I got home from the supermarket the other day only to find that the bottle of milk had leaked all over the floor of my car. I was not happy. Fortunately, it was only on one of the removable carpets and not in the boot. I would have been really cross if it had gone all over the boot because that would have been much more difficult to clean. I got the offending bottle out of the bag, put it in the full sun, and told it in no uncertain terms “Let’s see how you like THIS then”. The bottle sat there contritely, filled with remorse, crying more of its contents over my driveway.
About 12 months ago, I was sitting happily writing an article when I felt something on my ankle. I looked down to find a big Huntsman spider making its way up my leg. With a shriek suitable for someone who was being attacked with a bloody knife in a darkened room of an eerie house that was filled with suspenseful music, I threw my laptop, mouse, cup of tea and everything else up in the air and swished my unexpected cuddler onto the floor. Full-on ‘mother’ mode took over. I pointed an accusatory finger at the surprised offender, “What on EARTH do you think you’re doing?”, I boomed in a voice that could probably be heard 10 kms away (one of the results of being a swimming teacher for so many years: I can PROJECT my voice very, very well). The spider cowered on the floor, somehow managing to look both sheepish (if that’s possible for a spider) and increasingly contrite as I continued, “That was really naughty, you gave me such a fright! Don’t you EVER do that again! Ever!”. It stayed where it was for a few moments, wrapped in what I can only assume was spider-like mortification, then slunk off and dejectedly climbed a wall before disappearing to hopefully consider its future actions.
There’s a family of swans lives nearby - actual black swans, I mean, not a family of football fans – and I had a chuckle to myself one day when one of the teenagers got told off by its mother and was made to swim at her side, away from the rest of its siblings. I have this theory that being told off by a mother is actually a universal event throughout the animal kingdom. The photo with this post is of a pelican being told off by an older lady after it had bitten her. Check out the body language of both the woman & the bird: it’s totally that of a child being told off by its mother.
I started writing this 5 days ago. FIVE DAYS! It is NOT like me to half finish an article. Okay, yes it totally is like me, I’ve got half-finished articles all over the place, but that’s because they haven’t flowed; this one was FLOWING. Unfortunately, a bigger flow came along because motherhood called and when that flow hits you, it takes over your entire life…
I’ve spent two of the last three days going to Armidale to pick up Keeley from school. She’s having her tonsils out on Monday and it’s her birthday tomorrow. All in all, a big weekend. I’m hoping that the attitude and reticence is anxiety about the operation because right now, I’m putting up with quite a lot of teenage ways of behaving that I normally wouldn’t tolerate for more than about 10 seconds. And it’s bloody exhausting. Swear to god, you couldn’t pay me enough to be a teenager. I like having a lot of money, but I don’t like it that much, I can tell you. The angst, the uncertainty, the wanting to fit in, the wanting to never conform (usually both of the last two at the same time), the hormones, the embarrassing parents.
John does an amazing job of being an embarrassment to his children. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any dad who was quite so accomplished at it. Except mine. My dad did an awesome job at embarrassing his children, with his specialty being The Dance. This one came out at family do’s and weddings. He would drag me – pretty much kicking and screaming – onto the dance floor and insist that I “dance” with him. His “dance” involved doing this weird thing where he’d stand on one leg with the other stuck out in front of him, and then do a kind of twist on the heel of his front leg, all the time exhorting me to do the same thing, while I invariably stood there, cringing with embarrassment as the rest of the family/friends formed an encouraging (?) ring around us. The grown-ups no doubt knowing exactly what my father was doing and cheering him on wholeheartedly and the younger ones displaying both patent relief that they weren’t the chosen sacrifice at this family get-together and glee at someone else’s acute embarrassment of their parents’ behaviour.
The thing is, we all knew – know – that Dads do this totally on purpose. Totally. They know EXACTLY what they’re doing and I’m sure that it’s built into them at a genetic level when they become fathers: “oh look, there goes the little sperm, yes, he’s in there! Look, it’s all happening, I’m going to be a father” and bam! He suddenly has this built-in desire – NEED, even – to be a complete embarrassment and do things that are going to make his children cringe for years to come. And weird dance moves seem to be a base part of that genetic makeup. I’ll bet even John Travolta has some weird dance moves that he embarrasses his kids with.
Or maybe it simply all boils down to Adam. Maybe Adam had this hilarious idea at some gathering of his clan that the whole evening was a bit boring and his kids were a little too prim & proper & thought too much of themselves, so he was going to lighten the atmosphere, let his hair down a little, poke a bit of harmless fun at one of his sons and get on the dancefloor to show his kids how to really enjoy themselves… and his sons have been wreaking revenge on their children ever since.
Keeley, being the youngest of four, has generally seen it all before and takes it all in her stride, with an almost subvocal snigger in recognition of what her Dad’s doing. If he applies it to her, most of the time, he just gets an eye roll and a sigh; she’s very difficult to get going in the ‘embarrassing parents’ category (except when her Dad starts dancing. Then she tries to leave the building in all haste). Jamie, being the eldest, is much more satisfying prey. We apparently managed to embarrass him so much in a restaurant when we went down to visit him, that he says he’ll never be able to show his face in there again. I don’t even know what we did. His dad hadn’t started dancing or anything.
Hi! And welcome! I'm Karen O'Connor and this is me in the photo on the right: a 50-something, happily married mother-of-four (I'm saying that not just because it's true but also in the hope that it helps stop all the friend requests & messages from weird guys), self-made millionaire, serial entrepreneur, blogger and mindset coach/mentor/expert kind of person who is unable to sit still for five minutes.
I've tried the whole 'focus on one thing and do it really well' numerous times during my life, and I ended up doing it not very well at all, to be honest. It's just so boring, doing one thing! And, besides which, life is NEVER about one thing, is it? I'm a wife, a mother, a friend, an entrepreneur, a property investor, a quantity surveyor, a synchronised swimmer, a bit of a gym junkie, a horse rider who likes to sew and cook and make soaps and skincare. Oh yes, I'm a blogger and writer, too; I forgot about that bit! I've also been a life coach (I hate that term but I can't think of a better one) since 2002. I like to have fun. I like to laugh until I cry. I like to smile. I like to poke fun at things. I like to think I'm funny. I love having friends around for coffee or dinner. I also like to have a LOT of money. I just don't see the point in struggling or limitations around money, it doesn't make sense to me, and I LOVE to see other people get past their money blocks and create the things they want, too. But I also want to share just... stuff, too, the things that interest me, the health tips, the fitness ideas, the recipes, the (sometimes hilarious) results of my attempts at arts, crafts & home making things that I could buy much more easily in the shops, the trials and tribulations of parenthood and the ongoing evolution of our relationships. This is about LIFE, not just one thing; life.
Like a lot of women my age, the vast majority of my life has gone into bringing up the kids and all of the effort, heartache, joy and laughter that entails. I think that when we get to a certain age, we have no one focus, we have multiple interests. We've tried a lot of things over the course of our lives and we're good at any number of things (and we can admit that we're pretty awful at some other things, too!). One thing we're really good at is putting other people first. I don't know about you, but I spent so long putting other people's needs first that I simply forgot how to even consider my own needs. It's been a very painful process remembering how to do that. I spent so long suppressing my own wants and needs that, in the end, I forgot how to say yes to myself; I simply didn't know what it was I wanted. Life wasn't a very pleasant experience for a few years there.
The purpose of this website, blog and all the freebies, programs & resources is to help women who are going through the same things that I went through, that loss of purpose, the feeling of 'what's the point' that seems to pervade our lives at a certain point, that sense of confusion, loss & bewilderment. Picking ourselves up from that can feel overwhelmingly difficult, and I wish I'd known that other women had gone through the same experience and had redefined themselves & their lives, because that was what I really needed. I needed someone to say "Oh my god, I totally get you! This is what happened to me and this is how I moved beyond it". Having gone into the MAWS of life and come out the other side, I can tell you that it's a simple process. It's not always easy, but it is simple.
The thing is, if you're anything like me, you don't have ONE interest, ONE focus, ONE passion (except maybe your partner, but you know what I mean 😜). We are MULTI-talented, MULTI-passionate, MASSIVELY experienced in a MULTITUDE of things, MARVELOUSLY delightful, Mistresses of Attitude, Women of Strength.
So, let's poke some fun at ourselves and the things that are happening to our bodies. Let's chat about the things we've experienced in raising our kids, the changing relationships, the empty nest, how we keep our relationships with our partners alive and happy, how we drive them insane sometimes and vice versa, food, drink (love my wine), health, fitness, mindset and money, our dreams and desires, recreating things for ourselves.
And there lies my true passion and purpose: having people remember that they really can create EVERYTHING that they want. And have fun while they do it. And feel loved, and be filled with & surrounded by laughter.
So come and join me, because life... it's all about the attitude!
PS This website is a definite work in progress. In moving all my stuff off Facebook and onto here, there's a lot of work entailed, linking things up, finding the right resources, putting up blog posts, getting everything organised an looking pretty (ish), so please be patient and come back regularly to check on things. Better still, join one of the mailing lists or sign up for one of the free downloads and I'll update you as things come together.
And I can sit here and moan about it all - the hot flushes, the weird rashes, the raging hormones, the sleepless nights - and, trust me, I DO moan about it occasionally, and then I get the giggles about it all. The things that we go through (and that we put ourselves through) are quite hilarious. I don't know about you, but I made such a MEAL out of being middle aged. I was totally stopped. I thought there was nothing else I could do with my life: I was too old, too out of touch, too slow, way past it. There was just no point in trying something else; I'd been out of the workforce for 20 years, there was no way I could get a decent job and I certainly didn't want to redo my professional qualifications. Besides which, I'm basically unemployable: I'd last about 5 minutes in someone else's company before I started taking over, let's face facts.
The thing is, why was I even CONSIDERING working for someone else? I'd had my own businesses, I'd been involved in our developments, I'd done numerous renovations for profit but for some reason, all I could think was that I had to get a job, I had to get back into the workforce. I'd be a TERRIBLE employee, swear to god. The only thing I can put it down to is that my hormones messed with my brain. I don't know whether that's actually true or not but I know for sure that I wasn't making sense.
And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, right? We feel sorry for teenagers going through all their angst, with their raging hormones making their brains fire in inexplicable ways. Well, lookee here... 50 years old and not making a SCRAP of sense.
I had 20 years of crap built up in me. There was so much stuff crammed into my head that there was no room for any new thoughts. Old thoughts, stuff that I'd thought I'd got rid of years before, were reappearing. I was defaulting to the patterns from my childhood: beliefs about scarcity and lack and what was and wasn't possible for me, how I wasn't good enough, smart enough, creative enough... I just wasn't enough. And this is from someone who'd spent a FORTUNE on personal development and business coaching. I'd spent YEARS working with business coaches and I was thinking about LOOKING FOR A JOB! What the hell was that about? What was I even thinking?
Like I said, it's the hormones! And it may or may not be, but no matter where we're at, there's always a way to get back onto a path that feels good and create the things that we really want in our lives: great relationships, great health & fitness, feeling excited about life, bringing to life all the ideas that we've had for businesses or art or charities or education, and knowing that they'll happen just because we decide to make them happen.
Welcome to the hilarious, unbalancing, highly erratic, confronting opportunity that confronts us all when we get to middle age. It's time to recreate things. Because remember, it's all about the attitude.
I’m one of those people who is constitutionally incapable of following a manual. I know the joke is generally about men who do that and, truth be told, I will actually look in the manual if I’m really, really stuck, I mean, REALLY stuck, but mostly, when I get a new ‘toy’, I’ll just start using it and wing the whole ‘how-to’ thing. Which is, of course, exactly what happened when I got my new KitchenAid Cook Processor. And – get this, right – I WON the thing in a raffle! I was so impressed! With myself, with the Universe, with the machine, with the lady who organised the raffle, with everything, really impressed with everything and everyone, in fact!
I’ve got to say that when I took the machine… I’m going to have to give it a name, aren’t I? I can’t just keep calling it “the Machine”, it sounds like some weird body building kind of bloke. Or maybe a wrestling wannabe. I realise that someone is now going to tell me that there actually is a wrestling star called The Machine. Well, I’m not naming my cooking thing after him, that’s for sure. I’m going to call my machine ‘Red’. I know my machine is black but all the photos of the machines in the publicity shots are red, so Red it is.
Where was I? Oh yes, so I start to take Red out of the box and there’s bits, and more bits and even more bits. Then, I have to figure out where all these bits go: in this container? Or the other one? I’m damn sure they’ve all got somewhere specially made for them to reside because this thing is too organised for something like that to happen. I decide to take the drastic step of putting on my glasses so that 1) I can actually see all the bits and 2) I can see the writing that’s on the containers that tell me where everything goes. By the time I finish taking everything from the boxes, my kitchen benchtop is littered with what looks to be instruments of torture, but which I am assured by the box are simply the necessary parts for Red to function, and the floor looks like a herd of toddlers has been playing in a polystyrene snowstorm. I readied myself for the upcoming battle. Not with Red, but with that subversive element, polystyrene.
I have my suspicions about polystyrene. It pretends that it’s happy to lie there, looking all innocent, just waiting to be swept up and put into the bin, secure in the knowledge that it’s job of protecting my purchase is done. But what I’ve noticed is that I can never, ever sweep it up. Oh, I think I’ve swept it up, I think I’ve got it all nicely contained and put into the bin, polystyrene allows me to believe that I’ve won the battle, nice and easily, and that it’s happy to successfully complete its sole purpose in life and now be sent to the big rubbish dump in the sky. Invariably, though, I return from the bin only to find that no, there’s still lots of little bits of polystyrene left and it’s sticking to various surfaces, including my body and my clothes, the brush, the cupboards, the drawers, even the thing it was supposed to protect. Like a toddler being dropped off at daycare, when I try to brush it off, it doesn’t fall to the floor or go quietly, it simply attaches itself to something else and I spend a fruitless several minutes trying, without success, to persuade the stuff to just behave already, do as it’s told and get in the bin. It just does not want to be thrown away and it leaves its little babies in hidden nooks & crannies, ready to burst out when I’m least expecting it. I have my suspicions that polystyrene secretly wants to be more than just the unsung protective hero.
My battle with polystyrene over and lost, I get onto the interesting bit: playing with my new toy. Against all prior experience, I decide to cook something easy the first time round and opt for a Chilli. The recipe for Chilli in the book that came with Red doesn’t look interesting enough, so I launch into Google…
And realise that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. This is perhaps the most confusing recipe I’ve ever come across. There’s quite obviously been a typo, several typos, in fact. Maybe the author (some famous guy from the UK) was on something, I dunno, but this recipe does not make any sense. It goes like this:
Step 1, chop the onion in the processor,
Step 2, replace the blade with the stirrer thing (okay, the article never mentioned and ‘stirrer thing’ but I’m invoking artistic licence here),
Step 3, select a setting on the processor.
Easy, peasy, I think. Which is exactly the moment that things start to go wrong because Step 4 says “After Step 1, add the remaining ingredients”. Right. Then, Step 5 says “After step 2, add the kidney beans”.
I’ve quite obviously lost my mind because this is not making any sense and I haven’t even had a glass of wine yet, so I can’t blame it on that, either. With several decades of cooking experience and a healthy dose of disregard for my total lack of experience with any machine like this, I decide to bin the recipe and just wing it, and off I go. For about five seconds. I plug Red into the power socket and… nothing happens. No lights, no display, nothing to indicate that there’s any power getting to the unit at all. S**t. I hope this unit’s not broken; I’ve only just managed to lose the war with the polystyrene and get most of it in the bin. Maybe it’s like my food processor and you need to have the bowl attached and in position before it switches on. Filled with a completely baseless hope and mentally crossing my fingers, I put the bowl into place… still no lights. I switch the unit off at the mains and back on again, no lights. I twiddle a few things and succeed only in releasing the bowl again. Well, at least now I know what happens when I twiddle the knob. Damn. I’m about to get on the phone to the rep to tell them that I’ve got a dud when I realise that there’s an ON switch! Woah! Awesome! And I’m off again. This time for about five minutes. At which point I realise that I need a) the recipe and b) the instruction manual because I’m completely out of my depth. I also decide that it’s the perfect time to record a video of my total confusion. As you do. But then – hallelujah! I realised what the chef (he’s now a chef, not just ‘some bloke from the UK’, have you noticed?) meant in his recipe: the cook settings have Steps in them! Ah! The lightbulb goes on! Okay, I can do this, I’ve got it sussed now!
Forty minutes or so later, out comes a delicious Chilli, if I do say so myself.
And no, I didn’t follow the recipe. I really am constitutionally incapable of following a recipe.
PS I made a Beef & Cabbage Cobbler (without the cobbles!) in there last night and that came out yummy, too. That was my own recipe and I just figured out what I needed to do with the machine. 🔪🍲🥣👩🍳👩🍳👩🍳
Just eaten an entire tub of olive dip. All to myself. No help required, thank you very much. It was very nice.
In case you're wondering, I'm totally justified in doing this as in a few minutes, I'm going to be in desperate need of sustenance. I am about to head down to the Apple store for the second time in two days, to try to convince them, for the second time in two days, that there's something wrong with the battery on my laptop. And that, in actual fact, said battery not only misleads us as to how much life it has left in it, said battery is suspiciously shady about how much charge it has left and, more specifically, said battery actually tells outright lies about how long that charge is going to last.
Unfortunately, being a complete non-geek, in fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm a total airhead when it comes to anything to do with computer innards, I have no desire to have an intimate acquaintance with anything so randomly numeric and I have an innate mistrust of something whose manuals contain that many acronyms. I mean, really? FTP? Well, I could come up with a few things for what that acronym could stand for (thanks to my friend, Deborah, for suggesting some of them). API? DNS? ICU? No, wait, that's a medical one, isn't it?
Wish me luck. I'm off to the Apple store. Again. Send out the search parties if you don't hear back from me today...
You know what happens when you talk about religion or politics…
I’m having a meltdown. Over something and absolutely nothing. To the point where I didn’t sleep last night. Actually, you can take that last statement with a pinch of story-tellers’ salt; this had nothing to do with the fact that I didn’t sleep well last night but it sounds good and it fits. So, as they say, if the glove fits… I didn’t sleep well last night because my mind was churning with conflicting thoughts. My adult, educated, resourceful, analytical mind is rolling its eyes and telling me not to be ridiculous. My six-year old inner child is telling me something completely different: I’m in mortal danger.
My Dad, bless him, will vehemently deny that he can be just a little bit obstreperous. He’d be totally insincere in his vehemence and we all know it. In fact, he’s highly likely to be so insincere that his vehemence is spoiled somewhat by the sniggering that’s happening under his breath during his denials and that overly innocent expression that he puts on his face. I’m certain, however, that age has tempered his obstreperousness somewhat. As a teenager… well, let’s put it this way, if punk had been birthed when my dad hit 15, he’d have been there with safety pins on, in some band, unable to play guitar and knowing that didn’t matter one iota, dressed in his ripped clothes, hair sprayed within an inch of its life into a Mohican, giving the finger to society in general and his parents in particular. When I look back at our visits to his parents’ house when I was growing up, I get the impression that dad would a) avoid topics he didn’t want to talk about, or b) get back at my grandparents for something, or c) just plain amuse himself by making some random but well-chosen and highly inflammatory comment about religion or politics.
You see, I come from a long line of hard-working, poverty-stricken Labour supporters. On both sides of my family. Dad’s been a hard-line Conservative his whole life (“Go, Maggie Thatcher”, he would yell in the 80’s). My Dad’s family are all Anglican, Dad was a choir boy and chapel server. He married a Methodist (my Mum). Dad’s mum was so appalled by this horrifying turn of events that she almost didn’t go to the wedding, and she certainly didn’t want to welcome my mum into the family with open arms, for sure. For those who don’t know, Methodism is a branch of Christianity that was big in Scotland, and Mum’s side of the family came from Scotland, which was yet another nail in Mum’s coffin as far as my Gran was concerned. So, Dad was in this incredibly powerful position of being able to upset everyone in the room with one tiny little comment. And he wielded that power regularly with incredibly predictable results: there’d be a big argument, Mum would cry, Gran would cry, Dad & Grandad would yell at each other and then Mum, my brother Alan & I would be bundled into the car and driven home. Now I think about it, I’m wondering if he didn’t use that power when he felt like not having to give up his Sunday evening to go and visit his parents for a few weeks. Trust me, it would have been a lot easier than trying to explain to my Grandma why he didn’t want to go down to their place for Sunday dinner. The fact that it was an hours’ drive each way was totally irrelevant; good children do whatever it takes to visit their parents as they ought and Dad, despite his willingness to poke a proverbial stick into the ants’ nest of his parents’ politic and religious views, always tries to do the right thing by people. There was no way he was ever going to be able to say to my Grandma that he needed a quiet Sunday evening and could we all give this week a miss.
In case you think I’m exaggerating here, and of course my dad could have had a conversation with his mum, she would have understood, let me tell you a story about my Gran. We went on holiday to Tunisia once, a couple of weeks in a tourist resort on the Mediterranean. It was great. While we were there, lying in the sun, enjoying the whole exotic-ness of an African country, my Gran had read in the British paper that there was a military coup in Tunisia. The first we knew about it was when some diplomatic official from the British embassy turned up at our hotel to check we were okay. She’d harassed them so much to make sure we were safe, and that they had back up plans to evacuate us from the country and back to the safety of British soil, that the only way to get her off their backs and shut her up, was to pay us a visit and make sure we were enjoying our holiday. And then let her know. I totally can’t blame dad for doing what he did; the easy way – quite possibly the ONLY way – to get out of the completely non-negotiable weekly Sunday dinners at my Gran’s was to have a big argument and give everybody an excuse not to see each other for a while.
Unfortunately, I didn’t understand all that when I was little. What happened was I grew up knowing in my very bones that you never, ever talk about religion or politics. Ever. Ever. Because it means pain and tears and shouting and the world tears apart and people don’t speak to each other and relationships are broken. Like I said, six-year old inner child speaking. To this day, if someone makes a vaguely political comment on one of my posts and it isn’t FULLY – and I mean totally, completely, 100%, absolutely - in alignment with my beliefs, I get a knot of terror in my stomach, my whole body clenches from the rush of adrenaline triggered by the fight-or-flight response that kicks in when one of those topics is brought up. This is a life-or-death situation for me, I am in serious danger, something terrible is going to happen. That’s why you rarely see anything remotely political on my wall or in my comments because I’m going to die if someone disagrees with me. Even slightly.
So, what’s brought all this on? Why am I waking in the night with cold sweats (which makes a nice change from hot sweats, if I’m brutally honest with you)? I put up a link to a video by Dick Smith, Aussie legend, a strident, vocal, anti-international corporation, grumpy old man. I agree with what he was saying in the video about the small businesses, battling it out in rural areas, and the fact that I don’t want 30% of what I’m paying to go to someone for their marketing efforts AND I also think that the genius who came up with that marketing idea deserves to reap the rewards for it. You see, one of the outcomes of that terror of the subjects of religion and politics is that I can see everybody’s point of view. Everybody’s. Whether I agree with it or not, I can still see it and understand it and, most definitely, respect it. Because if I respect it, a life-threatening argument can be avoided, so I’ll just quietly nod and give you my understanding, even if I think you’re so far off the mark, you’re not even on the playing field. I’ll just smile and understand. And quite possibly never speak to you again because you’re such an idiot. But you’ll never know the reason why you never hear from me anymore, because I won’t tell you. Telling you would be far too dangerous; it would invite a discussion, and we all know what that means.
Now, the question is, do I take Dick Smith down or not?
I woke up this morning and it felt like summer! Why did everything feel so different? John took me out for breakfast a new café. We’re very enthusiastic (read: too lazy to cook In the mornings) about eating out for breakfast and I don’t think there are too many cafes within a 5km radius that we haven’t tried breakfast at. But then we found this one. #happy #whatagreatfind Well done, my husband.
I decided, for some reason, I suspect because I just felt like summer was here, to put on a skirt instead of jeans, although I did hedge my bets by taking both a cardigan and my down jacket! John togged himself up in his jeans & jacket and I looked at him, silently regretting my rash decision to wear a skirt and prepared myself for an uncomfortable hour spent shivering in the wind, which is what usually happens when I sit in a café in the morning.
But not this morning! This morning was balmy and warm, and I felt like life was wrapping its arms round me and giving me a big, warm hug. It was heavenly. As I sat there, luxuriating in the sunshine, sneezing at the pollen, feeling happy & content about life, I realised just how much of a difference it makes to me when the temperature is warm. I mean, I know that, I go on about it to my family & friends a lot, I whinge about the cold weather, about having to wear coats & jumpers & long trousers, but I hadn’t realised how much happier I feel when I’m somewhere warm. It’s kind of like when you live in the UK, you just live with Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s just the way life is, and you don’t realise how much it affects you until you go over to the South of France or Spain or Italy for a few weeks and wallow in the sunshine, getting happier by the day. Mind you, that could just be due to the fact that you also don’t have to go to your day job while you’re over there, but still.
On top of feeling amazing because I was sat basking in the warmth of the Queensland spring, I had THE nicest pot of tea that I’ve had in a long time. If you don’t already know (where have you been hiding?), the abysmal tea-making abilities of the cafés on the Gold Coast are a constant source of irritation for me. They seem to harbour this arrogant assumption that it’s okay to offer people a pot of tea with a tea bag in it, not even loose leaves (heaven forbid that they learn the difference in taste between tea bags & loose leaf), and the pot is so small that doesn’t even give you a mug-sized amount of beverage. And then charge $5 or $6 for it! I don’t think so. I’ve educated more than one café owner as to the error of their ways. The kids reckon I’m like Maggie Smith in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where she has a go about the cups of tea she’s offered in America. Apologies to my American friends, but if that movie is correct, it looks like you lost your tea-making abilities after you threw that party in Boston. And the Gold Coast slavishly follows all things American, which may account for their appalling tea-making abilities, who knows.
You’ll be sad to hear that I didn’t get the chance at a second pot of tea (which I was all set on having: now that I’d found somewhere who made a good pot of tea, I wasn’t going to leave easily), because John, in his jeans and jacket, was seriously overdressed for the temperature and, even after taking his jacket off, was beginning to suffer the early stages of heat stroke. With great reluctance, on this first summery day of the season, I left my new-found tea heaven. But I’ll be back.
I like to think that I’m a kind person. Occasionally, I’m too kind; I’ll tolerate people way beyond the point where I should have ended the relationship because I feel sorry for them, because I know that they’re getting a s**t load from our relationship, even if it’s all at my expense. And I know that if I end the relationship, they’re going to feel a lot worse.
I googled ‘toxic relationship’ last night and was quite astonished that the relationship I had in mind ticked every single one of the boxes to determine whether it was toxic or not. “Toxic people try to control you” – tick. “Toxic people disregard your boundaries” – tick, tick, TICK. “Toxic people take without giving” – oh my god, you have NO idea. “Toxic people are always “right”” – definitely (though I did feel a little guilty about that because I always like to be right, too). “Toxic people aren’t honest” – no they’re not (phew! I can breathe easier! I’m usually honest. And forthright. And I tend to open my mouth and start talking before I’ve engaged my brain). “Toxic people love to be victims” – dear god in heaven, I am so sick of the ‘not good enough’, ‘poor me’ litany that springs from this person’s mouth. “Toxic people don’t take responsibility” – no, they don’t, do they? They also get the s**ts when someone else succeeds at something they’re trying to do, and they pretend to hide it behind saccharin smiles and good wishes for the person.
I’ve tended to be around, work with and have friends who are men my entire life. Because they’re much more honest and predictable than women. On the whole. That’s a vast generalisation but it’s the experience I’ve created for myself. Women (again, this is MY creation and bears no resemblance to reality) tend to mull things over, add meaning to things and to get emotional about stuff when there was absolutely no need to get emotional in the first place. I hate that. I can’t deal with it. I’m also a woman. We might have a problem here. When it boils right down to it, the issue that I have is that I lose power in this kind of situation, where the other person (for me, it’s ALWAYS a woman; I can deal with blokes who try this) is passive-aggressive, says things that you know mean something else under the surface but which they can deny, who gives enough to the relationship so you can’t use that as an excuse, who really NEEDS your support and who admires & reveres you. But also hates you and despises you. And you know this, but you also can’t do anything about it because it’s so well-hidden under all the saccharin and fairy dust. I like authenticity. I like honesty & integrity. This kind of relationship is none of those things, and neither is this kind of person. Though they will happily PROVE that they are, in fact, all of those things, and that I am, in fact, everything I say I despise, and they’ll do it all with a sickly-sweet smile, in a sickly-sweet voice, explaining how I’m doing them such a disservice and how much I’ve hurt their feelings. And I fall for it! Every time! I’m 55 years old and I still haven’t learned not to fall for it! Well, we all have our weaknesses, right? And this is a pattern that’s been repeating itself in my life since I was a teenager. I’m getting over it now.
What I also hate about these relationships, is the way they end. I try to explain things – I like explaining things – and the toxics twist and turn everything and it ends with me feeling guilty and lousy because I’m being such a bitch to them, I’m totally selfish, and look how much I’ve hurt them by doing this when all they’ve done is try to do the right thing by me. I don’t know how to deal with it and come out feeling clear, powerful and centred. I’m actually not sure there is a way, to be honest, and I also know that the toxic person tends to push me to a point where I lose my temper, which is never a good idea. Then they have great reason to never be my friend again (when they get out of hospital and they’ve recovered from the trauma of what I said and did to them, of course).
Okay, let’s be honest here: the main reason I don’t want to have a conversation with a toxic person that I’m trying to get out of my life is that the conversation is highly likely to end in an argument, no matter what I do. I like to have people understand my point, even if they don’t agree with it; that’s what I do for people, I expect people to treat me the same way. When they don’t do that, when they refuse to even try to understand my viewpoint, I get irritable because they’re just being ignorant. I don’t like ignorance, it’s infuriating. And limiting. And rude. And small-minded. And… ignorant. But the problem is, when I lose my temper, people get hurt. When I lose my temper, people have Defining Moments that, well, define the rest of their lives. They’re never the same person again. Which is not necessarily a bad thing when you look at it, but I’d rather not have that on my conscience if I can help it. I’m sure someone likes them the way they are; their mother, maybe. So, I avoid it if I can. Actually, I avoid it at all costs, including my sanity, self-respect and energy.
But what I forgot is that we live in the age of technology! All praise Apple, Facebook, and the internet in general, because I don’t have to have that conversation now; I can just ‘ghost’ them. I didn’t know that was even a technological term till last night; I can ‘ghost’ someone. It sounds pretty amazing, and (in case you’re a tech-know-little like me) it means that I can disappear from their lives forever without ever having that dreaded conversation with them. They can google me to their hearts’ content, stalk me forever, and while they might be able to check out my website, they won’t be able to find me on Facebook, or join any of my groups, like any of my pages or see any of my activity AT ALL on Facebook! They won’t be able to comment on my website, message me, text me, email me or contact me. I’ve even gone so far as to blacklist their email addresses on my server.
I’m now a ghost. Maybe that’s why I feel so much lighter! Heaven.
If you're on this website, it's highly likely you're a woman aged between 40 & 65, who's staring down the barrel of the rest of her life, uncertain as to what the hell to do with it.
Welcome to the MAWS of life.
'Maws' in the dictionary means 'jaws' or 'mouth'. In this case, it's my acronym for 'Middle Aged Women's Stuff', although originally I had it down as 'Middle Aged Woman Syndrome'. It's that point we get to where we've been doing everything for our family, the kids are leaving home/have left, we're looking at an empty nest, and the rest of our lives, and we find ourselves a bit lost. What on earth are we supposed to do now? We can't even remember what it is we used to want for our lives, and we certainly can't remember how to put ourselves first, right?
So, the question gets asked, "What are you going to do with the rest of your life?" and it's usually asked by some moron who, unbeknown to most people, has a very short life expectancy which is often reduced even further when they then say, "So, what next, then? You must be so excited about your future!".
And the worst of it is, people ask us those questions and then look at us like they expect an answer! Seriously, how on earth am I supposed to know what I want to do next? Give me a clue because I've got no bloody idea! Swear to god, there have been a few people who came this close to being throttled for asking stupid bloody questions. I feel like telling them to and Google it, because they might get a decent answer, they're certainly not going to get one from me, that's for sure. Let's face facts here: I've spent decades putting myself second, then third, till no matter how many people were there, I always put myself last. EVERYONE else's needs came first, and then suddenly, I could begin to put myself first for the first time in a long time and people expected me to instantly know exactly what I now wanted to do with my life! They didn't realise that it was actually quite a terrifying experience, something totally unknown and unfamiliar. And it felt so wrong. It just didn't feel right to do what I wanted to do and to put myself first.
Eventually... eventually, though, I did manage to kind of figure out what I want to do (the first thing that comes to mind is not put other people first, closely followed by giving myself the freedom to enjoy a quiet five minutes, happily visualising myself strangling all the bloody idiots who ask me stupid questions while chanting "auhhhhmmmmm").
So, I decided to create some fun for myself, talk about this, shout it from the rooftops, share my experiences and have some fun. Starting with the names for my website. MAWS can stand for Middle Aged Woman's Syndrome or Menopause & Women's Stuff or Many Adult Women Shop or Multiple Adventures With S... (fill in the blank) or Much Adrenaline Worry & Stress...
What does MAWS stand for for you? I'd love to hear, so leave me a comment below!
We totally create our lives. I get it. And I love it. We are constantly creating ourselves, trying out new things and trying on new ways of being. I’ve been trying “focus” and “niche” and “define your message” for a couple of years now, but the fact of the matter is, if left to my own devices, I talk about, well, just ‘stuff’. There’s no point to what I want to talk about, there’s no purpose to it, it’s not aimed at getting people to do something or to change their lives in any way at all. It’s just observations, commentaries on the stuff that happens in life.
If I’m totally honest with myself, I like to talk, to communicate with people, with the sole intention of getting to know them and having some laughs. I’m interested in finding out about people and I have the strangest experiences all the time because people will come up to me, completely random strangers, and start to tell me their problems or their life story. I must have this invisible-to-the-naked-eye neon sign flashing over my head that says “I’m here to listen! Tell me your story!” because people do exactly that! All the time!
Like the other day, I was happily walking down Mount Warning… okay, if I'm perfectly honest, I was limping down Mount Warning, fully aware that my calf muscles were going to cramp up and reduce themselves to the size of two walnuts any second, but I was pretty happy - and I came across a lady, sitting on a bench, having a drink of water. “Well, look at you,” she says to me, “all pretty in pink and skinny.” Okay, maybe it wasn’t water in that drink bottle. Besides which, my top was purple. She then proceeds to tell me all about the 120km walk around Northern Ireland that she’s just completed, taking time out during her storytelling to yell at two young female doctors who happened to be walking past, that youth was wasted on the young and expecting them to agree with her. Which they politely (if bemusedly) did. In the space of less than five minutes, I found out what the hike was like, who she’d come on this walk with, where she’d stayed in Ireland, even what the food was like, along with her hopes for continuing to go hiking for many years to come.
Now, this kind of story is what I truly love talking about. Sure, I love talking about mindset and moving beyond our blocks and all that other stuff. I love talking about people’s money stories, partly because it’s such an emotionally-loaded topic (although not nearly as emotionally-loaded as talking about Obama or Trump!). But really, I love just having conversations with people, finding out about them and their lives and laughing about life in general and specific events in particular.
And there really is no point to it! It’s simply a conversation! I want to share my excitement about finding quite possibly the most amazing hand cream in the history of the universe (and god knows, I’ve tried a lot of them, including a large number of home-made creams that came from the fool-proof, never-failed-yet, life-(and-skin)-changing, so-incredible-the-big-skincare-corporations-tried-to-stop-this-recipe-from-being-published ilk. I want to have a conversation. There doesn’t have to be a point to a conversation, other than spending time with someone whose company you enjoy. It’s not brave to have this kind of conversation online, it’s just human, it’s spreading a bit of humanity around the internet.
Oh my god, I sound so sanctimonious. Scratch that last bit, or at least, take it with a pinch of salt, for sure.
Just because something doesn’t have a ‘point’ or a ‘purpose’ in that it isn’t educating people about something doesn’t mean that it’s worthless or that it isn’t actually going to make a difference. It’s taken me a long time to understand that and to not feel the need to justify my presence (though I still fall into that fairly regularly; it’s an old and comfortable habit).
PS The comment about my articles being pointless wasn’t intended as a criticism, by the way, it was an encouragement in the middle of a conversation about what I’ve just been talking about, kind of like pointing out that I’ve already been doing that (and probably trying to ignore that fact, too).
I’ve just spent a fruitless hour or so trying to find a colourful graphic of a woman or a woman’s body for my website.
I love colour, even though I’ve spent most of my life wearing black; I like black, it suits me and it’s really easy to find nice clothes in black, much easier than finding nice clothes in purple, which is a nigh on impossible endeavour, even on the internet. But just because I like colour DOES NOT MEAN that I’m into YOGA and MEDITATION and that I like to RELAX AND CHILL! I do not do “relax and chill”, and I do not do them OUT OF CHOICE! Now there’s a weird thing, right? I’m just not that kind of person. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that, either. I’ve spent years feeling like there was something wrong with me – and being made to feel like there was something wrong with me - because I don’t like to take it easy, because I don’t like yoga (and god knows, I’ve tried to like yoga, I keep on trying to like yoga but I go through the class feeling like I’m wasting my life by being there), because I would rather spend my days flying round like a dervish, getting a years’ worth of stuff done in a few hours. I’ve been told to my face that I’m wrong because I like living like that. I’ve been called an adrenaline junkie, a stress-head, a bored housewife who needs to do something with her life…
…yeah, okay, that last one was true. But the fact is, I ENJOY running round at full speed. It works for ME to go flat out until I drop and then I sleep for several days. It might not work for you, but it works for me. I’m happy doing that. In fact, I’m seriously UNhappy when I try to slow down and smell the roses. And let me assure you, I can smell a rose even when I’m screaming along at 100 miles an hour. And appreciate it, too.
Hang on, hang on, I need to go back several paces here. So, I was looking for a graphic for my website, a colourful picture of a woman that could represent the body & health, and the only ones I could find were pictures of women in yoga poses, doing meditations, with words like “soul” and “divine” on them. Oh, and “yoga”, too. There is nothing wrong with any of that stuff, but it’s just not me. I’m looking for ACTION. In colour. Maybe someone running or doing athletic stuff, in colour. Not peace & love hippy s**t. It’s very nice, but it’s not me. Using a graphic like that for MY website would be total misrepresentation.
So, I’m just putting it out there, if anyone has any suitable graphics of fit, aging, colourful, gothic women that might be suitable, let me know. I’d appreciate it.
PS I forgot the fairies! If it’s not colourful yoga and ‘peace & love’ hippy s**t, it’s fairies.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...