All posts by Caroline

a life less fulfilled

A Life Less Fulfilled

It is the last day before the boys go back to school following the easter break. The sun is streaming through the bathroom window and I can feel the warmth on the back of my legs.a life less fulfilled

If only everyday presented itself with sunshine then maybe we would start the day feeling happy and contented.

School holidays find me in a reflective mood because I am off the school and work treadmill if I want to start work at 11am and finish at 8pm I can, working for yourself has its pluses.

I am in a constant state of self analysis. I must/should work, I must read that book, I must try meditation. It’s exhausting because as soon as you come off that ‘dreadmill’ just for a second guilt strikes.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to seek ‘happiness’ when maybe we should be focussing on finding fulfilment.

Happiness is not long lasting and comes out of something pleasurable but short lived like sex, or that new pair of shoes you bought, that moment of happiness fills us with joy and excitement but it doesn’t last long.

The fact that we aren’t happy all the time makes us dissatisfied and I wonder if I have confused my pursuit of happiness over what is really important, human fulfilment and abundance.

‘If only’ are two words that seem to be synonymous with the way many of us live. If only I could afford that car, if only I could have that job, if only my boss was..

I, we, live in a perpetual state of wanting or needing something to satisfy the need for happiness. Is it happiness, contentment or fulfilment?

A life less fulfilled

Whatever it is, it feels like something is missing.

We are brought up by societal held beliefs that if we work hard we will achieve happiness and satisfaction by owning that home, a car, have nice holidays and clothes all of which are a means to achieving security and contentment.

In stead we suffer with anxiety about loss of income and job insecurity with many of our fears really about the feeling of not having enough.

But enough of what?iStock_000072924745_Small

We feel guilty because we believe or think we should or could have achieved so much more a successful career with great prospects, improved personal circumstances instead many of us have unused or unrecognised talents.

What we should really be asking ourselves is ‘what is important to me, what makes me fulfilled and what do I really want to do with my life?’

Anthony Robins writes “Many people are passionate, but because of their limiting beliefs about who they are and what they can do, they never take the actions that could make their dream a reality”.

If we had a few million tucked away many of us would not bother showing up for work and we would do that thing we’ve always wanted to do.

But in reality, we have to work to sustain an income, a home and put food on the table.

Family Walking on BeachI love those life changing quotes like live for today for tomorrow may never come, live a life full of meaning, take risks and live your dreams.

If there were more hours in the day we could do more but life isn’t that straightforward and the reason why anxiety and mental health is dominating our news is that many of us feel  under pressure to fulfil societal expectations that frankly are impossible to attain.

Because we are not happy all of the time this makes us feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled which can lead to depression and a sense of resignation, I can’t change anything so why bother, leading to a life less fulfilled.

When I woke up on 1st January I asked myself do I want another year like the last ten?

I carry a rather grandiose expectation of where I thought my life should be but it hasn’t quite materialised.

Pensive girl thinking in winterWhat have I been searching for?

What do I want? If I change nothing then this year will be the same as all the others but the thing is what should I change?

What is this life thing all about?

So many people appear to have figured out the meaning of life but I’m still confused.

I need order and routine so the idea of living life spontaneously doesn’t quite fit with a woman who is a chronic over thinker over analyser and persistent worrier who needs to know where she lays her hat each night.

In my search of wanting less and making the most of what I have around me I have been hoarding clothes, bags and shoes that haven’t been worn in a lifetime and I don’t need.

I looked at the pile of clothing and rolled my eyes, ‘when was I ever going to wear ‘that’, ashamed that I have wasted so much money for the pursuit of my own personal happiness and pleasure and that gut feeling of short lived excitement when you buy something new.

I have a life full of abundance and I am admittedly partly fulfilled.

I have misplaced my love for life and forgotten just how wonderful it is to have my health, a job, children and a loving husband, a roof over my head with hot and cold running water.

I have forgotten to be appreciative of what is around me and, by not living in the moment life has passed too quickly for me to enjoy it and so this year is in danger of becoming like all the other years.

No matter how far you travel or how many changes you make in life happiness is not given it has to come from within and I am working on making the most of now and leaving tomorrow exactly where it is.

Further Reading

Living life in the slow lane

How life has changed since I reached my 50’s

The sweet smells of childhood

group of smiling girls chilling on the beach

Has selfishness replaced happiness

This week I’ve been scratching my head over whether we should focus on happiness or selfishness. Girlfriends Friendship Party Happiness Summer Concept

Is being happy the key to a rewarding, fantastic life or, should we be more selfish when it comes to thinking of ourselves?

My inbox this week contained some interested subject lines: –

Mindful dailiness

Live a balanced life

Life changing ways to increase your longevity?

5 ways to increase your happiness

How to get the ying and the yang back into your life

What made me think about this was a series of emails from an american lady, extolling the virtues of how to be mindful, live in the now, be aware of what is around you.

Hasn’t all this been done?

I had to look up ‘mindfulness’ to understand its real meaning; the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

I am mindful, aren’t I?

Has selfishness replaced happiness?I do look and observe what’s around me but being mindful is more than that.

We have become obsessed with this ideal of being happy, living in the moment and with so much written about it in the media, is it really selfish to think about ourselves and have some me time.

I am fed up being told that to have a perfect life I must follow a certain doctrine for a better way of life, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect life I am an ordinary mother who works, has two children and a husband.

My life is good in comparison to many and to others not so good.

Social media has changed our lives and many succumb to the negative effects of life comparisons.

I have to admit that when I read someone’s current status I feel envious to the point of being jealous, why aren’t I doing that, why hasn’t that happened to me and I have to kick myself to remember that most of what I read is embellished without all the facts, perhaps their status may not be as wonderful as it seems.

Being nosy and peering through the curtains is a human trait we are fascinated by other people’s lives we can’t help it we like to know what someone else is doing and if they are having more fun than us.

I have fallen foul of ‘what is your current status’ and that’s not good.

“We – a manifesto for women everywhere” arrived on my desk, the latest offering from actress Gillian Anderson and journalistic friend Jennifer Nadal.Death_to_stock_photography_wild_5

In the book the authors’ address the issues women face, and, how we should support each other both professionally and personally, and, face up to the ‘having it all culture’ that we are inextricably linked to.

I confess that I am self-centered and altruistic, because my industry is largely dominated by men.

I recently helped a young woman in her early twenties who had tripped and fallen and, was clearly in pain, I was told to f**k off when I tried to help.

No good deed goes unpunished I thought no wonder we don’t give a shit about anyone but ourselves forget about happiness it’s selfishness.

I find it very difficult to ask for help when things go awry, somewhere in my childhood I was taught self sufficiency and to rely on myself.

In hindsight this is not a good attribute, after all when you offer help or advice by request, we feel good when our endeavours are recognised no matter how small.

Is there more to life than being happy? Should happiness be our sole intent? Is it selfish to focus on ‘me’?

Anxiety and stress are common workplace diseases, I use that word because it affects so many from shopfloor to boardroom level we’ve almost forgotten the experience of fun and happiness, when most of our lives are consumed by a culture that is ‘live to work’ rather than ‘work to live’.

Our culture compares not just our lifestyle but our whole life, the way we live, work and play. It is wholly unrealistic because we are comparing ourselves with an ideal, something that doesn’t exist but we feel under pressure to comment or post statuses that are a fabrication of how we really feel.

Fear prevents you from sharing and vocalising your innermost feelings, fear of being ridiculed, made fun of, the flip side of that is any true expression about how you feel over an event or situation means you are exposing your beliefs and principles which makes us vulnerable to cruel reactions. 

How many times do you read someone’s status only to roll your eyes and shake your head with embarrassment or cringe at the depths to which people are willing to share their issues, it is the cringe factor.

We are competing on unequal terms, all of which is manifested by our imagination.iStock_000016673127Small

You compare someone’s instagram’s status with your own, do they have a better life than you, they seem to be having so much fun.

There is pressure on the pursuit of happiness, we want instant gratification think Amazon, place an order and you can get same day delivery, what we want we get.

We want more possessions to make us feel better and I am guilty of this, a box of stationery delivered at the office sends me into a quiet but frenzied moment of excitement and gratification, invariably, it doesn’t last long and I am left wanting or needing the next thing.

We are not happy with what we have, I am not happy with what I have, but this is a paradox I am happy or rather content.

Happy is a state of the moment, short lived, contentment is long term and gives you that warm huggy feeling that all is well in you and your world.

As Gretchen Rubin wrote; ‘there is the belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy’ (The Happiness Project)

When I feel happy I am inclined to want to help, to advise to do what I can it’s in my nature and when I went to help that young girl who had fallen it was my maternal instinct wanting to make sure she was okay but my actions were rebuked rather than seen as help.

Society tells us that happiness is key to living a fulfilling life, that has to be earned by having a fantastic car, living in a big house, you deserve it only when you’ve contributed or achieved something.

It is our god given right to be happy.

Many of us work longer hours, have less quality time, are insecure in employment is it any wonder that the path to happiness is eluding us and has been replaced with selfishness?

If we are tired, insecure and worried we are more likely to put ourselves first?

We are too busy looking out for ourselves we can’t live in the moment let alone be mindful of our beautiful world we are too knackered living it.

Self help books, self-prioritising, we have become the centre of our own universe social media tells us so.

We live in a world that offers more places, more choices and, more often.

I’m reminded of Pharrell Williams’ Happy song

Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth

Clap along if you know what happiness means to you

Focussing on ourselves and making sure we are happy not only makes us feel better but will ensure our good vibrations are felt by all around us.

If only we could guarantee sunshine…

Group of friends playing digital games at home.

The Impetuousness of Youth

The kids of today, want things straight away.

As they rush around, like headless chickens.

Never listening, nor pausing,

To soak in the view.

Decisions, decisive

Yet seemingly

Random.

No knowledge of history, or geography.

Anything in books, or owt that’s old.

Preoccupied only,  by the very, very new.

Like me, when I was young;

Yet was I really All

That bad?

©Paul Butters

Multitasking millennial concept

When I decided on this headline,  I typed into google the

‘Impetuousness of Youth’ and up popped this poem.

I couldn’t help think it summed up some of the youth of today and I include my soon to be 18 year old in this group of selfish, spoiled, ambivalent of what is happening around them generation.

A sweeping generalisation? Maybe

There can be no doubting that young people are growing up less prepared for the real world and I can testify to that when, back in October my son and I were doing the University rounds, a father put his arm around his son to comfort him and said, “are you ok son, it’s a lot to take in isn’t it, too much in one day”.

We looked at each other and fell about laughing whilst the hug didn’t go unnoticed to speak to a 17 year old like a child is surely making the path ahead tougher than it needs to be.

It is the parents who need to educate teenagers to life’s ups and downs, teach them resilience with tough love thrown in for good measure, steady the ship when waters are choppy and make sure they can take care of themselves when they leave home, being able to cook, wash, iron and ensure they know how to take care of their own personal hygiene.

My son’s school has decided to give boys in the U6th lessons on the basics of cooking, because many of them simply have no idea how to cook.

Compare that to my generation, by thirteen I was able to cook a sunday lunch, macaroni cheese, casserole, and cakes.

My local state school had home economics in the timetable and girls had a double lesson once a week from the age of 12 – 14 years thereafter you could continue with it to O-level (now GCSE) and the boys got to choose woodwork or metalwork.

We learnt how to sew on buttons and mend basic items of clothing, we even learnt to knit.

Subjects clearly defined by gender.

Why has this generation created more controversy than any other?

They are portrayed as selfish, narcissistic, self absorbed, have an attention span of three minutes and a smartphone permanently affixed to their left hand?

The answer is ‘I don’t know’.

My generation of ‘baby boomers’ have been accused of taking away their future, their access to housing and jobs. But I think it runs deeper than that.

Parents are bringing up young people unprepared for the realities of adulthood, parents, teachers and police lack the discipline and respect once afforded them.

The american author, Rick Johnson in his book; ‘That’s my teenage son’ believes that with more single mothers raising sons, boys are being feminised and are not developing into capable strong male role models.

The absence of a father figure in the household cannot be underestimated, a father who is absent or abandons the family is more likely to produce a son who, will do the same thing.

In the same way a husband who abuses his wife passes on the same legacy to his son, who thinks that that behaviour is the norm.Group of friends playing digital games at home.

Mothers face the perennial dilemma of ‘letting go’ of their children and I am dumbfounded by stories from well meaning mothers who drive up to university with a month’s supply of food to help their ‘little darlings’ who, are so far from home.

How does this help our children stand up and become adults. I am sure that at some point I, will, do the same thing, I see it as part of the ‘letting go’ process, the part where they are no longer ‘yours’.

They meet new friends and peers, mum has limited influence and is no longer the most important person in her child’s life, a bitter pill especially when you have nurtured them from birth.

It is alright to accept advice from the new found girlfriend or boyfriend but you give them the same advice and are accused of not knowing what you’re talking about.

Has this generation lost its sense of direction? Because parents have done or, are doing too much for them?

With both parents often working long hours to maintain a reasonable level of income it is understandable if when both get in the last thing they want to do is spend quality time with the kids, engaging in conversation when either offspring are in front of the T.V or on their smartphone.

Parents feel guilty for not being able to invest more time with their children and placate them by buying the latest phone or letting them go to that concert they’ve been nagging you about for the last two months.

Children are having their demands met because parents, due to a lack of time and work pressures, give in to keep the peace.

They want it now and they won’t wait for it.

Contrast that to my generation who worked university holidays had saturday jobs and saved to buy their first car.

I bought my first car at 22 it was my brother’s ford fiesta.

My eldest son got his first car at 17, we bought him his car and he has agreed to pay for it when he is working.

There were no such expectations when I was 17 and, I never expected my parents to buy a car for me.  

My father got a good deal with the local Ford garage, a customer of his at the time, he helped me get the best option for a small loan to buy the car, but financial help, no way, and, I wouldn’t have even thought to ask.

This generation almost believe they have a sense of entitlement, in a way we never did.

School teachers, priests, the police force and other authoritative figures were revered and respected they had the power to discipline but this has all but been removed.

Children no longer respect authority or rules and this in turn makes them completely unprepared for the realities of adulthood with its boundaries and rules particularly in the workplace. 

Children have more rights than I ever had at school and this leaves adults feeling helpless and unable to discipline their own and other people’s children without fear of reprisal.

Children should be looking forward to a future that holds some certainty and security.

Whilst I use to hate being told, “there’s a time and a place” by my parents that statement holds true. I fully commit to allowing my children to express themselves but with common decency and courtesy.

Children should be able to say what and how they feel, I believe that any government must address this issue of who holds the balance of power in the classroom, teacher or pupil?

Has the balance of power shifted?

What is the answer?

On balance this generation in my view are laid back, technology addicted  and a confident generation.Networking

They are audacious and have more confidence than we ever did, we would stick out a job for at least 18 months because we were ‘told’ leaving sooner didn’t look good on the C.V yet this generation are bold and brassy.

If they don’t like it they say so and they aren’t scared of ditching the job if it doesn’t work out.

I worked with some awful managers and because I was scared of taking a risk and being out of work I stuck it out.

This generation are the opposite they are probably the most educated and diverse generation, they are open to new technologies, ideas and openly express their opinions in ways I never did.

They are the true digital generation, they have grown up with the internet, mobile phones, social media and apps. They can work out a new smartphone in less than the time it takes for you or me to make a cup of tea and they are always seeking answers to questions.

Their experience of the world has been shaped by a digital landscape.

They are not afraid.

Are we missing a trick?

Whilst I read almost daily about this much misunderstood, maligned generation I can’t help think we are missing a trick here?

They are overtly confident bordering on arrogance, they are the sharing generation, they are the forward thinking generation, aspirational beyond what they are probably capable of but they want to contribute now; they want to be seen and heard, they don’t want to wait until they are three rungs up the corporate ladder before their opinion is valued.

They want to share ideas and innovations and they don’t appear to be scared even at the expense of ridiculing themselves.

Should we and employers change how we view them?

UK businesses should be harnessing this mass potential, give them a shot at the big time, allow them to unleash the technology that is second nature to them whilst we are still coming to terms with the power social media, apps and digitisation can have in the business workplace.

BYOD (bring your own device) has largely been promoted by this generation they want the device of their choosing and not one that is provided and because they are mobile they are used to working from anywhere and at anytime, from coffee shop to corporate office.

To dismiss this generation would be foolhardy because they are undoubtedly redefining this century.

We should embrace their knowledge, their attributes and their commitment in expressing ideas and, whilst I roll my eyes when I say this, they will be the future business and government leaders of tomorrow, just maybe, we should be prepared to respect and acknowledge them.

Further Reading

Do our children ever stop needing us?

What no role model? Do children need role models?

What’s your flava? Child favouritism, who do you love more?

Diary of a sugar addict

Diary of a sugar addict – one year on

I am alive and kicking. Diary of a sugar addict

This time last year I was diagnosed with candida albicans a yeast infection of the gut.

Long term side effects were just that, long term. I was always tired and lethargic. It didn’t matter whether I had ten or six hours of sleep a night, I would wake up feeling like I had ran a marathon.

I would literally drag myself to the bathroom such was the exhaustion I felt. I put it down to the menopause, hormone imbalances, mood swings, nausea, sickness, fuzzy head, a feeling that all I ever wanted to do was lie down and sleep for a week.

It was awful and the final straw was mid January 2016 when my husband and I took a day off from work to meet with some friends from Spain who were celebrating their wedding anniversary with a trip to the UK.

A lunch and two prosecco later I felt grim my face went a darker shade of puce, I vomited and my heart felt like it was about to explode, without exaggeration I sat in the toilet of the restaurant downstairs thinking what the heck could I be allergic too that could cause such a severe reaction?

Having eaten I assumed it must be food related and although I had been keeping a food diary for the last year I could not see anything in my diet that cause such a violent reaction.

Fortunately Rocio our friend happens to be an ER nurse she was concerned for me and tried to ascertain what the problem was. By the time we came to leave my heart rate had slowed and my stomach felt a bit better. But I still felt awful.

We travelled back from Cambridge and I was able to get a Dr’s appointment the following morning.

By the time I went to bed I was wasted, the nausea had lessened but I had a headache and felt like it was the morning after the night before.

The visit to the Dr didn’t highlight any abnormality either she felt around my abdomen explaining that she wanted to feel if my liver was swollen.

I had the proprietary blood test and after an explanation of my symptoms my Dr was none the wiser.

Diary of a sugar addict

It was my six weekly maintenance check at my osteopath and a quiet mention of what had happened prompted her to recommend seeing an allergy specialist.

Two days later there I was right palm turned upwards with a strange looking copper probe attached to a machine, a type of acupuncture, non invasive and totally pain free.

Having been asked a whole host of questions and being grilled about my lifestyle, when was the last time I had taken antibiotics, had food poisoning, was I on HRT and so forth. I was convinced I was allergic to something, but what, I had no idea.

I hinted maybe it might be shellfish? Did you have that at lunchtime when you started to be ill, no I said.

She set her pen down gave me a wry smile and said I know exactly what it is but, I am going to do the proprietary tests to confirm my diagnosis.

Almost forty minutes later Sam sat back in her chair and said ‘you have candida albicans.’

In its basic form it is like having thrush in the gut, ‘that sounds nasty’, I said.

It is, ‘and if we don’t get a grip of it now the long term side effects are awful.’

I am severely allergic to sugar and yeast and the change I had made in my diet in the middle of 2015 going vegetarian eating bran and oat based products were full of sugar.

Those two prosecco I had had were the last straw on my body, finally it had had enough and that was why the reaction was so bad.

Was I really a sugar addict?

Sam explained that even though I had been keeping a food diary, I couldn’t see the correlation between any of the foods because what I was looking for is invisible.

It is hidden in all the foods we eat, SUGAR. Over time I had unwittingly increased the amount I was consuming not by fault but because the healthier food alternatives I had substituted into my diet were full of sugar.

In fact the more I studied the ingredients the more I found that these so called healthier foods contained more sugar than the standard food items.

Diary of a sugar addict

Yeast wasn’t so much of a problem it meant replacing bread with sourdough bread, gravy, mushrooms, cheese, but I was allowed the creamy cheeses, nuts had to go and I needed to make sure I didn’t over do it on the carbohydrates which if you remember in biology, convert to sugar.

Trying to find food products without sugar that turned out to be another story.

Pretty much everything I had in my cupboard contained sugar in some shape or form, even my organic pasta, rice, soups, pasta sauces. I couldn’t believe it sugar was in all the food groups I presumed to be good for you.

Take Kellog’s cereal it boasts that it has niacin, vitamin C and D and yet sugar lurks there the same with babies’ follow on milk.

That was the biggest shock as I picked up the milk I used to feed my two boys after I finished breastfeeding and there it was again, sugar, easy to miss and why would you examine the ingredients in such detail you assume that these brands have your babies’ welfare at heart.

Think again.

We are a nation of obese people, we are addicted to the white stuff and yet half of us don’t even know it. Sugar is introduced into our diet at birth and we have no control over it.

In spite of the various campaigns to highlight how bad sugar is, brands are still incorporating it into all their foodstuffs.

I’m not advocating complete elimination a little bit of what you like does you good my mother’s saying goes but we cannot get on top of the obesity or diabetes crisis unless we do something about how brands communicate exactly how much sugar is in the product.

Running outsideOne year on and the brain fuzz has gone I am fitter and leaner than ever, my diet consists of three meals a day and no snacking in between.

When I was tested in January, Sam gave me a clean bill of health I had nuked the candida.

This wasn’t a sign for me to get back on the wagon but the occasional glass of red wine which I had sorely missed and the odd bit of chocolate was allowed.

I am in this habit now and old habits die hard, a subtle reminder of nausea tells me that I shouldn’t have had that hot cross bun, a reality check that sugar can’t ever be in my diet.

Diabetes and obesity is costing the NHS billions which is great news for the pharmaceutical companies, they sell their drugs needed to help people with diabetes and health related problems, therefore they have a vested interest in ensuring sugar stays well and truly in our diets.

I am reminded of the that wonderful film Wall-E when the human race has left earth because of the huge garbage pile up, we are there except it is obesity and not garbage.

A worrying thought for the future of the human race?

We are on a self destruct button without even knowing it.

And unless the food giants start taking responsibility and take the necessary action to support our well being and health then I fear that candida will be just the tip of a very long and deep iceberg.

Further Reading

Diary of a sugar addict

My six weeks of digital detox

 

What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

How life has changed since I reached my 50’s

Hell it’s January, my birthday was on the 3rd and as I stirred from my slumber I smiled inwardly and then buried my head into the pillow as it dawned on me it was another birthday  a-g-a-i-n, another year older. What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

It comes around  too quickly and it is the worst time of the year to have a birthday.

You are after all, just an afterthought following the excitement, stress and tension leading up to christmas.

The third of January was the festival of sleep day I probably should have stayed in bed but my domestic goddess heralded an early start to clean my house from top to bottom following christmas festivities.

A glass of champagne mid morning and I remembered that it is ‘Dry January”.

And, after the amount I had consumed over christmas ( I can only drink champagne, gin or vodka because of my sugar free diet, you can read more here, whoever thought of the idea of giving up alcohol for one month?

Here I am eleven days into the start of a new year and, like most women, contemplating what new year’s resolutions I should make and  what goals I should lay down for myself.

I have decided the only resolution I am sticking to this year is keeping my journal updated more regularly.

The last few days have given me the opportunity to reflect on what it’s like to reach my 50’s.

What I've learnt since I've reached my 50s

I’m looking good for my age, I can still turn a head or two when you look at me from behind and I’m wearing sun glasses. It is only a number but it leaves me feeling like I haven’t quite lived up to my own expectations.

There is the lingering thought that I should have done more at this more than halfway stage of my life.

I feel restless, my children no longer need me as much as they did nor my husband for that matter, the family we have created with our children is no longer as tight knit as it once was.

Trying to get everyone to sit down and do something together as a family is becoming more infrequent.

I am in my early 50s, in a happy marriage (mostly) but I feel I am in danger of disappearing from view, I will be sixty in seven years, it’s out there, a time bomb slowly ticking and, is this really my lot?

I can understand what mid life crisis really means when men and women want to cut loose break free and pursue dreams, new adventures with new partners even.

Women who feel they’ve lost out on life being a wife, mother and work can be demanding and thankless on the best of us.

What does reaching your 50s really mean?

Could I accomplish more?

Is there anything left to do?

Your fifties is unlike any other age it is truly a milestone, you have blossomed into a mature woman, strong capable confident and independent.

You’ve gained experience from life’s mishaps, you’ve stumbled along the way but managed to get up and soldiered on.

You’ve made compromises, sacrifices even, at your own expense, you evaluate, examine every square inch of your life and although you may be lucky enough to have found your place in life’s rich pattern, you are still developing and learning but, confident where you are.What I've learnt since reaching my 50s

You realise that you can not be in control of your destiny and this is part of growing older.

I have spent some time getting to know myself, getting in touch with the inner me and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I have ageing parents, one of whom suffered a mini stroke before christmas and my husband’s father who recently passed away.

You become more aware of your own mortality and that of others around you, the onset of old age, accidents and illness are potential life changers.

Losing loved ones, friends and family reminds us that death is but a short breath away.

Your fifties are about navigating your way around ailing parents, death, health issues, career,education and maybe divorce and new relationships.

You look at the footprint behind you and wonder, is this the life you wanted, did the the map get you to where you wanted to go, is this where you want to be?

If life has thrown a few curved balls at you, then, the question is, if not now then when?

In our youth obsessed culture, fifty seems to be a turning point, the juncture at which it feels like you are disappearing from view.

There is the realisation that time is passing quickly it is also marching right across your face,  no amount of money spent on invigorating skin care and promises of age lifting and highlighting creams will change the fact that you are no longer fit for purpose.

The spin on the internet, in women’s magazines and the movie actresses looking glamourous and gorgeous only reinforces that the stigma of being over 50 is very real.

Too young to retire too old to start over?

Yet, in spite of this we come with a wealth of experience and knowledge, we are competent, reliable, trustworthy emotionally mature and capable.

Pro-agingImagining your future over the age of 50 requires courage and imagination we can be physically, mentally and emotionally agile but we can’t predict what the future holds so we need to be adaptable and resilient to cope, we must have a willingness to be bold, step back take a fresh look at where we are and what we want as our needs change.

My fifties have come to symbolize a new starting point a launch pad into my 60s, a kind of starting over.

I feel that this is the year I must make changes, take that trip to Croatia on my own, travel to the US, on my own like I did when I was 19, try that mindfulness/meditation class I keep meaning to go to but seemingly make excuses for.

In our self-obsessed, self-prioritising and self-help culture it seems that I am forever questioning what I should be doing,  am I doing the right thing and where I fit in when really all I need to be is bold, beautiful and forever audacious.

What do you think? Is 50 a game changer? Should we give up now and bury ourselves or are we really just fabulous darling at 50?

Further Reading

How to stay young at 50

What is holding women back?

Beauty woman is showing middle finger

I’m f****d off with the swearing in my household.

I have been in a quandary over my kids who seem unable to string a sentence together without using bloody, shit, crap and my eldest son’s frequent use of the “F” word. iStock_000017748204Small

I have taught my kids to use swearing judiciously what I mean is sometimes swearing just damn well makes you feel better in certain situations, but, if you have to use a swear word when there are literally thousands of other words in the english dictionary then it shows ignorance.

I admit I express my anger or frustration with someone or something by swearing.

Anyone who doesn’t swear – move over because I have yet to meet a clean mouth but should we swear in front of our children?

I have become increasingly annoyed with the use of swear words in our household, from the aforementioned to the blatantly rude.

If my husband is telling off one of the children, does the word shit or your f*****g useless have to be in every sentence?

And when I attempt to point out the overuse of swear words, I am reprimanded for having sworn at someone who chose not indicate at a roundabout on the school run.

My retort was that although there is no excuse, I felt justified because the chap was a complete idiot for not using his indicators, I wasn’t actually swearing directly at anyone, merely showing my exasperation.

Do you have a favourite child?A swear word in a sentence reinforces an argument or justification it helps get the point over, and whilst I do not advocate swearing in front of the kids I am well aware that they probably got to know most of them by the time they were ten.

Having boys usually means it is never too long before a fight ends up in a war of swear words.

As I was preparing dinner one night, I heard the boys arguing, ‘you are a c**t’, the word hung  in the air, I stood, motionless, my mind blank, what should my response be?

There was no denying the fact it was the C word.

The word cunt is the ultimate profanity, a filthy dirty word that can only be used when all other words have been expended.

I confess to using the word when I believe it is absolutely necessary for emphasis when I am describing something or someone to my husband to unleash my anger or irritation but certainly never in public and definitely not in front of my kids.

What upset me more was the fact that it was used, there are after all plenty of less explicit words. It may seem like I have double standards but this word has never been used in earshot of our children.

Beauty woman is showing middle fingerI remember the first ‘dirty word’ I hurled at my younger brother, ‘bastard’, I was no more than nine or ten.

We were arguing and I had heard it at school and thought it was cool to use it even though I had no idea what it meant. I hadn’t bargained on my father being at the bottom of the stairs.

He shouted at me to come downstairs, expecting a whack on my backside, unsurprisingly, I got a good telling off making me die of embarrassment.

I wasn’t told what the word meant and why in that situation it was wrong.

If children swear and we hear them using such words surely it makes parenting sense to explain to them what the word means and why it wasn’t or isn’t the most appropriate word.

Some of you reading this may be disgusted and appalled by the use of any swear word, but they exist and you will find them in the english dictionary.

I love words, I love our language including all the swear words and I use all of them within reason at the right time and place.

There is nothing like saying ‘fuck it’ when you bang your knee or shit when you forget something. I also love the obsession americans have with ‘arsehole’, pronounced ass-hole.

I can remember my youngest son, who was three at the time going through the phase of repeating everything he heard, he used a word that even now just makes me cringe on a holiday flight to Spain.

He shouted out as loudly as he could, ‘’vagina, vagina vagina’ much to the laughter of those who were in earshot.

I don’t use swear words as insults they aren’t hurled at people to be offensive or for the sake of it often swearing helps reduce the pain you feel when you bang into something.

They are also effective for demonstrating your feelings.

As parents I see it as my job to teach my kids the nuances of swearing, what words mean and why they are not always acceptable to use because I believe it is all part of the growing up process.

Kids swear in front of their peers so they feel accepted and equal.

I can insist that my children do not swear at each other or at their parents but if they hear us swear then there is no validity in me admonishing them.

Children who hear their parents swear will also swear if they think it is the norm, telling a child off for swearing is hypocritical.

How do we strike a balance?

I have given a lot of thought about swearing in our household:-

Is swearing a problem or becoming one in our house? 

How often do we, as parents, swear in ear shot of the kids?

How often do I hear my kids swear?

How do I react when I hear them swearing?

As parents, are we in danger of becoming complacent and swearing for the sake of it, irrespective of whether the children are around us?

Considering all of the above I can genuinely say yes we have a problem.

Whilst I cannot lay claim to being holier than thou,  if we are not careful, swear words will become the new standard and I am bloody well uncomfortable with that.

What do you think about swearing?

Do you talk to your children about it, do you tell them what words mean if you hear them swear?

Does it bother you and if so what have you done to curb swearing in your household?

istock_000000568002small

What IS holding women back?

Are you a feminist someone asked me the other day?

‘What gave you that idea’, I said. What is holding women back

‘You’re very passionate about women’s rights, the ideal working environment for women, the desire for women to succeed and achieve more without feeling they are honey monsters wearing skirts’.

I walked away scratching my head.

Am I a feminist?

I am feminine yes, but a feminist?

I have issues with the ‘ist’ there are many words ending with ist –  sexist, misogynist, ageist, alarmist, educationalist, in fact, 1,201 words to be precise and these words represent some of my views.

Women who succeed are portrayed very poorly by the media, which means they must be bitches capable of whisking that proverbial rug right from underneath you, trip you up on the way to the board room, stab anyone in the back who gets in the way of them.

Yet, many women have worked hard and have achieved success on their own merit, putting in over and above the next man to reach their professional goals.

istock_000000568002smallWe wouldn’t talk about a man in the same way and yet it appears to be normal to assume that a woman at the top has demolished everyone in her wake to get there rather than through sheer bloody hard work.

Conversely, why is it so damning if you give up your career and have children and then choose to go back to work.

The overriding feeling is one of guilt, women are made to feel bad because of the choices they make.

Who or what makes them feel this way?

No one made me feel this way it was my own self doing, the media and other populist channels perpetuating the myth that women with children who work, stay at home mums and career women with children are made to feel guilty.

‘Motherhood’ is the problem, yet millions of us do it.

Balancing work and motherhood and feeling guilty about the choices we make.

It is hard being a woman in the 21st century.

No matter how hard we work we are still facing the same misogynistic rhetoric; women, work and motherhood still doesn’t quite fit into our ‘man-made’ society.

Have we come far enough since Emmeline Pankhurst ardently fought for women’s rights?

And whilst we have made great strides we are still having to justify our existence.

We are biologically different, we have vaginas and are capable of reproducing the species.

If men could reproduce would they still face the same injustices and inequalities as we do?

The longer your maternity leave the less likely you will be able to enter at the level of job at which you left.

How is this fair, just because we have babies does not mean we go deaf dumb and blind.

Why should having time off be damaging to your career path?iStock_000010266186Small

Keeping in contact with the company that employs you during your maternity leave is a good way of ensuring longevity at the firm.

Men don’t face this conundrum so why should women?

If organisations were open with their employees women would feel able to talk to their boss, share their desire to have children and when pregnant be able to work out a strategy that is best for the company and for the woman so that once the baby is born she has a plan on when to return to work, if that is what she chooses to do.

How do we change the perception of womanhood and motherhood for that matter?

Girls are brought up to do girl things we are stereotyped from birth this then continues through the education system, girls are not always encouraged to pursue studies in science and engineering  because they are seen as typically male.

It is difficult for girls because there is a lack of strong female role models they can look up to.

Businesses need to value the contributions that women add and they should be recognised for the talent and ingenuity they bring.

Such small steps can influence the impact on gender diversity.

Mother embracing her little girl before leaving to workLook at the meteoric rise of Ms May, Sturgeon and Frau Merkel who announced recently that she is intending to stand for a fourth term in office; these are women at the pinnacle of their profession.

Senior women in business demonstrate that it is possible to reach the upper limits.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my boss wanted to keep the whole thing quiet, I on the other hand came up with a great marketing idea that also included telling all my customers I was expecting and what to do in my absence.

My boss was mortified, if he’d had his way I would have been put into a shed for nine months not to be seen again he was paranoid about my pregnancy bump being on show in public.

Seventeen years after the birth of my eldest and we are fighting the same battles and I find it disheartening that women’s liberation hasn’t got us further forward it has just enabled us to shout loudly.

How do we change this status quo?

Women need to be firm with employers by discussing working alternatives that suit both the pregnant woman, before and after birth.

There is a perception that a pregnant woman is less likely to want to continue with her career after the birth of a child and is automatically discounted from any future involvement within the company.

Pregnancy is not a disease, many women want to come back to work in the same capacity in which they left.

Women should be allowed to enjoy time off with their newborn without worrying about the consequences of maternity leave.

Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ offers an analytical overview of the inequalities that still exist in the workplace.

But having read the book I am still left with unanswered questions, what is the solution and has anything really changed?

I rather think it is boils down to women to educate their offspring, especially where boys are concerned, if I teach boys to do only male jobs they will never:

A/ be able to manage so called traditional female jobs like washing and ironing

or

B/End up married or living with someone only to perpetuate the cycle all over.

The pressure on women and girls is even greater than when I was a younger woman the insidious nature of social media and the desire to be famous for a minute puts us at greater peril than ever before.

We have to mean or stand for something, being just a woman, whether working or stay at home mum is not enough.

There are survey’s that have to justify every choice a woman makes:-

  • Why it’s better for women to stay at home with their children
  • Why it’s better to go to work when you have children
  • Children of working women do better in school
  • Children of stay at home mothers do better later in life

And the list goes on.

No wonder we are screaming from our desks and kitchen chairs we are constantly trying to be seen to be doing the right thing.

Women are being made to feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough, it is exhausting.

I am teaching my sons the value of women what we have achieved, african businesswoman sitting in officewhat we are capable of, that there is no such thing as women’s and men’s jobs either in the workplace or at home.

I too have feelings of guilt when it comes to work, career and motherhood.

I asked my boys how they feel about mum working, did they ever miss me when they were younger, did my absence at times make them feel less important?

No, came back the answer, you have always been there for us.

Changing this male/female mindset is challenging, men are not genetically wired to think like women but with perseverance and hard work next year when my eldest son leaves for university he will be able to work out the difference between the oven and a washing machine and cook a mean spag bol.

Here’s to the next women’s revolution.

How do we encourage our kids to read?

How do you get your kids to read?

If like me you’ve watched your children spend most of their holidays in front of an X-Box  or glued to a play station and absolutely no time reading you will understand how frustrated I get when the youngest comes to me at the last hour and says he has a book review to hand in after the half-term break.Getting your kids to read

I am not alone when I share the frustration I have with my boys when they tell me they are bored, pick up a book and read I say, “Booooring” comes back the response.

The love of reading has to start at an early age often instilled by parents, if they see you enjoying a good read you hope that this rubs off onto your offspring.

Given the exposure children have to screens and their use in classrooms and for schoolwork does printed content still have a place in our digital future?

death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work-6-of-10How would it feel to never read from a book or turn over the page of a magazine?

Imagine a world with no books, magazines, printed publications, catalogues and leaflets?

Print is all around us from advertising billboards in towns, bus shelters to newspapers and magazines you find at your doctor’s surgery.

Print is tangible, it evokes your senses, picking up a glossy, high quality magazine can appeal to our senses.

Publishers are able to incorporate different smells into the magazines we read making it more inviting to touch and smell.

I work in the print industry and I enjoy reading digital and print content, and, in spite of the misconception that digital has taken over print, nothing could be further from the truth.

How do we encourage our kids to read?
How do we encourage our kids to read?

Parents face the greatest challenge – to encourage the love of reading.

Whichever medium a child feels comfortable in is better than no reading, and, as long as they are reading something they are using their imaginations and developing the use of words.

The physical aspect of picking up a book and sitting down to read without any online distractions is far more beneficial than reading from a screen.

I attended a print seminar on the harmful long term effects of too much screen time on children.

latest top news on a newspaper page
latest top news on a newspaper page

Professor Susan Greenfield CBE presented a compelling case for the long term effects of screen time and the impact it is having on our lives.

In an article to the Telegraph in 2008 Professor Greenfield was one of the leading researchers on a project undertaken into research seeking to establish the effects of too much screen time.

The findings concluded that children who play video games have the same brain function as gamblers with side effects that include short attention span, anxiety, depression and boredom.

Children have become dependent on external stimuli with boredom setting in when they have to give up sitting in front of a screen.

istock_000025176791smallGreenfield went onto say that reading helps develop individual identities, imagination and the ability to tell and recall stories.

Screens do the opposite they demote creativity are hugely distractive, often cause anxiety and  reduce attention span.

The worrying aspect of her findings was the mindset of the future she pointed to a study where participants did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, preferring mundane external activities than doing absolutely nothing.

The implication being that we are incapable of sitting still, resting in a contemplative reflective way. We are just “too busy” and we use the phone as a means to escape to check in on social media.

How often do you check your phone each day?Death_to_stock_photography_weekend_work (7 of 10)

In a report by Deloitte 18- 24 year olds use their phones all the time while eating meals.

What is wrong in switching the damn thing off and staring into space or people watching?

The smartphone has become an integral part of our lives it is an extension of us, we are lost without it if it’s not in our hand or within easy reach of us.

Reading from a physical book is more restful enabling the person to think about what they are reading.

The greatest thing a human being can have is creativity and thought.

Print should be the first medium children come into contact with when they learn to read.

Good reading and writing skills coupled with common sense is essential.

Lily Cole, actress, model and ambassador for Project Literacy wants it to be on the humanitarian agenda unlike war, famine and poverty people won’t die because of being illiterate but being able to read and write equips people with the necessary skills to navigate the world in which they live, being able to read ingredients on an item of food to a road sign.

When people can read they are informed about the world around them, they can make choices.

The power of the printed word and the ability to understand what you are reading is a basic human right.

Comprehension and literacy are the cornerstone of understanding, from  instructions on how to build a wardrobe to being able to understand what medication the Dr. has prescribed for you.

Reading demands that we are constantly learning even when we think we aren’t or can’t be bothered.

94% of the vietnamese population aged 15 or over are literate.

The OECD rated english teenagers aged 16-19 children the worst of the 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd out of 23 in numeracy.

In Korea, teenagers have the highest levels of numeracy/literacy of all the OECD countries.

Japan, Finland and the Netherlands are all placed highly for 16-19 year olds with good literacy/numeracy skills.

Contrast that to english teenagers where 1 in 5 have a lower level of literacy and the same in numeracy with more than 25% lacking basic skills.

A survey undertaken by Two Sides, an independent not for profit organisation, in 2015 demonstrates that 88% of the respondents believe they understand and retain information when they read print on paper, the preference to read from paper rather than a screen was evident across all age groups.

  • When given a choice, 81% indicated that they prefer to read print on paper.
  • 81% indicated they are most relaxed when reading print on paper. Age group differences were minor with only 30% preferring to read from smartphones.

Encouraging children to read, to lose themselves in the story and the language can broaden their knowledge of words and spelling.

I have books lying around the home, bookshelves full of books, magazines, newspapers so there’s no excuse for my children not to read, but getting them to pick up a book is an entirely different matter.

With all these online distractions how do we get our kids to read?

  • We can start by limiting screen time, if it is a school night and they have to use the PC for homework then that is the way it has to be but, if they ask to play on the playstation the answer is a simple No.
  • Setting them a challenge to read two books in a month and the offer to take them out to their favourite eating place or cinema to see a film, this incentive has currently been offered to my thirteen year old, after I bought three books from Amazon (see the bottom of this post to see the books I bought)

This is not bribery it is about getting them into the habit of reading so it becomes something they miss when they don’t do it.

To my amazement last night he gave me a hug and kiss goodnight and said: “I’m going to bed to read”.

Not content with the spoken word I sneaked upstairs to check and there he was READING one of the books I had bought.

My youngest tends to spend time on the loo looking at his iPad so, I’ve taken it away and suggested that he reads a book instead, two things happened, he got out of the bathroom swiftly and strangely enough he now has more time to get things done.

Whatever it takes to get them to read.

  • Reading in bed before the lights go out is a great way to relax and get the brain ready for sleep rather than looking at a screen.  It is hard work but persist and the rewards will pay dividends because your child will get into the habit of wanting to read and going to bed earlier.
  • Set them a challenge – get them to read all the books by Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, there is a box set available from Amazon just click the button on my website to order it.
  • Ask your child what is the longest word they’ve discovered whilst reading and get them to find out what it means by using a real dictionary.
  • Get your child to read to you, they don’t have to be young to practice their reading, my youngest loves to read to me, he lies next to me in bed and reads a chapter we get mother and son time and share a great story often trying to figure what is going to happen next.
  • Photo copy extracts from books and encourage them to read it, if they enjoy it suggest you buy the book for them.
  • Read to them, this is a new one for me, I haven’t read to my children since they were very young. I started reading the book I’m currently reading, a dry throat and half an hour later I had one son snuggled up on the bed next to me ready to go to sleep but wanting more.
  • Let them read wherever their interest takes them they should be encouraged to venture from one type of book to another.

Finally, if you’ve tried everything else allow them screentime with Kindle and download books for them to read, yes, it is easier in some respects but at least THEY ARE READING a book and not glued to a screen.

My recommended books:-

Teenage Kicks: 101 Things to do before your 16 – Clive Gifford

The Art of Being A Brilliant Teenager – Andy Cope 

The Midnight Gang – David Walliams

The good old days what do you miss about them?

What I miss about the good old days and other rants

Good old days, nostalgia what does it mean to you?What do you miss the most about ‘the good old days?’

Was there a time when life seemed easy, less frenetic and more relaxed than the competitive treadmill we now call life.

Carefree, TBC (Time before children) , single holidays, independence, Thursday nights watching Friends and ER, Friday nights clubbing, Saturday night clubbing, no emotional baggage, no real work issues to worry about, only fun.

I have yet to meet someone who says I have it all and the perfect work-life balance.

I have misplaced my zest for life, the zing is missing out of my step, a bit like that elusive orgasm you vaguely recollect what it feels like but it’s been so long since you had one.The good old days what do you miss about them?

“Maybe you have to let go of who you were in the past in order to become who you will be or truly are now” Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City.

Her words have true meaning holding on to a time when you were independent, younger and very different from the person you have become.

If we are holding onto the good things from our past does it really mean we want to be that person, relive it again rather than embracing the future and all its unpredictability?

I have been hearing ‘I miss the good old days,’ a lot recently, what does it mean?

Is our lifestyle more complicated than it use to be?

Are we hunkering after something lost?

We live in a world of terms and conditions governed by rules, regulations and instructions, we are drowning in a sea of rules.

We are so overtly regulated that no wonder many are feeling that their independence and liberty they experienced in their youth has been slowly eroded by time.

Was life really simpler thirty years ago?

I was in my late teens, I had University ahead of me, a whole life before me filled with a sense of foreboding and excitement.

Thirty years later I look back at my life not with anger or resentment but with a sigh and shrugged shoulders, that person I now see in the mirror was she really bold and brassy back then?

Did I really get to do the things I wanted to do, go to the places I was desperate to see or have I sold myself short?

I didn’t travel as far and wide as I hoped, I didn’t achieve the red porsche that I hoped I’d get by twenty-five and I certainly didn’t become the millionaire such was the confidence, hopes and arrogance of my youth.

I am not young enough to know everything. Oscar Wilde.

I’ve lost my sense of adventure and my audaciousness it went when I married for the second time and had children.

I have forgotten what it is like to step out and be me, free from all of the shackles and constraints that go with being a working mother, husband, friend, confidant and lover (ok so the latter maybe a little exaggerated).

When we are young we do know everything, we are bold, enlivened and audacious.

Are we wrong to question how our life turns out, should we strive for something big and better or settle for being happy with what we’ve got?

Buddhists say that you need to let go of your past to create a new future.

It’s hard to forget especially when the pain from the past follows you into the present.childhood: stack of old photos

When I look back on my life I see pain, mistakes, some heartache and nostalgia for a time when life seemed less complicated.

As I consider my present I see strength, lessons learned, pride in my family and achievements.

I believe it is important to look back because it helps understand who we are, what we’ve become or are becoming, where we are going and where we finally end up.

We celebrated our son’s thirteenth birthday recently along with the rest of the family, we talked for hours about how life seemed a lot more fun when we were teenagers compared to being adults, time passed more slowly so it seemed, we remembered long school summer holidays, going out with friends great memories and happy times.

My eldest step-son now twenty-five who married a year ago said I can’t believe how time flies by I can’t believe it’s a year since we were married’.Memory Lane in Sepia

If you think it goes fast now wait until you get past fifty!

I sat and listened to them chatting away and reflected on how quickly they have grown, each one with a different story to tell and at different stages of their lives, excited, exuberant, full of the joys of youth.

I glowed with pride at my brood, how they’ve embraced life and are making the best of it, my youngest step-son had these words of wisdom to share, ‘life is too short, what is the point in worrying and getting stressed we can’t always change the outcome but we might be able to influence what happens in our future’.

Are we fixated on where we think we should be, how we are going to get there and whether we really are enjoying our life?

We can change direction, it just rather depends on how confident we are and knowing where we want to be, but, sometimes looking back reminds us of the importance of what we have in our lives and to make more time to do the things we really want to do.