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.

Arty-Fartiness And A Celebration Of The Naked Female Form

image4One of the best parts about this stage of life is having the time, finally, to concentrate on what we love doing; the ability to explore new avenues and discover new passions. And if you’re not one of ‘those that can’, it’s just as pleasurable to appreciate the passionate endeavors of others, stand in their shade, and lap up their success.

I was invited to view an art exhibition the other night. Three female artists (Jane Park, Laurie McKern, and Petra Pinn), and one male artist, Evert Ploeg (whose work is represented at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra), get together weekly, on Monday Nights, (hence the name of the exhibition), to paint the naked female form. The exhibition included framed pieces, canvases as well as sketches of their experimentation and exploration of the process.

Those of us that can’t draw or paint stood back and secretly wept with envy at the talent on display by the four artists, who had not only depicted the female form in all its glory and strength but had also created an intimate backdrop for the event, with a distinctly South Amercian flavor. As Jose strummed Spanish music on his guitar in the background and a gorgeous life model lit up a makeshift stage – in top hat and garters, and very little else – it was difficult not to imagine yourself in nineteenth-century Valencia.

Sadly, my purse doesn’t stretch to the price tag of real art (that’s the problem with being married to a tightarse/heathen), yet something else stopped me from my typical impulse buy compulsions, and it bothered me. image2

I identified it as I ummed and ahhed over whether it was appropriate for me to approach the young model to ask for her photo. Stupidly, I worried that she might think I was some seedy older woman about to exploit her, in much the same way how I sensed the old man might feel if any one of the images of strong, semi-naked females appeared on a wall at home.

Like many men, he’s not as comfortable with the naked female form, or indeed femininity, as perhaps he should be for a man of his age.

Many men associate imagery of naked women with sex, porn and desire and some struggle not to objectify it. It is an attitude that we need to change if we are to alter the culture of the abuse of women and domestic violence, and perhaps by making art such as this more accessible, we can change that attitude. Another way – of which I am a staunch supporter – is by getting more penises on the screen and in the media, and ahem, fewer under boardroom tables.

image1As a side note, my friend and I were reassured to spot the preponderance of lush female bush in the depictions of the younger models – a sign (we hope) that this ridiculous concept of shaving everything off down below is finally demode.

‘Perhaps that’s because the models are South American?’ she queried.

‘But isn’t that where the Brazilian originated,’ I asked her, confused.

Of course, shaving off your bush is every woman’s choice and thereby wholeheartedly approved of by feminists such as myself; the only caveat being that women are doing for their own reasons rather than for men who struggle with the distinction between real life and porn.

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This piece, by Jane Park (Instagram page is at Janeparkart.com), was my favorite of the evening – possibly because it reminded me of how I look in the morning – and I seriously contemplated buying it to hang over our bed to terrify the old man. Had I been brave enough, I am certain that it would have forced him into the spare room, once and for all.

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. 

Forgiveness And The Ability To Say Sorry

valentines-day-3135789_1920 (1)Ask any member of my family and they will confirm that one of my biggest faults is my lack of forgiveness and more pertinently my inability to say “sorry.” It is not something I can deny, and neither will I apologize for it – obviously.

 

Perhaps my absence of empathy in this regard has something to do with my star sign – because Leos are renowned for their arrogance – perhaps it is a defense mechanism that I have developed over the years to prevent myself from getting hurt, or perhaps it is because I lack any spiritual influence in my life.

 

Don’t worry, I’m not the sort of crazy that scratches cars with sharp knives or sews out-of-date prawns into curtains. No, my punishment of choice is much more evil. It is the punishment of silence and eternal banishment to another kingdom, never to be heard from again – so, as you will appreciate, not an attractive quality, and not one that I am not particularly proud of.

 

The old man has certainly experienced the brunt of my anger on many occasions and once NC and I endured a four-day sulking match when she was still barely out of nappies. However, maturity and the loss of some dear people in my life has taught me that we don’t always get the chance to say “sorry” – which is something that terrifies me, particularly when my grudges, (in hindsight), are particularly shallow. So, while in years gone by I could justify ignoring my father for years, these days I force myself to thaw out quicker and extend the olive branch, ever-conscious of the fragility of life.

 

That being said, the attitude of the father of the family killed in the murder-suicide last week astounded me. Because I’m certain I would struggle to employ the word “forgiveness” in the same sentence as the alleged murderer’s name, a matter of days after my four children had been murdered in their beds. As you know, I am the staunchest supporter of mental illness, but I cannot condone or excuse murder or domestic abuse on any level. Perhaps, I might muster some small sense of pity on my own deathbed, but in no situation could I see myself forgiving such a heinous perpetration of my family’s human rights and trust in the immediate aftermath of such a tragedy. As the police have confirmed that the father is not a suspect in the tragedy, I can only attribute his quick response to shock, medication or faith. Yet…if he has truly managed to find forgiveness, I have to commend him.

 

It is important to remember that ‘just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.’ What it does do, however, is ‘bring the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger.’ (Greater Good Magazine)

 

The wisdom and clear-headedness (!) of age confirms the futility and danger of anger to both our mental and physical health and offers us the alternative solution of removing toxicity out of our lives completely, rather than trying to maintain the perilous ties of a damaging relationship. I am an expert in this field. From British stock – hence, over-apologetic and terrified of confrontation – whenever I have found myself tested and unable to handle the emotional fallout and consequences of relationships-gone-bad in the past, I have either stuck my head in the sand or walked away and severed the tie completely.

 

However, the problem with that approach is its capacity to leave us very lonely, which is (fortunately) when that wisdom of age can step in again to remind us that some relationships are worth egg on your face and fighting for, and to stop acting like a dickhead.

 

 

 

 

 

Stiffness In Middle Age

figure-1707104_1920Sorry to mislead you with the clickbait of my title, but no, this isn’t a titillating article about the benefits of Viagra in middle age. It is, in fact, a piece on the more boring topic of stiff joints and aching muscles at this stage of our lives. Because it seems to me, that as one part of our bodies stops stiffening, the rest of it becomes as stiff as a board.

The Princess was recently labeled a senior dog by the vet – obviously, I covered her ears when they imparted the news because frankly, the dog is anxious enough – which must make us senior parents. And the vet has a point: because although our dog remains spritely for her age, is still keen to catch a ball in the garden and run away from us in the dog park – occasionally, I have seen her trip up steps or struggle to get down from the sofa.

 

Have you noticed any creaky bones, lower back pain or pinging tendons (that shouldn’t be pinging) when you get up or turn around too quickly because the strains on my body catch me out when I least expect it? Frankly, I can pull a neck muscle just reversing the car.

 

It seems ridiculous to me that I can swim forty lengths in the pool and then struggle to get out of my beach chair. Generally, I end up leaning over the side of it on all fours in the sand, in the sort of compromised bottom-flashing position made famous by that woman at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

 

And it’s not pretty.

 

It’s the same when I do the garden when sometimes a small crane would come in handy to pull me back upright. All too often, I have to physically straighten my legs from beneath me like vets do to new-born foals, whilst I tug on a branch for support.

 

I alluded to my problems with walking down slopes and steep steps in this post, only a short time ago, and it’s not just me – the old man still can’t bend down to touch the floor – although, in fairness, the old man and his rugby-thighs have never been able to bend down easily to the floor.

 

Touch wood, my joints feel okay at the moment, but it is interesting how suddenly that stiffness and lack of flexibility suddenly catches up with us in much the same way that grey hair, naps, and early bedtimes do. One minute we’re running from security in nightclubs and the next we’re being offered a seat on the bus. I can see how easy it is for people who do desk jobs to lose their fitness and flexibility and to compromise their backs.

 

Which is why we need to look after ourselves at this stage of our lives. I am a firm believer that we reap what we sow, or is it sow what we… ? Never mind. Personally, I find that a quick stroll down to the pub at lunchtime eases and lubricates my stiff joints and can set up my body for the rest of the day.

What Happened To The Fearlessness Of My Youth?

It is no secret that anxiety can be linked to menopause, and for some women, the condition can be so bad, it forces them to turn to anti-depressants to get through it.

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According to Medical News Today: ‘Hormone changes, life stresses, sleep problems, worries about body image, infertility, boring marriages and aging are all factors linked to menopause that can contribute to mood swings, stress, anxiety, irritability bordering on psychopathy and a decreased sense of any rationality well-being in women.’

There’s nothing worse than feeling anxious all the time, and if I could change one element of this period of my life, it would be the sense of irrational fear that has worked its way into my everyday consciousness.

I often wonder where the fearlessness I had as a child and young adulthood disappeared to in the ageing process. Anxiety diffuses my every thought to the point where I’ve even started to worry on behalf of others. I stop to watch the surfers at the beach and instead of envying them their majestic feat of travel through water, all I can think about are the waves strong enough to crush them, sharks, rips, Russian submarines, and ear infections.

Fortunately for them, their passion overrides their fear.

What happened to the kid that used to roll and bound down steep hills and steps, without worrying about falling over? When did I stop swinging across monkey bars, spinning the swing almost 360 degrees and climbing trees – okay, so I never actually climbed trees.

Did we do all that because our brains were underdeveloped, or has experience taught us to be more careful?

I often wonder what happened to the girl who lived and worked in a foreign country, drove across Europe by herself, hitchhiked and took her chances with Lotharios she’d never consider leaving her daughter with now.  What happened to that courageous young woman who reinvented herself so many times in the workplace that not even she recognised herself?

What happened to the fearlessness of my youth? When did fear start to impede my enjoyment of life?

Anyone else feel this way?

I Like To Think An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks…

However… every trip out of the home these days seems to involve some shaming new public lesson in technology that highlights my mom-ness and has zero human interaction or support. I pity the really old people who used to see a trip to the shops as the one chance in their day for conversation.

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I think I’ve coped quite well with the abundance of new technology thrown at us in recent years – coin-operated trollies and food that comes out of machines comes to mind – but when I went to the movies with a friend the other day and we had to buy our tickets from a machine ie. no student who doesn’t give a shit and is just trying to stay awake behind a desk,  I seriously had to question how good this is for our social skills.

 

For the most part, middle-aged pride forces me to argue with the adage that an old dog can’t learn new tricks, although admittedly, the limitations of the more mature body can make things a little slower.

 

But if the brain is willing…

 

For example, I have mastered how to open the modern wine bottle with its fancy screw top lid very quickly; I have stopped trying to force my keys into the button ignition of my car, and five times out of ten, I remember my recyclable shopping bags, hence avoiding the label of planet-destroyer, apart from the five times I don’t.

 

But, there are certain tasks that have proved trickier to absorb, which for the main part are linked to technology.

 

Why the fuck couldn’t they leave things alone?

 

For while the mobile phone is an improvement, it has caused me major abandonment/anxiety issues due to my dependency, like when it stops working for no reason or I have lost it and realized that there is not one single telephone number stored in my head and I am alone in a car park with no idea where my car is parked.

 

We also have parking meters now that require you to enter your car registration number. What woman has ever been able to remember their registration number?  Did they seriously think that through?

 

And, just me, or does everyone require additional assistance at the self-serve check-outs because their fruit, apparently, doesn’t exist, or their bag is not registering that there is anything in it, or their French stick has not been coded? Surely, that has to defeat their purpose?

 

I get the premise of packing your own food for the purposes of speed, efficiency and getting rid of minimum-wage staff, but find it hard to ignore the deep-seated challenge of the set up in Aldi, for example. I like to call it  “Beating the cashier”, and the aim of the game is to catch all your shopping thrown at you by the cashier and put it into the appropriate sections of your trolley – ie. Veg goes at one end, fridge stuff at the other and Who-The-Fuck-Knows-Where-That-Will-Go? somewhere in the middle – before they finish. By the end, my trolley might resemble a refuse mountain with my bags buried carefully beneath it, but it’s still a win, bitch!

 

Try it! It’s really fun.

 

And finally, does anyone know what an HTML cord is yet? Asking for an old dog. 

 

 

 

Things I’m Too Old For – Music Gigs

This post is the first in a new series called “Things I’m Too Old for;” an idea I came up with the other night when we went into the city to watch a gig roughly two nights before we moved house – cos that’s what you do when you’re about to experience one of the most stressful events of your life. restroom-99225_1280

 

I know, I know… I can already hear you mumbling about how ‘you’re never too old,’ or ‘you’re only as old as you feel,’ but frankly, there are a few things I’d rather not do anymore.

 

Skiing, festivals, camping, menstruation and… live music gigs, as it turns out.

 

For those as stubbornly entrenched in the Victorian era as I am when it comes to their approach to modern living, the definition of a “gig” is a live performance – something we used to call a “concert” – and it is more usually of the “popular” genre of music. We went to see an Australian band called Angus and Julia Stone, an “indie” band – according to Kurt – whose repertoire has a “sitting on the beach with a spliff and can of VB” vibe to it, somewhat along the lines of Jack Johnson.

 

The old man and I have a special connection to brother and sister, Angus and Julia, because they went to Kurt’s school and their father was his music teacher. However, that is as far as the depth of the relationship stretches – in other words, not far enough to guarantee us good seats, hence we found ourselves positioned once again in our favored spot at the top of Everest.

 

When you find yourself in row U without your oxygen mask and no clear access to toilets, it’s best not to think about your plan of escape in the event of a fire, especially in a concert hall that’s so old, the staff breathes heavily on you for air conditioning. I realize that the location of the toilets should not be a dealbreaker when it comes to having a good time, but it is, especially after the five glasses of wine and all-you-can-eat Thai I’d swilled down beforehand. So it was with some concern that I found myself in the middle of our row and nowhere near toilets, fire escape or the Maltesers, although I needn’t have worried about my bladder showing me up, because it turns out that Millennials can’t hold down more than a few beers either without needing to piss and at one point our row looked like it was doing the Mexican wave. All this, before the band had even bothered to show up – around 9pm – which is usually my bedtime.

 

As Kurt refused to let me take my binoculars, I had to imagine what Angus and Julia looked like in the flesh from our great height and through the haze of smoke and moody darkness in which they performed. I hate to admit it, but it did cross my mind several times that it would have been easier and a darn sight cheaper to watch them on the tv, but I realize how old that makes me sound.

 

Fortunately, by the third song the old neck began to move rhythmically to its beat, in and out in ostrich fashion, and I began to feel the return of my groove, and somehow, I managed to convince myself I was enjoying myself in spite of the old man’s snores and the Millennial texting beside me. It took every ounce of my strength not to ask her to turn down the glare on her phone.

 

Dare I admit to being a little bummed when Angus and Julia came back for their encore? Nevertheless, I dug my nails into the old man’s arms stoically – he’d been biting at the bit for thirty minutes so he could be first out to the car park – and we both yawned our way through the dying throes of those last few songs, while all my brain could think about was my bed.

 

Romance Goals And How Sometimes It’s Best To Say Nothing At All

‘Have you farted?’ the old man said to me as he brushed past me to get into my bath water.

 

underwear-2613034_1920Not exactly the three words I hoped to hear when we said our vows nearly twenty-five years ago. But if he’d said ‘I love you’, I would probably have worried that he was hiding something. Not that we never say those words, but we tend to reserve them for special occasions like Christmas or for serious negotiations over the last cube of chocolate or drop of wine.

 

‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘let’s watch Netflix,’ and ‘can you unload the dishwasher?’ is our language of love these days. ‘Take off your panties’ – not so much – the sultry words whispered by Christian Grey to Anastasia Steele over dinner in Fifty Shades Darker, the viewing of which, (NC and I decided yesterday afternoon) counted as slightly more of an achievement than sleeping for two hours on the sofa.

 

Anastasia obliged immediately because she’s that kind of independent, modern woman that woman starved themselves for, who does exactly what she’s told, whereas I would probably have reacted with ‘YOU take off your panties,’ (more M&M than S&M) or the simplest words, ‘I’M EATING!’.

 

Even more entertaining was when she managed to inch down the itsy-bitsiest lace g-string over six-inch strappy heels which she obviously couldn’t take off first because a) they were sat in a restaurant and b) I imagine they took two hours to do up. Let’s get serious here: there is no way you could inch a g-string down your legs – no hands – without them getting caught on sandals with enough straps and buckles to look like an S&M torture device. I couldn’t help imagining my version of the scene and the camera’s lingering focus at the end on my huge granny undies caught up in my Hush Puppies to the crooning of Barry White.

 

Yep, romantic gestures change with age and the longevity of relationships.

 

A romantic gesture from the old man these days is a take-out meal or a bottle of wine that costs more than ten dollars; mine to him is permission to watch the rugby. Flowers are a rarity, that occasionally appear on our anniversary if I threaten to leave him and the last time I told him I loved him was when I got two consecutive parking tickets in one morning.

 

If you want a cinematic delight of a trip down memory lane to those early, heady days of young love, I suggest you don’t watch Fifty Shades Darker – the tale of two robots with dialogue that was obviously written by two kindergarten kids who forgot that both characters need lines, leaving the female protagonist stuttering and sighing  with frustration through every scene – or at least I imagine that’s what all that groaning was about. Although she does still manage to score the top job in a publishing house at the age of twenty-one so maybe I should try whimpering like a dog next time I want to nail a job.

 

I can recommend a good old-fashioned classic such as An Officer and a Gentleman, though. We caught the last half of it at the weekend and decided that nothing beats the chemistry between Winger and Gere, who hiss like a Chinese sizzle dish on screen. An anti-hero like Christian Grey, don’t expect awkward declarations of love from Richard “Love God” Gere, but if broody, smouldering looks, a confident swagger, a very nice chest and defined peen lines stir those dormant embers – sorted!

 

In the words of Ronan Keating, ‘sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all.’

 

 

 

When Are You Too Old To Ski?

It might surprise you to know that we are skiing this week – an interesting choice of holiday for two middle-aged people with anxiety with the physical flexibility of two brick walls. I doubled my medication as a precaution.

 

To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck we think we’re doing, either – skiing at fifty-plus. I like to pretend it’s something to do with taking myself out of my comfort zone but the truth is, I agree to this holiday each year to accumulate brownie points with the old man. I am beginning to question, however, if a bit more leverage at the local shopping centre is truly worth risking life and limb for.

 

The only consolation is that the old man – a natural sportsman when it comes to ball sports – is a truly shite skier, and what makes that funnier is that he refuses to admit to it. Indeed, in spite of the billions spent on lessons, we’re both as useless as the day we began this ridiculous sport, decades ago, and the only saving grace is that I am slightly faster than him and can also ride a chairlift without falling off – a new skiing low for the old man yesterday.

 

We had to lie to Peter, our instructor this holiday, about how many lessons we’ve had before.

 

‘A few,’ we said in unison, right after Peter had yanked the old man’s body back from the precipice below and into the chairlift, like some three-year old child.

 

Peter is about sixty-five and not exactly the ski instructor I imagined when I booked this round of lessons, hopeful for some rewarding distraction for my week of sacrifice. He also gets quite tetchy when we don’t nail his drills in one go, snow plow instead of doing a parallel turn, giggle or answer him back. And frankly, we’re both getting a bit old in the tooth to be bullied for something we’ve paid for. That’s why I gave up yoga.

 

The only good thing about skiing is that because everything takes so long to do, the time passes quickly, and like childbirth, once you look into the eyes of that first Mulled Wine in the local lodge, the skier’s amnesia sets in to help you forget the horror until the next morning. Getting dressed each day takes up half your holiday and the layers of clothing to protect you from the frostbite make movement difficult. Then, when the sun comes out, you cook from the inside out, rather like being microwaved. And it takes at least thirty minutes to squeeze sore, reshaped feet into ill-fitting boots and then you have to trundle the whole caboodle up a mountain by a slow, primitive transport system that has a habit of losing people and equipment en route.

 

The impact on the sort of middle-aged body that counts walking as exercise is immense, as you can imagine. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the muscle and joint pain, twinges appear in the most unlikely of places – something to do with getting down a mountain in the squatting position required for those hole-in-the-ground toilets at Dubai airport, I imagine.

 

The fact that I can now get down a slope without triggering an avalanche must mean that my technique has improved, but I have yet to enjoy the journey back to the restaurant – or as we call it, “base camp”. My aim is a simple one – to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, before I kill someone or someone kills me in this expensive game of survival, where small children and snowboarders are the obstacles to living for another day.

 

We’ve given NC the information for how to access what’s left of our wealth after this holiday because not even the promise of a mulled wine or hot chocolates frothing with cholesterol on the slopes is enough to disguise the reality that we will probably die here.

 

 

And The Race Is On For That Medical Marijuana Script

headache-1540220_1920Health concerns continue to dominate the conversation with friends, now evolving at a faster pace than our hatred for world leaders and terrorists. Where ten years ago all we had to grumble about were minor twinges, joint soreness and forgetting the odd name, nowadays we talk about cancer, blood pressure and how often we forget our own children’s names. We have heated debates about the health system, out of pocket expenses, the cost of anesthesia and the benefits of this hospital over that one.

 

Such is our enthusiasm for the topic of our decaying health, competitions have been set up for who takes the most medication or has the highest Statin dosage, and there is a prize of a holiday to Disneyland for the family that reaches the Medicare threshold first.

 

I was bemoaning my most recent terminal symptoms to a girlfriend the other day and she told me that if you make it to fifty, there’s a good chance you’re here for the long haul.

 

I think she was being optimistic, but in the spirit of positivity, I switched the topic of conversation at lunch a few weeks ago to Marijuana, even if this subject has been somewhat exhausted over the past few years in relation to our offspring.

 

This time, it was the medical kind that was up for debate, and by dessert, we had drawn up a legal pact that whoever among us is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attain that first medical marijuana script, has to share. I should point out this agreement was made with a similar logic and scale of planning that saw our parents set up timeshare properties with their friends back in the eighties, and like then, payment will be red wine. But the old man and I were thrilled as the decision took us one step further in the goals of our own personal retirement plan, one of which is to be the next Bernie and Rozalin Focker.

 

If we can’t get the script, Plan b is to see if our kids have any contacts, at which point the old man and I went suspiciously quiet.

 

Another friend of ours was quite surprised to find that I carry Aspirin around in my handbag at all times – unless I switch handbags, in which case I have accepted I will die  – which is something I have done for a good ten years now. ‘Positive thinking?’ he quipped.

 

‘It’s hard to be positive when your mother dropped dead at thirty-four of a heart attack,’ I responded bitchily because it was that time of the month.

 

Did you know that Aspirin is a highly efficient anti-clotting agent that can save you in the early stages of a heart attack or stroke and it is widely used in a preventative capacity after such events? I know this because another friend ours prioritized going to a 7-Eleven for a packet of the stuff on his way to the ER – just prior to his second minor heart attack – and he lived to tell the tale.

 

Even if they only act as a placebo, those little tablets of willow bark extraction in my handbag give me some level of comfort each day and I try to ignore anxiety’s questions of how I would get it down my neck in abject pain and possibly on my own. I would also need water because although Aspirin is the largest selling pain reliever in the world, it still tastes fucking foul.

 

Ignoring my mean response, my friend – who I swear is related to Don Tilman from the The Rosie Project – who is one of those people that stores useless information to bring out at random moments, like when you’re trying to say your good byes in a busy car park, went on to give me the history of Aspirin and to recount its other superpowers.

 

Did you know?

 

Aspirin can slow down cancer growth.

 

Aspirin is good for the brain and reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Aspirin can revive a car battery long enough to get you to a garage.

 

It prolongs the life of flowers.

 

It restores hair color from chlorine.

 

It relieves bug bites and acne.

 

You do need to real the small print, however. Like Viagra and other wonder drugs, too much can be dangerous, and although your willy won’t explode and shatter into a million pieces, deafness can be linked to over-use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Menopause To Blame For My Poor Concentration As Well?

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‘Just call me a homing pigeon,’ said the old man smugly as he traversed the narrow streets of our neighbourhood, Italian Job-style, to avoid the traffic on the main arterial road to the city. 

I’ve never had and homing skills, a fact that was proven only a few days before when I got a bus to meet NC and ended up twenty kilometres further north. I had to call her anxiously to tell her I was lost.

‘I thought you told me that all the buses go to the city,’ I said accusingly as I dug around my handbag for my glasses to check Google maps – only to realise that I’d left them at home with my brain.  

‘Where are you?’ she asked me, sounding like my mother.

‘Fuck knows,’ I answered in a bleak voice, praying this was just another one of ‘those days’ and not the early signs of dementia.

I’ve never had a great sense of direction. I blame it on the timetable clash at school between Geography and Art, but I still like to think that my current issue is more linked to a distraction problem than short term memory loss.

I find it more and more difficult to concentrate these days, particularly when I’m not interested in what I’m supposed to be concentrated on. I zone out, I drop out of conversations, (or more rudely, I attempt to veer them in the direction I want them to go). Even watching Netflix, I struggle to maintain focus on complicated plots and and I catch my mind wandering to tomorrow’s dinner or my plans for the next day. 

I can concentrate on my writing, on reading books and articles on social media – the pastimes I enjoy – but the rest of the time it feels like I’m running around in a permanent fug.

Can I blame menopause? Apparently so. You see, it has been universally acknowledged that hormone fuckery and lack of sleep contribute to poor concentration in both peri-menopause and menopause itself, which means – I hope – that I’m not in the early stages of Alzheimer’s after all.

Perhaps, it’s simply that I struggle to relax. Like most women, I made a career out of multi-tasking, but in recent years my life has become less hectic and my body is still acclimatising to that change. It isn’t used to being able to sit still for periods of time.

‘Breathe, Mum,’ NC advised before she hung up. I think it’s time to take her advice.

Middle-Aged Memory Loss: When You Need A Checklist Just To Leave The House

So apparently, the old man also experiences the whole dementia thing, which I had hoped was short-term in my case and attributed to menopause rather than a permanent decline.

Getting out of the house together can be a strain these days and the organization we require to remember everything we need has become an embarrassment. We are forced to run through lengthy checklists before we feel brave enough to open the front door and enter what is becoming a newly threatening world outside. While admittedly, I am known for putting my keys in the fridge and my attempts to boil milk in the kettle, I can’t tell you how often the old man has to go back to the house for his phone or wallet. And nowhere was this new level of senility more apparent than on holiday when we were outside the comfort zone of our territory for a whole week.

One day, we booked a massage at a nearby spa, because included in the deal was the use of the rest of the spa’s facilities for the remainder of the day as well as lunch – an offer that proved impossible to resist for cheapskates like us who had reached breaking point from the feral kids permanently adrift in the pool at our own hotel (as we waited for the Department of Education to turn up after an anonymous tip-off).

‘So all I need is my swimmers?’ the old man asked me five minutes before we were being picked up, and an hour into my own preparations’.

‘No, you need a hat, sunglasses, towel, your phone and something to read,’ I replied helpfully, trying to ignore the ‘CHECK HIS FUCKING BAG!’ thought pounding in my head because I decided it was disempowering.

Two hours later, fully relaxed after a wonderful massage, I suggested that we change into our swimmers in the massage room rather than allow the old man to put any teenage girls around the pool through the torture of having to watch him do his Houdini-style towel dance.

‘I’ve forgotten my swimmers,’ he said, sheepishly, before he went on to blame me for distracting him with all the other stuff he had to remember.

So, for your entertainment, (and as a small punishment for losing his marbles before I lose mine), I bring you a photo of the old man wearing the vintage-style bottoms to the most un-itsy-bitsy bikini (thank God!) you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, I was forced to sit around the pool for the rest of the day in my underwear, to the mortification of all the poor men under forty.

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Couples Holidays For The Middle-Aged – When Sometimes It’s Easier To Stay At Home

buoy-914766_1920The problem with going away when you finally reach that longed-for stage of almost empty-nesting is that anxiety tends to rear its ugly head at about the same time in your life, and it throws up all sorts of other issues. So although we don’t have to worry about remembering a long list of toddler essentials like nappies and sterilizers and portable beds nowadays, we do have to prepare ourselves for the mental anguish of dashed expectations, change, flying, other people and more importantly other people’s small children.

Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be easier to stay at home.

Somewhat predictably, I fear we have turned into one of those moaning, judgmental, middle-aged couples on holiday because there is definitely a pattern emerging each time we go away, where we spend more time waiting to get home than actually enjoying our holiday.

‘It’s a bit hot,’ the old man had commented, an hour into our holiday as we downed our second drink in celebration of our survival of the most tumultuous flight since London to Dublin circa 1995.

‘Stop moaning,’ I said, as I watched him squint at the sun because he forgot to pack his sunglasses.We’re making an effort to be grateful this holiday, remember?’ I reminded him sternly.

Because we know we should be grateful. A whole week without the kids at one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been to – (because I got a deal) – and I had even managed to ignore the unspoken meaning behind the words of mine and Kurt’s doctor when she grabbed me by the shoulder the day before we left and said, ‘are you seriously leaving Kurt with NC?’ Surely, she should know by now that’s not the sort of thing you say to someone you are treating for anxiety disorder?

‘I’m never flying again,’ I had stated earlier that morning when we stepped off the plane on legs that refused to coordinate after two hours of non-stop turbulence on a three hour flight in which that whole scene when NC tells Kurt that the old man has left all of their inheritance to the Spoodle Sanctuary had played over and over in my mind as I decided we were going to die – and even worse, on a flight during which there was no alcohol with which to dull the demons of anxiety because it was breakfast time and society dictates…never mind.

But two hours later we found ourselves in paradise, and the effects of drinking wine in the sun at lunchtime and the knowledge that we might survive another week had given me some (false) hope, so we ventured down to the pool of our hotel. And lo and behold, two free sunbeds jumped out at us immediately (without the old man having to threaten or remove anyone’s towels) – in the shade, but as the old man informed me whilst setting his alarm for 5 am tomorrow, that would be the last time anyone put him in the shade – and so finally, we settled down to relax.

But if you believe in the Law of Attraction, you’ll know that it was almost inevitable that as soon as our eyes began to glaze over, those first cold splashes of pool water from about a dozen noisy kids who decided that the best part of the Olympic-sized pool to play in with big blow up toys and water soakers was directly in front of us, would bring us back to reality. Kids, we had assumed, would be at school at this time of the year.

The heat of hatred seared my body from the direction of the old man’s sunbed well before the sun had a chance, as he hissed a ‘fuck!’ under his breath. ‘Breathe!’ I said to myself as I pulled my towel over my head.

‘Look at how gorgeous this place is,’ I tried, looking out towards our surroundings above the heads of the feral children at the clear blue sky framed by palm trees and the crystal waters beneath it – my ears just about able to pick up the clink of Champagne glasses from the al fresco restaurant over the whining squeals of ‘Mummy, MUMMY…LOOK AT ME!’ in every other direction.

A tut came back in response.

‘Do you know how intolerant you’re becoming with middle age?’ I asked him, wiping the water from my legs.

‘Pfft!’ he responded. ‘We’re going to an over-18 hotel next time.’

‘We can’t afford over-18 hotels…’

‘Okay, well I’m staying at home, then,’ he said, jamming his earplugs into his ears, like a sulking teenager.

‘There’s still the buffet breakfast…’was my last-ditched attempt to save the week.

To be continued…