Sunday 12 September 2010

My Big Fat Mid-Life Crisis - and what I'm going to do about it

So here I am. Daring at last to take a long hard look at my Big Fat Mid-Life Crisis. Thinking that, finally, it’s about time I took action. Because it’s all too easy to think about giving up altogether. I’m battling that feeling that this is the fag-end of the party; that all that’s left are a few deflated balloons, the cheese and pineapple that nobody (quite rightly) wanted – and a lot of clearing up.

I need to find the party bags.

Then it dawned on me, rather sheepishly, that I really should pull myself up by the bootstraps and get my life out of cruise control and into a higher gear (okay, so that’s a tortuous metaphor, but you get my drift). I’m not quite ready to put on my house-coat and let my roots grow out. I’m not quite ready to drop the aspirations and settle for coming second in the jam competition.

I’ve written over twenty self-help books, for pity’s sake – so how come I’m not helping myself? Because I’m all too good at dishing out the advice; all too crap at taking it. Do as I say, not do as I do. *whistles quietly and has the grace to look abashed*.

So, from now on, I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to do all the stuff that I’m always telling everyone else to do. And I’ve made a start.

‘Clear your clutter’ is one of those irritating phrases I trot out with monotonous regularity. But really I live in a tip. So today I’ve cleared out several bags of stuff (clothes James has grown out of; books I really didn’t enjoy remotely; bits of flotsam and jetsam that can go to the charity shop and clutter up their shelves instead of mine). I’ve shifted my office round (again) and this time put myself in the ‘power position’ (cater-corner to the door). Why didn’t I do it before? Why didn’t I do it three years ago, come to think of it? No idea. Maybe I’ve been scuppering myself.

Anyhow, it’s done and by heck it feels better.

I think that’s probably enough for today. Baby steps.

What I’ve been reading this week:

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Vintage): how can I describe how much I loved this book? It’s been a large part of my wake-up call actually. It is a fairy story for people who hate fairy stories; for those who don’t quite understand that they explore the deepest parts of our psyche. I almost don’t like to use the phrase actually as I just know it will put many people off. Think instead of Alice Hoffman maybe, of Joanne Harris but way way deeper and more thought-provoking.
What would you do if you lived in your heaven? A perfect, safe haven? Would you stay? Should you stay? Should you keep others there with you? Or should you, after a period of healing, come back and engage with the rough, tough world? Isn’t it funny how synchronicity works? How we find the books we need often at exactly the right time? This one really gave me a nudge up the backside.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: this dark fable of life in the flipside of London gave me major déjà vu – maybe because it has huge similarities with China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun – but I much prefer Gaiman’s take. Interestingly, it offers a similar message to Lanagan’s – should you settle for a life half-lived? Or should you take risks; live a little recklessly; push the boundaries?  Hmm, my book choices are not pulling their punches, are they?

The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln): beautifully illustrated and rather poetic book for children. Again, a book that touches on the myth of who we are – the split between our “civilised” and instinctual natures (and how the two should ideally be in balance). I rather loved it and James enjoyed me reading it to him (love that he still loves being read to on occasions) but I am not entirely convinced younger children would get the subtleties.

So.  That was my book therapy this week.  Do you always read the same type of book? Do you listen to your psyche when you browse the bookstores or slither around on Amazon? Sometimes the most surprising books can lead you to interesting places of the soul.... Do let me know any books which have made you shift your way of thinking; that have nudged you into different life choices. 


Sessha Batto said...

I feel very much the same way, Jane. There are days when I look up and the world is passing me by. I realize I'm not twenty anymore, but I still resent the senior citizen brochures that come for me daily since I hit 50. At least, for good or for ill, the hubs has accepted writing as a valid mid-life crisis career change (although he does keep hinting that money would be a good thing). Perhaps the problem is that my office is so small I can't rearrange it?!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah Sessha - if you can't rearrange the room, rearrange your desk! Okay, now I'm veering into irritating cheery relentlessly positive persona...sorry! And yes, money would be a Very Good Thing. ;)

Rob-bear said...

Mine is not so much a "mid-life crisis" as a "turning 65 next week (really!) reflectiveness." Coupled with decades of chronic depression. I'm not about to give up, but I'm certainly feeling beaten down. And I'm re-reading Spirit of the Home. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint — some new colours — would brighten up the dungeon here. And a lot less clutter — when I have the energy to deal with it.

Fran Hill said...

I always start with the house clutter, too. Somehow it makes me feel a bit tidier inside as well as outside.

Exmoorjane said...

Rob: oh, sorry to hear that Bear... A cheery colour lifts the mood.

Fran: I did try the squeaky-clean on the inside cleaning too once - but decided colonics were going too far... ;)

Nic's Notebook said...

Oh my goodness, didn't realise you had written lots of books. Am going now to have a browse at them! Thanks for the reviews of what you have been reading recently. I love discovering new types of books. I always used to read crime/thrillers but have expanded my collection now and am so glad I did, as there are so many great authors out there :) x

Exmoorjane said...

Nic: *wince* - written WAY too many but most are now out of print.
Oh yes, do do do read outside *your* genre....I go through phases...used to read a lot of crime but very rarely do nowadays (though recently read a few Susan Hills and Kate Atkinson (which I loved) but then they're not pure 'crime crime' :)

rachel said...

Clearing your clutter has to be the very best first step (and I don't think it's a baby step at all to start with your desk, writer-lady!) on the road to reclaiming your life. But it is a shock, isn't it, to reach that point where you see yourself clearly, and recognise that you've let things slide! There's no going back though - I wouldn't want to be as I was at 30, or 40; I would just like to feel centred in my life now (62), clutter-free and fitter. Then I could perhaps embrace the housecoat (but never with grey hair....)! Good luck with the next stage of your journey.

Books.... hmmm... a good one for when you feel your life is hard: Helen Dunmore's The Seige. Love, family, courage, hope. Puts one's own hardships into perspective, I found, without being in the least depressing.

Eliza said...

OMG, that could be me! I've just had a week off work, and I was full of ideas about what I was going to do with it, but have actually done nothing - what a waste.
I've been wandering down the same old furrow for a few years now, I need to DO something too :-)

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Just had a birthday, always good for making you want to have a go at things, but when I wandered my house thinking about the importance of decluttering I was a bit overwhelmed and had to go outside and cut down the lemon balm and take cuttings of rosemary. My house is full of the things which belong in the kitchen, so perhaps I need to think about it again some other time. That is a lovely photo of you!

Frances said...

Jane, I do like that picture of you. What a lovely lady you are!

When I was much younger, some witty writer wrote a book called Passages (think that was the title, and think the author was Gail something.) See...I am much older than you and have been through many passages.

Sheehan...that might have been her last name.

Anyhow. I have always looked younger than my actual age, and have been able to be in the midst of folks younger than myself. I was aware of something being different about reaching 30 well before most of those around me. Same rang true at some other measuring points.

All along this life pathway, I would reach times when I had a different vantage point, a different view of where I'd been, why I'd been there, why, and where I thought I might yet get to. Well, Jane, the amazing part is that I just keep on being surprised by life.

And that surprise element continues to encourage me, even when the surprises might not be wonderful. I just don't think that I could ever really figure out the plot.


Wally B said...

Sounds like you need a trip back to Embleton. Sometimes the hardest person to help is yourself. Schedule time for yourself every day, otherwise you'll end up doing something for someone else.

Jackie Morris said...

Loved Neverwhere, didn't make it through Tender Morsels, though I see you have the one with the better cover. Try The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea, unless you have things to do. It will take you away and remind you of all that is utterly wonderful about books.

Alison Cross said...

oh yes, can totally relate to this. Have been feeling like my life is being lived by someone else - and feeling hugely dissatisfied with myself and, well, everything!

I need to lose some weight, but have come to realise that it's not just off my lardy thighs, but also from EVERY area of my life!

Scary, isn't it?

Ali x

DD's Diary said...

I know exactly how you feel, hon. Big hug and well done for getting started. Could you please write us all a post on how to fung-shei your desk, btw?? xx

Posie said...

Loved the Northumberland blog Jane....your holiday sounded like heaven, gorgeous place to fall in love with.Constantly picking my way through the 'pickle' of life here too. Your blogs are wonderful, so entertaining, lovely happy pic of you on the beach, am very envious of your de cluttering....I make a start every so often but it is a losing battle...happy family life brings oddles more clutter everyday...

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh, lordy, mid life crisis?? Am really good at those. Having just reached 50 (AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRGGGH) have decided that will do everything that I have so far put off. Have done bugger all of it so far, but like the feeling that I just might... tomorrow.
Thanks for those lovely book ideas... always forget every wretched book I have ever read when asked about what I like to read... but Kate Atkinson always comes up trumps. Also love the oldies... Darling Buds of May when I need a giggle. xx

Unknown said...

I think you are my fairy godmother!

Here I am, moseying around blogs trying to find something to blog about because creativity has failed me yet again - probably due to the fact that I have recently been made redundant and for the first time in my life feel lost without something unseful to do.

Then up pops your blog with lots of inspirational suggestions, most of which are in one or more of the self help books I have had sitting on my bookcase for years (maybe one of yours is there too?)

So, with your permission Im off to spoach around and see what you have to kick my backside into gear!

Oh and I live in Northumberland too!

Milla said...

arse kicking going on here - which is easy since there's so much of it. So am losing weight. Started yesterday and slightly cross that I'm not my decades-ago teeny tiny self yet but am determined to keep going. Big chunk of birthday cake in the tin: denying it is an extraordinary feat. Am hoping that Kate Moss's little mantra of "nothing tastes as good as slim" or some such will suffice in place of the most delicious chocolate and pecan and coffee cake.

Northern Snippet said...

Thanks for the comment you left on my blog.In answer we're in rural Northumberland away from the coast,Tyne Valley area.
I've had a rummage around your blog and was delighted to read of your love of Northumberland-obviously I share that with you.
The coast is stunning Embleton Bay,Bamburgh Dunstanburgh etc.but so are the rural areas,quite unspoilt.
Hope you managed to find some nice food when you visited.

And thanks for the reminder-I really could do with shifting a whole load of clutter.It does give you a new lease of life.

Linda said...

The book Passages is by Gail SHEEHY. I read it what seems like decades ago, but remember the message as being that it's not what happens to you that counts, but how you tackle it. The book is full of case studies of people who have had disaster strike in one way or another, but those who tackled things head on (after a few days of sulking/recovering/getting their wind back, of course) fared much better.
It left a lasting impression on me in terms of life lessons, and I have kept my old copy, but there are second-hand copies around via Amazon or Abe books.

geekymummy said...

love the book recs, thanks. Though of course I have an unread pile sitting in my nightstand. Just finished AS Byatt;s "the children's book'. Excellent, I thought. though of course one knows what is going to happen to a bunch of boys born in the 1890's so I was wary of getting too fond of the characters. The books ends with WWI, but does a wonderful job of taking the reader into the Edwardian world that preceded it.

Anonymous said...

Lofty bye, sweet alternative other :)