Posted in Happiness, Health and fitness, Women's issues, Writers, Writing tips

Gifting myself time to write

Today is my birthday.

To celebrate I’ve made time to post on my blog. I love writing. On this special day, this is my treat. Write on!

I started the day with another favourite thing – boot camp (thanks for the Happy Birthday sing-a-long girls for myself and Kym, as we share the same date). Then I made Mahli’s day by going for a quick run with her before breaky and opening my laptop.

I have a wonderful boss who gave me today off to go out to lunch with my Mum and sister. I appreciate that, particularly since most birthdays I do work. A relaxing lunch later and a spot of writing right now – bliss.

Another year, another bit older but I’m feeling okay about that. It’s funny how the angst of our teens, twenties and thirties begins to disappear sometime between a fortieth and fiftieth birthday. I remember being not as in control. I worried about my body shape, what I ate, what I wore, how I exercised, whether people liked me, if I would succeed at anything and other stuff that I sweated.

I’ve been talking to other girlfriends and we all seem more content after our fiftieth. Even if our world isn’t perfect the imperfections just don’t seem to bother us as much. Perhaps we grow from them. My examples are:

I used to analyse unkind things people say in a negative way and want revenge

Now I don’t take it personally, because everyone has their own story and their own reasons for acting the way they do.  If someone is mean I just wonder what sad thing happened to make them be like that.

I thought it was important to have a big circle of friends.

Now I’m happy to have a smaller circle of compassionate, caring, encouraging, thoughtful, kind-hearted, funny, articulate, clever, awesome, like-minded friends, both old and new. I’ve re-established old relationships from my childhood and I didn’t think I needed to go back in time but I’m glad I did. I never thought I’d say it, but I love reminiscing. Maybe I am getting old.

I used to be to self-contained and I didn’t listen enough

Now I pay attention and care about sharing ideas, plans, thoughts and supporting others who need it. It’s much more fulfilling than being selfish.

I used treat myself unkindly by overeating and berating myself

Now I enjoy being both fit and health by using moderation as a motto. The less I diet (I don’t now) and stress about my body shape, the more comfortable I become in my own skin. I think we all need to be kinder to ourselves. We’re all built and wired differently. Embrace our differences. It would be absolutely boring if we were all the same.

I used to think I was better at having male friends

The older I get, the more I’m enjoying my female friendships and the great support they can be. I love women who encourage each other instead of competing with each other. There’s no greater shoulder to cry on or laugh with.

I used to think women with muscles didn’t look feminine

My perception has definitely changed. Real muscles from exercising and lifting weights (not synthetic) are beautiful. Strong women have empowerment. Experience our CrossFit Regionals one year and you’ll see women with muscle who are fabulously feminine.  Just like my Hammer Fit class at Wise Force Gym where we range from 20 year olds to 60 year olds and have all sorts of body shapes and sizes. With kicking, boxing and boot camp training we are all feeling firmer and fitter and having fun. We’ve dubbed it the 3 Fs.

I used to think superannuation wasn’t important

Now it needs to grow to sustain a long life. Now I actively keep track of it and you should too.

I used to think time went so slow and that I was invincible

Now time moves quickly and my mortality and those I love is inevitable eventually. I’ve lost some beautiful souls over the years. You never forget them or that we’ll all one day join them. (Enough of that, it’s my birthday).

I used to panic about some things I thought I couldn’t do

I proved myself wrong by driving from Newcastle to Sydney Airport alone in a manual car (I hadn’t driven one for years) with only Siri for company. I negotiated the crawling traffic of the tunnels and persistent phone calls from my son who was waiting at the airport. Go me!

I used to wonder what the fuss about menopause was

I say this whilst having a hot flush. I’m hoping it’s over soon, but I know I’m not getting it as bad as other women and have to be grateful for that.

I used to be called ‘Smiley’

I didn’t understand then what a great compliment that name was, especially when that smile sometimes hid stuff I was going through. You know what? Now I love that I can smile a lot. Plenty of people can’t (due to hardship, depression, grief and bad health) so I’ve got to count myself as very lucky indeed. If you’re not smiling today let me share my smile with you. (I used to not like my smile due to protruding teeth and I hated the night brace I used to have to wear. So thanks Mum for insisting I persevere with that).

Share your smile today. Here's mine.
Share your smile today. Here’s mine.

I used to think I would one day be a writer

Now I know – I always was and always am.

Happy Birthday to me.

Posted in Family life, Happiness, Women's issues, Writing tips

Grief – it affects us all

Grief and how it affects us all

I’m usually a happy person, but when it comes to grief I find it hard to surface from that utter disbelief of losing someone special. I’m feeling that now and it hurts but there are people hurting more than me.

A beautiful orchid was given to us by our neighbours, the Malone's, when Boss passed away. It has bloomed beautifully.
A beautiful orchid was given to us by our neighbours, the Malone’s, when Boss passed away. It has bloomed beautifully.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’d like to hide my feelings sometimes, like a turtle hiding it’s head in its shell. It’s rather useless, as the signs are there to see in my face, in my watery eyes and my withered smile. I cry easily but not through pity or irrelevant things. I just have compassion and empathy. I am moved by the feelings of others.

I know most of us are like that. We cry for a television character, though we don’t know them, we believe their story. We cry reading sad books. We cry when the news is too upsetting. We even cry when we are happy. But the crying we shed in grief is to help us survive the harsh reality, that over our lifetime we are bound to lose someone we love. Crying helps me but it can also be exhausting. Some people can’t even cry at all when they are grieving. Then something triggers in them a need to cry, be it alone, or with someone’s comfort. Eventually most of us cry.

When do you know it’s time to stop – and how can you?

I don’t pretend to understand grief. I’ve had my own grief over my father’s death a long time ago and sometimes it can feel as raw as the day it happened. Each day gets better but some memories can bring that grief back to the surface when you least expect it – events, birthdays, a song, even a smell. I guess it’s about always missing them and regretting that they didn’t get to share the rest of your life. You have to try to let go of that. Their life was what it was and it mattered. You can’t think about the ‘what ifs’ because that just keeps the grief with you too long. It’s difficult but concentrate on the good time and the impact they had in your life. Be grateful for whatever time there was.

Dogs and family and friends

I recently grieved the loss of my dog, Boss, and that is still with me, especially when I see other dogs. I know it’s not the same as a child and I don’t even want to think about that. But I have to, especially on Friday. Friday I will attend a funeral. One I never expected to attend.

Nearly three decades ago I lost two lovely friends to two different accidents, both were only in their twenties. I think about them both on and off, but this last few days I can’t get their images out of my thoughts. Why has this grief resurfaced?

The reason

My own son just lost one of his best mates, aged 24 to a drowning accident. This wonderful human being, and bright light in my son’s life, was experiencing a trip of a lifetime. Who would ever think he’d never make it home? I don’t know how to comfort my son other than to hold him. I don’t know what to say to make it better. There really aren’t words. To tell him I understand is futile.

He’ll endure his own grief in his own way. As for the parents of his friend, I can’t fathom how they feel. My heart aches for them and I am also grieving their son. He often stayed over and we got to know a gentle, happy young man who deserved a long life. It will be strange to never see him walk in our door again with a grin, or leave empty contact lense cases in my bathroom after he’d got ready to a night out with his mates. I wish I’d left them there for a bit longer now.

I want to say to my son our souls still live. I hope they do. I want to say many things but sometimes in grief silence can be reassuring too. I want to hug him tight and give him strength to get through this passage of life, that most of us have to take at some time, but nobody wants to.

I found this quote about souls and flowers. I have created a picture quote with it, using a photo I took of an orchid a dear friend gave me when Boss passed away.

Perhaps if we look to the beauty of nature we can have some solace in our grief. I hope so.

Justine (thank you photographer) in his beloved rugby league jersey.
Justine (thank you photographer) in his beloved rugby league jersey.

RIP Justin Cullen. May your bright smile now be a shining star above us making us smile back each time we see you.