Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Midlife Mediocrity (or Being Myself – and That’s OK)

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A couple of weeks ago, an article appeared in my newsfeed, called ‘What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life’ by Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui. The title called to me so I did something I rarely do on Facebook– I read the article right then and there.

What I read stopped me in my tracks. On a day when the sheer weight of stuff – physical stuff, mental stuff, the stuff not done – threatened to pull me under, it was exactly what I needed to see. I have been fighting all summer to get back on my feet, get back on track, to do all the things. Hell, I have been fighting the battle for ‘perfect’ (or even ‘good enough’) for more years than I can remember!

Using words like small, slow, simple and calm, Krista describes the life she would like. ‘Yes, yes, me too!’ My hand was definitely up for that.

Hustle, improve, strive, acquire, grasp, sacrifice are words she quotes that our culture seems to throw at us regularly. The things we are told to want, to which we should aspire if we’re ever going to amount to anything.

Well, I have sacrificed enough. I have decided to stop fighting.

I am not giving up on my goals and dreams. But I am surrendering the need to try and bash my square-peg life into society’s round hole of supposed success.

einstein quote

Here’s the thing. We are all unique and we each have talents to bring to the world. However, most of us are not extraordinary, we are unexceptional. But unexceptional doesn’t rank high on the current cultural list of successful traits, so trying to align with that reality has left me (and, I suspect, many others) feeling like a fish that can’t climb a tree.

An army of advertisers, and now a legion of bloggers (seriously, have you seen some of the blog post titles out there?) exploit these insecurities on a daily basis, or even an hourly one, now that we’re all tapped in on social media. It is difficult not to get sucked into a whirlpool of comparison and emerge feeling battered and lacking.

Logically, I know comparison is a mug’s game. I have the utmost respect for those who survive and thrive in the loud and the hustle. And I believe whole-heartedly in self-improvement and personal growth, but what that means to me is never going to be the same as for anyone else.

On an emotional level, I admit to often feeling ‘broken’; that I need to fix something about myself. And perhaps I am broken in a world that values bigger, and faster, and more. I don’t think I was ever built for that world. It occurs to me now that, for me at least, maybe broken is the solution, not the problem.

Rather than ‘manage’ or ‘overcome’ my brokenness for all these years, maybe I should have given in to the lessons it had to teach. I should have accepted its gift, which was a wake-up call to my true self.

The author wrote this paragraph about body image, but I would like to apply it to my whole life:

And I make peace with it and decide that when I lie on my deathbed I will never regret having just been me. Take me or leave me.

This is what I am going to do – make peace with myself – starting now, so that when my number is eventually up, I may have forgotten all the precious time I wasted, trying to be someone else.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the dictionary definition of mediocre. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, it means ‘of only average quality’. Despite the negative connotations of the word, that might be enough for me. I think I’ll take it!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Menopause Moi Book Review – The Magic of Menopause by Lorraine Miano

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I was provided with a copy of this book to review. However, all opinions are my own. Also, please note that this post contains an affiliate link. If you click on the product image/text link and purchase it through my account I receive a small remuneration, at no extra charge to you.

The first thing I noticed when I received The Magic of Menopause was its size. Compared to other books I have read on the subject, some of which are tomes, it is comparatively small clocking in at 150 pages. This is NOT a judgement on the book or its value however, just my initial reaction.

I actually liked this book because it is short and sweet – an easy read. If this book had been available when I was beginning my menopause journey, it might have been a better resource to start to learn about the changes I was undergoing. Knowledge is power, but too much at once, especially for my hormone-addled brain, was overwhelming.

Lorraine has walked the walk of midlife and menopause. The path that brought her to writing this book was a change in career – from stay-at-home mom to Integrative Certified Health Coach – that, in itself, should be inspirational to those of us trying to make similar changes at this point in life. She has experienced many of the symptoms of menopause that a lot of us do, as well as undergoing a hysterectomy which, while not going through this myself, I know of several women who have at midlife.

In writing this book to help other menopausal women, Lorraine is your biggest cheerleader. Her positivity practically pops off the page! As most of us come to realize, there is a lot to celebrate and look forward to at midlife. Her goal is to get you to that point faster and with less discomfort. In each chapter she gives a list of things to do or supplements to take, nicely summarized again at the end with a checklist to help keep track.

As I recently wrote, midlife health concerns are rearing their head for me. I have no way of knowing if The Magic of Menopause might have helped me back when, but I can still follow Lorraine’s advice and make the necessary changes now. As well, there are a couple of other things that struck me personally.

One was the section on anxiety. I do not remember reading anything specifically about this when I was pre-menopausal. That could be because I had not experienced it at that time, so skimmed over any information as not applicable to me. However, it does seem, anecdotally at least, to be a common complaint amongst women at menopause. Knowing that you are not alone (or going crazy!), and that there are things you can do to help it, is invaluable.

Lorraine also mentions counselling for some of the concerns we face at midlife. That people don’t have to go through problems alone is something that cannot be reinforced - or destigmatized - enough. Having an objective ear and voice to shed new light on my problems was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

And finally for me, I love that there are Gratitude Journal pages at the end of each chapter. I try to be a positive person, but know that I don’t always succeed. However, one thing I do almost daily is write in my own Gratitude Journal. Finding things for which to be thankful may not turn my day around completely, but it does ground me in an important way.

The last chapter of the book is called ‘Get Your Happy Back’, a theme repeated throughout the book. Lorraine, calling herself our menopausal fairy godmother, having given information and guidance - and a hefty dose of pep, leaves us with a quote that I know I, for one, need to remember:

You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda, the Good Witch

You can find more from Lorraine Miano at or on Facebook at Making Menopause Magical

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Creeping Cholesterol and Burgeoning Blood Sugar

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creeping cholesterol and burgeoning blood sugar

This is me! While recent bloodwork did not show any anomalies that might contribute to the fatigue I’m currently experiencing, it did show my cholesterol and blood sugar levels edging higher. Although these afflictions are not a forgone conclusion in midlife, I have to face the fact that at 55, being a couch potato with an affinity for crunchy, salty things (fries, potato chips, etc., etc.!) is catching up to me!

And in this, I suspect I am not alone. Much of what I have read about health at menopause cites ways to either overcome or prevent these symptoms as well as the ‘middle-aged spread’ that is often both cause and culprit of them. Not to mention the serious health issues to which they can lead – heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

This is also not the first time I have had this warning. The same thing happened eight or nine years ago. At that time, I tweaked my diet, which is quite healthy on the whole. I started walking daily and lost fifteen pounds. The numbers improved and I have kept the weight off, so all was well, I figured.

Except that, in recent years, my walking habit has become sporadic, and for the last six months nonexistent. Cooking for one, and a lot of time travelling has been a hit to healthier eating as well. Being honest, a degree of complacency had set in.

Time to get back on track!

I consider myself lucky that I am not yet at the point where medication is required. My doctor would rather that I try to get my numbers under control with diet and exercise once again, for which I am grateful. It requires more of me right now, but will be preferable for the long run. However, I will of course, accept his counsel and his prescription if it means preserving my health.

For now, he has given me a written recommendation to try the Mediterranean Diet – not quite a prescription, but darned close. This diet seems to focus on lots of fruit, veggies, legumes, healthy oils and lean/low-fat protein. It also looks to be in line with many general recommendations for healthy eating that we see on the News or the Internet every week. Nor does it appear to be too much of a stretch from my current menu of chicken and fish, each twice a week, as well as a meatless Monday.

So again, I will adjust – take out some of the beef and pork (bye, bye bacon!!), add in some more beans and pile on the vegetables and fruit. There is even a regular allowance for wine, if you choose - my kind of diet! The hardest part will be making better choices when I eat out. A gourmet burger lounge five minutes from home, plus the ready availability of battered fish here will surely test my resolve!

The Doc also asked me to get active on the regular again. So, I have eased back into walking, slowly and gently at his recommendation. However I go almost every day, and am up to at least half an hour. Some days the pace is unbelievably slow – think herd of turtles stampeding through molasses – but I do it.

I have a follow up to re-do the blood work after three months, and am hoping that the effort I put in, will pay off once more. Everything I have learned highlights the fact that it becomes more difficult to lose weight at this point, especially that spare tire, and I also have a low thyroid working against me on this.

So, if I can get my metrics going in the right direction (down!), I might just be a bit more conscientious about making these good habits stick this time!

If you’ve had success in beating the Midlife Midriff, I’d love to hear any tips, tricks or hints you’d like to share!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Midlife Milestone: The Senior’s Discount

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Midlife Milestone: The Senior's Discount

Once we get into our teenage years, it seems life is full of milestones. At that time, our ‘firsts’ are exciting – first kiss, first boyfriend/girlfriend, first job, perhaps. We get our driver’s licence and live by ourselves for the first time. As we move into our twenties and thirties, life is marked by marriages, home purchases, babies and promotions.

Midlife is no different. As menopausal women, we kiss ‘The Curse’ goodbye, maybe kiss our adult children goodbye and say hello to the empty nest. We deal with retirement, ours or a partner’s, possibly exploring new careers as we go.

I recently experienced one midlife milestone that came at me unexpectedly – the senior discount. This is one life marker to which I had not given much thought. Any brain capacity it did take up was with the assumption that I was still wa-ay too young!

And yet here I was, at the gym to renew my membership no less, being told that my profile showed me as owing the senior rate.

“What does that mean exactly – senior rate?” I asked, somewhat dim-wittedly.

The lovely lady behind the counter beamed at me.

“Well, you’re over 55 so you qualify for our senior discount.”

I was gob-smacked! Me, a senior citizen? How can that be? I had already had a ‘how the f*ck did I get here’ moment when I celebrated my fifty-fifth birthday. This was not sitting well! Then I heard the magic words that made it all seem better…

“That’s going to save you over fifty dollars on the year.” Wait… what?

I’m not all about the money, but fifty dollars is fifty dollars, and it’s certainly better in my pocket than someone else’s! My frown was turned upside down.

“Well, in that case, sign me up!” I whipped out my credit card and paid, before she could change her mind.

It may not be as exciting as my first kiss was, but rest assured, now that I’ve recovered from the shock, I will be on the lookout for senior’s discounts every chance I get!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Managing MS with Purple Spots!

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Managing MS with purple spots!

No, this is not some crazy, new therapy. It is merely a wish. I don’t write much about having MS. The main reason is because I am incredibly lucky. My symptoms are minimal, compared to others, and are quite manageable. There are many who are more qualified than me, both educationally and experientially, to write about the symptoms and challenges of, as well as treatments for, MS.

So what, you may ask, is the deal with the purple spots? Why would anyone want MORE symptoms? To clarify, in wishing for these mythical spots, I would want them to be non-itchy, non-infectious, and - to be truly helpful - fading in and out on a sliding scale reflecting the severity of the MS symptoms being experienced.

The reason? Any person who has an ‘invisible’ illness knows some version of ‘But you don’t look sick.’ Most people mean it as a compliment, and for someone like me, I acknowledge that it’s often true (and for which I am glad!). But I do have my bad days. At those times, I would like purple spots to do the talking for me. When I’m feeling crappy – some version of exhausted and/or numb, in pain… and insecure – explaining that ‘it’s an MS thing’ can sometimes be difficult, even after so many years.

Also, not everyone means it as a compliment. Particularly in the work-place, where it can become synonymous with ‘why are you taking more time off?’ Although I did not take more sick days than anyone else as an average, I know that there were people who believed otherwise simply because they knew I had MS. (This is also one reason why I’m in no hurry to return to cubicle life on a permanent basis!) I believe purple spots would go a long way toward rendering me suitably ‘ill-looking’ for the doubters.

More important than this though, I think purple spots would useful to me. After 25+ years, I know to take care of myself, to manage my MS symptoms. During stressful times however, this can go by the board, despite knowing better. They would be a visual reminder as they faded in – a delicate hue, of mauve perhaps - to pay attention, get some rest, and maybe eat a vegetable.

Life has been hectic for the past six months. There have been exciting things, such as travel and then the plain, old stressful things, such as juggling two homes for two months – alone. I have spent a lot of time on the road with little routine. Eating healthily and at regular intervals, as well as getting enough sleep (a challenge at the best of times, thanks to menopause) became almost an impossibility.

I have paid a price for my self-neglect. I have become more tired and run-down, more MS-y than I’ve been in a long time. Combined with being older, it is taking a while to get some traction for my healing. My GP checked me out, to ensure there were no other issues at play (a couple of minor things – more on those in the coming weeks). Now I have to be patient and just do the right things.

I like to think that purple spots could have helped me avoid this unfortunate turn of events. In reality though, even healthy choices are not always enough to overcome the sheer pace of life. At this point, if these imaginary blemishes were to manifest, I would probably be, head to toe, a shade somewhere between puce and aubergine! Not so attractive, I’m thinking!

Hmm… perhaps I should be careful what I wish for…!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

5 Things I’ve (Finally!) Learned About Change


I have written a lot about change (here, here and here are a few examples!). It is an inherent part of midlife, and as a euphemism for menopause it is spot on.

Change is my constant, has been since I was a child. Twenty-five (or is it twenty-six now?) addresses, several schools, a variety of jobs and changes within those jobs, all prove my point. But, as a result of my most recent life change, here are some things I am finally learning about shaking things up.

1.       Change is easier when the choice is mine.

It’s true that all the choices in my life are mine. Even doing nothing is a choice, right? But changes come that we don’t always choose. Health issues or accidents can alter life in a heartbeat, and it is often difficult to accept and incorporate our new reality

There are changes made as a compromise. As a military spouse, I always knew that consistency would be unlikely, and I don’t regret the experiences I’ve had as a result. But I gave up jobs, homes and friends in the process; changes I might not have chosen, had it been up to me alone.

But in my ‘year of living my-selfishly’ change was decided by me, for me. I made it solely for my own benefit, because I felt that it was necessary.

That belief kept me going on the days when, given the option again, I would have cheerfully packed up and gone home. I remembered that I put myself in that position, that I made a commitment, to myself and others, and that there was a reason I did so.

2.       Change does not happen in a straight line.

Despite what I wrote above, I don’t think change is ever easy. I always imagine that I will progress through it in a straight line – Point A to Point B in a neat, incremental way. I can see in my mind where I want life to go, but the path there sometimes involves a detour.

Any change I have ever attempted – healthy eating, exercising, settling in a new community - involved surges forward, then setbacks. Good days are the ones in which I do the ‘right’ thing and employ what I know is best for me; bad days, the result of doing the opposite. How then do I know that I am making real change? When I give up ‘all or nothing’ thinking, get back on track, and accumulate more of the former than the latter, is the best answer for myself.

3.       Gratitude is important.

This, I knew already. However, with my recent change, in my desire for a clean sweep, I forgot how much in my existing life I had to be thankful for. The little things, seemingly unimportant, made their absence felt the most.

On the flip side, I got to create something new, which had exciting energy to it. I made a new home for myself for the first time in years, found new, different things to enjoy and built my confidence back, which was the entire point.

Most importantly this time around, I didn’t have to give up my old life completely to get the new (though I did have to relinquish it temporarily). It was a rare opportunity, and a blessing to be able to do so. I consider myself lucky indeed.

4.       I am clearer on what I don’t want.

For me, this is as important as knowing what I do want, perhaps more so. It sounds negative, but I now see it as a way to frame my goals so that I can let go of less important things. When you want all the things (as I do!), it can be hard to focus or prioritize. The tangible experience of getting what I thought I wanted will serve as a reminder, for future reference.

5.       Change is (usually) worth it.

Being away for a year from my husband and the home we share was not easy. I knew when I made my decision that there would be challenges.

However, I retrieved my self-confidence, my essence in the process. I am now more optimistic about what the future holds for me, and I view my ‘year of living my-selfishly’ as a success.

But even if it weren’t, as with so many changes I’ve attempted over the years, what I learned about myself is invaluable.

Despite living through so much change, I have not always dealt with it well. My previous notion, that change had to be either a success or failure, is being replaced with the idea that it is all a learning experience.

If I’m lucky, one of the lessons that sticks is to be kinder to myself, when all does not go according to plan!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Whiteout Blackmail (NYC Midnight Short Story Competition entry)

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Ryan Garrett eyed the sky as the bus pulled off the highway and into the airport parking lot. It had been snowing steadily for a couple of hours and the light was fading, although it was only two-thirty in the afternoon. He did not like the fact that the wind was now starting to pick up. He grabbed his luggage and headed to the front of the bus.

‘I hope you make it out before the blizzard hits.’ the driver said, as he opened the door.

‘Me too.’ Ryan waved as he made his way down the steps.

Inside the terminal building, he was sucked into the maelstrom of humanity that is the Reykjavik airport check-in area. He was relieved to see that his flight was still scheduled and on time that, so for once, it didn’t bother him. The plan - get through this lineup and the one at security with time to kill on the other side, where he could relax and grab a bite to eat.

‘Sig’ Sigurdsson was also making his way to the airport. Not for travel, but to his job as a caretaker. Sig hated his job, hated most things about Iceland, and in particular today, hated the weather. His shift didn’t start until six, but he wanted to drive the long road from the city in the daylight. Still buzzed from the pot he smoked earlier, his good mood was fading fast with the horrendous road conditions. The only bright spot, the fact that if the blizzard cancelled flights, he might have a good night relieving tired passengers of their cash and treasured possessions.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Welcome 2017!

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I am not going to be one of the people slagging off 2016.

There is no doubt that it left us with a huge hangover of global anxiety. The world feels unstable, in a way I don’t remember before. Added to that, people of a certain age (like me), lost some of our contemporary influencers last year - unexpectedly, in more than one instance. These were the ones who taught us how to be in the world, as we struggled, inevitably, to find our way as a new generation. Their loss was jarring, and we mourned in a way we perhaps haven’t until now.

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