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The Greatest Love of All

Whether you believe in a Higher Power, God, the connectedness of all things or nothing at all, your relationship with yourself is inevitably going to be the most enduring human relationship of your life! If we can't find love and compassion for the flawed yet vulnerable essence of ourselves, what hope do we have of loving others... or being happy?

This Valentine's Day my Facebook feed is filled with posts about

  • how loved the poster feels because an extravagant gesture has been made by a loved one and
  • how sad and unloved the poster feels because they either don't have someone to make that extravagant gesture, or whose love interest just doesn't play the game and
  • exhortations to self love

But what does that mean, exactly? (Don't be rude, you at the back!)

First of all, what is "Valentine's Day"? Let's have a quick look at all the elements that make up this annual festival of love and misery: St Valentine, Cupid, roses, hearts and cards.

  • Legend has it that a Christian priest,...
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Self Doubt

One of the most insidious barriers to achieving the life we want to lead has to be self doubt. Can I do this? Do I have the skills, the confidence, the resilience - do I dare?

Self doubt has been my nemesis for as long as I can remember.

I have always been full of big ideas - creativity and "big picture" thinking comes naturally to me. My excitement and enthusiasm can sweep me away to the point where I can create, fund and organise a project and then - bam! - I am paralysed by self doubt. Progress from then on can be slow and painful as I am crippled by those unconscious thoughts of "not good enough" and "who do I think I am?" 

Those old familial mantras from the 1960s: “People like us” don’t do great things. We should “know our place” and “let our betters” get on with running the world, writing our books, producing our plays, creating our art.

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing...

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Role Models

Why we should see them and why we should be them.

Do you remember who your female role models were as a girl? A relative, perhaps - maybe an aunt who you perceived as glamorous, or a teacher. An activist, a singer, an actress, even a politician?

How about as a young woman? Were female role models available to you then? Maybe your mother or grandmother (once past puberty and you shed the scales from your eyes ;-) )

Mark Thomas writes:

“Our happiness is very much based on our perception of how our life should or could be and the gap between that and how it is in reality.”

Therefore we are hard wired, if you like, to look for role models to inspire us to become the very best we can be.

I looked up to both my grandmothers. One raised me, the other simply loved me and their influence remains with me to this day.

As I approached middle age, I found myself seeking out new role models - women who shine in their fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond. Women whose...

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Randi Skaug

There is no one more inspiring to me than a person who is strong and independent, who maintains a happy, positive outlook on life. Randi Skaug is just such a person.

Having spent 26 years as a desk bound executive, Randi quit her job, aged 44, to become a mountaineer. Despite severe back problems, she climbed the highest mountains in all seven continents and was the first Norwegian woman to conquer Everest. What a feeling that must have been! 

Speaking to presenter Ben Fogle on an episode in the Channel 5 series, New Lives in the Wild, that featured her, Randi says she placed that feeling in her heart and still draws on it.

"Fear is normal. The important thing is not to fear the fear."

Having skiied on expeditions  in Antarctica, Norway and Greenland, kayaking round the coast of Norway and visiting more than 70 countries, Randi bought the 33 acre island of  Naustholmen, situated in the Arctic Circle, off the Vestfjord, near the Lofoten Islands.

...

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Self Sabotage!

Before I sat down to write this blog post, I made a cup of tea, fed the birds, ran a bath, had a cup of tea, checked the news, had a cup of tea, caught up with my Facebook feed…

Procrastination is not only the thief of time (a phrase coined by English poet, Edward Young), it is also a prime self sabotaging mechanism. You know you need to write that report/make that phone call/pay that bill, but somehow you just can’t bring yourself to get on and actually do it!

What do we mean when we talk about “Self Sabotage”? Any behaviour that gets in the way of achieving our goals, or does us harm, such as: 

  • Procrastination
  • Over-eating
  • Drinking heavily
  • Sleeping in too often
  • Sleeping with the “wrong” person 
  • Being late
  • Reacting with inappropriate anger

Unhelpful habits keep us trapped in inertia, ultimately damaging our self esteem as well as our prospects in life. We are, it seems, all too prone to shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to...

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Friends

"I'll be there for you, if you'll be there for me too…”  The Rembrandts

Go on - admit it: you started singing the theme tune to Friends, the sitcom, when you read the title of this blog post! Or maybe it was just me...?  One of the great things about long standing, like-minded friends is that you don't have to explain your cultural references.

Following on from my previous blog post where we talked about the need to be heard, a member of The Midlife Movement free Facebook Group, Annette, commented:

“‘Girls night”’, and so forth, is not just about getting out with friends. It’s about being heard. My bestie lives 900 miles away and we talk daily. Don’t know how I’d function without our conversations."

The need for female friends is real whether or not we are in happy relationships or sociable workplaces. There is something about female camaraderie that both soothes the soul and bolsters our resolve. Good female friends...

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The UnQuiet Woman

confidence rage visibility Jan 09, 2019

As women reach "middle age" (and really, that starts whenever they begin to feel they are no longer "young"), a common feeling seems to be that no one listens when they speak.

If you have a long term partner, particularly male, there is a theory that men actually learn to "tune out" their female partner's voice over time. How many of us have had the accusation of nagging thrown at us? With the response "if you listened the first time I wouldn't have to nag!" No, wait - that contradicts the "tuning out" theory, doesn't it, as if he knows we're repeating ourselves ("nagging") he did hear us in the first place...

Actually, there is evidence that when men start to lose their hearing, it is the upper register that they find difficult to interpret. Women's voices tend to naturally be higher, so it stands to reason that their long suffering partners bear the brunt of their deafness. According to a recent study, men are also 5.5 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss than women, and...

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ROAR! A Short Story

ROAR!

or 20,000 words a day

Jo Blackwell

 She knew she had a problem. Not a small, everyday problem of the kind that others would say, I know what you mean, but an enormous, insidious, dangerous problem that was growing larger by the day.

  “Did you know,” she said to her daughter, “that women on average use 20,000 words a day, whereas men only need 7,000?”

  “Not every thought that pops into your head has to come out of your mouth, Mum,” her daughter replied through a mouthful of toast, eyes on her magazine.

  “If I spoke all my thoughts aloud, I’d never stop talking,” she protested, swallowing back her next words as she caught a withering glance. 

  “Just think before you speak, Mum. We don’t all need to share your every observation.”

 She knew she wasn’t using her daily 20,000 word allowance. She knew because she was constantly biting off the ends of her sentences, or,...

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Creativity

Have you noticed yourself feeling strangely restless? Are you aware of a growing need to express something, to be seen and heard? Do you feel the urge to create something?

Midlife is often a time when people start to look inward, to recall old enthusiasms or create new passions.

“People see creativity as the solution to the midlife crisis,” Julia Cameron, Author of “The Artist’s Way” and “It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond.”

One of the upsides to turning 50 for me was that I experienced a huge surge of creativity. Once the brain fog cleared and I gained a little more clarity, ideas started to ferment in my mind, bubbling and fizzing until I simply couldn’t ignore them! 

Since going through the menopause I have learned new skills such as photography, returned to writing short stories, articles and the beginnings of a novel. I’ve set up two businesses and learned...

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Peri-menopause: the symptoms

Are you “there’ yet?

According to Menopause Specialist, Dr Louise Newsom, around a quarter of women report few symptoms associated with menopause, or if they have any, they do not impact their lives to any significant degree. Which means, or course, that 75% of us are affected by the natural, physical process of declining hormone levels as we head towards our 50s.  

Symptoms associated with the menopause usually begin several years before menstruation stops.This transitionary phase, known as the peri-menopause, is when the ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen. 

According to the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service), the average time symptoms are experienced is 4 years, though about 1 in 10 women experience them for up to 12 years. 

The menopause itself occurs when the ovaries finally stop producing eggs altogether and is judged to be complete when a woman has not had a period for 12 months.

Common symptoms (“officially”...

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