The M-word – Menopause

Nothing could have prepared me for the profound impact of the menopause. The all-encompassing effect was certainly not something I’d anticipated.

I know I’m not the first, or indeed the only, female to have experienced this hormonal Armageddon; the surprise was due to my own ignorance (or, more accurately, arrogance). I’d assumed the menopause would be different for me. I naively assumed that as I’d coasted through the menstruation years (that’s a whole separate blog) I’d do likewise with the menopause.

This is just how my logic works, (or not as it turns out), I figured it would be a breeze and that I’d be immune to the ravishes and destruction of the menopause. BIG mistake

 

Having come out the other side of menopause I’ve found a sense of liberation in accepting I have absolutely no control over anything.

I recall a visit to my long-suffering GP where I sat and cried, nah wailed, proper snot and tears stuff, because my body had changed shape and there was naff all I could do about it. I was killing myself with combination of near starvation and brutal sessions with a personal trainer (sadistic bastard), all to no avail.

I didn’t like myself very much; I was a living manifestation of the 7 dwarfs of menopause – itchy, bitchy, sweaty, sleepy, bloated, forgetful, and bonkers – and there didn’t appear to be very much I could do about it.

Happily, I’m now feeling less out of control, I’m far more accepting of myself, and I no longer believe I’m going crazy. And do you know? I put this down in large part to my new philosophy of applying the EFF to situations, people, things and stuff; it will either be F*** it, F*** this, F*** you, F*** off – try it. Worked for me …..

The M-word Manipulation

Definition – 1 handle skilfully 2 control or influence in a clever or underhand way

Manipulation – it’s so loaded with negative associations, most of which is entirely justified. However, manipulation can also be employed for good as well as evil. Perhaps it’s quicker to start with the ‘good manipulation’, then we can really get our teeth into the evil ……

Effective leadership requires the ability to ‘handle skilfully’ to ‘influence others’ and to have a degree of ‘cleverness’ in order to achieve results and secure futures. I’ve been guilty of manipulation on several occasions during my career, something I feel entirely comfortable with. I felt a responsibility to those around me to encourage them to become the best they could be, and if this meant manipulating them into achieving their full potential (way before they could see it) then this surely has to be a good thing? Positive manipulation is where there is an equal balance of power, a constructive give-and-take as part of the relationship, and the central intent of the manipulator are the interests of the manipulated, with growth, fulfilment and triumph as the primary objective.

Time now for the negative aspect of manipulation, using my own experience of life with a negative manipulator….or, as I prefer to call them, evil, bull-shitting, guilt mongers.

Having survived this relationship, I’ve developed a pretty strong sense of how to spot them, and how to neutralise the insidious effects of these sad bastards. These people aren’t gender specific but they are awfully clever and highly practiced. They’ve possibly spent a lifetime refining their behaviour, and you will have been targeted because of the behaviours you have –

  • they’re great victims – often disclosing deeply personal information to establish intimacy early on. You (and others) often see them as sensitive, emotionally open, and slightly vulnerable. They’re not. In fact, they’re about as vulnerable as a mosquito on meth
  • they’re expert at saying one thing, denying it in the next breath, and explaining everything away while turning it around so you begin to doubt your own sanity – do not fall for their bullshit!
  • they’ll take your insecurities and use them to undermine your self-worth – seek and listen to the opinion of others. The mental distortion they set out to create means you’ll trust their judgement more than your own – resist, trust yourself, and give them a silent f*** you
  • their most potent weapon is guilt – they exploit your goodwill, generosity, conscience, sense of duty, obligation, or protective and nurturing instincts in order to extract unreasonable advantages or concessions – take back your power, be in control, and stop them from exploiting your kind nature
  • their constant focus is on what you’re doing wrong, and what your weaknesses are, concluding with how they can do things better – all part of the devious and abusive coercion they use to gain power over you. Trust your senses and see them for the inferior creature they are
  • they hold you responsible for their happiness, failures, weaknesses – which is deeply ironic when you consider they see themselves as superior to you. We have a responsibility to others, we are not responsible for others (or how they feel)
  • they sulk, or give you the silent treatment to leverage control. Ignore them
  • they play the martyr or victim to wield undue influence. Ignore them
  • they react with sarcasm or humour when their behaviour is called-out, (with the implicit suggestion that you’re a humorous dim-wit for not ‘getting it’). Ignore them

Shutting them down, starving them of attention, disregarding them, and denying them the power they crave, is the most potent and valuable deterrent to manipulative behaviour. Once you’re able to see them for the weak, inferior, and sad individuals they are, the stronger and more resilient you will become. Knowledge is power. You now have the power. Use it.…

The M-word – Moisturisers

There are an increasing number of modern day phenomenon’s that awaken the grumpy old woman in me. Moisturisers are one of them, or at least the marketing hype and total bullshit which accompanies the sales of them.

I often ask myself do women actually believe this absolute shite? Yet it appears yes, many do. Sane, apparently intelligent women I’ve spoken to are willing to part with huge sums of money in exchange for this elixir and the promise of youthful, glowing, repaired, age reversed, shrunken pores, wrinkle free skin.

Really??? I find it startling that women can be quite that gullible, or is it desperate, that we can be so easily seduced and duped by falsehoods and hyperbole? It’s a f***ing moisturiser for crying out loud! It will not replicate your DNA, shrink enlarged pores, reverse ageing, remove wrinkles, or any other BS claim. What it will do is temporarily plump skin, it will smell nice, it will leave your skin feeling peachy soft, and it has the capacity to leave you feeling a little bit lovelier.

For the record, and in case you’re wondering, I use a facial oil in the winter and a lovely smelling moisturiser on the bits that need it in the summer. I’m a stickler for using face products relieved of chemically derived substitutes, or perfume. This is a personal choice based on an extensive knowledge of skincare ingredients, our anatomy, nutrition, exercise, stress, and other shit that affects how healthy skin looks.

Instinct and experience tells me that there are brilliant, naturally occurring fragrances (personal favourites are neroli, rose, geranium, frankincense, and ginger), many of which have been used for millennia to produce glowing, healthy skin.

Some hints to stop you from losing the moisturiser plot –

  • Apply moisturiser where and when you need it – if it ain’t dry it doesn’t need moisturising
  • Remember to moisturise your neck and décolleté (the boney bit below your neck and before your breasts) – from an ‘age give away’ point of view these are the first to shrivel like a prune
  • Use one with an SPF ……..yes, even in winter and dull days. Check out those with natural UVB filters such as minerals zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or propolis, walnut derivatives, or alder buckthorn
  • Be smart – it is a moisturiser not a miracle in cream form, irrespective of the claims made or whichever beauty editor/celeb is raving about it
  • Drink more water
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid sugar

The M-word Menstruation

This appears to be the last bastion of taboo subjects; although the situation is changing rapidly there remains an intake of breath in certain circles at the mention of a woman’s monthlies. The dreaded periods.

Thankfully my days of waking in the middle of the night looking like I’ve been attacked by a grizzly bear are well behind me. And good riddance I say. The whole experience was a total bore, although I consider myself fortunate. I didn’t get hormonal breakouts, or cramps, or mood swings (I was a grumpy bitch every day!) but I did have to make conscious wardrobe choices (light colours? Ha, in your dreams sister), I did have period pants, and a paranoid compulsion to check seats after standing up. Mother Nature, I decided, was a total bastard. An opinion that changed little over the years.

I do remember, aged about 11 or 12, attending a lesson in school when the nurse came to tell us about the ‘beautiful gift of becoming a woman’ (silly cow) and thinking “f*** that for a game of soldiers, I don’t want a baby so I’ll just skip periods thank you very much”.

The ‘beginners’ pad resembled a small pillow cushion, while the one reserved for ‘heavy days’ had the width and depth of a small mattress. No siree, not for me. Not interested in becoming a beginner or having heavy days thank you very much. When the inevitable happened I was too embarrassed to buy sanitary products so I’d plead with my Dad to get them for me, and love him, he did right until my 50’s ……ha! just kidding, until I left home at 18. Thanks Dad x

There were some fabulous synonyms invented by my mates to describe being on your period – I’ve fallen off me bike, I’m on the blob, the Russians have invaded, I’m living in the red tent this week, the uterus demon is home, and finally, I’ve got me pyramids (this same friend misheard the greeting ‘peace be with you’ in church as ‘pleased to meet you’ so it figures she thought they were called pyramids. Although….the Egyptians built the pyramids??) Mind well and truly boggled.

The two most embarrassing events of my life involved tampons. The first was a friends’ puppy, who’d slyly investigated my bag and then took itself off to quietly chew on an ever expanding Lil-Let before being discovered. I vigorously denied he’d got it from my bag, despite it being obvious to all concerned where it had come from (aside from the red face I was the only girl in the room!)

The second was worthy of a scene from a Bridget Jones movie….. I was being chatted up by a particularly gorgeous guy at a bar (like you do) and I nonchalantly lifted from my bag what I thought was a lipstick but which turned out to be a Lil-Let, a mistake only discovered once I’d put it to my mouth…..not so nonchalant now are we?

As a final thought, if I were prime minister I’d insist tampon producers put little gifts in every box of white cotton mice (tampons) with the message ‘here’s a voucher for chocolate you cranky bitch’ – now, that’d be worth paying the VAT for wouldn’t it!?!

The M-word Masturbation

Even more than menstruation or menopause, masturbation is definitely not a matter for polite conversation (at least not in my world). It was certainly not something that was included on the school curriculum, or in cherished conversations about puberty with my lovely Mum. Some topics it seems are simply too intimate and too personal.

For sure, I’d have died with embarrassment and shame at any mention of fiddling with my down-below area. The majority of the sex education I received was fairly representative of teenagers in the 70’s – sneaking in to the cinema underage to watch The Stud, copping a feel behind the bike sheds, and hanging about in the 5th form toilets to discover what the promiscuous girls were talking about, (most of which delayed my foray into S.E.X for at least a decade.)

At no point was there mention of the natural instinct of exploring your own body; if nothing else, you’d at least discover where everything was and what it felt like. In fact, masturbation was the province of teenage boys with girlie magazines and boxes of Kleenex. Good girls never participated in this filthy, dirty habit lest they, well, I didn’t know exactly, just that I wasn’t meant to do it. I remember a girl in my class at school who used to stick her fingers in her lady parts and then smell them. Quite unabashed she was. I’ve often wondered if she continues to this day?!? All I recall of that time was a fascination and twinge of jealousy that she was brazen enough to indulge herself, while all I felt was total horror and abject shame. I was young, but I would learn ……

Scoot forward to my mid-40’s. Newly single and plump for seduction by a deliciously dirty, (or deeply enlightened), younger man who delighted in teaching me the pleasures to be had from self-gratification (providing I shared the experience with him). Talk about overcoming my inhibitions!!

Suffice to say it was a time of absolute filth …….and it was magnificent!

I believe every woman should know the joys of masturbating heartily and passionately at least once in her lifetime. My theory, (which of course I have, it just took me a while to get there), is that the sex lives of the nation would improve significantly if women knew what it was they enjoyed in the bedroom department. My generation appear to have laboured under the belief that men would know intuitively how to bring a woman pleasure; perhaps the boys attended clandestine sex masterclasses while the girls did double needlework? This fatally deluded belief was probably responsible for more deeply uncheerful sex lives than anything else I can think of. If a woman doesn’t know what gives her pleasure, then how on earth was a man meant to know? (Of course, at this point I’m compelled to say this could be a same sex relationship so as not to suffer the wrath of the PC police).

Or maybe it was just me??? Maybe I was so sexually inhibited I failed to notice my peers having a daily wank-fest? Trouble is, I’m not so enlightened that I feel able to fling off years of inhibition to discuss this over dinner just yet. Maybe from behind a curtain, or beneath a blanket …..oooh err matron!

The M-word Memory

It is said if you’re concerned you’ve lost your mind then you haven’t – when you truly have, you won’t give a monkey’s!

For several years my memory has taken on a life of its own, appearing to delight in creating mayhem and mischief without ever having to take responsibility for its actions. This began with conversations I’d be having, where halfway through describing something (with wit and animation, naturally), I would have no idea what I’d been talking about. I figured I was either getting bored with myself, what I was talking about, or perhaps the person I’d been having the conversation with? Who knows? All I do know is that it was deeply embarrassing…….because at the time I was making a very nice living as a professional speaker.

As this happened on successive occasions I decided to ‘embrace the moment and go with the flow’, just as stress management gurus instruct, so turned it into a comedy moment “sorry folks, temporary break in transmission, normal service will resume shortly” (I always wanted to say “I’m receiving a message from God” but decided it sounded funnier in my head).

Anyway, I have a theory on this phenomena, (of course I do), and it’s to do with my brain being full. Full from education, experience, trivia, stuff, recipes, song lyrics, old car registrations (??WTF?), where I put something in a safe place, other people’s name, my name …..so I decided it was time to ‘defrag’ my hard drive, get rid of stuff I haven’t used in years, de-clutter, and embrace minimal thinking (a bit like minimal living but for your head).

And do you know what? It made not a jot of difference! I continue to get to the top of the stairs and forget what I went up for, open cupboards and forget why, or, as happened recently, forget who it was I was talking to on the phone!!

So, here are some of my failsafe suggestions for getting a grip when your memory behaves like a recalcitrant child –

  • avoid putting things (coffee, mobile, important documents, files, cake, books, babies), on the roof of the car. You will forget. You will drive off with it on the roof. So instead, put them on the bonnet of the car
  • write it down or make a list – remember to take the list with you – ha! Take huge amounts of smug satisfaction on forgetting said list but recalling over 70% of it anyway
  • slow down a little – when I’m rushing I forget shit. Normally the important shit. Never the pointless, incidental shit that doesn’t affect outcomes
  • dodge interruptions – the phone ringing, child calling for your attention (includes the grown-up child), birds singing, butterflies, shiny things ……

Ultimately, getting stressed, frustrated or upset solves nothing. Laugh a little, breathe deeply, and do something else – I’ve found memory to be similar to a naughty child; ignore it long enough and it’ll come to you in the end.