Friendship and thoughts...

posted on: Friday, 23 January 2015

I spent last weekend in the company of my University friends, steeped in old times. We went to a lovely country house hotel called 'The Pig' and they let us mooch about from morning coffee, to long lunch to cocktails to afternoon tea, discreetly shepherding us between an array of beautiful rooms with open fires. Seeing my old friends was a salve; collectively we did that thing of slipping back into comfortable ways. I wanted them to get me and they did. It was thought-provoking and gloriously sentimental and everything I thought we would be when we were 40. Over twenty years of friendship under our belt.

These girls (women; they'll always be girls to me, despite the crusade of wrinkles and greying hair!) and I have such history. We know the back-story. We've filled in the blanks. It's unlike any friendship made later in life. The funny thing is that people always say that University years are the best years of your life. For me, University was a somewhat strange time. I met my husband in my first term and he lived, for the whole duration of my time studying, 200 miles away. So I feel like I did my degree stretched across the miles, mapping time between his visits. These girls propped me up and formed me. It was with them that I whiled away afternoons, lecture-free hours, watching re-runs of 'Anne of Green Gables' and 'Thirty-something'.

It's timely because for the first time ever I have started seriously considering going back in to education. I occurred to me, after some prompting, that maybe with all of this time I have on my hands, I should be learning, studying, becoming something else. I am looking into Creative Writing degrees; thinking maybe I should do a Masters. This is new. It has been living in my thoughts for a week now and is taking up more and more space, blooming like ink in water as a real possibility.

So that's good.

Meanwhile, it's winter-cold and frosty. Not one morning has passed this week where I haven't wanted to stay in bed. Walking with the pup through icy fields, where the puddles have frozen and he picks his paws up like a show pony doing dressage.

I had book club last night. For someone as bookish as me it's always surprised me that I have not been in a book club till now. I know; I could have set up my own, but that would be so un-Lou. So we read a book that I really didn't like, but everyone else did, so I found the middle-ground. Curious. In my efforts to feature kindness in every part of my life, I find it increasingly hard to put down the opinion of others. Especially nice ladies who I don't know that well, who have invited me into their book club.

Isn't it funny how women behave in these circumstances? I am fascinated by it.

This weekend it's a series of dropping off and picking up; my daughter's netball. My son has a 'leave out' which is something I had no knowledge of until he attended a school where children can board. It means a weekend off from Saturday school and Saturday matches. So I can predict he will spend the time on the sofa, in comfies, watching trashy TV. And no, I won't be asking him to do that extra maths they set. We had parent's evening this week and that led to a late, late night of marital discussion about the school he is at and the school he could go to next. Manoeuvring and planning is the stronghold of boarding school parents. It's new to me and feels distinctly unnatural but we are trying to play the game. I am learning.

As ever this space is somewhere I hate to neglect, oddly, so I shall be around more next week with whatever life observation strikes me! Have a great weekend.

Mid-January, mid-life...

posted on: Thursday, 15 January 2015

Most of the day I have been biding my time in between rain showers, waiting for the opportune moment to head to the beach for a walk. It's raining then sunny, then raining. Always cold. I look back on previous year's blog posts from January (the beauty of having written a blog for five years; appreciating seasonal trends) to see where my head was at before now. Yep - pretty much the same place - angry at the weather and restless. Parenting struggles. Bridging the chasm between doing what is right and what is fun. Right = sticking, setting boundaries, making good, caring. Fun = drinking a chilled beer in the sun with my friends.

I ordered some books from Amazon; I am still the one who loves a crop of books. I download too but there is still nothing like a new real book. I started 'Wild'. I am a chapter or two in and found it too raw to read about the death of her mother. Had to stop. I started 'Bossypants' and I was laughing out loud. I am saving 'The Rosie Project' for later. I am also considering watching a trashy box set end to end in a day. Just for lolz.

Feeling a little displaced.

I console myself with an on line shopping spree in the sales and the prospect of at least waking up to the light rather than the dark. One day.

We got Spotify - late to the party, I know. I find myself perusing songs from the 1990's and surreptitiously playing the soundtrack to 'Reality Bites'. There was a time when 'My Sharona' did not feel like a distant memory of my daiquiri-stained University days. I was Generation X after all. I wonder where the time has gone? This weekend I am meeting up with my University buddies. There were six of us who shared a house in our second and third year. I feel like I need to see them so much it aches! So strong is the need to be with people who get me. They get me like no others do.

Strangely I am without my engagement ring at the moment. When I was skiing, the on/off of gloves caused the diamond clasp to break. I feel bereft. Just a wedding ring on my left hand. A wedding ring that has actually worn my finger thin. The price you pay ;-)

Thank you for all of your comments about parenting teenagers. Those words of wisdom are like money in the bank to me. I shall store them up for the next time things get testing. What would I do without this outlet?


posted on: Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Hello. A version of this post also appears on the blogzine Selfish Mother.

This teenage parenting business, it really sorts the wheat from the chaff. Weary after a particularly challenging weekend, I sent an 'SOS' emoji-laden text to a good friend and she, in response, met me for lunch to deliver a pep talk. Thank goodness. I thought parenting toddlers was as hard as it was going to get (it's circa 2003, 8.54am, zero sleep, crushed rice cakes on the floor and the thirteenth play of the 'Nemo' DVD, a whole (rainy) day stretching ahead). But now: I laugh in the face of that! I am not saying it's not challenging; it absolutely is, but just that the teenage stage, presently, is winning hands down.

It's mentally exhausting. Trying to work it all out. Teenagers behave with such abandon - I read an article that suggested it's how their brains are wired. The mood swings. The love/hate. The outfit choices. The sheer, unadulterated unreasonableness. Self with a capital 'S'. To be honest I can laugh about it much of the time, but occasionally (this weekend) I wanted to cry. The kind of parent I thought I was, the kind I want to be, gets obliterates. And we get a crazy lady in return. One who says strange (sometimes shameful) stuff. 'She drove me to it!'. And after all my teenager daughter is, on the whole, a good girl; I can hardly complain.

I do wonder whether it is exacerbated by the timing of my life? I maintained it was a good thing to be a young mum; she's 13, I am 40. Many of my peers are still in the toddler/rice cake stage. I look back on that like a distant, somewhat scary memory. But my own teenage years don't seem all that long ago and I feel like I hurtled into adulthood like a missile; met my husband at 18, married at 25, baby by 27, career, dream house in our thirties. Here I am splat bang at 40 and the missile course has come to an abrupt stop!

Meanwhile I try to console myself with the knowledge that maybe boy teenagers aren't quite so hard?!

I keep reverting to what seems basic and sensible. Consistency, especially between my husband and I, in setting boundaries. Thinking ahead to what really matters and what doesn't. Picking my battles - wait, isn't that advice for the parent of the toddler? Flash back: 'No, you can't go outside without a coat, wearing only a synthetic Disney princess outfit'. Knowing deep down that if I just keep my cool it will all be fine. The quick-fire 'can do this/go here/have that person over/get collected at 11pm' questions that litter every conversation. The realisation that if I say no, sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's Armageddon. The somewhat frightening transformation that make-up can create. Boys. Boys who come round and smell of teen aftershave. Well - not even aftershave, more like liberal use of body spray. There's no shaving - yet.

Being balanced and measured about all matters. Bolstering self confidence. Providing safety. Providing money (endlessly - I should have shares in Costa Coffee and their ham and cheese panini sales). Being the grown up.

It's something else, I can tell you.

And always - the spectre of danger, catastrophe, a wrong turn, a poorly judged acquaintance, a lie, the time she goes to a party and finds there is no adult in charge, just marauding teenagers, fuelled by alcohol, a million little things that could go wrong. And then conversely the million things that can go right; the aced test, the charm, the mature opinion that you know you've shaped, the smiles and the beauty and the sheer hopefulness of a whole life ahead. It's enough to make me burst with pride. Look what we did.

Take a deep breath... :-)

I wish that I could be like the cool kids...

posted on: Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Still looping and what better way to welcome the new year that to just (bloody well) get started?!! Seriously. In earnest. I read messages and blogs and pins everywhere this week subliminally telling me to focus, follow my passion, don't give up. work hard. How hard can it be?! I do my best thinking when walking the pup around the muddy fields where we live, and as I walk I think: this is what I need to do:

Write every day. Write the book.
Do yoga every day.

Both of these pursuits will solve my mental and physical ailments!

So why am I finding it so hard to actually DO??!!

It is the end of a long school holiday and before term time bites again (tomorrow, tomorrow!) I often find myself in a no-man's land where routine and time has been lacking. But it's bittersweet; I have loved having the kids around, mooching in PJ's (as I am now), enjoying days of no plans and no school run.

I have an old friend from University with whom I share expletive texts about how life is. We are both housewives now, although in between times, we both had 'glittering careers'; she particularly as she was the cleverest of our group. We have a searing honesty with each other that I love - and many times an irreverent 'WTF??!!' appears when we discuss our present lives. This housewifery troubles us. I know deep down this is because I am a feminist and I find it hard to reconcile the repetitiveness of domestic life. Those dishes...they need washing every day. Relentless.

However, I know there is incredible value in the work I do. I know it's better for everyone that I am here, at home, doing it. My family needs me. For years I managed home and work and eventually it back-fired. I now observe friends doing the same thing and marvel at how they carry on. Me; I was ill all the time and I suffered unexplained pain which I can only now interpret to be a pure manifestation of stress. Then I sat with that for a few years not understanding that getting up from my desk and going out to walk or do a yoga class would help. Letting go of it all would help. I relearned how to 'be' with Alexander Technique lessons. Look how far I have come! Awareness is all. Cue: congratulatory pat on the back for Lou.

But here I am at the start of a new phase. I can feel it. So why my hesitation? I have become used to the minutiae and not the largess of DOING something real. Those dishes, they can be a great distraction from bigger work.

But I look around, at all of the other women my age and I observe that they are looping too. This is how it goes. Can I share? I feel like modern life for women is a bit of a trick. I was brought up (societally conditioned?) to think I could do it all. I did get a degree. I did get a job and I did turn it into a career. I was lucky enough to have children and then I juggled all of that too and I was very proud of my ability to do so. But all stopped seeming worth it. The price was too high. I was beaten. And I looked around and saw that men were simply not in the same position. Was I predisposed, being female, to question the life I was leading?! I am not saying men have an easy time; they just don't seem to have the angst and guilt that women exhibit.

Whether it was dropping my baby at nursery for nine hours a day or dreading (as in cold, hard dread) that one of them would get ill so I couldn't work that day, or missing a ballet recital and turning up late, heels clicking ashamedly on the hardwood floor. I don't miss it. And now with a teenage daughter I sense the importance of being here, having my finger on the pulse of her daily ebb and flow, the nuances of her on line life/real life; friends, boys etc It's not a good time to drop the ball.

And so it goes. When did life get quite this serious and contemplative? Oh no wait; I've always been that way, hence five years of blog posts on the meaning of it all ;-)

I conclude, as ever, that there are two other activities I need to undertake:

Don't over think it.
Start something. Anything.