If not now, when?

As a child ‘when’ was not my favourite word. ‘When you finish your supper you can have pudding’; ‘when the school term is finished we will go on holidays’; ‘when you own your own house you can decide the rules. Until then you abide by our rules’. 

But then I grew up and discovered life is full of ‘when’. All self-inflicted. As a midlife woman I must now decide those things which really matter because when there is more of life behind than infront, now becomes so important.There is no time for ‘when’; it is a luxury of youth and a belief things will get better. They don’t. Things just change. If not now, when?

Virtuous circles

Not a lot of people talk about virtue these days. The word and concept has gone out of fashion. For the record virtuous is the opposite of vicious. Think circles. Think vicious circles and now think virtuous circles. Everything you do to make yourself more grounded, peaceful and fulfilled is part of your virtuous circle. Identify the points on your circle, celebrate them, make some more and then see the results.

I’ve been scoping my virtuous circle – yoga (celebrating and connecting my body and mind), eating healthy and whole (think good nutrition that fuels your body and mind), time for me (because I really am worth it), doing things for charity (giving spreads benefits and feel good factors), self-belief (my ideas, views, morals and aspirations carry value, they define me) and walking (reflection – or discussion if you are walking with friends – helps me sort problems and expand ideas and ideologies). The circle produces a more fulfilled me and a better citizen.

Fear

I live in UK and our world turned topsy turvey last week. A referendum about staying or leaving the EU resulted in the unthinkable; we voted out. To turn our backs on our European friends after 40 years of EU membership resulted in panic in the stockmarket, in the banks, among politicians of all persuasions, among the electorate. The Prime Minister resigned, the opposition leader’s future is under threat and everyone is walking around as if the bomb has dropped. In some ways it has and the dust has yet to settle.

Politicitians on both sides used fear to present their arguments and now fear and panic are ruling what happens in the aftermath.

Fear is like a plague.  It is contagious, it spreads and while it purges, it does so with dark consequences. 

Meanwhile like millions of others, everyday I get up and work with colleagues, laugh with them, trust them and share with them. On a human scale of one-to-one and small groups fear does not work well. It only holds real power on a grand scale where the rabble mentality can be manipulated. Or in the mind of a single person, where in the dark silence of the night it takes hold. But fear spoken between a few people is frequently rationalised and dispelled.

Don’t listen to fear. Be vigilant, so you reconise its voice. When fear starts to occupy your mind, share your fears for what they are.When someone tries to sell you their fears; don’t buy.

 

Calming the troubled mind

I’ve been waking up in the night. My mind turning over tasks and deadlines; the troubles amplified by my half wakened state.

Here are my recommendations to calm the troubled mind

1. If awakened at night. Make yourself wake up fully. Get up and make a cup of herbal tea or fetch a fresh glass of water. Be aware of the quiet of the night and its sounds. The hollow silence of night. Be in the moment. Then return to bed and sleep.

2. Think of the worst thing that could happen, imagine your way through that scenario. You can cope. It isn’t that bad. It is? Seek help.

3. Imagine you never achieve the task that is troubling you. Imagine how it would feel if the task disappears. Live in your mind the weightlessness. Then realise doing the task, living through it, will deliver the same outcome.

Me and money

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Money is part of everyone’s life and most of us have a complex relationship with it.  Whatever your religion or culture and wherever you live, you will have values and behaviours associated with money.  How you acquire it, what value you place on having it, how you talk about it (or don’t), how you spend it and how you save it (or don’t).  You may feel guilty about how you spend your money and how much you spend.

Most people use money as a way to compare themselves to others on some level.

It’s alright for them, they have loads of money”

“Money doesn’t buy happiness”

I am so lucky I have enough money to pay for a roof over my head and put a meal on the table”

“I’m lucky I have enough money, so I should give to others who have less than me”

“I live within my means. I am responsible”

“You only live once, there is no point in worrying about money”

“S/he earns more than me but I do the same job, so that’s not fair”

“I work hard to get promoted because I’ll earn more money”

“I earn more money because I have more responsibility than people in my organisation who are paid less”. 

Sound familiar?

Some people only feel secure when they have lots of money and others are frightened of the responsibility of managing money; either extreme can result in a money phobia.

There is a plethora of books on how individual entrepreneurs made their fortune and how you can make yours.  There are also books and talks that explore your attitude to financial abundance, which sits broadly under the category of wellbeing.  There have always been groups of people who renounce worldly goods including money.  The motivation is usually connected with spiritual fulfilment.

Whatever your perspective, we’re all obsessed with money.

Like most people, my attitude to money is influenced by my childhood experiences, overlaid and reinforced by the messages that I choose from the pick and mix of views that society feeds me.

Honesty here, both my parents were hopeless with money, that led to rows and stress at home when I was a child and ultimately to me and my brother financially helping out our parents when we were in our twenties.  That left me very careful with money and critical of people who didn’t manage their money.  I knew from personal experience not managing  money has consequences for others and is irresponsible. A slightly arrogant attitude maybe, but there is some truth in it.  My brother responded by valuing money quite highly and aiming to make plenty of it.  Oddly enough I place little value on money itself beyond the security it provides. I expect no one to provide for me, the reverse. I would feel a failure if I relied on others to pay for my life. So there are my hang-ups.  You’ll have your own set.

As a midlife woman my chickens are beginning to come home to roost and my careful ways beginning to pay dividends (sometimes literally).  At the same time I find myself wanting and needing less money and placing a lower value on it. Not because I feel more secure (though I admit to a bit of  that) but because I realise focusing on money as a goal is not the right way to think about money.  According to many of the books and talks out there, it isn’t even the right way to go about acquiring it!

As a midlife woman I also now see that money and the security it buys is just another thing, as valueless and indulgent as a new pair of shoes or an exotic second holiday.  I may save every penny I have but miss living today when I know for sure that I am alive. That doesn’t mean I’m about to get rid of all my savings.  A time will come when I can’t work anymore or when people no longer want my services, so I’ll need my savings but I’ve realised that lots of the things still left in my life that I want to do, don’t cost that much. They are about sharing good times with friends, connecting with people in person and online; about learning new things for the sheer hell of it, about spending time in nature, reading voraciously and enjoying my garden. Yes, I need money for all those things but it is not the money that will enable me to enjoy them; that comes from my mind set.

So I’ve just purchased a pair of shoes online, not because I really needed them but because they are beautiful and it will please me to wear them.  I shall wear them in honour of all the pairs of shoes I never bought because I decided to save for the future instead.  Well the future is now, starting today.

 

 

The purpose of work

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As a midlife woman who grew up in the 60s and 70s, a career was still perceived as an option. Even today, I still make a distinction between a job and a career.

A job is what you do until something better turns up but a career is in the top three things that define you. You will make sacrifices to keep and nurture it.

I met up with a dear friend last week. She has recently retired, and at eight years younger, I have that prospect ahead. We are both passionate about our work. Our careers are hugely important to us. They motivate, drive and inspire. They are hard won, require sacrifice and have helped us through the bad times. They are somewhere to channel energy and to escape and drown sorrows when everything else fell apart around us.

We are not alone. Many people reading this will recognise this split career personality. The positive life force v. the something to hide behind.

My friend has two daughters, one is career driven. She loves her work. Long hours are part of the course. The other loves her work between the hours of 9-5 and then goes home to love the rest of her life. Both have interesting stimulating professional jobs.  How can two sisters who have the same female role model be so different? It must be nature not nurture surely?

Or maybe its something else. Our purpose in life has nothing to do with how we make a living.

Of couse you may happen to find some of that purpose in your career but you should not see your career as THE driving force. Do not ask the impossible of it. Do not rely on it to  fill other gaps in your life but be clear where it fits in your life.

So which of my friend’s daughters has got it right? Potentially both or neither. It is the motivation that matters, the why, not how many hours you spend at the office.

I feel my generation of women still feel that we have to prove our worth in the workplace. At some level proving we are worthy gets muddled with passion and commitment. As careers plateau in the final decade of work there is a danger of looking back and thinking the effort, the long hours and the passion were misplaced.  Far healthier to appraise it objectively looking back with compassion for yourself and the decisions you made. Your passion still needs a channel when work life dims but part of the joy of being a midlifer is recognising that is okay and being excited to say ‘what next?’.

Side-track advice

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A spoiler. This post is not about my cats despite the image.  But it is my cats that prompted me to write this blog or, more accurately, opinions that people gave me about them. Last year my cat passed away and lonely without a furry companion around the house I went to Cat Protection. I’ve always had neutered toms though one small female did adopt me when I lived in Warwickshire many years ago. I meant to choose an older male but came home with two 6 month old girls. Everyone told me female cats were different. How? More independent, less needy and keener hunters because their instinct is to forage for their kittens. I was advised the relationship I had with them would not be as close; it would be lesser and the implication was that I had not made the right choice for me. Not surprisingly both my cats are different to my previous one. They are individuals and each of them is very different to the other. What struck me was not how different it was to have female cats but how different it was to have two cats. They have each other and a relationship which predates the relationship they have with me. They wash each other, play together and eat out of each other’s feeding bowls and water stations. Are they a replacement for my previous cat? No but then I wasn’t expecting a replica. I just wanted some cats about the house, some furry friends to take care of and make home feel like home.

I hadn’t asked for a view or advice. I was quite comfortable making a decision without referring to anyone else. But why is it that when someone passes an opinion, which usually leads to advice on some level, we always feel we should give some time to consider their uncalled for point of view?  I realised I am a sucker for this.  It’s as if I have a ‘polite’ mind that requires me to consider everything ever said to me.  I realised that I am not very good at accepting that there are three types of advice – good, bad and non-advice.  The latter is all those things people advise you that are just irrelevant.

The truth is that it is often hard to separate out good from bad advice and to drill down into how objective and impartial advice is.  However non-advice is easy to spot because it just doesn’t relate to where you are coming from and misses the point.

So today I’ve given myself permission to start ignoring none-advice.  Say thank you and then never think about it again.