The Final Frontier…..Maybe

Marmite small v106
Marmite small v106 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As 2012 draws to a close, the New Year brings the prospect of auspicious change and new adventure to our dysfunctional unit of four.

The adventure kicks off with a trip back to the Motherland; the land that we try to forget, (at least until we catch a whiff of Marmite or watch an episode of Downton Abbey ….and fall to pieces in a nostalgic heap).

This trip is long overdue, mainly due to the tightness of the old man’s pockets, now that the cost has to cover four ‘adult’ seats in economy. As migrants, we have learned to conceal the innate homesickness that thinking about family on the other side of the world exacerbates, while we are in Sydney, but raw emotions will be brought uncompromisingly to the surface during our three week stay. Which is why these trips back create mixed feelings.

And so, after a 24 hour journey from hell, sandwiched between the ADHDer (who struggles to sit still for 5 minutes without drumming or kicking his feet into the back seat of the poor unfortunate in front of us), and the old man, (who finds that intoxication from alcohol miniatures is the best remedy for flying insomnia), I will no doubt alight from the aircraft, refreshed and looking as polished as Posh Spice, ready to embrace long lost relatives and old friends, (who mentally moved on from us a long time ago).

Our itinerary would test the organiser of a Royal tour. We will enjoy a brief respite at the old man’s family before being catapulted into another major voyage to the end of the earth in Brittany, France, made more anxious by the fact that the car we have rented (the cheapest in the ‘Budget’ car range) is not snow-worthy and a white Christmas is predicted. I am already anticipating a Christmas Day, buried in a drift somewhere on the autoroute between Calais and Caen, with only the perennial questions of the ADHDer to prevent us from falling into a hypothermic stupor.

Christmas week will be spent with my family, for the first time EVER. Dad has renovated the whole house to embrace his nomadic tribe who are flocking en masse from all corners of the globe to take full advantage of free grub and booze which makes up for the minor irritations of his prissy rules of having to remove our shoes each time we dare to walk on his off-white chenille rugs, being forced to consume alcohol 24/7 without respite, and play charades). The teens have been trained all year in how not to shovel food in their gobs, how to use a knife and fork properly, how not to sneak ‘like’ five times into every sentence, and they have been reminded to employ the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ appropriately, and on NO ACCOUNT use the F word, no matter how excited or anxious they become. Above all, they must pretend to share some form of sibling bond, nurtured (obviously), by our perfect parenting skills.

I have specifically requested that the ADHDer not express the first thing that comes into his head, but to think first, (especially if it pertains to something Grandad does not need to know about our home life or his appearance); and that he bore the pants off  instruct all my relatives in the finer mechanics of the modern guitar, rather than us, for a change.

My whole family will be there…….judging our parenting. Hence the old man will no doubt be on the defensive so I will have to make sure that he is adequately plyed with enough whisky to gag him. I give it 48 hours before we have re-booked Le Shuttle and are traversing the French countryside, hotfooting it back to the UK and the safety comfort zone of his sane family.

And then we head onwards to Surrey, where we used to live, to old friends who would have forgotten about us if not for my poignant reminders on Facebook. To friends who have rightfully moved on socially since we left, but who haven’t had the heart to de-friend me and have a vague interest, no doubt, in seeing if the madness of our migration during mid-life crisis worked out for us.

And we will both amaze and horrify them with the tale of our next new venture, of being on the move again,(the consummate explorers that we are), and they will nod excitedly while secretly thinking that we are barking mad.

Which maybe we are.

For some find comfort and reassurance through a sense of belonging while others are energised by change.

January brings that move, those changes, another fork in the road of life.  The excitement is in the not knowing whether it will work out, but not being afraid to try it nevertheless.

There’s no right way to live your life; you simply have to live it. ’To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before’.

The final frontier….maybe.

Midlife Mayhem – Am I A Hypochondriac Or Just Getting Old?

The subject matter of good dinner party chitchat has found a disturbing niche, now that we’ve hit our forties. Although ‘life was supposed to begin’ at this stage of our lives, we seem to be stuck at the ‘recognition of our own mortality’ roadblock far earlier than we anticipated. Whereas in my twenties we used to wax lyrical about alcohol consumption, sexual prowess and the female orgasm (apparently they were mutually compatible then), and in our thirties we circum-navigated career goals, marriage and babies, discussions these days seem to have stagnated around our health, or lack of it. I blame all those self-righteous health magazines and the Internet for our health obsession, but maybe it is just another symptom of the ‘midlife crisis’.

The ‘midlife’ alarm seems to resonate somewhere between your late thirties and mid forties, and serves as a reminder that you’ve reached the ‘half time’ point in your life and there’s not much time left to score some real goals. For some, those goals might be a new philosophy of life (Madonna and Kabbalah?) and for others they might involve a sea change. But at this stage in the game of life, sometimes your fitness doesn’t necessarily live up to your promise. It is a worrying indictment of our age group that in our circle of friends, more people take Statins these days, than drink alcohol.

Take my own health. Over the past six weeks, I have experienced debilitating lower back pain (I’m guessing it’s NOT a sports injury), the cold virus, severe toothache and the monthly peri-menopausal utopia caused by my female reproductive zone being forced into retirement. The old man’s sympathy has extended to ‘you’re getting old’ when I’ve sought comfort, whereas I suspect that I could be the first human, still walking, to suffer from cancer of every major organ. All other ailments aside, I am obviously suffering from mild hypochondriasis.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I have been assigned the ‘time-waster’ label by my GP, although, contrary to popular opinion, this hypochondriac is rarely spotted at the surgery. Consulting a doctor is a double-edged sword – if I go, she might tell me there’s nothing wrong with me (when I know that there is) and if I don’t go, and there is something wrong with me, I’m going to die anyway. A visit will have been precipitated by the ‘doom and gloom’ of self-diagnosis on the Internet, and the standard appointment time invariably stretches to double time as my telephone book of unrelated symptoms are analyzed. All roads lead to cancer when you pump a symptom into Google. 

There was a time, before cancer began ravaging acquaintances and freaking the rest of us out, and when it was fun to smoke, drink heavily and consume vats of any ‘type’ of fat, that conversation at the dinner table covered world politics, the career vs children conundrum or religion. But these days, world news has lost its x factor in comparison to the anguish caused by faulty bodily functions. ‘Man talk’ now encompasses ‘piles’, ‘wind’, and ‘bloating’, while ‘girl talk’ dissects issues of ‘bone density’, ‘vitamin supplements’, and ‘muscle mass’. Can someone explain to me how, scientifically, you can still put on weight when both your muscle mass and your bone density are decreasing? You might want to note that we’re saving ‘death’, ‘erectile dysfunction’ and ‘loss of sexual libido’ for our fifties and sixties.

So if I’m not really ill, why do I spend more on health than retail therapy and possess the energy levels of a dying battery? My svelte, septuagenarian next-door neighbour is still surfing, so maybe my physical well-being is being compromised by a poor mental outlook to aging, and my dwindling estrogen is not the culprit after all?

In one of his more lucid moments (Friday night; 2/3 of a bottle of Penfolds, Bin 28), the old man compared retirement to Buddhism. Apparently, once you retire you stop worrying about premature death because your philosophy of life changes and you finally appreciate that it is a positive state of mind that brings happiness, not wealth. Retirement, (and the reason our neighbor is a living advertisement for Viagra), provides the luxury of free time, time to focus on happiness and make yourself that ‘better’ person you always dreamed of being, physically and mentally, rather than focusing on what is missing, when you are a small cog in the large wheel of the rat race.

Hypochondriasis is ‘health anxiety’ in disguise and it’s pretty common for us midlifers. It is a bonafide illness and we can seek help for it; middle age is not, unfortunately.

Dinner Party from Flickr.com courtesy of Alastair R

The 7 Gals of Menopause (back) from Flickr.com courtesy of HA! Designs – Artbyheather