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.

I Should Have Packed The Wine

‘You’re the one that I want…’ the old man sang to me when I got up this morning. A sincere effort, I believe, to calm the storms that have inevitably begun to build up as we get ready to move. He’s been in a suspiciously good mood all week which he has tried to disguise as excitement even though we all know that its root lies in the anticipation of hiding away in his new study for the next few years. 

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Ending years of deprivation for The Princess

 

Moving house is one of the three most stressful things in life, apparently. It’s up there with divorce and death… and dieting, I imagine. And even though we’re old hands at this lark – some might say ‘professionals – it’s never easy with ‘a man who can’t’ when it comes to DIY, (who thinks he can), a procrastinator of a young adult who believes she can pack her entire room including fantasy library, rock collection and seventy-five nail varnishes in minutes and a son with anxiety who packed the minute we signed the lease, meaning he has had nothing to do but worry and irritate the fuck out of me for the past four days.

 

It’s The Princess I worry about. Anyone who owns a dog knows how they react when you bring the suitcases out to go on holiday, but boxes are a whole different sphere of worry and she keeps throwing me those looks out of the corners of her eyes that beg two questions ‘am I coming with you?’ and ‘how can you do this to me again?’ Obviously she doesn’t realize that ‘grass’ comes with this new home and she won’t have to embarrass us any more at the local parks by behaving like some loony dog, who’s been deprived of grass and sunlight for years.

 

In spite of so much ‘packing’ experience behind me, I’ve made some rookie errors this week by being over-zealous and prematurely boxing stuff the kids apparently need to survive. I’m not talking about the First Aid kit or anything like that but I did pack the maple syrup – shame on me – and I must have packed the cheese grater which I really needed for dinner last night. I improvised with nail scissors – something Generation Y seems incapable of doing.

 

As Kurt mentioned somewhat sarcastically last night, yes it is quite interesting that I haven’t packed the wine or wine glasses yet as I project manage this move and try to keep frayed tempers at bay, diffuse anxiety about spiders and WIFI in the new place and create new rules about noise. Sometime last night I might have agreed to Kurt having a gathering in his new, semi-contained space in an effort to show that the move will be beneficial to everyone in the family and give us all a bit more space and separation.

 

Perhaps I should have packed the wine.

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.

 

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/aog73940

 

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 Healing Power of Barbra

I had a spectacularly AWFUL day at work yesterday. It was one of those days where relief only came from curling up in a ball under the doona with the heating on, chocolate, the dog and several bottles of wine.

 

English: Screenshot of Barbra Streisand from t...
English: Screenshot of Barbra Streisand from the trailer for the film Hello, Dolly! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

It didn’t help that I’d run out of my anxiety meds and so was ill-equipped to deal with Kurt, who was already drawing on all my inner strength not to lose the fucking parenting plot well before 7.30am. And as the day progressed, so the problems compounded until my blood pressure began to seriously escalate.

 

 

 

Sometimes I think I’m too old to deal with this shit.

 

 

 

Around 3pm, about the same time I decided I was on the verge of a stress-induced heart attack and had seriously considered turning my car towards the airport, Smooth FM pulled out its magic and played some Barbra.

 

 

 

And for three life-saving minutes, all was suddenly forgotten and forgiven.

 

 

 

I realize that it ages me horribly to admit to being a Barbra Streisand fan – but if it helps my cause, I’m also quite partial to a bit of Greenday when I’ve had a drink or two.

 

 

 

I’ve loved Barbra Streisand since I was a teenager. While all my mates were going through their eighties Brit Pop phase and pretending to be super-cool, I was slow-dancing with my hairbrush to “Memories” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, surreptitiously in my bedroom.

 

 

 

‘Guilty’, the album that Babs made with the Bee Gees, holds so many mixed memories for me of the period just after my mum passed when I was a crazy, mixed-up and seriously emotionally retarded teenager, in search of the answers to life and love.

 

 

 

As soon as my dad went out in the evening, I’d crank Barb up on the stereo and swan around the sitting room using the tv remote as my microphone and pretend I could identify with the emotions Barbra crooned about so beautifully, even though I hadn’t experienced anything yet.

 

 

 

When Barbra came on in my car yesterday, my body relaxed instinctively, and I was transported back to a better place, when I didn’t have to work and help pay for bills and nothing mattered because I was young, naïve, immortal and still desperate to fall in love.

 

 

 

Music has the power to heal. To this day I have a very eclectic taste in music and different tunes transport me to different places in my life, but bizarrely sad songs resonate and uplift me.

 

On a truly shit day like yesterday, those tunes remind me that things aren’t really that bad, that life is short, tomorrow is another day and all those other inspirational cliches, but most importantly, that it won’t be my work colleagues around my death bed.