April, come she will...

posted on: Friday, 5 February 2016

There's this crazy-sentimental side emerging in me, well, it was always there but it's just got a lot more distinct lately. I see pictures taken from the seventies and eighties, you know with that slight haze and all that brown furniture and I think: pure childhood. I hear a Simon and Garfunkel song and it makes my heart ache; I don't even know why because my parents didn't even listen to them that much when I was growing up - more like The Carpenters or The Eagles. But still, it's steeped in sentimentality.

It might be to do with the book writing; it makes you trawl your memory for every little forgotten detail and the feelings you associated with it. Or it may be because last Friday my husband's parents lost their oldest, best friend in a dreadful car crash. I find it hard to write that, the finality of it makes me hate looking at it printed on the screen. Like if I don't type it, it won't be true. But it is true and it's pulled everything about the past and the present and even the future into very sharp and sad focus.

People you remember being around your family when you were growing up; your parents best friends, the friends of your siblings. I look at my friends now (see previous post) and think about how my kids will remember them when they are older and look back on when we have had dinners or parties or days out or holidays with these buddies. How they'll get a strange feeling of comfort when they see them far into the future because it will make them think of that purity of their childhood.

I think about the present and how we get up each morning and go about the day, making a million little choices that don't mean a whole lot: what shall we have for dinner, have I paid that bill? Remember to call so-and-so. 1000 words a day. Collect the kids from school. And it all meshes into this big thing called everyday life.

I look to the future and wonder what the hell that's going to look like! I have no clue - all I know is that the weeks seem to be going by awfully fast and yes, this year my husband and I will have been together for TWENTY FOUR years! This figure just seems impossible. Then I imagine us maybe aged 90 and 94 respectively, talking about how we have been together for an age and we will be interviewed for a documentary. Maybe. And along the way we all just secretly hope that the bad stuff doesn't happen to us so that we get to carry on and be happy.

It's a peculiar thing.

I have to refrain from thinking too deeply about 'what it's all about' and instead cling to the day to day. A college submission due on Monday (3000 words). Soup for lunch (pea and leek). A night out in London tonight (Fulham wine bar). Getting my roots done next week (thank God). Half term looming (what shall I do with them?). Where shall we go on holiday in the summer? (my vote is Cape Cod). Waste a few hours online; scrolling here and there (Pinterest you are a time-suck). Really ought to finish that submission...

I hope this weekend finds you relaxed. Try not to think too much; note to self: I shall do the same!

That kind of woman...

posted on: Friday, 29 January 2016

Some weeks, it goes this way. I walked on the beach one morning with an old friend, arrived home and had the day stretching out ahead like a runway. This is where housewifery bites. I knew there were a million things I could do, I just didn't really want to do any of them. The weather was blustery and raining (I am sure the media over-hype the weather; we live in a constant state of tension about it). I made a chia seed breakfast that I soaked over night a la 'Deliciously Ella' and was feeling rather pious about it.

I spoke with my friend Dawn; two hours on Whats app that required (due to the crap wifi signal in my house) to stand in one place, virtually on one leg, to maintain contact. We talked; it was lovely and made me miss her all the more; she lives in Holland. She knows me and she gets me.

Ditto my other long distance friend Emma, who I also never see but with whom I have torrid text exchanges about the state of our lives. I realise that characters in my writing are inspired by these two women; it all comes from somewhere deep in my psyche.

Then there is my Mum. I have written before about what an amazing person my Mum is. Everyone who meets her says: 'your Mum is so lovely,' and I say in response: 'I love my Mum.' I really do. I have such love for her and such recognition that she is the single most important woman in my life. Rarely do I make a decision without her input; real or imagined.

Boo has been off sick for a few days with a cold, so we've hung out and chatted and she says things that make my heart swell with pride because she is becoming such a grown up thinker.

Then there is my friend Paula, who was also my business partner once, she's a science geek and wears a lab coat to work and is about the cleverest woman I know. She's coming for tea later.

And my other friend Sarah, who runs a multi-million pound company and is just the most decisive person I have ever met. If ever I procrastinate; I turn to her. We share endless emails most weeks which analyse all sorts of matters, important and banal.

There's the sister in laws - nearby and far away, they are the glue and the shared history that hold family together, at times.

Then I have my blog friends; the ones I read day to day and whose lives I think about, even though we may not have met or only meet rarely. Simone and Robin and Mary and Amanda and Sophie.

Without all of these friends I would not be me. I would be a lone boat sailing on a choppy sea. The harbour would be out of sight. The navigation broken. I would only have the stars to guide me and on a cloudy night that gets really hard. I could extend the metaphor but you know what I mean...

(Spot the girl who is splat-bang in the middle of writing a novel - 34,000 words and counting.)

Friendship is something that, it occurs to me, I take for granted. I sometimes feel that because many of my friends don't live on the doorstep, I don't have them in my life enough. But then I stop and think and realise that they're still with me, maybe just not in person. In spirit. Like kindred spirits - Anne of Green Gable style. Bosom pals. Anyway, I am lucky.

So it's Friday, I have made a smoothie that contains beetroot (it's very January) and I am trying not to look at the Internet for shopping purposes (willpower). The wind persists, I am turning to a book for solace. Happy weekend.


posted on: Wednesday, 20 January 2016

I feel like my teeth should be whiter. When I see a recent photograph of myself my first observation is: what happened to the skin around my eyes? I have my roots coloured with alarming frequency. I decide against many a purchase based on the rationale that it's no longer appropriate for me to dress that way. I look at my teenage daughter and think she's beautiful, noting that her body is achingly perfect and I then counsel her when she says that it's not (that's a whole other blog post on the tyranny of appearance in the young). There is a fine line between accepting one's looks and wanting to enhance them. I note when it comes to being 41 that something has crossed over; the work required simply to maintain the status quo that I enjoyed for most of my life is mind-boggling!

photographed by stephanie rauser
I don't mind being 41, of course, and I have no choice, but I wish I were happier with it than I am. What I am realising is that whatever I feel about myself now, I am sure as hell going to feel differently when I am 50 or 60! Forty felt like the brow of the hill and now, I rail against the idea that everything is downhill but at the same time I can see that actually, things aren't going to go back. There was a complete absence of this sort of emotion in my 20's and 30's, it never even occurred to me to be dissatisfied, I was too busy dealing the immediacy of things. And honestly the first year of each child's life seemed to pass in a fog; I literally walked around with fog goggles on. It was about getting through the day and even better if I didn't have baby vomit on my top. Now life is much easier. I see this as I contrast to other women whose children are still young and I ponder whether the feelings I have about how I look are magnified purely because I have the time to magnify them. I suspect it is a convergence of that and the reality: once you're over 40 your skin and body starts to change. Dressing becomes more challenging; mutton dressed as lamb becomes a real and present danger.

I refuse to accept defeat, though. I gather images of mature women and study them. And I don't mean beautiful women who just let their hair go grey (although I applaud you - go for it; it's just not for me). I like women who look vital and cool (for their age) and they do this through a complex alchemy of attitude, clothes and hair. It becomes a preoccupation for me.

I read about women who have surgery to preserve their youth and it makes me wonder when exactly the urge to do so becomes so overwhelming that one goes ahead. I doubt I will get to that stage. The prospect of medical intervention is utterly and if I am honest, unacceptable to me.

I talk to my friends and we all agree: this getting older business is not for the faint-hearted. I felt sad when Bowie died partly because I saw him as a contemporary of my generation; I grew up listening to his music through the walls of my brother's bedroom. I explained to my son that I was sad and elucidated that it would be the same as when, in the future, Harry Styles dies (heaven forbid) and my son recalls a childhood spent hearing his songs from his sister's bedroom. He said that Harry Styles will never die. I hope he's right.

Bodily things are changing too. I ache more than I did and I have to be careful not to over-exert. I have friends who disregard this to their peril. I walk the tight-rope between maximising what I can do physically and taking it easy. Injuries set me back and I resent them. I conclude again and again that the two things I must keep doing, at all costs, are walking and yoga. There are some women in my yoga class who are much older than me, some of them very much so. I love how supple they are, it's inspiring. I want to be just like them.

I guess what I notice about these musings is that before forty I felt like I had it all to play for, now I feel like I have to pick and choose. This self-awareness may be a bad thing and I am conscious that with navel-gazing comes doubts that I could do without. Conversely, isn't it in these years that self-doubt evaporates and is replaced by a surety and wisdom that only age can bring? I shall wait for that to kick in. ;-)

Restore to factory settings...

So everything appears to be outrageously cyclical. Every time I think I'm in a new phase, there is the hint of an old phase, a been-there-done-it phase, or a phase that I thought was behind me. When people say someone is 'true to form' they are describing me. You see, I get this thing where I let life get a little too busy and a little too overwrought and gradually - it takes about a month or so - I start to feel bad. Not can't-get-out-of-bed bad, but more like not-myself bad. I feel like I need to take some vitamins or eat more vegetables. I vow I will make healthier meals. No processed food. I think I need to go to bed earlier. I think I need to put down my phone. I think I need to spend some time reconnecting. But of course I don't do any of that stuff as it requires effort and tenacity and that starts to feel like more work. So I carry on.

Then, I get the signs. The signs I can choose to ignore or not but they start with one very sore shoulder that is so tight and tense that it hurts even to put my chin on my chest. I don't sleep so well and wake up tired and groggy. I long for bed. My muscles hurt. My posture is off. Then the next thing - and this is my own special weird symptom - my teeth start to hurt! I realise that my jaw is permanently set and I clench my teeth and inadvertently chew my own tongue and honestly I then start to wonder if I am some sort of oddity. See thisthis and this for evidence.

I have long had teeth problems which have masqueraded as other problems, have seen a gazillion specialists, had many opinions, tried many remedies. It all culminated last summer in an emergency wisdom tooth extraction and then: ta-daahhhh no more pain. I was cured! I spent months surprising myself with the notion that after years of pain, I was free of it. It had reached one almighty crescendo of pain (where I literally thought I was going out of my mind and I'm not gonna lie: it wasn't pretty) and then it stopped. Problem solved.

But here we are and a pain is back.

I know, I know, it's probably nothing and I am sure it will ease and honestly, it's been a funny few months etc etc. I must listen to what my body is telling me. But of course I start thinking about it and analysing it and wondering if this is a repeat of before and the next thing I know it is all much worse in my own head.

Oh why oh why?! Isn't it funny? These methods we use to measure our own well being. I can almost see the comments that could be left after a post like this, my dear readers will say: you're being too hard on yourself Lou, stop worrying Lou, try to relax.

So I shall try. It's a Wednesday afternoon and I am going to read a book (not write a book) 'My Brilliant Friend' if you're interested. I am going to curl up and not do anything and not think about what it all means. Agreed?

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