Like most mothers, I turn into Xena Warrior Princess if anyone so much as thinks about hurting my children; a fully-grown bear would hesitate to take me on when I’m in rabid-mother-defending-my-children mode. Unless…
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A couple of months ago, an old friend, Jane, got in touch with me completely out of the blue. In one of the bizarre twist s that life likes to put on us, we discovered that we were both going through pretty much exactly the same things in our lives. The similarities were really quite spooky. We thought that it would be a great idea to set up a daily call to each other so we could share what was happening for us that day and to keep ourselves on track because one of the things we both noticed about ourselves was that we have all these great ideas, all these good intentions… and we never carry them out. Actually, that’s not true, sometimes I carry out the ideas, but most of the time, they fall by the wayside and life goes on in the same old way that it always has and before I know it, bang! There’s another year gone by and I still haven’t started that project that was such a fantastic idea.
As I was moseying through Pinterest today, I came across a post titled “30 Day Challenge – Day 3 – A Picture Of My animals”
I assumed that it was a photography challenge (I think I’ve been tagged in a fair few of those and not realised because 1) I don’t read Facebook notifications and 2) I don’t pick up my Messenger messages very often, either), but it wasn’t. It was actually a blog challenge.
Now, as you’re probably aware, I don’t really need a challenge to make me start writing, but I really liked the sound of this one, so I’m going to do it. 30 days, each day a different topic, with the intention of letting the real me out into the world. Or at least, letting the real me loose on those poor unsuspecting… sorry, awesome people who read this blog!
I was sitting in a gorgeously green & lush garden café in Byron Bay with my beautiful bestie who was happily tucking into her second glass of Prosecco (I was on another kind of fizzy – water- as I had 5 more hours of driving to do that day) when she said something that jolted me like a cattle prod. “It is so good to owe nothing to no one. To be able to do whatever you like and not have to worry about any debts or upcoming bills or anything like that.” She sighed happily and ordered another glass of wine, while I buried my face in my water, hoping to all hell that she hadn’t picked up on the “oof” that came out of my mouth when her words hit me in the solar plexus or seen the flash of envy that turned my eyes bright green for a second.
I can hand on heart say that this was a defining moment for me. This was the moment when I said
The universe recently presented me with a very interesting moral dilemma. A big one. It’s really, really fascinating to see what went through my head.
And, by the way, my kids are going to be mortified when they read this, but that happens sometimes in life, doesn’t it?
I don’t want to name anyone or point to anyone here, so I’m going to name the child that I was having the conversation with as W (a letter with is not related in any way to any of my children) (and it isn’t X, it’s way cooler).
I heard the ping of a new text from one of the kids; I glanced at the message on my phone, but decided to answer it on my iPad because it’s easier to type. Only I couldn’t follow the conversation on there because it went like this:
Child W: [the message that I’d glanced at on my phone about our recent phone call]… followed by a string of other messages that didn’t make any sense and which I didn’t remember sending:
I’m avoiding things. I’m not procrastinating, of course not. I’m simply avoiding. I’m doing things that are easier, things that I don’t have to think about, things that involve automatic doing, not things that require me to switch my brain on. Actually, it’s less about switching my brain on, because it’s definitely on, as evidenced by the fact that I‘ve hardly slept in a week and I’m waking up at 5.30am with thoughts zinging through my head. My brain is on and the command console is ablaze with lights, it’s just that it’s switched to the wrong mode. I’m in doing mode, also known as Busy mode, Preoccupied mode, Flat-Chat mode, Can’t-Sit-Still-For-A-Minute mode, Running-On-Adrenaline mode and Pusher mode, depending on who’s doing the describing. But, whatever the title of the mode, it’s a mode that doesn’t allow creation. Not creation from scratch, anyway. Things like writing, playing piano, painting, anything arty at all, are all a big no-no when I’m in this mode. And it’s so difficult to switch off.
We put up a video on our YouTube channel – Stop Being So Poor - last week about John’s recent rock climbing experience (you can check out the video here) and I wanted to tell the story in a little more detail. Actually, let me rephrase that: I want to put the story into my words.
Back in the eighties John was a pretty hot shot rock climber who spent every weekend and most evenings of his youth, down at the local quarry, Pex Hill, honing his skills so he could venture out into the rock-filled world of the Lakes District, Snowdonia, South Wales and then further afield into France (in particular Buoux). This is a man who, when we started seeing each other, would do one finger pull-ups on the architrave over the door every time he went through it. Given half an opportunity, he’d “traverse” the lounge using the Victorian dado rail as his finger hold. There was no foot hold. Heaven knows how it didn’t fall off! He climbed with the glitterati of the British rock climbing world of the time: Joe Healey, Gerry Peel, Tony Mitchell and Phil Davidson. John stopped climbing in the 90’s. But I know he misses it and I’d love to see him get back into it. John, however, felt that he was too old now to do something like that.
“I need help!” I said to my brother, “I’ve got these programs sitting there, ready to go and I feel bad because they’re just going to waste. You’re good at selling, and I hate selling, so can you give me a hand?”
I had a kind of vague , wishy-washy, airy-fairy idea that Alan (former radio presenter, master salesman, sports commentator and general all-round gasbag who could talk himself onto a mars-bound spaceship) would maybe do all the talking for me and somehow sell my programs. Honestly, I really had no idea what it would look like at all.
And I certainly didn’t expect what I ended up with: several hours of me and my brother laughing and poking fun at ourselves, each other and the world in general.
As I write that title, I’m beginning to wonder something: our bodies reflect our minds (so the new age, mindset kind of books say), in which case, is what’s going on with my body a reflection of what’s going on with my mind? Am I mentally becoming an intolerant old bag and that’s why my body is becoming intolerant and baggy? The body is a reflection of the mind? It’s an interesting and not very appealing thought.
I’ve been a bit quiet for the last few weeks, at least as far as blogging goes, and that’s because I’ve had to spend my time learning how to cook! At my age! Like I haven’t been cooking for forty-odd years! It’s been a bizarre and overwhelming experience. I’m used to just being able to open the cupboard & fridge and make some kind of dish out of it. I rarely do a shopping list anymore, I don’t need to. But now? Now, I have no clue what I can or can’t cook, how to cook it or anything.
Weekend? What weekend? Oh, you mean the last two days? The ones that normal people, with normal Monday to Friday jobs spend doing things like the weekly shopping, mowing the lawn, washing the car and getting drunk? THAT weekend? Oh, I spent those days doing stuff for the accountant, you know, updating spreadsheets, downloading data from the bank, checking and cross-checking everything, filling in gaps, making sure everything balances and adds up, that kind of thing. And I really don’t enjoy doing it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the things in life that I truly loathe doing. I get a small satisfaction from seeing everything add up and reflect what’s on the bank statement, but that’s just the OCD side of me getting a hit of Dopamine and going on a restrained little gambol of joy around the living room. I spent my weekend doing the accounts so that I could have this week free and clear, happy in the knowledge that all of the detested bookkeeping work is completed for another year. Now THAT is cause for celebration. I felt so good when I finally not only sent off last year’s info to the accountant but I also updated the current year’s info to match how he’d suggested I do it. I am on top of my game! Watch me and turn green with envy. I am where everyone wants to be, I have it handled, it’s all done, sorted, completed and put away. I am Organised, the Queen of the Annual Accounts. I went to bed last night feeling incredibly smug and proud of my achievement.
Ryan sent me a video to watch the other day by a guy called Simon Sinek, who’s talking about how Millennials are struggling with forming relationships, having rewarding careers and life in general. I shared the video (and I’ve put the link at the bottom of this post or you can click on the picture on the left) with the intention of putting up this post to go with it. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked. Several days later, I’m picking up where I left off. Well, kind of. I also had several conversations about the video with Ryan and my Uncle and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to get their views on the video, too: three generations of commentary.
At the start of the video, I was intrigued; Simon makes several great points. But I don’t agree with his ultimate point at all, because he’s saying that Millennials are the way they are and it’s not their fault, poor them; they’re victims of poor parenting and the narcissism of today’s technological lifestyle.
I went to the laundry twice on holiday. Hoping to forestall at least some of the post-holiday pile of washing. But no matter how hard I try, no matter what hopeful strategies I put in place, a few hours after we’ve arrived back home, my laundry looks like a volcano that’s spewing smelly, slightly damp, filthy clothes, whose aroma indicates that new life is beginning to burgeon within its mass.
I met a lovely young woman on holiday recently, who proudly announced to me that she does an average of five loads of washing a week. FIVE! Most of her friends have two loads of washing a week maximum, but she has five. I think she mistook my stunned silence for admiration at the amount of washing she produces, and I was definitely admiring, but not in the way she thought, just in a more wistful, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful kind of way. Five loads of washing A WEEK! It’s unimaginable. Three days of hard work and approximately 18 loads of washing later, I got to the bottom of this weeks’ pongy post-holiday volcano.
One of the wonderful things about living in Perth is the Fremantle Doctor. Every afternoon… actually, I’ll rephrase that, MOST afternoons he comes to visit the sweltering suburbs, bringing relief in the form of what the Sand Gropers (Western Australians) call “a light breeze”. It quickly became blatantly obvious that my idea of a “light breeze” is completely different to that of a Western Australians’. Personally, I’d describe the Fremantle Doctor as anything from a brisk wind to a howling gale, but it’s just an opinion.
Since we lived on the escarpment overlooking Perth, we received the full benefit of the doctor almost every afternoon. The only days the doctor doesn’t do his rounds are during a week in February when, like every other doctor in Australia, he decided to leave his patients to their own devices and go on holiday. Unlike most other doctors in Australia, though, the Fremantle doctor only takes a weeks’ holiday. Most specialists seem to leave their patients for six weeks.
Unfortunately, the Fremantle Doctor’s holidays coincide with the hottest summer temperatures and I can only conclude that the incessant 45 degree daily highs finally get the better of him and (heat) exhaustion force him to take a short break, leaving the rest of us to sizzle and suffer in the scorching heat.
It’s Christmas, the time of year when all my angst and anxieties about money are dusted off, dragged into the spotlight, dressed up in tinsel and baubles, and sprinkled with glitter. I buy too many presents for too many people who don’t really matter to me, there’s always those little (or not so little) things I get for our loved ones even when I’ve already bought all the presents that I planned for them, I buy in enough food and drink to end a small famine and we all spend the next week (or two) eating leftovers. As time goes on and the preparations for the Big Day get more frantic, I grow more anxious and stressed, and there’s this underlying feeling of overwhelming guilt and fear lurking just beneath the surface of my seasonal cheer, that I desperately try to pretend isn’t happening.
I’m very lucky in one way because I don’t have to do the whole invite-people-round-that-you-don’t-get-on-with-but-you-have-to-because-it’s-Christmas thing. We live in Australia, a long way from most of our family members, and people tend to stay with their families or go away for the holidays over here. I am heartily glad that I don’t have to invite people round that I wouldn’t normally see, just because it’s Christmas.
Just over a year ago, I decided to write a book about how we went from having ordinary jobs to being property developers and turning over a hefty amount of money annually. I wanted to explain to people, maybe “tell” people is a better expression, what we did to make the necessary changes in the way we think that allowed us to make that transition.
Before we started doing all this wealth creation stuff, we thought it was all just about making money, having a business, lots of employees, sell stuff and somehow the money will come. It isn’t about that at all. It was very hard to believe for a long time, but it’s actually about the thoughts we have about money that make the difference. That sounded really bizarre and we felt like we were being totally led astray and up some fairy garden path for a while, but enough books & people said the same thing that we began to pay attention and eventually give the whole “money mindset” thing a try.
I lie in bed, in that wonderfully comfortable world between sleeping and waking, the world where I seem to have access to ideas and knowledge that I don’t have access to once I get out of bed and start doing things. I love my time in that world and I dedicate at least 20 minutes each morning to exploring that world and finding out answers to questions and conundrums that I have, it’s like all the answers that I need are right there, waiting for me to access them.
Except the answers to one thing. One thing is eternally elusive in my omniscient morning world. One topic never appears in there, the answers just don’t come, no matter how hard I try. Actually, getting the answers is very much NOT about trying, it’s about letting go and ALLOWING, if that makes sense. A couple of days ago, I woke in the middle of the night with the solution to a dress-making problem that had been bugging me, bugging me to the point of redoing the bloody thing three times. All that stitch unpicking… [groans and cradles head in hands]…
It might be the season of planetary misalignment also known as Christmas, but, swear to god, I’m inundated with sagas of passionate people whose fervent desire to help the planet, protect the flora and fauna, and support numerous altruistic results in bullying. I’m not going to mince my words here, because I’m sick to the back teeth of how we all tolerate this behaviour because ‘they’ve got a good point’ or ‘they’re only trying to help’ or ‘that’s what they believe and they’re obviously passionate about it’.
I don’t speak up on this kind of thing for various reasons… actually, no, let me clarify that: I haven’t spoken up about this before because I do my best to be kind and compassionate to others and, besides which, who am I to tell someone that their belief isn’t right for me? Or maybe I believe that what they’re saying is completely wrong? It’s none of my business what anyone believes, everyone is entitled to believe what they like and no one else can tell them that they’re right or wrong. THAT is my belief: no one can criticise or judge anyone else’s beliefs because no one can fully understand someone else, they don’t have their experiences or personality, so just shut up and leave them alone. Consequently, I get pretty damned upset when someone forces their beliefs on me.
I have my money stories like everyone else. I hug them to my chest and hold them close, treasuring them and trying to protect them from prying eyes. Sometimes, I fail miserably, and my precious stories get hauled unceremoniously out of their safe, cosy hiding place, after which a dazzling spotlight is shone on them for all the world to point at and analyse.
Today is one of those days. There’s a certain point where my money stories and John’s money stories meet. It’s a dark and seething maelstrom of twisted beliefs and painful, partly-formed ‘facts’.
For anyone who hasn’t been on the internet or seen the TV for the last week, it was the Melbourne Cup last Tuesday and social media is full of horror stories about the Cup & horse racing in general. Fortunately, the onslaught of annoying posts is starting to die down now.
Here’s the thing, right: this is not an article about the pros and cons of horse racing. This is not an article about animal rights, cruelty, veganism or anything else like that.
What this is about is whether what you’re posting is in alignment with your personal values and giving other people the freedom to live by their own personal values.
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…
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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...
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