasagne if I have to. Something I can knock up easily myself…’ Ie. In his frying pan, which happens to be the only pan in his unit.

‘Perhaps you need to learn some money management,’ I replied wryly, fully aware of how he prioritises the half of his earnings that don’t go on rent.

‘Perhaps you need to remember that you were young once too,’ he reminded me with that twinkle in his eye that he knows makes me melt at the knees.

And he has got a point. I spent a considerable part of my twenties on the Marlboro and hot chip diet, and it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do in between my three jobs and nagging my husband (!). Of course I can sacrifice a few hours a week slaving away in the kitchen to make sure that my twenty-one year old little boy doesn’t waste away.

But just putting this out there – no one bought me care packages.

So, anyway, call me a “Sad-Fuck-Of-A-Helicopter-Parent, but three Shepherds Pies were dutifully delivered to the next suburb on Saturday afternoon, along with step-by-step instructions for how to heat them up. Of course, the old man refused to have any part of what he calls my “pathetic enabling”, although he did mention that if there were any leftovers, he’d have one instead of salmon on our next fish night.

‘Where are my care packages,’ NC grumbled in a text when she sniffed signs of sibling favouritism from the city.

And so, it appears that the old man was right about one thing and wrong about another. He was wrong when he told me that no one really likes my home cooking – as was the dead fox outside our bins all those years ago that I have been reminded about after every one of my cooking fails. But he has been right all of those millions of times when he has said that I will never stop worrying about our kids.

Whereas, he appears to be coping quite admirably.

Do You Ever Stop Worrying About Your Children?

In the week that NC has achieved another milestone by passing her driving test, Kurt’s dangerous enthusiasm for life has escalated to a new hair-greying level.

 

bicycle-362171_1280

A text with ‘I’m all G’ doesn’t quite cut it at ten o’clock the morning after a sleepless work night spent waiting for the reassuring sound of your teenager’s key in the lock of the front door sometime before midnight.

 

Especially when you have to work the next day, refreshed and invigorated, professional to a degree – still, with no idea where your child is – and the only thing you can think about is which bush they’re lying dead beneath or which drug squat they’re holed up in.

 

Anxious or not, rational thought doesn’t enter the parent’s mind from 1am in the morning when you’re sleep-deprived and hallucinate about all the terrible things that have obviously befallen your irresponsible, yet much-loved child, each time you close your eyes. The knowledge that Sydney is on the whole a pretty safe city to live in, that your child is most likely couch-surfing at a mate’s, or that statistically is highly unlikely to have been murdered, abducted or kidnapped doesn’t come into play.

 

Every parent goes though this phase with their teenagers at some point in the morphing-into-adulthood process, not just the highly fortunate ones among us with kids with ADHD; the difference being that most non-ADHD kids don’t have the over-impulsive, thrill-seeking tendencies of our son Kurt, nor his talent for losing vital home-tracking/homing-pigeon aids such as wallets, keys and phones due to his poor executive functioning skills – especially under the influence.

 

Can it only be last weekend that we were telephoned at three in the morning to be asked to collect him from the city centre, because he had found a bike in council clear up, come off it at speed and taken off the side of his face in the process?

 

Sadly, the seizure he had on a bus recently (that the doctor put down to ‘burning the candle at both ends’) doesn’t appear to have dulled his enthusiasm for embracing life to the full, nor had any marked effect on his approach to responsibility.

 

Meanwhile the grey hairs become thicker, the lines around my eyes more ingrained, the need to reach for wine more habitual.

 

My boy is eighteen now – an adult in the eyes of the law. I remember how we breathed a huge sigh of relief when we celebrated his milestone birthday last year, although still ever mindful that his  ADHD age is closer to sixteen, thus his emotional intelligence and decision-making skills are not up there with his desire and legal ability to exert his independence and experiment to the full.

 

And while is not uncommon for eighteen-year olds to behave in such an altruistic way, those without the ADHD curse tend to learn from their mistakes more quickly, understand consequences and put the life pieces together as they become increasingly aware of their mortality.

 

It was all true. You never stop worrying about your children.

The Anxiety Of Flying Solo

So when I went all bravado in my last post, in that carefully crafted mumbo jumbo about grabbing this trip to Europe by the balls and allowing happiness, rather than anxiety back into my life, I was lying.

 

The Anxiety Of Flying Solo
Anxiety by Leo Hidalgo at http://www.flickr.com

 

Not intentionally; but I was kidding myself.

 

Which is a shame, because from the perspective of my writing and my blog, that ‘positive’ post proved to be one of my most popular to date. It seems you like ‘uplifting’ and ‘feel-good’ writing.

 

And I get that. The problem is…

 

It’s just not my niche. I’m far more comfortable writing about fear and doom and gloom, and because the first rule of good blogging is to remain authentic, here’s the truth about my feelings about my impending trip.

 

My balls have shrunk to the size of peas since that post, as the anxiety connected to travelling halfway around the world, (ON MY FUCKING OWN!), as well as driving around the UK in a manual car with no GPS, (AGAIN, ON MY OWN!), and basically making all the decisions for myself over the next few weeks, has begun to secretly fuck with my brain.

 

I’ve only got through the last few days by ticking things off ever-increasing lists and drinking loads of wine.

 

I had my hair done this morning and caught myself looking at my reflection in the mirror in my hairdressers, wondering if it will be the last time I go there…or see myself in a mirror.

 

I keep saying weird, uncharacteristically, needy things to the kids, like how proud I am of them. If I’m not careful, I might say something nice to the old man.

 

It has taken every ounce of self-control not to check the safety statistics of Emirates, although I admit to checking the location of the exit doors when I reserved my seats.

 

I keep toying with the idea of drugging myself for the entire journey to discourage bowel release every time we hit turbulence, then worry about the risk of sleeping through my connection.

 

I worry about ISIS boarding the plane and taking out their retribution on all the scared, middle-aged women on board.

 

I am even worrying about eating anything close to its sell-by date from our fridge in case I get a bout of chronic diarrhoea just when the seat belt sign pops on.

 

This is how we roll, us anxious crazies – and I only have a mild case of anxiety.

 

Which is why it is such a relief to identify with someone else. For me, that is ultimately what blogging is about. So for those other anxious loons out there like me, I lapped up this post like a thirsty kitten by Mia Freedman this week, when she came out about her own issues with anxiety.

http://www.debriefdaily.com/health/living-with-anxiety/

You see – anxiety is not always visible and even those who appear to be super-successful and fully in control can become victims too.

And this is another fantastic, honestly-emotive piece by one of my favourite writers, Anna Spargo Ryan:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/i-exist-in-a-fog-some-days-it-blows-away-but-some-days-its-heavy-and-suffocating

 

During rare moments of sanity and clarity, of course I know I’ll still be around to bore you all again from the other side of the world, once I get to the other side of this irrational fear.

 

But in the meantime, allow me the time to focus on the important process of worrying.

Middle Aged Stress: How Do You Escape?

I have this disease where I think that each day has thirty-six hours for me to fill, and I cram too much into them to handle and so I never relax. Then I become a bitter and twisted dragon lady at home.

 

 

And I have a tendency to moan about how busy my life is and blame other people for my poor time management.

 

Life has been batshit crazy busy lately, what with a wonderful inundation of family visits, work pressure and our habitual dysfunctional family shenanigans. My nerves have felt frayed, and at times my life has felt as though the walls are closing in around me and I can’t breathe without the aid of wine, because I’ve committed myself to far too many things.

 

And it turns out that there are only 24 hours in every day.

 

And even on the weekends, when I have forced myself to go to the beach or the local pool for an hour, or out to dinner, (and more out of a duty to the old man and our marriage than because I genuinely wanted to), I have felt that threatening, bubbling pressure boil within me and then I secretly blame the old man for heaping even more stress onto me.

 

It’s hard to find an outlet or ‘escape’ sometimes, and to remember why ‘escape’ is so important to our sanity.

 

Quick-fix escape has become a bottle of wine, or a refreshing swim, a nice meal out or a bar of chocolate with a cancer movie. But that hasn’t been enough lately. I’ve felt so wrung out, to the point that I haven’t even felt like socialising or being creative enough to moan about my life on here.

 

Not properly, anyway. 

Stress: How Do You Escape?
La La La found on Etsy.com on Pinterest.com

 

And then by some strange twist of fate, work came to my rescue. Now I realise that I must be the only woman/mother to celebrate a few days away from home to go to work and that probably puts me in a bad light, but it wasn’t a ‘jolly’; it was real bonafide work. Two days in the mountains last week and then another two days down on the south coast this week – of physically exhausting work (that I’m really far too old and unfit for) – setting up show homes. It involves lifting gazillions of heavy boxes, unpacking heavy boxes, bed making, ironing, fluffing and making small talk with tradies.

 

But it was what I needed.

 

The open roads, the green landscape, the bluest of blue skies and even the road kill gave me back my focus. As I pushed my head out of the car window and caught the breeze with my tongue, I felt suddenly free. It reinforced my need to find moments to escape, to revitalise and recoup my energies. To remind me that I have needs too.

 

When you’re a mum, it’s easy to forget about ‘you’. It’s easy to allow yourself to become the doormat or the family PA. Then one day your batteries can suddenly die and you feel so dog tired that you simply stop coping and become resentful, tetchy and mean to the people you love.

 

Those two trips saved my sanity. Chit chatting with my crazy boss in the car, drinking iced mochas from Maccas, watching the wildlife, feeling physically rather than mentally tired and staying in shit pit hotels in the middle of fucking nowhereville with only cockroaches for company.

 

COMMUNAL BATHROOMS!

 

Not being ‘Mum’ for forty-eight precious hours. Not worrying.

 

I didn’t stop thinking about them, of course. But I did stop worrying. I transferred the worry to the old man – I knew he wouldn’t worry. And the homework wasn’t done, and takeaway was on the menu both nights, yet they all survived.

 

Today I watched a pair of seals dance in the water in front of me with my beautiful niece at Taronga Zoo and the world felt like a good place to live in again.

 

‘Escape’, ‘balance’, call it what you will, but remember to find some equilibrium in your life.

The Anxiety Beast In Middle Age

I’m tired.

 

English: An anxious person
English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that feeling is justified as we approach the end of another year, and in particular the end of the school year, and the fatigue is further compounded by the shops that are already taunting us with Christmas trees and tacky Christmas carols. (Which, quite frankly, is fucking overwhelming right now).

 

FUCK OFF CHRISTMAS! I love you but I’m just not ready for you yet.

 

I blame the anxiety beast of middle age that kicks in for some women during menopause and peri-menopause. It’s physically and mentally exhausting when you constantly have to worry, and not only about yourself but about everyone else as well.

 

And I feel so guilty about worrying about such inane stuff. Because there are women in my life who have far harder lives than me – who have coped with the devastating effects of serious illness or loss, and yet they still manage to stay positive and upbeat.

 

There is absolutely no reason in my life for my glass to be half-empty – apart from the fact that I’m an alcoholic, OBVIOUSLY – and yet more often than not my fucking glass feels that way.

 

I mean, I’ve only just come back from what was a great holiday. Still dysfunctional – refereeing between teenagers and grandparents over volume control, bad language and the acceptable speed for a golf buggy can also be stressful – nevertheless, it was still a break, with people I love.

 

No, I’m tired for lots of reasons. I’m tired because I don’t really want to work anymore. Of course I have to, but if I had the winning lotto ticket, I wouldn’t have any problem filling my time.

 

I love my job(s), but I don’t cope with stress very well these days. I get anxious when I forget simple things that I used to be able to remember. I keep making elaborate lists yet I never seem to tick anything off. And that makes me anxious.

 

When I’m working flat out, and the state of the apartment turns seedy, it exacerbates my anxiety. I don’t like mess and I don’t function well in it. Some days I lie awake in bed at night, not just because my body’s overheating from this sudden change in my hormone balance or because my bladder obviously suffers from ADHD, but also because I’m worried about what might or might not happen at work the next day; and how the impending disaster will impact on my domestic shit.

 

When you suffer from anxiety, you burn valuable energy worrying about things that will probably never happen anyway, and the effect on your mental wellbeing can be so intense that it could actually provoke physical illness. So then you start worrying about how all that worrying might kill you prematurely too.

 

Which makes you worry even more.

 

I worried about Michelle Levy over the weekend; I worry about how awful people are being to Muslims, I worry about Ebola and and I worry about Kurt’s future. I worry about my health and if the Princess is truly happy in our apartment because she doesn’t have any grass to roll in, and I worry about how much wine I drink.

 

Then I worry if the local bottle shop is going to run out of my favourite wine anytime soon.

If you laughed out loud reading this post, leaked wee or vaguely identified with any of the middle-aged drivel contained therein, don’t be scared and FOLLOW MY BLOG. You can follow by clicking the ‘Follow My Blog’ button (derr!) at the top of this page, (on the left hand side). You can also follow my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mymidlifemayhem, and if you want to become the ultimate stalker, you can find me on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram too, where I lurk, (far more often than is healthy for my family and work), in the clever disguise of Louisa Simmonds. 

 

 

Are You Middle-Aged and Worry About Your Health All The Time?

day: twenty-three.  [worry]
day: twenty-three. [worry] (Photo credit: Hammonton Photography)
So when I peed yesterday morning, it was pink. Probably too much information I know, but …just saying.

In my mind, I obviously had full-blown bowel cancer.

So I did what every woman does when faced with death; I began planning on where I would shop during my last few months.

Until Dr Google stepped in – my reliable, virtual GP, who saves me at least $75 in real doctors bills every day by reassuring me that my latest symptoms are NOT of the terminal kind. He/she informed me that my pink wee, (that resembled watery Ribena), was in fact a bi-product of the roasted beetroot I’d devoured the day before for lunch.

Obviously, I supplied NC a sample for examination.

I worry obsessively about my health these days. My fears might be linked to my general state of anxiety, (although frankly the meds should be dealing with that), but I think they are more linked to middle-age. Once you pass forty you seem to worry about abso-fucking-lutely everything, just for the hell of it.

But you worry particularly about how long you have left.

I don’t want to die now.

Mortality doesn’t worry you when you’re younger. You have zero concept of death then. But I’m ‘old’ now. My kids look at thirty-somethings and think they’re old fuckers – they only tolerate being associated with the old man and I because we pay their phone bills.

When you get beyond your forties, having survived those exhausting years of horrible little kids, when the teenagers are biting at the bit to get out and you’ve given up trying to reach the top of the corporate ladder, because brown-nosing has finally become intolerable, your outlook changes. You’ve finally made it through to the other side and discovered the wisdom that none of all that actually matters anyway.

So you don’t want to kick the bucket. Yet.

In fact the only things that do matter, (apart from fantasising about retirement, loose clothing, travel, food and young men), are being alive and having your health.

Because there’s so much to do now.

Which is why it’s so easy to become fixated on your health.

I worry about every change in my body, from every minor twinge, ache, the colour of my wee and the firmness of my stools, to the lumps, bumps and unusual creaks my bones now make.

The word ‘time-waster’ is obviously written on the top of my profile at the doctor’s surgery.

And all the latest crap in the media on the latest diet fad, exercise, power food, pill and lifestyle, sucks me in.

It’s not like anyone really knows the secret to long life, do they? We all know deep down that our lifespan is in the hands of the Gods, fate and DNA.

This week, the Mediterranean diet caught my eye because it apparently prevents senility – which is interesting because I’ve been drinking wine, chomping on olives, gorging on brie, pasta and pizzas my whole life but I’m still overweight, and I still leave my keys in the fridge.

So now I’m worrying about my weight too. You definitely have to cut back on your calorie allowance in middle age, because your body determinedly deposits every excess calorie in places that don’t need filling. And not on your boobs or your arse or in the crevices on your face, but generally around your waistline or thighs.

Fat has always made a beeline for my stomach and I’ve noticed that I’ve started doing that middle-age thing of dressing to hide it now. Remember Liz Taylor’s kaftan phase? For a while now I’ve noticed that I buy loose tops and dresses, anything that will hide that baby belly around my stomach that screams ‘Not a bun in the oven but I might have eaten all the pies.’

It’s not that I really care about what other people think of how I look, but I am vain enough to care when my jeans are too tight and when my dress size goes up a size.

So I fight the battle of the bulge – roughage salads and no carbs; water until I’m peeing every five minutes; exercise and abject misery. The reading on the scales never really seems to move anti-clockwise, though.

A bit like my age.

And the anxiety about the extra weight must put extra stress on my heart, so diabetes is bound to kick in and that worry causes my heart to start racing and I get all sweaty and experience pains in my chest and…..

OMG – I THINK I’M GOING TO DIE!

Perhaps I should take my own advice and just live every day as if it was my last.

But supposing it is my last…..?