When I’m Sixty-Four…

This week Fandango asks us provocatively:

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Ha, that old chestnut! The favourite career-building interview question that opens up the way for giving some stock smart-ass sound-bite answer that trips off the tongue and tells the prospective employer just how committed you are to meeting their particular needs in the long-term… Well I’m not a career girl, never have been, but when it comes to my personal life maybe I do have long-term plans to think about putting into words?

In five years’ time I definitely see me still living here with my husband, in our lovely little bungalow we bought not quite two and a half years ago. Hopefully we’ll be a lot further along the road in getting both house and garden exactly the way we want it – we’ve done plenty so far, slowly but surely, and have plenty more to do. I find that plans change organically as time passes, imagined ideals are knocked off their perfect pedestals and their more down-to-earth replacements generally turn out to be far more realistic practicalities. And as we like to do the DIY stuff ourselves as far as possible, to date the transformation has not been a quick process, but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end!

In five years’ time I see me still in the pre-retirement stage of my life and still proactively planning for my post-retirement phase – currently I’m on course to receive my UK State Pension at 67, in 2030, so in five years’ time at 64 I’ll still be three years short of that goal. At that point I might still be working part time, health permitting, and I imagine I’ll either have a very crumbly old hip joint or a very shiny new hip joint, depending on the particular level of internal disintegration and current NHS waiting lists. Hopefully my Long Covid symptoms will be a distant memory by then, and surely this God-awful pandemic will have become endemic and managed by annual jabs, much like flu is now?

In five years’ time will I still be blogging? Not sure about that one, I might be, but then again I might not – watch this space, and we’ll find out! 🙂  

New Year’s Resolutions

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

Do you plan on making any new year’s resolutions this year? If so, can you share a few of them with us? If not, why not?

The trouble with new year’s resolutions is that ideally everyone wants to start the new year with a fresh clean page, turning over a new leaf, hopeful new beginnings and all that. Except of course real life always gets in the way before too long, reminding us (in the words of Robert Burns) that ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft a-gley’. This time last year we were newly back in lock-down again and I was hoping that surely 2021 was going to have to be better than 2020 had been…? Yeah right…!

By last new year’s day I really wasn’t feeling all that well and to be honest I thought I was perhaps sickening for something potentially flu-like (not unusual for me during the winter months), but on January 3rd it was confirmed that unspecified ‘something’ ailing me was actually Covid. And since then for me everything has changed. Here I am just short of a year later a lot better, but still not anywhere near 100% back to how I was before. Granted at the time I didn’t ever get ill enough to be hospitalised, but I had no idea that many symptoms simply would not be in any hurry to go away and would dog me long-term, even now.

So this new year I’m going into it all with nothing more than the vague hope that in spite of ridiculously rising infection rates I simply don’t catch Covid again. As well as my own personal post-infection antibodies (probably from the Delta variant) I’ve had two AstraZeneca vaccinations and a recent Pfizer booster shot newly coursing through my system, but it seems with Covid and all its myriad mutations there are no guarantees so I’m certainly not assuming myself invincible.

We may well avoid facing any further planned lock-downs here in the UK but I get the feeling nothing is inevitable with this apparently indestructible virus. Two years on from when it first began and somehow it seems we are all still in relatively uncharted territory, lurching from one tsunami-wave infection crisis to the next. What has 2022 in store for us all? Who knows…

Life and What Matters Most

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

What’s the best thing you’ve got going on in your life at the moment?

It’s a really good question, and it’s really brought me up short. Life may be far from perfect for me at the moment, but I know in the past it’s definitely been a hell of a lot worse. Not only do I still have a lot going for me, but also I need to acknowledge that every cloud has a silver lining.

At grass roots level, the best thing I have going on in life at the moment is life itself. I’m still sitting here, safe and warm in my own home, with lots of people around me to love who love me too. I have food in my belly and clothes on my back and money in the bank and hope for the future.

OK, so I have a few annoying health niggles, but I’m a post-menopausal woman in my late 50s who has had poor health since childhood so perhaps that’s only to be expected. And yes, we have a few quite serious family worries just now, but at least I have loving family members to be worried for.

So there we go – I honestly think without doubt the precious reality of living has to be the best thing in my life at the moment 🙂

Tattoos

Fandango asks provocatively this week:-

Do you have any tattoos? What is the meaning or significance of them? If you do have tattoos, do you have any regrets about any of them?

Ooh, good question! I have one tattoo, of a small purple butterfly about to fly off my back just on the cusp of my left shoulder.

I had my tattoo done when I was around thirty, which makes it not far off thirty years old. Its significance for me is as much to do with choosing to get a tattoo than the design itself, in that it was a sort of creative expression of independent self-hood, and my choice of a butterfly represents a taking off in life, a new beginning. The tattoo artist drew it freehand straight onto my skin, adapted for me from a similar design. Sadly the black outline is a little blurred these days, and the purple infill colour a little less vibrant, but I still love my little butterfly tattoo and I’ve never once regretted having it done.

Both my daughters also have tattoos, my eldest daughter has several smallish artistic designs all meaningful to her, on her upper back and lower back and inner forearms, and my youngest daughter has two tattoos – a pink flower on her foot and a purple butterfly on her back similar to mine. In fact, we actually traced mine off my shoulder and took it to her tattoo artist who copied the design with his own individual flair, so our butterflies are very similar but not identical.

Thinking about it both sons-in-law also have full sleeve tattoos on their arms, so I suppose overall we’re quite a well-inked family 🙂

Settling and Accepting…

Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:

Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?

Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.

I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.

My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.  

Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.

I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.

The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.

I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.

The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.

It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.

So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.

Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.

I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).

But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.

Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?

I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…         

Worrying Times…

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:-

What worries you most about the future? Why is that your biggest concern? Or are you not that concerned about the future?

I’m definitely one of life’s worriers, always have been, so I tend to find I’m always fretting about some stuff or other, necessary or otherwise. So right now I still worry about things, but as time passes and life moves on I find my concerns are not always about the same things as before…

I used to worry a lot about being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, about being too much of a home bird rather than a party animal, about feeling uncomfortable and awkward in large groups. Yet during our successive lock-downs I’ve kind of come into my own and feel strangely naturally equipped to cope with such a serial lack of social interaction. Being at home more in a world where being at home became not only acceptable but also expected for the greater societal good has gently, day by day increased my confidence in who I am. I find I no longer feel the need to apologise for not being more of a dynamic go-getter in life, I’m happy enough just to be me within my own tiny circle of intimates.

I used to worry daily about my weight, my hair, my looks, my overall appearance. About getting visibly older and slowing down and gradually fading from sight in a vibrant, fast-paced world made predominantly for the purpose of encouraging bright young things to sparkle and shine. Embarrassingly these all seem now to be such personal vanities of insignificance in the grander scheme of things. Now I’m learning to come to terms with my ageing body in a quieter, less demanding life, and I feel much calmer and OK about who I am at heart. But as my husband has recently turned 60, and I’m in my late 50s and still on the road to recovery seven months on with Long Covid, these days I find I’m necessarily fretting a lot more about my internal health than my external appearance.

And looking outwards I’m a lot more concerned than I used to be about what the future holds for all four generations of my family – my parents, my husband and I, my children, and my grandchildren. I’m concerned about the febrile political landscape here in Scotland, in the UK, and how the inevitable fallout from Brexit will affect us all financially and how we might build our international relationships across the globe. I’m concerned about the logistics of vaccinating the whole world against Covid, and where we all go from here, because until the whole world is vaccinated this pandemic cannot be truly over. And I’m increasingly concerned about climate change, with images of what feels like half the world burning and the other half drowning filling my TV screen every night it seems it is no longer a threat for the future but is already upon us in the here and now.

So I suppose my greatest concern for the future is not knowing what it might hold long-term for humanity as a whole. We might have a history of priding ourselves on the arrogant, entitled way we think we are in control of nature, readily using and abusing its resources as if there’s no tomorrow. But in reality, underneath it all nature is and always has been in control over the entire planet and we must learn to accept that anything else is just an illusion. So ideally we must all mend our ways before nature calls our bluff and we find out too late that because of our greed and ignorance we are stuck in the middle of a real-life disaster movie of our own making where someday soon there really might be no tomorrow on the horizon…

Fusspot and Clart

Fandango asks an interesting Provocative Question this week – he asks:-

Do you feel that people are more attracted to one another by their differences or by their commonalities? And why do you feel that way?

Looking at my own relationship with my husband, which so far has lasted for 48 years as friends, 21 as a couple, and 9 years married (concurrent, of course!), my answer is – both, in equal measure.

Starting with our differences, ooh, there are so many! My husband is a gregarious American by birth and heritage, I’m self-consciously quiet with understated British reserve. My husband is an extroverted night-owl, I’m more introverted and usually up with the lark. My husband is tidily organised in all things; order and method are his watch-words. With him quality over quantity wins every time, he’s a real perfectionist always. He’s always excellent at finding the exact right size of dish in which to store leftovers but has absolutely no natural sense of direction.

And me? Well I’m not a total disaster in the tidiness stakes, just not a neat-freak in any sense; I’m far more comfortable living with a little creative chaos and in most things ‘good enough’ is good enough for me. I’m totally rubbish at judging small volumes or areas but nevertheless have an excellent perception of larger-scale distances and directions. We joke with each other that as a couple we’re complete complementary opposites and often call ourselves ‘Fusspot and Clart’ – my husband works hard always to keep things ‘just so’, whereas I’m definitely more slapdash and messy in my approach to anything and everything.

Our similarities, though, although far fewer when listed on paper are nevertheless just as important to point out. Looking from the outside in, physically we are of similar height and build (short and stocky), and both look young for our ages (as in other people are usually surprised to hear how old we are), so in all practical ways we fit together well as a couple. We’re both first-born children of young parents, and were both brought up with a strong work ethic. We’re of similar ages and are both educated to degree level, achieved under our own steam as mature students.

We both have had our struggles with ongoing mental health issues over a lifetime so are able to provide each other with much-appreciated mutual understanding and support at all times. Our political views and values match closely, as do our moral standpoints, and our attitudes to money and family and friendship and the importance of looking after the planet are really closely attuned. We are both natural home birds at heart rather than party animals, both enjoy preparing and eating good fresh-cooked food, and both love spending time in nature.

So although on the surface we may have many differences, deep down the fact that we share the values and attitudes in life that matter most to us means that overall we both keep each other on our toes like any other antagonistic pair in nature, yet at the same time feel wonderfully safe and secure in our lives together. For me it’s the perfect combination of give and take, of similarity and difference, and to be honest I wouldn’t change any of it for the world ❤

A Regretful Anomaly

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:

‘What is your biggest regret in life?’

Ooh, that’s a biggie for me! It’s taken me days thinking it over to even start to contemplate what to write. And in the meantime I’ve been reading everyone else’s response and the general consensus is ‘No regrets’… So that has left me pondering and angst-ing over it even more…

I mean I have loads of regrets, including mistakes I’ve made and decisions I took too long over and opportunities missed and misunderstandings over things not said and things that can’t now be unsaid… I regret having hurt people in the process, especially my kids. Yep, that’s definitely my biggest regret, messing up my kids due to my own dysfunctions. The fact that it wasn’t deliberate doesn’t make it any easier to live with.

So I suppose amongst the blogging fraternity the fact that I do have regrets probably makes me some kind of regretful anomaly… Oh well! 🙂

Subjective Over Objective, Every Time

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

Where do you get most of your news from? Do you consider your primary news source(s) to be objective purveyors of truths and facts?

In a word – no. I expect every single news item from every single source imaginable to be subjective to a certain degree, because all news is written by a human being somewhere on the planet and all human beings necessarily have a certain angle/ perspective/ opinion/ agenda that means they can never be truly objective, however hard they try.

Of course many so-called ‘news’ sources don’t even try to be objective, they just force their own fabricated falsehoods on an unquestioning public, for money or ratings or political power or whatever. And on the other side of the coin many viewers and readers choose only to view versions of a story that align with their favoured subjective stance and follow these often outlandish ‘truths’ with blind fervour, aggressively denying all other possibilities.

The trouble is, there is no one ‘truth’ that reigns supreme. Truth itself is subjective, as it necessarily follows the particular norms of culture and society as it stands at that given moment, it does not in any way speak for all people in all places at all times. So as long as you bear that in mind, you’ve got a chance of finding a balance that bears witness as evenly as is humanly possible in any given circumstance.

The trick is to try to peruse as many different news sources as you can, within reason, triangulate opinion and use your own common sense (not blind faith) to work out what the most accurate real-time global position might be on any given topic. Look outside of your own little world – politically, culturally, socially, morally. What do other countries think? Other nations tend to make up their own minds about where the ‘truth’ lies, and judge accordingly.

Remember one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, depending on which side of the argument you fall on at any given time. Right and wrong, good and bad are inherently subjective positions, therefore any news reports on topics that require judgement will also necessarily be subjective. Keep in mind that history is always written by the victor, take all news stories with a hefty pinch of salt and you’ll be fine…

Rest, Relax, Recharge

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks how we recharge when we feel depleted?

Would it surprise anyone who reads my blog that for me, I usually prefer to recharge by spending time in nature. Sometimes that means going for a walk – in the woods, along the canal, by the sea – or sometimes it just means spending time in my garden, whether actively gardening or passively resting.

It’s not a big garden, but as we used to live in a first floor flat in London with no outdoor space at all, with not even a window box allowed, I’m just delighted to have any size of garden space to relax in 🙂