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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?

A huge A+ with a red circle on a paper

The spoils of youth. Parent, friend and everything else in between

Another school year and with summer over it is back to reality.Gratitude

This year is particularly poignant because it is my son’s final year of school.

It did not seem that long ago when my husband and I walked him through the school gates on his first day of school, age 7.

There we stood, lumps in the back of our throats, a quietness descended upon the parents as they waited for their children to be filed into classrooms.

Parents, friendshipNew beginnings as they were about to start the first stage of the rest of their life, a life that takes them from childhood into teenage years and finally into adulthood.

Parents refer to these years as the best but living them at the time nothing seemed farther from the truth.

The human psyche has an amazing propensity to forget the bad times we all experienced during our school days and only recall the fun times.

Larking about waiting for the bus, sneaking out of R.E. lessons when the old timer teaching it more often than not fell asleep.

How do we know we’ve done the best for our children?

What grading system do they use to mark us by?

A = Excellent

B = Good

C = Adequate

The parent-child line is a fine divide, I am constantly resorting to How do we know if we are good parents?disciplinary tactics because one or the other steps out of line.

Maybe it is the answering back or worse still the pretending “I didn’t hear you mum” as I end up screaming for the tenth time of calling.

How can we be sure that we have raised our children right and that they are thankful for all that we do as parents?

We aim to show children right from wrong and hopefully steer them onto the right path. As my husband so neatly described it ‘if our kids are still talking to us in our sixties then we’ve done something right.’

It appears to be a good barometer to measure parenting, but, I want to be sure that god willing when the eldest leaves he will turn around and say thanks mum and dad you’ve been good parents, it hasn’t been all bad.

Is that too high an expectation?

Should parents expect their children to say “thank you” does it appear narcissistic that we should want our children to be grateful for all that we’ve done, the sacrifices we’ve made and changes we’ve adopted to accommodate their well being.

It is a question that has perplexed me because I have never ever questioned the need for my children to validate me as a person or as a parent so why now?

Where is the line drawn?

We want to give our children everything we didn’t have and more.

The competitive nature of society and peer pressure at school means that children want but don’t necessarily need the most current popular gadget.

How do we know if we are good parents?Are we subliminally buying our children’s’ love by giving them things that in some instances aren’t a necessity, a smartphone where a mobile phone will suffice?

If our children are to be thankful it is because we have taught them “gratitude”; learning to appreciate what they have when there are others less fortunate.

Teenagers don’t understand the value of money or the real cost of things until they have to work for it, a car that costs £8000 or a mortgage of £1,250 a month but they do understand that a new PS4 game is £40+ or to download an album from iTunes might cost £7.99.

If my children ask for something when we are out shopping together it usually comes in the form of I wish I had enough money to… when I ask them how much it is?  I ask them if they had to pay for it out of their pocket money would they still buy it?

I get a very different answer,  it is easier for them to spend someone else’s money but when it’s their own they aren’t quite so keen.

By helping them grasp the difference between I don’t really need it but I’d like to have it my kids have started to appreciate that there are loads of things that we could go out and buy if money grew on trees but, when funds are limited looking at something and deciding if you like it but don’t really need it makes more sense.

It is Open University season where mad parents like me drive their kids to all corners of this great country to visit Universities.

With 4 done and 2 to go I’m at least grateful that my eldest had the gumption to narrow down his choice to six.

As I walked with my son in Durham chatting away whilst we looked at his course options and the facilities, I couldn’t help but think how fortunate he is to have me as a mother, and I am sure I speak for many mothers who give up a lot of time and money, more so than our mothers ever did for us.

The realisation that each step we were taking together represented another step closer to him making a decision that would mean leaving home and I had to fight back the tears

I couldn’t help think about my relationship with my own parents, and the importance of ensuring you keep the door open and welcome your kids through it no matter how insignificant their problem is, making it easy for your kids to come and chat with you about anything is surely the start of developing a long term friendship with them.

The relationship has to change from being parent-child to parent-friend, with mutual respect, love and a relationship on equal terms.

As the child grows they rely on the care, love, support and advice their parents offer them and you hope they listen.

As parents grow into old age this pendulum swings toward the children, they are more switched on with what is going on in the world, news and technology it is at that point that parents start to rely on their children for advice and support.

If that balance is unequal then the parent- child relationship continues into adulthood with parents treating their offspring not as fully grown adults but as children in adult clothing, not allowing them to be adults in their own right with their own ideas and choices to make.

I have my preferred choices where I think my son should study, he is a young man and must make his own choices it is not for me to try and dissuade him but it is difficult.

It was at that pivotal moment that I realised what the parent-child, parent-friend relationship truly means.

Our relationship is moving on from me being the parent advising, telling and pushing him to being a supporter, advisor and hopefully trusted friend.

I will always be his mum and I hope above all else a friend and as long as he knows he can talk to me and that I will always be there for him then our friendship will hopefully stand the test of time and love.

 

 

Girlfriends Friendship Party Happiness Summer Concept

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the menopause. Why you’re never too old too…

In spite of what we know about this important chapter in a woman’s life, for many, not only is it a defining moment known as ‘the change’ but it can also be a transformative time when we choose to make life changing decisions. Menopause

This might mean setting up a business, divorcing a spouse whom we may have shared our life with for over thirty years and for others it is the realisation that time is marching on and that we may have just seen the best of our years.

Not me. I feel fitter, healthier and more athletic than in my thirties.

Time maybe marching across my face but it certainly isn’t as far as my brain and the rest of me is concerned.

I might be menopausal but just because I’m 50 doesn’t mean I’m dead yet.

When I met with girlfriends recently one couldn’t help but remark ‘let’s face it, luvvies, we’ve seen the best of our years.

menopauseI bristled because not only did she dismiss the menopause as a defining moment for a woman but effectively consigned womanhood to the shelf??

I came away thinking is it really over for menopausal women?

By chance a PR company approached onewomansview by email to promote a new book, So that’s why I’m bonkers! A Girl’s Guide to surviving the menopause.’ by Sheila Wenbourne.

I read it, loved it and had to interview Sheila, we were two kindred spirits experiencing this ghastly woman’s change but in hugely different ways.

When I asked Sheila why she wrote a book on the menopause she said ‘because I went to my Dr. and was told it was the menopause, that I was going to have to learn to live with, goodbye G-string hello big knickers.’

That was enough for Sheila who looked at other options as well as HRT.

Whilst the book doesn’t unearth how or why women endure the menopause, it is a medical fact that all women will at some stage go through the menopause. She writes in a fun, honest and educational way describing what women have to go through but who are afraid to either acknowledge or talk about, what both Sheila and I refer to as the dreaded M word.

In fact the menopause gave her the confidence to set up her own online business selling magnetic jewellery, an alternative therapy she subsequently discovered helped her with all the symptoms associated with the menopause.

She first came across magnetic therapy when she discovered that Yuk, its the menopauseher dog was suffering from acute arthritis and was told that putting him down might be the kindest thing to do but instead she researched what alternatives were available and discovered magnetic dog collars, popped one on her dog and watched her beloved collie transform into a sprightly pup.

Believing that if it could work for her dog why not her and so she decided to find a way of selling magnetic jewellery online.

I’m currently wearing a magnet in my knickers on the recommendation of Sheila. (You can find out how magnet therapy works here)

I’ve fished it out of the toilet twice already as I forget it’s there, but I am going to persist with it because if it means coming off HRT a drug designed to stabilise our declining oestrogen then I’m all for it.

But the moral of the tale is that just because women hit the menopause doesn’t mean it is game set and match.

Coming out of the other side of the menopause, Sheila said that she is more confident than the person she was before so much so it gave her the desire and verve to set up a business.

She acknowledges that magnetic therapy isn’t for everyone and I have to admit I was a little skeptical too, but if you don’t try you don’t know?

As we spoke and shared experiences of the menopause I drew a parallel with our lives.

At 50 I discovered a desire to write and went onto study freelance courses in journalism which after successful completion led to me to the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

Not a course for the faint hearted and whilst I have really struggled with time, business and work I can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the menopause I might not have taken the decision to consider a change in career.

Cameron Diaz reportedly said in her new book, “The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging”, she is not afraid of getting old it’s Hollywood she worries about.

It was refreshing to have a Hollywood A-Lister stand up for women aging and admit that she isn’t in the least bit scared.

There is a generation of female silver surfers and webpreneurs who have set up businesses in their late 50s and 60s following the menopause.

In eastern and asian societies women who start the menopause are revered and considered wise and worldly, a far cry from how western societies view menopausal women.

Sheila has confirmed many successes of women who have used magnetic therapy reporting that that they are more adventurous, confident and happier.

As for Sheila she says; ‘I’m happier in myself, I can cope with life generally much better than I ever did before, the only thing I do is wear a magnet.’

During our chat, she mentions Linda Barker and Julie Walters who both described the experience of the menopause as horrible. Julie said that she feels more liberated and has more energy than she had in her 50s following the menopause.

Instead of viewing this stage as the final act, Sheila says; ‘it’s hard going through it but once you’ve come out the other side, we’ve got 30-40 years to enjoy life, accept the fact you are older.

Fighting back at 50+ she says, ‘we’ve got so much to offer, so much to give to people, so much experience, we are in our prime.

We can feel good about ourselves, why can’t we wear lovely makeup and beautiful clothes?

We are not washed up at 50, we are in our prime, who says you can’t have it all?’

Amen to that!

 

to do lists

Why I’m done with To DO lists

That’s it the last straw I’m done with to do lists.

Take shopping online.  

My husband use to love to do the weekly food shop (unbelievable, I know) now he does it all online.to do lists

The problem is that it now involves me sitting with him and selecting what we want,  before I could just give him a list and tell him to get on with it.

He would go on Friday after taking the kids to school get his coffee and maybe some breakfast followed by the weekly shopping and it was lovely.

Now the food list has to be done no later than Wednesday to make sure we hit the delivery schedule for Friday morning and frankly I can’t be doing with thinking about food after a day at the office and a round of evening meals.

I like to keep a shopping list as I go and write things down as they come to me or when I remember to check in the cupboard to see what items we need.

What’s the difference says Mr M all you need to do is to order it instead of writing it down?

to do listsI’m asked or rather ordered to interact with the shopping order and then my mind goes completely blank, I lose interest by the time we get to toiletries and I sit there fidgeting.

This then involves opening the various cupboards aimlessly trying to work out what we really need.

Last week consisted of twelve pots of Waitrose jam that happened to be on special offer, nothing to do with me and probably enough toilet rolls to fill an entire school.

What went wrong? Well it’s easy. When Mr M does the shopping online he does tend to get a bit carried away, sometimes hitting the quantity button 2-3 times.

Last week we almost ended up with 5KG of fish that’s enough to feed a restaurant until I pointed this out to him.

‘Please just go and do the shopping the normal way like you use to do’, I plead with him.

‘No, I don’t have the time’ comes back the response, ‘but what did you use to do before online shopping then?

With all this extra time what are you filling this so called void with now?’

I hate the fact that my shopping is scheduled for delivery on Friday’s between 8-9 I can’t even think about facing the unpacking of the weekly shop let alone be friendly with Mr Chatty delivery man.

Having to plan what we are going to eat the following week is a horrendous experience for me as the weekly shop.

‘I never seem to get what I want’ I exclaim ‘that’s because you can’t be bothered to get involved with the shopping order like I keep asking you too!’

A-ha is that what you call get involved, is this your attempt at doing something ‘together’ I say because I bemoaned the other night that we never do anything ‘together’ anymore.

Shopping online wasn’t what I had in mind.

‘The reason you don’t get what you want is because you don’t add to the list’ he tells me, but it’s not the same as actually going to the shops, up and down the aisles and seeing items that remind you, oh, I need that or yes, I’ve run out of that.

Online shopping is designed for those who suffer with memory loss you remember what you need and then as soon as you go online you forget what it was you wanted.

Which leads me very nicely back to to lists.

I’ve read the ‘Get things done’ books, how to manage your life in three simple steps, how to have it all?to do lists

In fact as we speak I’m reading “Getting things done. How to achieve stress free productivity” by David Allen the guru of all gurus in learning how to really get things done and not started, half finished or seems like a good idea but never gets off the ground. 

I’ve had it on the kindle app and never got around to reading it.
Which just proves my point about not getting things done.

For some reason I decided to start reading it whilst waiting for the kids at school the other day.

All my half hearted attempts at trying to create more time to do more of what I want to do.

And then I had one of those a-ha moments, I stopped in my tracks and thought this is it, this is the absolute last time I am going to be controlled by other people’s actions, by time, the kids, the school run or anything.

I didn’t want to start another school term or school year for that matter having that sheer panic feeling in the pit of my stomach because I feel I never get things done to use Allen’s words.

When I took a closer look at some of the outstanding things to do it was laughable some of them went back as far as 2013?

I read some of the tasks out loud it was so insanely daft that it didn’t justify being on the to do list after all.

Allen says that if you have all these ideas, tasks, worries floating around in your head they stress and wear you down, we can only remember two or three things at once which along with all the other stuff just means our conscious mind is at bursting point, feeling distracted worried and anxious with mental overload.

By committing these actions into some kind of system or onto paper he says we then need to take action otherwise they stay there in your head festering or on that bit of paper and nothing gets done.to do lists

I took a closer look at the three sets of to do lists – personal, work and projects and shredded the lot.

The relief I felt was amazing I knew that I could then start again in the right frame of mind.

I took a plain sheet of paper and thought of all the things that needed doing and in no particular order from personal stuff, things I really wanted to do, work tasks, random thoughts and ideas were written down on the blank piece of paper.

When I finished the list I then went back through it and actioned each one.

This took me all of one day to complete most of these tasks were simple, like getting my filing up to date, updating our CRM, responding to emails that weren’t urgent but were important, to things like clean the bottom of my shoe cupboard which I’ve now added to my google calendar on a set date so it gets done.

I felt so much better that by the end of Thursday, the stress had gone and I felt like I’d really achieved something.

Anything new that comes in I think about what needs to be done with it and then deal with it so it’s off my desk or email whereas before I would just jump on it and react I now think more calmly – what needs to be done with this and is it important?

Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster.

DeathtoStock_Medium4

I feel calmer since the start of term and more in control I’m finding fifteen minutes a day to do some sketching, doodling and drawing and I don’t feel panicky if I leave the office and things haven’t been done.

And something amazing happened I’m actually getting more things done, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

I’m not sure how long this is going to last but, I’ll keep you posted.