Change is coming – can you help it?

DSC00328
Me with some of my sweet, powerful, approaching mid-life soul sisters

One of the great things about being the youngest of four is that I get to watch everyone else go through life’s milestones first. I can kind of try them on for size and make a mental note of what to do (or not to do) when my time comes.

The latest of these is menopause/perimenopause and, as I have three sisters in their late forties/early fifties, there’s a lot to observe right now.

Menopause used to be a taboo word. I think it still is to some extent. Something to be swept under the carpet or hushed up. No one wants to hear about extreme bleeds and crazy mood swings. No one wants to talk about ‘The Change’. After all, it’s the drying up and dwindling away of women as they cease to be important to the world.

Except that’s NOT what mid life is and that’s NOT what happens to women.

It’s time to change that outdated stereotype and stop letting the patriarchy keep us down! We are actually becoming strong, amazing, no-fucks-given powerhouses and we need to be respected for that.

We need to be telling our stories, sharing our struggles openly.

In the way that mothers have banded together to throw a light on the loneliness and difficulties modern motherhood can bring, I think it’s about time we were doing this for midlife women.

Luckily, someone has beaten me to it and created an amazing play all about it: Mid Life.

Screenshot 2019-11-08 at 16.20.03
The phenomenal cast of Mid Life

 

Mid Life, of which I have seen a 45-minute preview, is exactly the kind of thing we need. I cannot wait to see the whole thing. It was funny, it was sad and it was so well-observed (just wait till you see the suitcases containing the womens’ rage). I saw myself and my friends in these women, but it also made me realise what huge gaps there STILL are in society’s understanding of women and women’s stories. Especially as we age. We are a voice that isn’t being heard – partly because we aren’t being invited to speak.

 

 

Going to see this play is one way to change that. It will be on at The Bristol Old Vic and Barbican in London, but I’m really passionate about helping more women see it. There’s the chance it could go on tour to Brighton, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester and more but it needs financial help to get there.

After raising a considerable amount to put it on at the Bristol Old Vic and Barbican, time is running out to reach their crowdfunding target. They need £2K more in the next 18 days! 

I’d love it if you could help, and donate HERE not only because this topic is important to me (it’s the second post I have done on it recently) but this theatre company is important too.

Diverse City specialises in making theatre accessible. That means, as well as giving everyone (black, gay, disabled, whatever, actors) a chance to act and be involved in productions, every performance is signed and audio described. To someone who is used to picking up the crumbs of accessibility for my son, instead of feasting on it as a main meal, this is huge. This play is no exception. Everyone will be able to access it and hear these women’s voices. What impact could that have for generations to come?

See you at The Old Vic…?

 

 

 

 

Deep in the Mid Life unravelling

My UK readers probably aren’t as familiar with Brené Brown as my US friends. If you don’t know her, go and look her up immediately. (Immediately after reading this post, obviously.)

She’s a shame researcher (that’s one that JiigCal never offered me in school careers lessons…) and, as well as some groundbreaking and amazing writing and TED Talks on shame and vulnerability, Brown writes beautifully on the ‘Midlife Unravelling’ 

Screenshot 2019-11-06 at 15.57.00

It’s a stunning essay which, now I’m 42, speaks to me. I am deep, deep in this.

Continue reading “Deep in the Mid Life unravelling”

STOP doing the laundry

dan-gold-aJN-jjFLyCU-unsplash

 

Mums, I need you to listen to me on this one. I’m telling you, kindly, with your best interests at heart, that you need to stop doing everyone’s washing. At least for a while. 

Let’s face it, you never get on top of it anyway (apart from in those halcyon heatwave days where you can wash and dry, like, five loads a day). I last saw the bottom of my laundry basket in June 2018 (I was out of the country for the crazy 2019 weather). And I have made peace with that.

I used to prioritise the washing and the washing up. In a life where I often feel I have no control and simply blunder around from one bout of chaos to the next, the laundry was something I could control. 

Sorting whites from coloureds from darks from stripes from towels from bedding. Folding little pants and socks and vests and t-shirts. Making nice neat piles of everyone’s clean clothes. It made me feel like I was practical. I was useful. I was contributing to the household now I no longer earned a wage.

These menial tasks took priority and while I had two small children under my feet I was spending lots of time in the house. I wanted it to be neat and ordered.

Before I knew it though, the children grew a little and started school and nursery. I had grand plans to write and maybe earn some of my own money again. But the laundry kept coming. It was getting in my way and alongside cooking and washing up, it was taking up nearly all my child-free time, leaving me anxious and unfulfilled.

That’s when I realised it was a metaphor for my life.

Putting the washing at the top of my to-do list was replicating the way I put myself at the bottom of the pile every day. Leaving my desires to ebb away and turning my into a shell of myself. Who was I? What did I want? What did I like? How could I do or achieve anything when I wasn’t giving myself the chance to meet my needs and stoke my soul fire?

Boundaries needed to be set. With myself, I hasten to add.

I announced I was no longer going to be doing washing, washing-up or cooking on my days off. No one else cared. However, I had to learn to be uncomfortable with a little more mess and chaos. I had to learn to see that my need to be creative and to write and take on projects was worth more than an empty washing basket.

As I write this, there are dirty dishes festering by the sink. If I did them, I would not be able to tap this out. And so, like my last post about not having to do all the things, I need you to stop putting those crumpled t-shirts and stained jeans above what you want and need to do. Set aside some time to do enough laundry that everyone has clean essentials but all the clothes do not need to be clean all the time. (Which will also positively impact the environment, so pat yourself on the back for being more eco).

One more time, in case you’re missing what I am saying. This isn’t just my story.

Your worth is not tied up in how clean your house is.

You do not have to do everyone’s washing, every day, for time immemorial.

It’s OK to want and need things.

It’s OK to go after these things and invite them into your life at the expense of order and cleanliness.

If you put the order and cleanliness first, I can quite confidently say you will never lead a life you are happy with and your dreams will remain exactly that. There will be no time for YOU.

Put the washing basket down and go and walk in the woods or write your blog or listen to music or read a book. That is not wasted time.

If you light yourself up from the inside, you will be the calm among the chaos that you crave.

Mums: It’s OK not to do all the things. We all need an ‘I don’t’ list

I read this post this morning and resonated deeply.

This bit really got me:

How could you possibly be [doing enough]? You’re a woman, living in an age of extreme expectation. Superwoman Syndrome has shaken off its shoulder pads, pulled on its activewear leggings and buddied up with Hustle Culture to provide you a continual feed of All The Ways You Could Be Better.  If you’re a woman with a child, then throw in a dose of Peak Parenting, and the bar for a successful life is now so high the Hubble telescope would squint.’

That’s me, right there. Constantly worrying if I am doing enough and constantly finding myself lacking. I need to give myself a break. So, note to self…. Continue reading “Mums: It’s OK not to do all the things. We all need an ‘I don’t’ list”

‘It gets easier, I promise’

IMG_1933
He smiled, eventually

These words make me cringe. I used to say this phrase all the time, thinking I was helping. But time has taught me it’s not true.

At the time, I didn’t know it was a lie. I made the mistake of thinking that my experience was the norm and that everyone would follow my path. That’s usually the mistake of the privileged, to assume that their experience is the only experience. In this case it wasn’t so much privilege as luck that was responsible for my naivety. Continue reading “‘It gets easier, I promise’”

Seven.

This time seven years ago, I woke up in a London hospital after a couple of hours of fitful sleep, feeling like I had been hit by a bus. In some ways I had.

Sure, the bus was metaphorical, but nonetheless I was sore, bruised and covered in last night’s blood. There was no charge on my phone and I was all alone, feeling dazed and anxious.

p1010645
A few hours old, being cooled to stop further brain damage

I’d had a baby. My first. But he was at a different hospital. For those early hours of Monday 8th October, I couldn’t even be sure he was still alive. The hatred I felt towards the Bounty woman who burst through my cubicle curtains with her shitty newborn pack, calling out her congratulations, was visceral. But I didn’t have it in me to do more than nod and then burst into tears when she left. At that point I had no idea it was the midwives I should be angry at.

Happily, that baby was still alive. We had to take it day by day, minute by minute at times, but he was hanging on. Thanks to several poor decisions by the midwives who were supposed to be keeping him safe, he had suffered a catastrophic brain injury that altered the course of all our lives. Continue reading “Seven.”

Mummy doesn’t need wine

IMG_1368

I’ve spent a good chunk of the past year following my curiosity about ditching drinking.

I am sober curious and I’m not alone.

The past few years has seen a big surge in people choosing not to drink. I’ve noticed it increasingly among women, but that could just be down to my particular social media echo chamber. Some women who I really admire (list at the end) are on this journey too and I am keen to properly commit to joining them on this path.

Like many people who are sober or mindful drinkers, I don’t have a drinking problem.

That’s not to say I haven’t had a questionable relationship with alcohol in the past, I really have. In the days of being young and single, living in London, working on magazines I fully bought into the hard-partying culture.

I’ve been to those places where I think I am a more interesting person after a drink. Or that I need a drink to be funny or courageous or to ease social anxiety. I have felt free, empowered, fun, inspired and grown-up with a glass in my hand and cocktails in my belly.

On the flip side I have had crippling anxiety, low self-esteem, self-loathing and utter despair at my behaviour because I have drunk too much the night before. It’s affected relationships, work, my physical and mental health. Not for long, I might add, but it leaves its mark. Continue reading “Mummy doesn’t need wine”