Cat (sitting outside the window opposite where I'm working): meow (rough translation: please let me in)
Cat edges closer to the window, tries to make self look more appealing: meow (rough translation: I'm still here, waiting patiently to come in)
Cat starts to look irritated: MEOW
Me: … but thinks “Piss off, cat”
Cat gets on hind legs and scratches at window
Me: … (puts fingers in ears and sings loudly)
Cat scratches at the window louder: MEOW (rough translation: are you DEAF?)
Cat stands up on hind legs, scratches and thumps window: MEEEOOOOOWWWWRRRRLLLLL (rough translation: FOR GODS’ SAKE, YOU STUPID HUMAN, LET ME IN!)
Me: (waves to cat through window)
Eventually, sick of the constant whining and noise, I go and let the cat in but only after I’ve kept her waiting a few minutes longer while I smiled and waved at her through the window.
Cat strolls through the door, takes one teensy, tiny mouthful of her food and walks back to the door: Meow? (rough translation: can you let me out, please?)
Two days ago…
“I’ve sent my Aunty J a birthday card,” I said to my dad, “But I realised after I sent the card that I’ve put the wrong age on it: I thought she was 70 but it says on her Facebook profile that she’s 74, so this will be her 75th. I don’t think she’ll mind about getting a 70th card anyway, at least I assumed she was younger than she is, so all good.”
In true Dad style, my father responds with “Oh no, you’re not getting away with that! I’m going to make sure she minds; I’ll stir things with her until she does!”
I’m quite sure my father could hear me rolling my eyes even though he was 12,000 miles away and we were talking via text message.
I sent a message to my dad, asking how the party went. Her younger brother threw the party at his place, and all her siblings & in-laws were there, too, plus kids, nephews, nieces, etc. The usual family gathering (hopefully minus the usual family arguments & fisticuffs)
“Yes, it was great” my reprobate father tells me, “But the only person who got your Aunty J’s age right was one of her sisters-in-law, N, because N knew your Aunty J was a year older than her.”
Wait… so Aunty J wasn’t 75?
“No. Turns out she was 74 this year.”
So why did her brother throw her a 75th birthday party?
“Because he didn’t realise, he got her birthday wrong.”
What I can’t stop laughing about it that N’s husband, my Uncle T, must have known all along that his little brother had my Aunty’s age wrong AND HE NEVER SAID ANYTHING. He let his little brother carry on with the party, getting the balloons, organising everything, cards, presents, the lot, he went along with the whole thing, all the while knowing that it wasn’t my Aunty’s 75th.
And if that’s not bad enough, consider this: my Aunty didn’t say anything, either! She let the whole thing go ahead and didn’t enlighten her brother as to her real age.
What is with my family? I swear to god, we’re all a bunch of nutters and airheads, sprinkled with a good solid dash of behind-the-hand sniggerers!
Happy whatever birthday to my Aunty. I hope you enjoyed your pre-emptive 75th party.
I had to go for a root canal earlier this week. My sixth. The dentist tells me that the two biggest causes of cracked teeth (which lead to people needing a root canal) are kids and horses. Ooh look: four kids and a lifetime of riding horses. My teeth are screwed. And if you're wondering how kids can damage your teeth, then you haven't fed many babies; you're holding the baby post feed, gently trying to bring up whatever air they managed to swallow while drinking their milk and suddenly they decide to launch themselves backwards, straight into the side of your face. Maybe there was just too much air waiting to come out, I dunno, but when a baby launches themselves backwards, you'd better get out of the way or your cheekbone gets broken. As do your teeth.
Now, Louise Hay, that doyenne of New Age wisdom, has something else to say about root canals, that it's all about feeling that your root beliefs are being destroyed and you can't bite into anything anymore. I'll have to have a think about that one a bit more, I mean, middle aged, former stay-at-home parent, built a fortune and lost it, gave up work/business creating... how on earth might my root beliefs be destroyed?
I know, I know... sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but I thoroughly enjoy being sarcastic. Quite a lot of the time.
So, in I go to the dentist, an old hand at this root canal lark, knowing that there'd be maybe an hour's worth of minor discomfort while I was sitting in the chair, sweating, sticking to the faux leather covering because I'd forgotten (again) that wearing shorts isn't the thing to do when you go to the dentist, my mouth wide open, jaw aching, and then it would all be over. Too easy. I know how this goes. But not this time. Oh no, this time things get interesting. This time, the heavy duty anaesthetic decided that it was tired and it was going to take its bat and ball and go home, because it didn’t work.
Okay, let’s have a second injection of the hard stuff in a slightly different place. Nope. I can still feel things. Not as much, but it’s certainly not numb.
Right, hopefully it will be third time lucky…
At this point, I’m thinking back to a post a friend put up a few weeks ago about. She’d also had a visit to the dentist and her anaesthetic didn’t work because apparently she has the MTHFR gene “and we all know what that means”. I’m sorry, my mind went into ‘What? WTF? MTHFR gene? She’s having me on, right?’ And no, I don’t know what having that gene means, what does it mean? I’m not even going to go along the track that my mind was pursuing till I googled it. Yes, there is such a thing as an MTHFR gene and one of the impacts of having it means that anaesthetics don’t work so well on you. Apparently, they didn’t work at all for her but the plentiful Valium that she took prior to going to the dentist did. So, all good. Or at least, as good as it was going to get; she was calmly in excruciating pain.
But obviously, I’m not a MTHFR because the anaesthetic finally worked on me and on we went with the root canal. Till we hit another snag: the nerve in the root was infected (I could have told you that, it was bloody sore) and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Kind of like my nose…
Oh, didn’t I tell you that? In between injections 2 and 3, I asked for a tissue because my nose was running. Only it wasn’t running, it was bleeding. After waiting for five minutes or so for the bleeding to stop, and as my speech got more and more slurred and more and more of my face went numb (all of the right side of my face was numb EXCEPT for the tooth that he wanted to work on!), I just stuck a tissue up my nostril and suggested we just carry on regardless. So, there I am, mouth wide open, having a root canal done with a tissue sticking out of my left nostril for the entire process. Nice. Just how I want to be remembered: “Oh yes, it’s that woman that we have to inject up to the eyeballs to get her teeth numb, Make sure there’s lots of tissues handy because there’ll be blood everywhere.”
And what does the wonderful Louise Hay say about nosebleeds? They’re a cry for attention. No kidding, Einstein. I have no idea at all why I might have been looking for attention at this point.
But, on a good note, Stage 1 of the root canal is done… actually, no, we’re not even at Stage 1: we’re at Stage 0.5. Because of the nerve bleeding, he had to put antibiotics into the tooth and seal it up. I have to wait for four weeks while the tooth heals and then, when it's nice and healthy again, we go back in and kill it. Who’d have thought, eh? You have to make something better BEFORE you take it out. Hmm.
I don’t like being told what to do. Not even by myself. If I commit myself to doing something, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll come up with some (usually exotic, occasionally painful) way to not do it. A couple of weeks ago, I committed to writing 2,000 words a day. God knows why. Why would I commit myself to something when I know that the minute I absolutely confirm, absolutely commit to something, you could put money safely on the fact that it is never, ever going to happen? Based on historical data, a betting house would offer less than even odds on me completing something that I told everyone I was going to do. I have no problem, less than zero trouble, writing 2,000 words a day, in fact 2,000 words would be considered to be an easy day, kind of what I’d do when I was on holiday, so why on earth would I bother COMMITTING myself to writing 2,000 words a day?
This week I’ve lounged around, I’ve shopped, I’ve cleaned, I’ve met with friends, I’ve watched movies, I’ve researched recipes, gone to the gym, I’ve whinged, moaned, bitched, griped, searched my soul, sulked, been bored, slept, meditated, asked my ‘sacred spirit guides’ and invested literally DAYS of my time ‘trying to sort out my Facebook feed’, which I knew all along was a totally pointless exercise.
I don’t know what Facebook think they’re doing with all their algorithms & fancy technology, but what appears on my newsfeed is not at all what I’m interested in. The only reason I go on Facebook now is to see if I can get it to look the way I want it to look. I don’t ever catch up on what anyone’s doing because it doesn’t show me; it only shows videos & photos that people have liked and shared. Not their own videos & photos, some other page’s. I’m not interested. Plus it shows me stuff from maybe 6 or 7 people, and they’re the ones who share the most things, not post their own things but share other people’s photos, quotes & videos.
See what I mean? I’m focused on unimportant stuff and totally avoiding what I need / want / ought to do.
Two days were taken up this week with driving Keeley back to school, followed by several hours another day that were taken up with sending the inevitable parcel to her later on in the week, filled with all the things she’d forgotten to pack. Okay, it was only one thing but time, but it was fairly important: her sports shorts. Once she forgot her blazer. And one memorable time, she forgot her bedding. It was a difficult decision for me: make her sleep under her dressing gown for the term or buy her bedding? Ooh, the temptation. I decided to forgo stretching out my ire across the entire term and satisfied myself by yelling at her… loud enough for the rest of the boarding house to hear.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t embarrass her in front of her friends, it’s not good parenting, I’ve probably given her a defining moment, she may never recover from it, she’s going to make it mean stuff about herself, etc., etc. What can I say? #badparent
She was reminded what to bring, she has lists, she has plenty of time to get ready, she’s done all this before, there was no excuse. I have to fork out the money to buy new bedding, she needs to get responsible and understand there’s going to be a consequence, said consequence in this case being, she’s going to get yelled at in public. And it’s not like it would be a completely unexpected or unpredictable consequence, either; she’s lived with me for all of her 15 years and then some, she knows how life with me goes.
Getting right back to the story… Halfway to Armidale, at one of our scheduled toilet stops (isn’t that one of the joys of life when you travel a lot, especially as you get older and especially with kids? You have to plan your route based on the toilet stops. Not that there’s many toilet stops available on the Armidale run: there’s a 2 and a half hour stretch with no toilets! No coffee before that one!), Keeley decides to get in the back of the car and stretch out across the seat, headphones in, comfortably leaning on her pillow and snuggled up in her blanket ready for the really bendy, twisty, hilly stretch as we head up into the New England high country. I’ve got Robbie Williams blaring away, I’m happily singing (albeit massively out of tune) along, when BANG! Someone crashes into me.
The road is very narrow and winding in that stretch, and very dangerous. It’s cut into the side of a hill and there are big drops off to the side and lots of trees. It was also raining. I saw the car coming towards me as I went round the bed, but she was on her side of the road, so I just put my focus back on to the road. I don’t think she saw the corner at all. I don’t know what she was doing, but like my friend said, if she hadn’t hit me, she might have either hit a tree or gone over the edge or both. When she got out of the car, she said that it was all her fault and, true to her word, she’s told the insurance company that, too. And thank god she’s insured: the quote for repairing my brand new BMW X4? About $25,000.
Talk about a good excuse for not writing: I’m a bit shaken, my neck’s sore, I need to recover, I’d just like a bit of ‘me’ time, I’ll just take it easy for a few days, I’ve got to sort out the repairer, insurer, claim forms, better get a massage, go to the chiro, have a bath…
Let’s face facts: I like drama. My life is filled with drama. Drama and busy-ness. Everyone wholeheartedly believes that I’m SO busy, busier than anyone else could ever be, so much is always happening. I like it like that. For several reasons, not least of which is people tend not to ask me to do stuff because they know I’m always flat, chat busy, and it keeps me occupied. I don’t like being at a loose end, I need Purpose. So, this week, because I hadn’t created my own purpose to avoid writing, I unconsciously gave myself something else to do: a car crash. Then I had lots to talk about and a great excuse for doing things other than write.
Am I being hard on myself here? Judging myself harshly? Yeah, probably not.
I got up this morning, as grumpy as all hell, headache from sleeping in the wrong position, irritated about how my day was looking and generally feeling altogether crap. I’m 55 years old; how do I end up doing things that I don’t want to do? How does that happen? Why does my life not look like I want it to?
I decided last weekend that I’m going to rewrite my book. In case you don’t know, I wrote a book about a year ago, with what is for most people, the most interesting topic they can talk about: themselves. My book is about how we went from having jobs to being property developers, turning over blah blah, etc, etc. When I wrote it, there was a definite context for it: I was teaching personal development/mindset and money mindset and John & I were putting together information to begin teaching property development. There’s a definite gap in that market, let me tell you; all of the so-called property development ‘experts’ teach you how to do small scale projects. We didn’t do that. We didn’t want to spend our time building up slowly, starting small and working our way up to bigger things, we wanted to just step straight into the big stuff and not waste any of our precious time on learning curves or all that garbage. So that’s what we did. After spending a couple of years doing renovations, we thought ‘bugger this for a lark’ and found ourselves an $11 million project. Now that’s a learning curve!
I think it’s a fascinating story but then I’m extremely biased because it happened to me. I also believe fully and completely that because it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. Although I like to think I’m special and unique (my absolute worst fear EVER is that I’m ordinary), I also totally contradict myself because I believe that there’s nothing special about me and if I can do this, so can anyone else. It was all just this big learning curve, we had to keep growing, changing, adapting, letting go of things, not taking “failures” as meaning we couldn’t do it, not taking on other people’s opinions that we were mad, that we’d lose everything, that we’d fail. We just kept going till we got to where we wanted to go. That’s all. There’s no other big secret. But it has been an interesting journey.
The problem is, though, that I’m getting nothing done. NOTHING. I’ve fallen back into my old habits of doing all the things that are a bit of a nuisance, all of those little humdrum things like getting the washing in or paying the bills, even socialising & fitness training, in the mornings in the hope of ‘getting them out of the way and leaving me clear to work for the rest of the day’. I live in this happy little fantasy world where, once I’ve got all of the bits and pieces out of the way, I’m free to create and do all the things I enjoy doing. You’d think that after decades of running my life this way and decades of it never working like that, that I’d learn my lesson, but no; I still find myself organising my life like this by default. I don’t even think about it, it’s just how it ends up.
Contrary to the popular view of tortured artists (and whether I can stake a claim to being a tortured artist or not, how I feel right now is how I imagine a tortured artist would feel, constantly battling the mundanity of everyday life while they strive to bring the beauty of their artistry into the world. Cue a large sigh while I put the back of one hand to my forehead), I’m a morning person. I love the mornings. Mornings are when I get all my stuff done, when I’m the most creative and productive. So, if I’m filling my mornings with all this mundane/non-urgent/non-creative stuff, accurately or not, I end each day feeling like I’ve created nothing. Which is okay once in a while, maybe even one day a week, but it’s not okay when it’s gone on for weeks or months, like it has now. Like an overgrown toddler, I end up resenting everybody and everything. I resent John for taking up my mornings, even though I agreed to the morning training sessions and John delightfully takes me out for breakfast after most of our workouts. Ungrateful brat that I am, I find myself resentfully ordering a very nice breakfast while feeling totally put upon and abused. Then I spend the rest of the morning apologising and being overly nice to John to try to make up for my abysmal behaviour. Which pulls me further away from feeling like I’m doing what I want to do and creating & writing because by this time, I’ve managed, with a fair degree of expertise, to get myself completely out of a creative headspace. By this time, I don’t want to do anything.
I saw a post that a friend had put up this morning about how she was going to go over and play with her son till she realised that actually he was quite happy in his own space and there was nothing for her to do. That’s what I’ve spent months doing: being (and I can’t believe I’m saying this because I swore I’d never do anything like this) a helicopter parent. I’ve got great excuses, the same as all helicopter parents: Keeley’s been off school & at home sick or injured or both for 12 weeks out of the last 16. Since she goes to boarding school 500kms away and we only moved to the Gold Coast last year, she has no friends up here, she’s never been to school here, she has no one she can socialise with. With the full force of parental guilt hitting me right between my eyes, I’ve taken on the responsibility of making sure she’s happy; we moved house, therefore, as her mother, it’s my responsibility to make sure she’s happy and occupied here. The weight of that responsibility has been getting me down, though, and I eventually told Keeley that she needs to find herself some friends, maybe find some local sports teams/summer camps so that she can find a group of friends up here. She doesn’t really see the point as she’s quite happy doing what she’s doing it’s me who’s exhausted with the whole thing, but she said she would try to sort it out as it would be nice to have someone other than her mother to go shopping or down to the beach with.
Unfortunately, I can’t leave it alone. I keep looking at her and, like some obsessive compulsive, thinking, “She’s still in the house. Why is she still in the house? She must be bored. If she gets bored, she’s going to get depressed, she’s also not going to enjoy her time at home. Right, I need to make her do something” Then I find myself saying “Okay, so what are we going to do today? Where are we going to go? What do you want to do? Is there anything we need to buy?”, sounding for all the world like one of those over-attentive friends that no one wants to be around because they’re a real pain in the bum, always trying too hard to be liked. And it starts before the child even gets out of bed in the morning! By 8am, I’m thinking, “right, I need to get things done as quickly as possible because Keeley will be up soon and I’m going to need to make sure she’s happy (!), so I’d better get stuff done now because there’ll be no time later”. Then, I look at the clock and think, “Oh, there’s no time to get into any writing, there’s no point in starting, I’ll just do this piece of nonsense over here and kill some time till she gets up”... and nothing gets done and I finish the day feeling like I’ve achieved nothing that I wanted to achieve and feeling resentful and discontented at the world and his brother because I’ve had to do all these things that I don’t want to do. Again.
Maybe it’s time to stop being a discontented toddler, stop pretending that I’m not allowed to do all of the things I want to do because of the various people/situations in my life and actually organise my life so I do the things I enjoy doing. I wonder if I can manage that? Hmm…
I have these fabulous ideas, they strike me all the time, “Oh my god, I’m so going to do that! That’s brilliant”, I think to myself and off I go. For about a week. Maybe a month. Rarely longer than that. I was skimming through my downloads folder last night, looking for something, when I realised that I have all these quotes already made up into graphics. “Oh my god,” I thought to myself, “I should get some kind of opt-in going where I send people daily quotes to help kickstart their day (does this sound familiar?) or maybe I could put some gadget up on my website so a different one appears as a pop-up or something when people go there. But yesterday? Yesterday was different, because I ALSO said to myself, “Seriously? Are you serious? You HATE doing that kind of thing for more than FIVE MINUTES. You get BORED. You can’t do anything long term. What are you thinking?!” And I’m quite right. On both counts: it is a great idea AND I’d get bored in about five minutes.
I also decided yesterday… hang on, I need to have a bit of an aside here: I’ve been crook for the last few days… another aside: ‘crook’ is an Australian term for ‘sick’ or ‘a bit under the weather’, it has absolutely nothing to do with criminal activities of any kind except for the fact that when ‘crook’, you tend to spend your time sitting in front of the TV doing not very much, which, in itself, is a criminal activity for someone like me who normally can’t sit still for five minutes. Unless I’m sitting at my laptop writing, in which case, I may not move for several hours. It’s not unusual for my legs to feel slightly numb by the time I finally try to get off the chair after finishing an article (all my health & fitness friends – not to mention my trainer – are going to give me full-on lectures about my appalling sedentary habits now). I could say that I’m “focused” or “single-minded” but “lost in my own little world” would probably be the most appropriate description of me when I’m creating.
I’m completely lost now. You see, the problem with being in my own little world is that I quite often get lost in there. There are no paths, and everything looks really bright and shiny and interesting, so over the fence into the next field I vault because the grass is really green there and there’s pretty flowers everywhere and then I find myself… perplexed as to how I got there and where I wanted to go in the first place. Which is exactly what’s happening right now; I have no clue as to what I decided yesterday or why I wanted to let you know that I’ve been crook for a few days. Where on earth was I going? Okay, right, I’ve remembered one thing, let’s start with that…
I also decided yesterday that I’d start putting up the recipes that I’m cooking. Recipes is where I started my original blog about 4 years or so ago; the kids were all leaving home and were calling me for the recipes for the food they wanted to cook. Rather than even attempt to write a cookbook (though they did ask me to), I thought I’d put them all on the internet and then it was easy to add things to and easy for everyone to access. I had the great pleasure of winning a Kitchen Aid Cook Processor (a kind of Thermomix) a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying out all my recipes in that. I found myself writing the intro to the Cook Processor recipe page last night and saying, “I’ll add recipes every day”! Are you MAD? Every day?! It’s so not going to happen. I’ll add recipes as and when I’ve got the time and the inclination because they take AGES to do, and let’s face facts: I’d much rather be writing a story than setting everything out nice and neatly in a recipe. You see, I have all these great ideas, I organise them beautifully, they look incredibly good and easy to read, it’s all logically worked out for the utmost efficiency & effectiveness, and then… I get bored. It’s organised, it’s sorted, it’s done, I’ve got the experience, I can do that now, let’s move on. That’s how my life goes.
What was interesting, though, was the title that I’d put on my blog page, the original blog page, I mean. The title of the blog page was “I wish I was creative…”
Okay, you can stop laughing now.
I’ve never considered to be creative. I’m starting to come to terms with the possibility that I MIGHT be creative now, but I’m still not convinced. If I look round, there are so many truly creative people and I’m not one of them. I don’t wear weird clothes or look like a hippy or behave in a completely bizarre manner or live in some shack in the middle of nowhere.
Errr, I might have to rethink that last bit about not living in a shack in the middle of nowhere. My house in Armidale actually fits that description quite well. It’s not exactly a shack, it COULD be described as a house. By some people. If they were short-sighted and not very picky. It’s not my idea of a house. But it is in the middle of nowhere. And I actually love the place. Not the house; I love the land & the location, I loathe the house. But I have Plans. Plans for a new house… that actually looks remarkably like a shack, now I think about it. Just better finished and with better insulation and way more comfortable than the word “shack” implies.
I’ve always considered “creative” people to be the ones who come up with something new and radical that pushes the frontiers of what’s acceptable, like Picasso or Salvador Dali. Or maybe someone who can do incredibly talented artwork like Michaelangelo or Monet. Or writers like Tolkein who can create entirely new worlds in incredible detail or others like Robert Browning who can describe things in such fabulous ways that the words just naturally jump off the page and form these extraordinarily intense and vivid pictures in your mind. I am not in that category. I’m a bit of a weirdo, for sure, I like to be doing things, I like to try things but I’m not cutting edge creative. I don’t wear horn-rimmed glasses or dress in a peculiar mix of colours & patterns or go around with the back of my hand to my forehead wailing “I just can’t do this tedious life!”. Actually, I totally do that last one sometimes. John usually brings me right back to earth with a swift “Get over yourself” when I head off in that direction.
I do need to create. I create all the time. I might not be cutting edge or radical or any other idea of an actual, real ‘creator’ that I have in my mind, but create I do. I can’t follow a recipe; I have to do my own thing. I can’t write in the way that I was taught at school; I have to do it my way. I can’t follow a dress-making pattern; I have to pick two or three and merge them together. The classic example of that was my wedding dress. Keeley & I were watching ‘Brides of Beverly Hills’ yesterday (that’s how sick I felt) and she asked if I’d gone and done the whole trying on wedding dresses thing and I realised that I hadn’t. I checked out a couple of magazines, found a dressmaker and said, “I want that kind of top, only do xyz to it, I want that skirt and that train (two different dresses) but I want you to…” and ended up with a (what I think is) gorgeous wedding dress. No, definitely not a creator, right?
I read somewhere a few weeks ago, that the things we find easy are the things we discount as being of no value.
John, as the main breadwinner in the house (okay, the ONLY breadwinner), always has the brightest, biggest office space, something that will "call him into being" and make him feel good, something that’s going to allow him to create things in a big way. And he always, invariably, inevitably, ends up hating his office space. It always ends up as the worst room in the house. You see, John has this problem; I’m tempted to say that it’s a male thing, but I actually have no evidence of that other than my husband, so I can’t really. He has to use every available surface to put things on. Every. Available. Surface. And there are never enough surfaces, so he is constantly expanding the available surfaces that he can use and spreading his work out into the adjoining rooms. Right now, his office has three desks and a buffet that he can put things on, plus he’s squashed the books on various shelves back against rear of the unit, so he can (precariously) balance more things on there, too. Unfortunately, his office comes off our formal living area, which contains another buffet and a large, square dining table. Both of which are now covered in his papers. When I question him as to why he can’t just use filing trays or some kind of filing system like most other people do (i.e. me), he assures me that he has to have all of these papers out where he can see them so that he can deal with everything because he’s got so much to do that things will just get lost if he doesn’t have them out on display.
The thing is, no matter how much work he has on, there always seems to be the same amount of paperwork. And he’s always complaining about how much paperwork there is and how snowed under and overwhelmed he feels. I’ve tried pointing out that spreading things out the way that he does is going to make it seem like a lot of work so maybe he should just put it in small piles and not spread it out so much, but he just poo-poos that idea.
A few weeks ago, he decided that he could no longer work with such a small, cr***y (i.e. normal size) desk and he needed a big, sod-off, old-fashioned timber managers desk, a huge thing, that was going to be big enough to hold everything. I spent a couple of hours going through Gumtree and Google trying to find suitably large items, only to be told that they were ALL too small. Fine. I found a full-size snooker table (12’ x 6’) and suggested he use that. You might laugh at that, but I wasn’t actually being facetious. His office in a previous house adjoined the snooker room, which had a full-size table in it and was just the most useful piece of furniture when it came to wrapping Christmas presents! I just shifted all of John’s papers off it and, voila! The perfect gift-wrapping surface. Okay, I had to vacuum the baize afterwards to get all the sparkly bits that had fallen off the wrapping paper off it, but it was so handy. Most of the year though, it was used as a kind of horizontal filing cabinet that was cleared off if we had visitors who might want a game of snooker. So, you see, a snooker table could be ideal. He dismissed that idea though, telling me not to be ‘silly’.
While he’s waiting for a friend to make him a big, sod-off, timber desk, he’s bought himself a 1.8m sit/stand desk, yet another surface to put things on. He’s cleared most of his papers from out of the lounge, but I suspect that was only because he had a meeting in there yesterday, quite possibly because he didn’t have a clear surface for them to sit at in his office.
Sometimes, my personality causes me all sorts of problems. I tend to put up with little things that are a bit irritating but not really enough of a problem for me to put any effort into changing them until one day, some tiny, teensy little thing that I’ve never mentioned before becomes the trigger for the equivalent of a major tectonic plate movement. It’s as though the entire situation/relationship has been built on the San Andreas fault and everyone thinks everything is hunky dory and fine and look at all the great things we’ve built, then one day… everything changes. Which is okay for me, because I’m the San Andreas fault and when I’ve shifted, I feel much better, everything feels in a much better position. Unfortunately, for anyone else involved in that situation/relationship, they’re left with a major disaster to deal with and all the wreckage that comes along with it. Including the occasional tidal wave.
I went out with a guy for about 3 years while I was at Uni. It was love, it was serious, and everyone, including us, thought we’d end up getting married. One night, he came round to the house I was staying at and, having had more than one or two pints, drunkenly banged on about me going out with my friends. It was irritating but we didn’t argue or anything, he was just eye-rollingly exasperating. Unfortunately, even though it was a tiny, miniscule, insignificant drunken incident, it was also the final one and, to everyone’s shock, his most of all, I ended the relationship the following day.
The problem everyone had in dealing with it and in trying to work out what had happened was that there was no big argument. There was nothing anyone could point a finger at and say that was the problem. There’d been no inclination to anyone, including my ex, that anything was wrong. Nothing major had happened, nothing earth-shatteringly horrible had happened and there was nothing that I could actually point my own finger at and say “It’s because of this”. What there was were just lots and lots of really, really tiny things that I’d tolerated because they were only minor and not really anything to worry about or put any effort into; they were just slightly ‘off’.
How do I explain that to someone? It’s not reasonable or understandable behaviour when you’re on the receiving end of it, there’s no one big thing that anyone can point a finger at and say “THAT was the trouble. THAT’S what she didn’t like. THAT’S what didn’t work. I understand now”, there’s just lots of little things that don’t really mean much, and I never flagged as a problem because they weren’t really a problem. Well, they kind of were but I couldn’t articulate what was bothering me, just that something was, and if I did try to say something, because I couldn’t explain it, it just didn’t feel quite right, it just felt ‘off’, everyone (including me) would dismiss it as unimportant.
What ends up happening is that over time, I put up with all these minor little irritations, all of these little things that I don’t quite like but aren’t big enough to do anything about, partly because I can’t put my finger on what’s really bothering me or explain what it is, and I tolerate it all until one day, the San Andreas decides to re-align herself, leaving a massive clean-up zone behind her. And, like a tectonic plate movement, once it’s moved, it’s moved. It’s permanent. There’s nothing anyone can do about it and I leave people to wander through the shattered streets, trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of what just happened.
That’s very dramatic imagery; I’m quite proud of that.
In the case of my ex-boyfriend, it was a real, genuine shock for him and everyone else around us. No one understood what the hell had just happened. No one understood why or how it had happened, including me, I might add. There’s no warning, even for me, just a slow, inexorable build up that either ends in a big argument or complete shut down. The argument is better: at least there’s some logical, reasonable explanation for what just happened. My ex was about to do his final exams at Uni and he was a mess. No one was happy about what I’d done. His mum and my landlady had numerous conversations about everything (how does that happen? Really?) and the two of them spent weeks trying to persuade me to go back out with him just till he finished his final exams. There was no doing on that one and my landlady was not happy with me. She’d thought I was a lovely person until now, she said.
It goes back to this whole understanding business: no one could understand why the relationship was over. Why had I just ended it like that? Why hadn’t I said something sooner? Why was I so final in my decision that it was over? What could my ex do to make things better? How could he do things differently? How long had this been building for? Why hadn’t I done something about it? Didn’t he deserve an explanation? Didn’t EVERYONE deserve an explanation? Why don’t I just get over this and get back to the way things were?
I don’t know the answer to any of those things. Even now, thirty years later, I have no clue as to what it was that I changed everything for me. There was no one big thing. There were no two or three big things that I didn’t like. There is no reasonable or logical explanation, no understanding, and it leaves everyone involved in a horrible situation. I think that what happens is that I find myself moving further and further away from my own values and tolerating things that are just not quite ‘right’ because they’re just little, they’re insignificant and not worth worrying about, they’re certainly nothing I’d put an effort into stopping: they’re not a big enough problem. Invariably though, I find myself a long way from where I want to be, and I step back into MY line, the San Andreas shifts. From the outside, I look like I’m being totally unreasonable. I mean, everything was going okay, we had a great time, things looked as though they’re good, everyone thought we were going to get married, I’ll let things continue for so long that everyone (including me because I’m totally in denial while all this is going on) thinks I’m okay with things the way they are, that I’m okay with how things are going and what’s happening, and there’s nothing for me to point a finger at and say “THAT’S what I don’t like”.
My ex, you’ll be glad to know, met the love of his life after we split up; he’s still happily married to her and they have three children. And yes, we’re friends again now, and yes, I still feel guilty about ending the relationship the way that I did and causing the pain that I did. I still sometimes do the same thing even today: keep going, keep tolerating, keep giving no one any clue as to what’s about to happen, keep leaving a trail of disaster in my wake. It doesn’t happen very often, less than a handful of times in my life, but I’m beginning to notice the warning signs, which I suspect will be a massive relief for everyone around me. One such thing happened just recently in a business that I got involved in. I’d met the woman who runs the business at a workshop before she started the business. She was having a massive run of bad luck, there was a lot going on in her life and she was not in a good space. Being me, I tried to be kind to her, support her, cheer her on, and I tried to ignore that niggly little feeling that I need to stay the hell away from her. “She’s a lovely person”, I’d say to people, and she is. That doesn’t mean that I should establish a relationship with her or that her values align with mine. Because they don’t. I’m learning to catch myself so the people around me don’t experience the relationship equivalent of the San Andreas fault having a shoulder shrug. Occasionally, though, I get it wrong and I let things go too far. Apologies to everyone involved if you’ve been on the receiving end of that: I won’t be able to explain to anyone’s satisfaction why it happened or what went wrong or why I cut things off so suddenly and completely.
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...