Saturday, July 2, 2011

And that's all, folks...

I can't believe that it's been over two months since I last posted on this blog - but then I also can't believe that we're halfway through the year already (July? Seriously? This is getting ridiculous)! And the driving force behind this perpetual state of partial belief is the reason I have decided, somewhat reluctantly, that this will be my last posting. The problem is, you see, that I seem to have very little spare time. And, somewhat incongruously, what I do have seems to be spent collapsed semi-comatose on the couch wondering where the rest has gone.

The ironic thing is that I expected my fifties (unimaginable as they seemed) to be relatively laid-back, being perhaps semi-retired, indulging in a range of hobbies that hitherto had been sidelined or unexplored. Golf maybe, or lawn bowls, some macrame, finishing the Jungle Book mural I started in the toilet (the room, not the actual bowl) ten years ago, joining the Richard III Society. Self-indulgent things like that. Instead I am busier than I have ever been in my entire life, just like most in this age range. In fact I am beginning to suspect that middle age represents the peak of busy-ness, a circumstance that causes time to implode around it, sucking you into a spinning vortex for about a couple of decades, before spitting you out (hopefully). Which is probably why elderly people sometimes look a little dazed, and aren't quite steady on their feet.

So I am streamlining my life. Dropping one day of teaching, buying a laptop, handing eviction notices to my offspring (which they promptly hand back, giggling merrily at my quirky middle-aged humour), buying a slow cooker, prioritising writing time (and making it sacrosanct), de-cluttering the house, tying up loose ends that are flapping in the wind. And saying goodbye to this blog. Because it's done the job it was meant to, really, and only owed its continued existence to the fact I enjoyed it. And that's not enough, not right now anyway.

So where is the book? Well, the first draft of The Invisible Woman, and other remarkable phenomena of middle-age was finished a few months ago and has been sent to a second lot of readers. The issue, it seems, is the tone - I want light and airy with undercurrents of punchiness, while the publishers envisaged a more serious, exploratory treatise. So we shall probably spend some more time discussing/negotiating/compromising, and then surge forward. But it is most definitely still a fluid construction, so if something suddenly occurs to you that might be relevant, please do keep sending them to me. And a huge thank-you for all the contributions that have arrived thus far, either via the survey or the blog or dribbling into my inbox a couple at a time. All wonderful, all informative, all very much appreciated.

I've had a terrific time blogging over the past year. So much so that I shall definitely repeat the experience when I have more time, and this new one will be wholly self-indulgent. Rants and raves and whimsical musings. I can't wait. In the meantime I shall try to make the most of the implosion around me. Balancing and juggling and prioritising and trying to find a little spare time. So that every now and again I can collapse on the couch, semi-comatose, and wonder where it's all going so fast. Middle-age in a nutshell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Come fly with me...

After twenty-eight years, six months, and twenty-five days of motherhood, I have just made the most amazing discovery about flying with offspring. It's so simple that I cannot believe it hasn't occured to me before, and being a generous type I shall now share it for free. Take separate flights. That's right, put them on one flight and you take another and then just meet up at the destination. Now I do realise this methodology may be complicated somewhat if your particicular offspring are infants so perhaps you should just concentrate on getting them ready at that stage. Like spend a few hours in the airplane loo (take a good book or partner - your choice), or find a spare seat further away and then exchange looks of irritated camaraderie with fellow passengers about the screaming child up the front.

In my case this separate flights thing came about quite by accident. When my Kokoka trip was cancelled (grrr...), I ended up with a Qantas voucher. So, when planning our Singapore holiday, I originally went to book the three offspring with the same carrier but Jetstar was sigificantly cheaper so went with them instead. The end result being that the three of them departed for the airport at 7.30 this morning (a brief hiccup occuring when they all forgot the car-keys), and I am now sitting here, in my pyjamas, typing this blog entry in absolute peace and quiet. Enjoying the best start to a holiday EVER.

I have tidied and vacummed the house (so that we return to some level of cleaniness), packed my suitcase, fed the pets, removed assorted items of crockery from various bedrooms, had a bubble bath (and cleaned the shower screen), made myself coffee and poached eggs on avocado and rye (yum!), consoled the dog who watched me pack and is now sulking, made a casserole for when we get back (anticipating feeling a little fed up with take away), watered the plants, read the newspaper, consoled the dog again - and it's only just after 9.00am. And the best is yet to come.

First a leisurely drive into the airport, without anyone begging me to stop at McDonalds, or turn the music up, or intervene in an argument, or... whatever. Then, after checking-in, I shall stroll through the duty free shops without being dragged off to look at advances in technology and/or clothing stores that vibrate with hip-hop music and pubescent sales staff. Finally I shall board my plane, where I won't have to stow anyone else's luggage, or trade the window seat, or pass out chewing gum. No, I shall make myself comfortable, get out my lap-top and write and/or read all the way from Melbourne to Singapore. I don't mind making a little polite conversation with my neighbours but that's it. Even if Ralph Fiennes offers membership to the four-mile high club I'm not interested (far too much effort). I shall only pause to consume meals (that I won't have to prepare) and champagne and hot chocolate. Hours upon hours of just me. Bliss.

And then, when I get to Singapore, I'm thinking I might just fly back again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Super-power number three!

Super-power number three (central heating)

Confused? Let me explain. Last September, after being nursed along for a few years, my old lounge-room gas-heater exploded in a most dramatic fashion. One moment it was humming along as per normal and then next it emitted a sound reminiscent of a flatulent elephant (or what I would imagine a flatulent elephant to sound like if I had the spare time and/or inclination to imagine such things), and orange flames spat out from the bars before settling down to a vicious glow from which curls of acrid smoke wisped up toward the ceiling. I have rarely seen my offspring move so fast, which makes me suspect that in case of a localised emergency - fire, flood, nuclear disaster - it will be each to their own.

The upshot of this was that we were heater-less for the beginning of spring, which can be quite chilly, especially in the evening. That ridiculous snugglie blanket-thing suddenly became a coveted piece of clothing, while dressing-gowns were in high demand and a black market began with the long-ignored water-bottles. In short everyone was freezing - except me. Where they all tottered around like michelin men with their layers of clothing, I made do with tracksuit and t-shirt, and where they huddled around the one borrowed column heater, I disdained it in favour of fresh air and cheery optimism. Because I had central heating. And if I did feel chilly at any time, all I had to do was wait a few moments and voila! Warm once more.

Yes, menopause could not have started at a better time. Hot flushes were my friend, not my enemy, giving me a freedom that had everyone viewing me as some sort of stoic superwoman. The hot flushes even eased off as summer warmed up, lulling me into a false sense of security for quite a while. But I may have done a silly thing - you see, last month I had ducted heating installed (incidentally when they removed the old heater we discovered it was original, in other words it was well over 50 years old. That's what I call value), which I suspect may have angered the menopause gods. The result has been a full-on rush of hot flushes accompanied by whingey offspring who keep nagging to have the new heating turned up. But I blame myself for this predicament; clearly I looked the gift-horse directly in the oral region and this is the result.

Nevertheless I am determined to remain positive and, as such, I shall continue to view hot flushes as a super-power. If it wasn't for the whole fitness thing, I could probably scale Mt Everest dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Hypothermia? Fiddlesticks. In terms of energy, I reckon one middle-aged woman is probably equal to three solar panels (let alone wind power) and, should the electricity fail for any reason (which seems to be a regular occurrence), I shall be ideally placed to maintain both my internal and external body temperature. In fact, with the way things are at the moment, I could hire out my forehead as a heating conduit. A super-power, in the true sense of the word.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Super-power number two!

Continuing with my positive thinking/super-powers theme, here is the second in the series. With several more to come! By the way, did you know that the world's strongest vagina belongs to a woman in her mid-forties who can apparently lift 14 (14!!!) kilograms with the muscles of her nether regions? Which is your cue to (1) flinch, (2) flex your pelvic floor, and (3) wonder how on earth they tested this.

Super-power number two (eyes in the back of our heads)

Enhanced by (but certainly not limited to) motherhood, by the time we hit midlife this particular super-power is honed into a quivering antenna. It might seem like witchery, and most probably had more than one medieval middle-aged woman burned at the stake, but is of course really just a melange of logic, observation and intuition all coated wth a health dose of experience. Been there, done that. Ho, hum. The upside is that we can render small children open-mouthed and teenagers narrow-eyed at our uncanny awareness of what's happening behind our backs. And we can have so much fun! Sure it's at their expense but you've got to take what you can, where you can. "How does she do that?" they mutter to themselves as they cast wary glances in our direction, not able to see our smug grin.

The downside, however, is that this super-power, once developed, cannot be switched off. Sometimes even rousing us at night so that we suddenly find ourselves staring at the ceiling with the sure knowledge that something, somewhere, is wrong. Ah, well, if there's one thing I've learnt from all those comic books it's that with great power comes great responsibility. Just look at Superman.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super-power number one!

It occurs to me that I spend an awful lot of time on this blog whingeing about the more negative aspects of middle-age, like weight and fitness and wrinkles and chin hairs and... damn, there I go again. But there's also masses of great things about middle-age as well, it's just they don't tend to piss me off in the same way the other stuff does. It's like that old adage, if you get good service from a shop, you tend to tell an average of two, maybe three people, while bad service will have you spreading the word to at least seven. So, in the interests of balance, and operating under a new ethos of positivity, I've decided to spend some time discussing not just the good things that come with age, but the super-powers. That's right, super-powers - plural. One per week, starting with the grey that matters.

Super-power number one (the middle-aged brain)

The middle-aged brain is a thing of awe, with inductive reasoning, logic, spatial orientation, vocabulary and verbal memory all peaking in middle-age and, for women, the latter two continuing to climb into our sixties (1). It seems that older brains have developed 'cognitive templates', which are better able to predict and navigate life, meaning that the middle-aged brain beats both younger and older brains in such things as managing personal economics, judging true character, and social expertise (no surprises there). In addition the older brain may take a little longer to assimilate new information but when it does, it doesn't just race ahead but manages to take in the bigger picture at the same time (2). That's us, always multi-tasking.

Interestingly, the ready willingness of the middle-aged to blame the temporary loss of car-keys or whatever on a 'senior moment' may be based more on propaganda than fact (3) After all everyone mislays items, all the time, yet you would never find a teenager, for example, blaming their age (instead the typical reaction would be "shit, who the hell took my car-keys? Mum! I can't find my car-keys! Mu-um!"). Besides, when you examine just how much you accomplish over the course of a day it quickly becomes clear that rather than having a 'senior moment', you're having a 'too much on my mind' moment. Which should serve as a sign that you need to sit down, put your feet up and have a glass of champagne. Then you won't need the keys because you can't drive anyway.

Oh, and the catch to this particular super-power is 'use it or lose it', which means that every flick through a trashy magazine, or 1/2 hour spent watching a soapie, (or five minutes with Two and a Half Men), has to be balanced with a crossword, or a suduko, or a viewing of The Lakehouse.

1. Willis et al. (2006). Long-term effects of cognitive training n everyday functional outcomes in older adults.
2. Strauch, B. (2010). Secrets of the grown-up brain. Black Inc. Melbourne.
3. ibid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

In a sense I think we were a little disaster-weary a fortnight ago, having had a summer of fires and floods and earthquakes. A trifle desensitised to the tragedies unfolding beneath the lurid headlines and dramatic reporters. A little numb, albiet wary, and not quite as generous with our concern. And then along came Japan, and a massive earthquake that was itself, imagery-wise, quickly subsumed by the tsunami that followed. Rolling waves of dark water gathering trucks and cars and houses and airplanes like flotsam, pockets of determined fire tossed within the tide, the disembodied, shell-shocked voices of those filming the events, the occasional scream turned gasp turned stunned, disbelieving silence. A reporter, the following day, kept using the word apocalyptic, over and over, as if the English language was limited in the face of such devastation. And perhaps it is.

A modern, thriving, civilized, financially-sound, technologically-advanced country brought to its knees within minutes. Only to find the nightmare broaden to encompass a third disaster, this one with a potential fallout that is mind-numbing in itself. Nuclear - the word jerks as it is spoken, with the first syllable setting the tone for what follows. And we think Chernobyl, reflected across the sad-eyed faces of posthumous children, or Three Mile Island or any of a bevy of armageddon-type movies, with or without Will Smith saving the day. And we shiver, a little, as we should. Time has yet to tell what effect this unfolding disaster will have on the nuclear industry but one can only hope that we live and learn.

In amongst this horrible awfulness, however, for me, was a realisation of something positive. Something that gives me a glimmer of hope while we, as a world, continue blundering blindly forward like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Something that reflects the seismic shift that has taken place in our global consciousness over the past sixty years. Something that drove the immediate and heartfelt outpouring of sympathy and support and compassion from nations across the globe, from Australia to Canada, America to England, Israel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, Iceland, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iceland, Morocco, Mongolia and many, many more. 117 countries to be exact. Including New Zealand, themselves still reeling. And if we can step up to the plate as responsible, compassionate, mature global citizens when the chips are down, then there's no reason we can't do the same when they're not. There's strength in solidarity. And that's the way forward.

Thinking of you, Japan, and sending my very best wishes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy International Women's Day!

Wishing a happy International Women's Day to you all! This is a day to celebrate how far we, as women, have come, while still taking a moment to reflect on how far we've got to go. And for those who think 'psshaw (a sound which, incidentally, I consider shamefully under-used), we first-world females are doing just fine and dandy' (or words to that effect). I include the following three ads as a mini-montage of the past fifty years. And it may - or may not - surprise you to learn that the third one (designed to sell men's suits [?]), was released only in 2008. So unfortunately it's not yet time to rest on our (ever-expanding, in my case) laurels, but nevertheless a day when we should raise a glass, or a mug, and give ourselves a toast. We deserve it. Cheers!