The Dash In-Between

There is a dash which represents our lives between birth and death.

This is the dash.

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My dash has one date before it because I’m still alive, or at least I think I am?

*checks pulse*

Yep, still here.

One day there will be two dates because there is no doubt, whatsoever, that I’m going to die.

I try not to worry about that too much.

OK, I’m lying through my teeth. I torture myself DAILY with thoughts of death. But then I suffer from health anxiety, innit?

I don’t fear death itself. Truth be told, living is hard graft when you are autistic and I’ll probably be glad of some eternal rest after a few more decades of life in the shit-lane. NOT that being autistic is shit. It isn’t. It’s the anxiety, that’s shit.

The thing is that death is still a bit taboo. Brits don’t like to think about death until they absolutely have to despite TV adverts encouraging us to ‘plan for the inevitable’. Life Insurance companies give away bribes gifts, like clocks, so you can watch the seconds tick away. Nice touch, Guys.

However, some of us don’t get the opportunity to plan for the inevitable because we get wiped out under the wheels of a Number 48 bus during a spontaneous sprint across the road to buy a pie or the shock of the £250 supermarket bill stops our hearts, literally. Or we succumb to some disease or other. We like to think we’re in control of our own lives but we’re not.

I’m 47 now. How did that happen? It only seems like yesterday I was snogging Nick Rhodes’ face off on my bedroom wall but thanks to an early menopause I feel like I’m in the re-make of Cocoon..

Having a biological age of 103 means I’m already down on the deal and at this rate I’ll be giving The Boy a lift to high-school on the back of a mobility scooter – which he’d probably love. Most women amble gracefully into menopause whereas I’ve been catapulted into it to find the hormone police waiting for me, truncheons at the ready.

‘ELLO ELLO ELLO! WHAT ‘AVE WE ‘ERE THEN? ‘OESTROGEN AND A FULLY FUNCTIONING PELVIC -FLOOR? WE’LL BE ‘AVIN THOSE! AND YOUR SANITY. HAND EM OVER, THERE’S A GOOD MRS. WE DON’T WANT NO TROUBLE NOW DO WE?’

Bastards.

So I’m swallowing all manner of pills and potions in an attempt to claw back a few years or at least slow the process down. It could be a lot worse. Of course it could because as annoying as my symptoms are, they are transitory and by the time I’m 50 (ish) I should be slightly less deranged. So my GP says, anyway..

With the menopause (and bits dropping off me at an alarming rate) I’m more aware of my ‘dash’ than ever. My parents are dead and mortality is slapping me in the face and, yes, it unnerves me. Someone told me that when you hit 40, it’s downhill from then on. They lied. It’s 35.

I grew up thinking that you got old and then you died. Grandma was in her 70s, as was Nan, and Grandad was a respectable 81 when he wheezed through the pearly gates…

That’s how I expected it to be.

Then the unimaginable happened…

A girl in my school died. She was fifteen years old.

Her dash was too brief.

Years later, my nephew died. His dash represented just four years. How sad is that?

My dad died aged 58 and by now I’d realised that ‘three score years and ten’ wasn’t a cert. To be fair, Dad’s dash was a happy dash apart from the last 12 months, which were shit.

I’m not afraid of death itself because I’m one of those lunatics who believe that consciousness survives death. It’s the before bit that worries me because I have the pain threshold of a testicle. I can’t even stand a deep clean at the dentist without having to be anesthetized so what chance do I have with something major?

I want to reach a grand old age (marbles intacto, obvs) where I can gracefully say, ‘Rightio, Death, I’m ready. You may take me now’. Then I want to slip into a Werthers induced coma having watched an entire box set of Ground Force and, seeing as this is my fantasy, Alan Titchmarsh can be the one to take me to heaven wearing nothing but his wellies and a smile.

That’s another thing about the menopause. One day you’re into Duran Duran and sling-backs, the next you’re craving middle-aged gardeners and comfy slippers. Or maybe that’s just me?

Death is going to happen sooner or later because none of us are immortal except for Bruce Forsyth who’s 302. We can always pay to have ourselves cryogenically frozen but it’s out of most people’s price ranges. Not to mention, creepy.

We worry about death but forget that before we were born, we didn’t exist. Get your brain cells around THAT one! We are part of something much bigger than ourselves but we’re all connected right down to the microscopic stuff that we can’t see. There is too much intricacy and beauty for it all to be random or meaningless, so says me. Our bodies become diseased or frail and eventually stop working but the essence which is us cannot die because it’s energy and energy doesn’t die – it just re-groups.

The dash represents our entire lives. We don’t get to choose when we we’re born and the majority of us don’t get to choose when we die. What happens in-between isn’t necessarily our choice but our attitude to any given situation, regardless of how difficult, most certainly is our choice. This is what our eulogies will be about. Not how long we lived, but how we lived.

In this little corner of the internet I make fun of myself because it’s therapeutic. I try to be kind to my fellow human beings even if I don’t understand them very well. My life will always require effort because I’m autistic, not to mention a nervous Nora. But I brought three amazing human beings into this world and that’s what I’m proud of and when the day comes when my dash is complete, I hope their memories of me will make their tears happy ones. Happy as in I’ll be missed. Not happy as in doing the conger round the living room shouting ‘YESSSSS!! THE OLD BAG’S FINALLY CROAKED! WHERE SHE KEEP THE WILL, BRO’S?’

None of us are getting out of this thing alive, are we? All we can do is accept death and hope that when he does come for us, he’s a friend. Most importantly, we need to make our dashes count.

“DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.” ~ Terry Pratchett – Good Omens

 

Beauty and the Menopause

I’m menopausal. Have I ever mentioned that? Think I might have done. I’m 47 but my biological age puts me somewhere in my mid-fifties. This is because Mother Nature can be a flipping cow when the mood takes her. Or maybe it’s to do with genetics? The bottom line is that the menopause changes you.

That’s why it’s called ‘THE CHANGE’.

The menopause is all about maintenance of the body AND brain. Or you can just say, ‘f**k it’ and let yourself go. That’s not an option for me because my mother and grandmother took pride in their appearance and they would haunt the crap out of me if I let myself go. Even when I was in the middle of a breakdown, I went through my routine. I just used a lot more dry shampoo because washing my hair triggered panic attacks but that’s for another blog post..

When it comes to hanging onto our bits and pieces, like hair, skin, nails and teeth, we need to work a LOT harder. We need to be aware of the changes in our body and work with them. Alas, some women are not prepared to put the work in after the menopause.

They allow their leg hair to go feral.

They neglect their toenails.

They allow their teeth to fall out.

They give up on themselves.

This does NOT have to be you.

Here are a few tips to help you stick the V’s up to looking old because if you look old, you will feel old. So grab your reading specs and get comfy.

Bathing

Once upon a time, we were able to soak in the bath for HOURS. Nowadays, we get twenty minutes max before we turn prune. No time for reading or daydreaming about Sean Bean. It’s ALL about BODY-CARE.

Menopausal skin is dry skin. There are numerous reasons for this, like lack of oestrogen, genetics, sun-exposure, alcohol and smoking. At this stage of the game you need to be moisturising the LIVING SHIT out of your skin. If you don’t, you’ll end up looking like Keith Richards, and if that’s not enough to have you sprinting to the skincare section of your nearest Superdrug, I don’t know what is..

Are you still using soap? As in, a normal bar of soap?

If so.

That tight feeling you get after using soap is because it’s removed the natural oils from your skin. If you must use soap, at least use a sensitive one with a low pH. Giving yourself a ‘lick’ with an ancient bar of Imperial Leather isn’t on. Throw it away!

When choosing bath or shower products, you need to look for moisturising ones. Glittery bath bombs? What are you, six years old? I use Sanex because it’s the only brand that doesn’t make me itch myself delirious. It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have a decent bath mat or you’ll be up the A & E with a fracture having face-planted your taps reaching for the loofar.

Oh and don’t forget to exfoliate that dead skin off!

Shaving

Obviously, I mean legs and lady bits although you may also be sporting a teensie weensie moustache by now. What can I say? Men get rogue nostril/ear hair. Women get muzzies.

A problem with ageing is that we may not as supple as we used to be. There are exceptions but mostly we start creaking like old floorboards with about as much flexibility. When it comes to de-fuzzing our legs, we can’t reach around the back as well as we could, so we end up with 6″ hairs which are a bit of a turn off. The days of girlie Bic razors (pastel shades) are gone. You are now in the Black and Decker power range and hardcore action is required to tackle your unsightly, er, premises. However, if you prefer the wild and natural look, you can save yourself time and money.

Nails

I’m autistic and struggle with eye contact so I look at the floor a lot which means I get to see people’s feet and believe me, I have seen some HIDEOUSLY BAD FEET in my time. I’m talking CLAWS, rather than nails. There are certain health conditions which cause problems of the foot but unless you are unfortunate enough to have such a problem, there is no excuse for sinisterly bad nails. If you really can’t be arsed to sort your nails out (or pay somebody to do it for you) then do us all favour and shove a sock over them.

A word about nail polish..

Is my general advice to steer clear of blues, greens and purples if you have varicose veins..

Make-up

Less is More.

When it comes to make-up and ageing, I often think of dear old Barbara Cartland. She was an amazing lady but wouldn’t you have thought that those closest to her would have advised her to lay off the electric blue eyeshadow at her age? In certain photographs she looks positively sinister! Thing is, wear the same make-up that you’ve worn for decades if you like but it will AGE you. If you find that people are stopping you in the street and booking you for children’s parties, it’s time to tone it down a few notches.

IT’S NOT THE 1980s ANYMORE, DEARS!

Look at it this way, teenagers use make up to make themselves look older. When you are older, the opposite applies. You need to wear LESS make-up to look younger.

Teeth

Now is the time that you REALLY need to start paying attention to your teeth.

As we age our teeth become worn and discoloured. Medication plays havoc with our oral health and we suffer bone and muscle loss. If we don’t take care of our teeth, we end up looking like Albert Steptoe. Sounds grim but there is much we can do to keep tooth loss at bay. For a start, brushing twice daily is a MUST. Flossing is a MUST. As we get older, gaps appear and food gets lodged in those crevices which brushing alone won’t remove. Blimey. I sound like an advert for toothpaste. But it’s true. How do you feel about last weeks bacon sarnie rotting away in your mouth? Barfarama, eh?

Thanks to receding gums, you will find that you have more enamel on show than you used to. This is something that I have noticed about myself to the point where I wonder if I should be running in the 2.30 at Goodward? Nothing you can do about this except to keep your gynormous teeth dazzlingly white. You could always offer your services as a mobile side-screen at your local cricket club. How about a Bee Gees tribute act? The possibilities are there, if only you choose to look.

There is a very serious side to gum health though…

How many of you know that gum disease can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes? Our hearts no longer have the protection of oestrogen so we need to look after ourselves more then ever, yes?

That’s all for today dears. Keep smiling, eh?

Creative Common Images Via Pixabay

 

 

Gravity is a Bitch

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There are two things about mid-life that I don’t like. One is the menopause (which in my case has been a bit shit) and the other is the fact that everything and I mean EVERYTHING starts to head south.

I started off with youthful skin (once the zits had cleared up) and everything was nice and firm. I had no wrinkles, no sagging and no unsightly jowls. Speaking of which.. sagging jowls used to be an ageing thing but these days younger women are developing the unsightly bastards due to spending hours on end hunched over their mobile phones.

Did you just straighten up?

Now I am menopausal. POST menopausal, if you please, because my ovaries threw in the towel when I was 39. I had The Boy at 38 and my body never recovered. It wasn’t supposed to happen for another ten years but Mother Nature obviously considered three offspring of mine more than enough for any planet.

Fair nuff.

My face is ‘lived in’ like a comfy old sweater or a well worn pair of slippers. My skin is like an old handbag unless I spend three hours a day slavering cream on it. I have wrinkles around my eyes, a second chin (three depending on camera angle) and the beginnings of a moustache which I keep on top of using a pair of tweezers.

It’s the face of a woman who sprays her hair with pit spray and her pits with hairspray.

It’s the face of a woman who frequently walks into a room and stands there looking vacant while she struggles to remember what she went in for. Ten minutes later she gives up and trundles off to do something else, like vacuum the lawn. At 3am the next morning the poor sleep-deprived lunatic finally remembers what it was she went in there for. Trust me ladies, you have all this to look forward to.

This is going to happen..

The menopause has robbed me of my marbles, not that I had many to start with. I’m forgetful and confuse things like when I referred to Midsomer Murder’s John Nettles as ‘Jim Nettles’. I’ve become that lady who once confused a pop song with a soap opera and came up with Betty Turpin’s Eyes. True story.

I stand there whacking my hand against my forehead in an attempt to dislodge the information but it never comes and, ‘No. It’s gone’ has become my catchphrase. In fact, I’ll have that on my gravestone.

The biggest change though is my body.

I know it’s my body because my head is attached to it but I feel like Austin Powers every time I look at myself.

“Honestly, That’s not mine!“.

The thing is that it can be quite a shock when you really look at yourself. You notice the wibbly bits, the nipples that point south and a backside that’s considerably lower than you thought it was despite the fact that your knickers have become considerably larger in order to accommodate it. I think it’s been more of a shock to me because it hasn’t been a gradual decline. It was only seven years ago when I was toned (ish) and had a fully functioning pelvic floor.

Then I had The Boy and my ovaries threw in the towel.

However, I do love my c-section scar. I love that line because of what it represents. It’s an awesome line. Also, surprisingly neat. So well done those NHS peeps who opened me up and stitched me back together. Nice job!

I am starting to accept that my body has changed beyond recognition and even if I was to embark on a keep-fit regime that Rocky Balboa standards – I’m never going to be the same because I’m minus the necessary hormones.

Hormones…

Those special little chemical messengers that keep body and mind running smoothly.

A word of warning to husbands/partners

You know that week out of every month where you daren’t open your gob? The tears? The tantrums? The plate hurling? The ‘ I’M LEAVING YOU!! BASTAAARD!!’ when you’ve called her ‘cuddly’?

Yes?

This is nothing compared to the menopause.

Build yourself a bloody big shed and be prepared to spend a lot of time in it. Get some electric in there and make it so that you’re self sufficient when she’s having one of her ‘do’s’. My dad rekindled his love of carpentry during Mum’s menopausal years. Luckily for him, he had a garage to retreat to when the going got tough. So you see, this uncertain time can be used to your advantage. Hormones can mean the difference between digging the garden with a spade and being buried with it so heed my advice and you might just survive with your testicles intacto.

Things settle down eventually (maybe never ha ha) but you will occasionally find the Missus passed out over a pile of old photographs taken of her when she still had youth on her side (and collagen) but this generally happens on birthdays. You must tread carefully here my dears… back away and pretend you’ve seen NOTHING. Go to your shed and lock the door..

As crappy as the menopause can be, the alternative is not living long enough to experience any of it and when I look at it that way, I consider myself fortunate. I aim to embrace mid-life and menopause with a liberal helping of humour as well as the occasional strop. OK, LOTS of strops!

Thanks for your time my dears and may your own decent into menopause be slow and graceful.

Got bags under your eyes, bigger hips and bigger thighs
You got places that you can’t even itch
You can nip it, tuck it, squeeze it
But you’re never gonna beat it
‘Cause gravity’s a bitch

~ Lambert, Miranda/Wray Scotty

Image via Creative Commons