Ten things it has taken me 40 years to learn

For  an intelligent woman, sometimes I can be surprisingly slow to catch on. Some of this I put down to age and some to a certain degree of denial. I’m sure that there will be many more lightbulb moments as I head further into my forties, but here are ten things that I now embrace, along with my mid-life crisis.

1. Force yourself to enjoy the first minute of the day. I used to hate mornings. Getting up for school was torture; getting up for work was a fate worse than death. The only mornings I enjoyed before I had children were the ones I missed entirely by staying in bed until noon as a student. Now I realise that the first minute of the day, when you are just opening your eyes and your mind is frantically scrabbling to hold onto a dream as it evaporates, is the quietest and most settled minute you are likely to experience for the rest of the day. For a few blissful seconds, you are unaware of what lies ahead. Once you step out of bed, the day can go one of two ways: it can take off and be the Best Day Ever; or it can plummet into the depths of hell. Best to stay where you are for a little while longer and enjoy your cuppa.

2. I will never be tall. At 5ft, you would think I would’ve realised this sooner, but in my head I am definitely taller than what the height chart says. Mentally, I look people in the eye, not in the boob region. However, as my daughters and their friends get older, I am reminded constantly of how short I actually am. I have to look up to talk to them now and I often get lost in a crowd of kids at school, only to emerge from the other side mentally traumatised. However, dynamite comes in small packages and I find that my diminutive stature means I am often underestimated, which comes with the pleasure of knowing that I have plenty of opportunities to surprise people if I feel like it. And maybe one day I will.

3. Heated rollers are never a good idea. I have had my heated rollers since the early 90s and once or twice a year I get them out, thinking that it would be a good idea to try them in preparation for a night out. However, I have yet to use them successfully without looking like a French poodle afterwards. It is time I realised that rollers will never create relaxed gentle curls in my mop of untameable hair. Best to stick to the straighteners.

4. I don’t know everything and it’s best not to pretend I do. When they were younger, my children’s questions were random, but fairly easy to answer, which led them to believe I was the fountain of all knowledge. With this came my short-lived belief that I did in fact have an answer for everything. Then they started school and the questions became more complicated. These days just going through their maths homework is a challenge. For a while, I admit I blagged it and gave what I thought sounded like a credible answer to questions like, “If people say it can be too cold to snow, why is it always snowing in the Arctic?” Thank goodness for the internet as I can now confidently admit that I do not know everything, but can satisfy them by saying, “Google it!” What did our parents do before the internet? Oh yes, they lied too…

5. Some song lyrics will always be an enigma. There are certain songs that I will never understand. “The Riddle”, for instance, “China in your Hand” and possibly the entire Depeche Mode back catalogue. In my youth, I’d sing them unashamedly and contemplate their deeper meaning while trying to draw parallels with my own teenage angst. These days, I still sing them out loud, but now realise that Nik Kershaw didn’t have a clue what he was writing, but it rhymed and suited the tune in his head, so he went with it. Good lad.

6. A beautiful pair of shoes is the best medicine. After emerging out the other side of the teens, university heartbreaks, career frustrations, marriage adjustments and childbirth, I can safely say that the only thing that makes me feel better when my day/week/month has gone to hell in a hand basket is a beautiful new pair of shoes. Forget chocolate and wine; all they do is trick you into thinking you feel better, then make you feel crappy again when you’ve had too much (as you inevitably end up doing, evidenced by the multitude of hangovers I have endured over the years). However, a pair of shoes doesn’t care how fat you are, how many spots you have or if you’ve said something stupid. Every time you look down at your beautifully clad feet, you feel your spirits rise and that’s enough for me. Until you walk in your new heels and sprain your ankle of course…

7. I will never like olives or stinky cheese. They say that your tastebuds develop over time and you will enjoy different foods when you’re older. And in fact I can now eat guacamole, even though I used to think the avocado was devil spawn, and cooked fruit is ok when covered in crumble and smothered in custard. However, I can safely say that I will never embrace the trendy but foul-tasting olive or understand the attraction of eating a cheese that smells worse than Andy Murray’s trainers.

8. I really like sleep. As previously mentioned, I am not a morning person, so why it should take me so long to realise how much I love sleep is ridiculous. It was only once I had children that I realised just how important eight hours of sleep a night are to my mental wellbeing (and those around me). Even now on the rare occasions when one of my daughters wakes me complaining of having a nightmare, I am likely to be short-tempered and brusque, and certainly not the loving, comforting parent they deserve. They learnt that quicker than me and wake my other half instead now.

9. I am morphing into my mother. Much as I always said I would follow my own parenting path, I sound more like my mother every day. Yesterday I heard myself tell my youngest that she would “put her eye out if she isn’t careful” and that “there are starving kids in Africa who wish they could eat that cauliflower”. However, I hasten to add that with this comes a certain sense of relief in knowing that I turned out ok, so my mum must’ve been on the right track and if I can emulate some of that, then my girls will be ok too.

10. Always hold on when riding the bus. How many times have I told my girls to hold onto the rail when we are on the bus? Loads. But do I follow my own advice? No. There I was sitting on the aisle seat on the top deck with my mum over Christmas when the bus took a corner a little too hastily and I fell off the seat onto my back in the aisle like an inverted turtle. In my embarrassment as all eyes turned to stare, I started to laugh hysterically and couldn’t get up. My mortification reached a new level when I heard my mother loudly say in between guffaws, “I told you not to drink that gin with your breakfast.” Always hold the rail, people…

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Time flies….

A lot has changed in a year. The last time I blogged, I was still on the younger side of 40, stretching my brain with a creative writing course and trying to squeeze in as many random but satisfying pursuits before That Birthday came around.

The Big 40 has come and gone (and I’m closer to the Big 41 now) and I’m taking stock of what I achieved in my last year of my thirties: in a nutshell, I’m greyer, a little heavier and unemployed. Wow, it really wasn’t a productive year after all!

Actually, it was a pretty good year in a lot of respects – and the Big 40 wasn’t as daunting and traumatic as I was led to believe it would be. Ok, I did plan a month’s worth of celebrations to help me cope, ranging from a 1950s rock-‘n-roll party to a legendary evening with girlfriends in a Soho tequila bar called the Pink Chihuahua that would have a blog post all of its own if I hadn’t been sworn to secrecy about what actually took place. What happens in the Pink Chihuahua stays in the Pink Chihuahua…

Now that I am 40 and supposedly a grown-up, I appear to be in the midst of a mini mid-life crisis. After 14 years working for a company that wasn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things (don’t tell my ex-boss that though), I spontaneously decided in December to resign and try to make a go of it on my own. Call it a last-ditch attempt to seize the dream before I forget what the dream is, but at the time of resigning I thought it was a brilliant idea. I have to say, a weight has lifted from my shoulders knowing that I don’t have to log my brain into a job that had become tedious, routine and repetitive after all this time. However, one look at the wares on offer in the Christmas sales and I realised very early into my new-found freedom that a salary is a surprisingly useful thing to have and that mid-life crises aren’t as much fun as you’d expect. It’s apparently not all sports cars and toy boys – I can’t afford a sports car and a cougar I am not, since my idea of bliss is spending the evening in a onesie with a cuppa and some Bombay Mix, cuddled into a farting bulldog with a bit of David Tennant on the telly.

I also appear to have lost a sense of my own identity. Before, when asked, I could say with authority and confidence that I was an “editor”. But what am I now? I can’t say housewife (anyone who has been to my home can attest to that) or stay-at-home mum (my oldest is about to start high school). That’s like saying I’m a pianist because I’m learning to play the piano (which I am because I didn’t scratch it off the 40 list). I’m now label-less, a bit like the basics range in Sainsbury’s.

Yes, it was all self-inflicted, so I can’t complain. And I had a Plan: to relaunch my freelance editing business, maybe do some writing, get myself published – you know, all that easy stuff. However, the freelance business is slow to take off, the publishing deal has yet to find a champion agent to drive it and I am running out of funds, so I have found myself trying to come up with a new idea for a job: something that pays well, motivates me to get out of bed every day and makes me feel like I’m achieving something or making a difference. Yeah, not much to ask for….

I’ve thought of a number of options: a postman (they get loads of exercise and finish work early, but the winters must be a bitch); dog-walker (lots of fresh air and exercise, matched by enormous piles of poop); opening a tea shop (I don’t know if I’m nice enough to be polite to the public every day); bake cakes (too tempting to do a taste test all the time); librarian (surrounded by books, but not allowed to read them during working hours). None have fit the bill just yet.

So if anyone has any ideas for me, I’m all ears. In the meantime, I’ll keep walking the dog and drinking copious amounts of tea, all in the name of brainstorming.