Fear of Ageing and How I Wish I’d Started Walking Years Ago

I apologise sincerely for neglecting you this past week, although I did warn you that I was about the enter a period of life-sucking demands from the day job, and it’s only today that I’ve managed to raise my head above water again. walker-1208261_1280

So I’m finally squeezing out a post so you don’t forget about me, because aside from prioritising my daily walks and wine consumption, I’ve achieved very little this week apart from working like a bitch and becoming an expert at moaning about it.


I’ve noticed that the old man has escaped to the driving range more than usual.


‘Walking’ has maintained my sanity this week. In fact ‘walking’ has become a game-changer in my life recently, and without wanting to sound like a complete twat, I’ve been thinking for a while now about my appreciation for this simple pleasure which has personally become one of the major benefits of getting older for me.


Because about half-way through my daily walk, when my dwindling muscles have finally reached acceptance that they have to work and warm up, my legs begin to coordinate (vaguely) with each other and my digestive system has given up on all thoughts of food, my feet do eventually begin to glide majestically along the boardwalk at Lavender Bay and I can then chew over the fat of my life.


I’m still an amateur walker, not one of those seriously healthy women that pound past me on the pavement, head-to-foot in the latest baby-blue Lorna Jane attire, yet I’m still amazed by how much good energy it generates within me. Had I possessed the maturity and wisdom to appreciate the benefits of this exercise in my youth, rather than scorn it,(when I still had some vitality), I might be in a different place mentally and physically today.


But unfortunately, the only sport I took any serious interest in during my twenties was drinking. It would be futile to knock that choice now, when I’m aware that we all need to travel a different journey to adulthood and its wisdom, and it is often our mistakes that shape us the most, nevertheless, my mind certainly might be in a healthier state now if I’d allowed myself to be more at one with nature back then; and fed my soul rather than pickling it.


The climate in the UK had a lot to answer for, too, being more conducive to the pub lifestyle than a healthy one, and despite the knowledge that regrets are pointless, I admit to being envious of the millennials that leave me in their wake as they stride ahead of me on my walks; women who have so much more information at their fingertips than we did, about health and exercise and diet.


I sometimes wonder that if I’d had that knowledge back then, if it would have changed my path.


But probably not.


Yet there’s no denying that even a low-impact exercise such as walking is more challenging now, what with an irritating lower back issue that has hounded me since I carried Kurt, and the twinges in one knee whenever I walk uphill. I know I’m not the only one to suffer from these common ailments of ageing – they tend to be the topic of choice at most of the social events we attend these days – where once we bragged about our children, we now bemoan our premature health issues.


It seems that while there is a mutual, innate fear of not doing enough to help prolong our lives, it’s balanced by the fear of overdoing it, and doing more harm than good.


Skiing and running are seen as risky, and the status of knees can dominate conversation; only to be rivalled by the interest generated by which private health company you’re with.


But as NC so often reminds me, fear is a prison so I’ll take the risks to my knees and continue to walk, because giving up is almost as terrifying as getting old.

Spring Has Sprung And The Crazies Are Back Out

I know fuck all about flowers, which I’m ashamed of (not really), but even I’m not completely oblivious to their beauty at this time of year.

The Princess and I have made a pact to go on a walk each day for my mental well-being. We share a symbiotic relationship in that I clear the dark cobwebs from inside my head, and that process helps me to remember to buy her food, not shout like a fishwife in the house in front of her and ultimately keep her alive. The Princess doesn’t like it when I’m stressed because like the rest of the family, she veers towards anxiety.

I’m secretly hoping that our walks will have other benefits for me too, like slimming me down so my body is swimming costume-ready for the summer, but I know for a fact that each minute in the sunshine is one-stop shopping in terms of health as it tops up my vitamin D tanks and the strength of my middle-aged bones.

She’s not the perfect walking companion, my dog. She might be my best friend but presently suffering from her own peri-menopause, she can be a bit tiresome on our walks. She needs to sniff at every blade of grass and exposed dog butt, and like her mother, her bladder is weaker than it once was, so she feels the need to deposit her scent on every aforementioned blade of grass, too. She hates cyclists and foolishly gets tetchy with big dogs, and has always found walking over drains in the road a very stressful experience.

But what all her fretting, circling and close examination of excrement and every patch of grass does do, is it give me time to smell the roses.

Working from home has many benefits – staying in your dressing gown all day being the main one; being able to eat all day is a close second – but it can also feel isolating at times, and when you’re prone to anxiety like us, it can lead to the dangerous path of craziness, where you never leave the house at all and end up permanently dressed in your wedding gown – a modern-day Miss Havisham.

But if I make that effort to venture out in public, to work my usually dormant, lazy leg muscles and actually inhale fresh air, I feel so much better about absolutely everything.

Even about the old man!

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that the very fact that I am now appreciating nature, and in particular different flora, must be one of the most symptomatic signs of my increasing age. I even stop to take photos, like these:

Spring Is Sprung And The Crazies Have Been Let Out
Some kind of flower

Back in the UK, when we lived in the country, Spring was marked by a minor shift in temperature from bloody freezing to freezing and the birth of lambs, but living in the city in a more temperate climate, the season is marked by the arrival of flowers, pockets of colour and alluring floral scents.

Spring Is Sprung And The Crazies Have Been Let Out
And another…

I am a SAD, middle-aged person and sunshine and nature, in all their glory, turn me on these days.

I even stop and talk to people in the street sometimes!

Now, where is that wedding dress…?

Finding Time To Breathe

In this crazily competitive yet compelling world we live in, finding the time to breathe and smell the roses can sometimes feel an uphill struggle.


Embed from Getty Images


But in an exceptionally rare turn of events last weekend, the old man discovered that he actually did have some friends and deserted me for a round of golf with da boyz.


Giving me just that. Time to breathe.


It’s not as though we’ve ever been one of those couples that cohabit in each other’s pockets – I lead my own life and he…watches lots of sport on tv… but as I work most Saturdays, we do tend to hang out together on a Sunday.


So it’s rare for me to find myself on my own.


The torturous temptation last Sunday, OBVIOUSLY, was to lie in bed all day with only Facebook, Twitter, the Sunday papers and a packet of Snickers Pods for company, but I somehow managed to persuade myself that I am better than that, found some previously-lost backbone, got my ass into some sort of gear and went and did something for me for a change.


We are very fortunate where we live in Sydney, to be situated right next to THE Harbour Bridge, so with my newfound wisdom in my backpack, I decided that instead of looking at that damn bridge every day and bemoaning the fact that I never find the opportunity to walk it, I would do just that. Then I planned a little meander around the markets at The Rocks and would finish my little tour d’independence with a bracing swim at North Sydney pool.


Sometimes, it’s only when you push yourself out there, to the outskirts of your comfort zone of self-imposed laziness and lame excuses and ignore the ridiculous notion that you need to be with people to feel energised or fulfilled, that you fully appreciate time to breathe.


We all lead busy lives and cohabiting with a very noisy, highly theatrical 6’ teenager with a voice as deeply penetrating as Russell Crowe’s in a tight apartment, (which also happens to be my work zone), sometimes can make me feel claustrophobic and I need to escape…pronto.


The Harbour Bridge is 2.2 kms long and it was a typically, gloriously, sunny, Sydney afternoon when I set off.


I had obviously forgotten about these steps in the planning process…


Finding The Time To Breathe


And it took all my self-discipline to walk past this ice cream van with its tempting ooze of whipped ice cream with flake on the top, which seemed like a fair reward for conquering those steps…


Finding The Time To Breathe


Do you remember when you were a child and heard the first taunting musical notes from the ice cream van as it entered your neighbourhood, and you silently prayed for the next few minutes that your mum would rattle the change in her purse? One listener called into the radio station I listen to the other day for a segment called ‘the lies your parents told you’ and told us how his dad used to tell her that the ice cream van only played a tune when they had run out of ice cream.


Now that’s my kind of parenting.


Not quite as good as my invention of biscuit cancer (she was obviously an amateur), after which we were forced to up Kurt’s anxiety medication.


Panting Invigorated, I wandered around The Rocks with its market stalls full of ridiculously expensive Australiana paraphernalia that we like to off-load to our American visitors and then I headed back for a well-deserved and refreshing dip in the pool.


Finding The Time To Breathe


I find I can become quite melancholy these days when I walk by myself and have time to ruminate about where my life is going in middle age. Something as simple as the rare waft of a Gauloise cigarette can transport me back thirty years to the period of my life I spent in France; a child in full-blown tantrum recoiling from the straps of her pushchair and mother reminds me of NC as a baby; the pair of love-sick teenagers who can’t keep their hands off each other remind me of the overwhelming depth of passion the old man and I shared at the tender age of seventeen.


It’s funny how much you change as you grow older, in spite of your best intentions. These days I look at flowers and plants in a new, more appreciative way – something I swore I would never allow to happen in my younger days. And when I watch the party boats glide under the Harbour Bridge with their penetrating duff duff music and drunken young people, I shudder – so relieved am I not to be anywhere near them.


Finding The Time To Breathe


But the melancholy associated with looking back is tinged with gratitude, because I am healthy and in a new and exciting phase of my life, that has opened up all sorts of different opportunities that I never expected to experience.


And for a few moments I find a rare inner peace and at-oneness with the world, that lasts until I return home to find Kurt has set fire to the kitchen making pancakes or some other such minor domestic reality check.