Tag Archives: future

midlife crisis

Northumbrian sunrise

I’m probably overstating things with the title of this post, but I’m approaching a big birthday and it’s bringing with it some big thoughts. Forty *gulp* – it feels significant, and sensible. Irresolutely grownup.

And I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.

I remember my dad turning forty when I was a child. In celebration, I bought him a plastic walking stick filled with smarties. I thought it was hilarious: “Haha, Daddy, you’re so old!” Looking back, I’m not sure what he thought of it and I’m also not sure how I’d feel if one of my sons gave me the same present now. Well, I’d eat the smarties, obviously but does forty count as old? Surely not, but neither does it count as young enough for that joke to be entirely devoid of bite (except where the smarties are concerned hehe – stop eye-rolling, I’m allowed to make terrible jokes at my age).

I’ve noticed recently how forty is spoken of as if it’s crossing some sort of frontier – like a cut off point for desirability and dynamism in our youth-obsessed culture. Of course that’s not actually the case: older people can be every bit as attractive and even if our energy levels are lower than they were in the full flush of youth, our wisdom more than makes up for that. Nevertheless, forty is a point when you quite possibly have more of your life behind you than in front of you and I’m definitely finding it’s making me pause and reflect.

Have I achieved enough? Am I good enough at what I do? Have I followed enough of my dreams? And if the answer to any of those is no, is there enough time left to change that?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people about this recently. Most understand. Some say, ‘Oh forty was nothing, wait till you get to fifty!” with others’ it’s, “thirty was so much worse!” Personally, I barely noticed turning thirty: my eldest son was five months old and I spent my birthday weekend in a ‘luxury eco lodge’ (oh yes) in Yorkshire with some of my best friends. It was all healthy outdoor walks, home cooked meals and woodburning stoves, and between us we had a baby, a toddler and a pregnancy. It may be my least raucous birthday ever. We were all fully settled down and engaged with the homemaking and family-building stage of life.

And that stage of life defined my thirties, really. I had my first child at twenty-nine and my third (and last) at thirty-five. My youngest started school a couple of months ago meaning my thirties almost perfectly encapsulated the pre-school years of parenting. Perhaps that’s why this birthday feels particularly significant. I’m bidding farewell to my thirties, a decade of babies and toddlers, of constant change and challenge, of passionate new maternal love and friendships forged amidst the fires of sleep deprivation and vomit and birth stories and ‘oh-my-god-I-haven’t-a-clue-what-I’m-doing-oh-phew-neither-do-you-let’s-just-figure-this-out-together-ness’.

Of course, I had other focuses during the last decade too, but children were at the heart of it. When they’re little it feels natural for that to be the case – they need you so entirely. And now… now things are starting to feel different. My kids will always be my focus but now they’re all at school there’s more room for other things to enter the frame. And that’s great but it’s also making me feel so nostalgic for all those moments of passion and purpose and awe. For the wonder of creating new life and the craziness of living through those early years of it. Could another decade of my life ever be that intense? Would I want it to be?

And now it’s hello forties decade of…what? Career building? House renovation? (it’s all sounding a bit too grown up) dream following? Of knuckling down and get on with achieving everything I ever wanted to because time is slipping through my fingers and I’m not getting it back?

All of those? Or none of those? Or perhaps it’s just time for some consolidation – for realising what I’ve got and what I’ve created and nurtured and spending time working on the bits that need attention and enjoying the good stuff that comes my way.

I’m lucky, I know that. Lucky to have what I have and even more, who I have in my life. I think it’s enough. More than enough.

Forty isn’t time for a midlife crisis at all is it? It’s time for a midlife celebration!

And as anyone who’s spent any time with me recently will know, I’m having plenty of those! :)

mumturnedmom

I haven’t joined in any linkies for ages but this is the last ever week of ‘The Prompt’ which is one of my favourite linkies of all – I used to join in with it loads back when I blogged more regularly. Sara’s weekly prompts have been a huge inspiration to me (in fact, the first picture book text I ever wrote came from one of them) so it felt right to join in this last one. The prompt this week was ‘ENOUGH’. Thanks Sara!

searching for hope

sunset-through-treesThis blog was never supposed to be a place to talk about politics. “I’m not a political person” I used to state and, “anyway, I don’t want to discuss this stuff in public” so, “I’ll keep things light-hearted on the blog… nothing remotely controversial.”

Then this year happened. Oh, didn’t it just. Didn’t. It. Just. And I am done setting myself rules about what I can and can’t write here. I’m emotional – a ‘big feelings’ person – I need to express myself and if I want to express it here then that’s fine. Nobody has to read it if they don’t want to. There’s just too much big stuff in my head right now and I need to write it out. Maybe writing will help.

So, this year, this steaming turd of a year, I’ve looked at the world around me, at horrible acts of violence committed by individuals and groups, and at awful decisions made by governments and voters and just thought, “What the f*ck is going on?!”

I’ve read masses of articles and opinion pieces and tried so hard to understand some of these events – like what would make the UK vote for Brexit or America vote for Trump. There are so many different voices, so many different opinions – not just ‘two sides to every story’ but a clamouring mass of them, tugging and screaming to be heard. It makes my head spin.

What I mostly see though, is that a lot of people are hurting and feel helpless and angry and scared. And that we seem to have lost our ability to understand views that differ from our own. We exist in our ‘echo chambers’ baffled or appalled by those outside of them, as the divisions between us get wider and wider – so wide we may as well be living in different realities.

I’ll make no bones about it – I think some terrible decisions have been made this year. I think they’re going to lead to great pain and hardship for many. And I hate that, I hate it.

But… there’s always got to be a ‘but’…

I’ve got to hope that we can get something positive from these decisions too, if we try hard enough. I want to believe that they can be a starting point for acknowledging the divisions that exist in our societies and and that they compel us try to bridge that divide so that in the future we are guided by hope and togetherness rather than hate and fear.

One of the great points of optimism in both the EU referendum and the US election results was that the youth voted overwhelmingly for what I’m going to call ‘togetherness’. Young people in the UK voted that Britain should stay in the European Union and young people in the US voted for Hillary Clinton, a democrat whose campaign was built on the idea of being ‘stronger together’.

Our future is right there, in those voters. And what we have now is a great big kick up the bum – a horrible, shocking, devastating kick up the bum, but a motivating one nonetheless – to start listening to each other properly. Not just listening to our friends or those who think similarly to us, but to those people whose actions and views we can’t understand at all. Working out how to listen could be a challenge. Making sure our governments and politicians listen to all of us, another one. Not to mention building understanding, and a society based on that. But we have to start doing something differently. Don’t you think?

Anyhow, I did a drawing. It’s about hope and love and respect. It’s about putting out the fires of hate and fear and re-building the future together. For all of us.

mending-the-broken-heart
If only it could be that simple.
But we’ve got to try.

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fear and anxiety

lightningSad and scared.

That’s how I’ve been feeling recently when I’ve looked at the world around me. 2016 has not been a good year. Actually, that’s an understatement: 2016 has felt like a terrible year. Sickening terrorist atrocities, a horribly divisive EU referendum, our British political system a mess, a rise in hate crime and a despicably vicious tabloid press that has sown lies and grown hatred. And bubbling along with a growing fervour, a US election that has shone a light on so much of what is wrong with the world.

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump. I find it hard to speak about him without my words getting tangled with rage. I can throw out words that describe who he is – that describe what he is: racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, a bully, a liar, an incompetent who is absolutely unfit even for the role of president of one of his (failed) companies let alone of the ‘free world’.

But those words… no matter how much truth they hold, seem weightless in the face of his march towards power.

A few weeks ago, after tapes of Trump boasting about ‘grabbing’ women, were released, ‘sexual abuser’ was added to that list of words to describe him. Sexual abuser. And his popularity dipped. But you know, pah, where’s the harm in a bit of sexual abuse? Thought no right-minded person ever… and yet, AND YET, after that dip, his popularity has grown again until he and Hillary Clinton are practically level in the polls.

I’m horrified. Just… horrified.

Like so many others, I reeled in the wake of those Trump tapes. Even more so as more women stepped forward to share how he had assaulted them too. And I felt sick to the stomach as he cast aside their accusations not with, “I would never do that because it is morally reprehensible” (I suppose he couldn’t really could he? as he’d already said it’s the sort of thing he did), or with, “I admit it and it was wrong and obviously I will remove myself as a candidate and accept a jail sentence for my crimes” but with “Look at her – I don’t think so”. Because, what? Sexual assault is something that only happens to women who look a certain way? As if sexual assault isn’t a diabolical and appalling act that no human being let alone presidential candidate should ever commit.

I read articles and stories by women around the world about how all this made them feel. How it awakened painful memories from their pasts, of how it reminded them of every abusive experience they’d ever had. Across the globe, women were united in grief and pain and fear and I knew, I KNEW:

THIS MAN CANNOT BE PRESIDENT.

Because of course he can’t. And yet, there he is. Republican candidate. Drawing ever closer in the polls to Hillary Clinton.

And you know what bothers me most? And why, despite not being a US citizen, I have such a passionate interest in the outcome of the election?

It’s not even that he isn’t fit for presidency – that he isn’t capable or worthy of dealing with the power and prestige that comes with the role (of course he isn’t. OF COURSE HE ISN’T.)

It’s not even the thought of what laws he might try to repeal or what hatred he will undoubtedly sow and the far-reaching consequences of that.

It’s not even the idea of him having his hands on the nuclear codes, though that makes my blood run cold –

It’s what it symbolises if he wins. It’s the message it sends our next generation.

That a racist, a misogynist, a narcissist,

a bully, a liar, an incompetent.

a sexual abuser.

can become President of America.

People have said not to worry. That Hillary Clinton will win. That a woman who is intelligent, competent and experienced, hardworking, dedicated and compassionate will prevail over… that.

And I’m trying to believe them. I’m trying not to worry.

Wednesday is going to dawn on a different world. Let it be a better one. Let it be one where little girls can think ‘maybe one day I can be president!’. Let it be one where it’s NOT ok to be a racist or a bully or a liar. Where we challenge misogyny rather than, too often, accepting it. And where our sons and daughters can aspire to be the best they can be in a society where – regardless of race, or sexuality, or ability or religion or gender – we are all equals.

I’ll be watching for the sunrise. And, despite my fear, I’m going to hope.

Writing Bubble

shock, fear and hope for the future

seagull in the stormI’m struggling to find the words right now. Finding out the result of the EU referendum last Friday was like a punch to the guts. I was already reeling in the climate of hate and vicious rhetoric and violent action that had built up over the preceding weeks, and had hoped against hope we would vote for togetherness and stability. That the lies of the leave campaign (which have emerged so clearly since the result was announced) would would be revealed in time. That hatred of the political elite (who, honestly, I can’t stand either) wouldn’t lead people to vote against membership of a union which affords us so much protection in so many areas and in so many ways.

But it happened. Britain voted leave. And I still can’t get my head round it. Despite my usual positive outlook, I’ve been struggling to say ‘never mind, move on, look to the future, think positive’ or any of that. Because the future is so uncertain and the repercussions are already scaring me. The racism that the vote has legitimised, the jeering ‘We won, so get out of our country!’ mentality that is bubbling up all over the place makes my blood run cold. And the leave camp is already going back on pledges like ‘We will give £350 million a week to the NHS’ and major campaign issues like putting an end to free movement of labour (which personally I have no issue with at all) that people based their votes on. Some leave voters are already disillusioned and angry. Many remain voters are distraught. What’s going to happen next? Where’s it going to lead? I worry for all of us, I really do.

But. BUT…

Amidst all of this, you know what makes my heart sing? The wonderful, thoughtful, compassionate people that appear left, right and centre in my life. My family and my friends, the people I bump into in the playground, or at soft play parties or in muddy fields (well, I do live in rural Northumberland). The people who fill my social media feeds with understanding and love. All of them. All of you. That’s what gives me hope.

I said today on Facebook that I was stepping back from it for a bit – just to give myself some space. I am exceedingly lucky that – despite what I’ve heard about the bile that’s been spouted on social media – my personal feed is full of kind, empathetic people. But there’s so much information being shared and so much worry and so much pain – grief even, at this result. And I can’t face it all. I can’t take it all in. I’m like some kind of overused sponge – it’s exhausting me.

So, like I said, I updated my status with a little ‘I’m taking a break but I want you to know you’ve all provided me with so much solace these past few weeks’ kind of thing. And then something lovely started happening – I started getting direct messages and texts from friends. Little “I hope you’re ok’s” and “I know what you mean’s” and “I feel that way too’s”. Wonderful, warm, genuine messages of solidarity and hope. Man, they made me smile. I’d been sending some of my own over the past few weeks but after receiving these ones, I thought I’d up the pace and let more of the people I care about know that I care.

And it’s started to make me feel better. It might not be much, but it feels like something I can actually do. A way of looking to the future with something other than fear. Because it means something, doesn’t it? – to be loving. To be loved.

That’s what I’m focusing on now.

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