I’m not a patient woman but while I will never have the sympathy for machinery that the husband wishes I had, I have accepted that some things need to come in their own time. The husband is a prime example of this. He once asked why he hadn’t met me when he was single (ie. before his first wife) and I pointed out I was underage and my parents were the sort to have pressed charged for statutory rape. But I believe that you meet people when you need to. The husband came into my life at exactly the point I needed him. And of course his first marriage was vital for two huge reasons – my stepsons.
But even though I know that some things need waiting for it doesn’t make life’s limbo periods any easier. I know that in the near future I’ll be looking back on this time with a degree of wistfulness. I’m 33 weeks (about 7½ months) pregnant and after this week I’m going to be reducing the number of meetings I arrange. I plan to spend more time pottering around and resting. I’m sure that the challenges of a newborn will soon cast this period in a rosy light but right now it’s somewhat frustrating to struggle with complex tasks like bending over and getting something out of the washing machine.
I fear I’m not one for whom a beatific glow comes naturally. Perhaps I should try knitting, would that give me that contented nesting mother look?
Still, the limbo is less about impending parenthood than it is about our financial future. The husband’s employer seems to be drip feeding details about his redundancy (although it seems they will be pretty good to him overall and he’ll be getting his paternity leave) and we’re waiting to hear about a number of jobs he’s been put forward for by various recruitment consultants. We’re also looking at a couple of business ventures but uncertainty over cash flow and when the husband will actually be leaving means these are also things we’re waiting to get started on.
I guess it comes down to me struggling to accept that there are factors that I cannot influence. In the past few years I’ve taken greater and greater charge over my own life from going freelance and becoming my own boss to deciding that company reps would never be anything but hurdles to negotiate - it struck me with sudden clarity that it would be absurd to not have my house because the person at the mortgage company handling our case said no. No disrespect to the individual but they were just playing with numbers on a computer, in the grand scheme of my life they were a transition character. I just had to establish why they were saying no and present a case that beat them.
Similarly, when I spoke to a rep from the cheapest car insurer when gathering quotes about a year ago and she said I was illegible because the car was an import, I thanked her and hung up. I then rang straight back and tried again with another rep. I correctly guessed that she suffered from either inexperience or the ability to think intelligently and how to work around the system.
But while there are always ways of doing things, at times that way involves waiting. Sitting and letting them unfold at their own pace. I ordered some bulbs for the garden a few months ago and they recently arrived as only now are they ready to be planted. I have conceded my will to the garden (even I refuse to fight with mother nature*) and happily move with the seasons but there’s a pattern to them. There is no rhyme or reason that is shared with the husband and I regarding the shadowy factors affecting our lives.
Of course, it’s up to us how we respond. As Eleanor Roosevelt wisely observed, ‘nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent’ and you are only as passive as you allow yourself to be. If we let things get us down in a significant way then that’d be a bit pathetic. It’d be conceding power to people who have no interest in us. None of it is personal and making it so would be simultaneously egotistical and weak spirited.
But it still rather sucks.
You can be as positive as you like but waiting is rather boring!
* Although I may attempt some encouragement towards bringing on labour by using the likes of clary sage oil in a few weeks time!
I read an article this week where a psychoanalyst was negative about the trend for five year plans. I don’t think like that, for me my 40 before I’m 40 list is about aspirations and dreams. Just as I’ve only done 22 of the things on my 30 before I’m 30 list, I see this as something to inspire me. I won’t see myself as having failed if I don’t achieve it all, instead if I only manage a handful of things, I’ll have done some awesome things!
Categorised because 40 is a lot!
1) Eat at the Fat Duck
This was originally what I wanted for my 30th Birthday present but didn’t want to do it pregnant.
2) Run a restaurant
This will most likely be a pop-up or supper club rather than a restaurant in the traditional sense.
3) Do a sugarcraft course
My cakes taste great. I can’t decorate them for toffee.
4) Make jam
Doesn’t seem hard.
5) Cook all of the recipes in the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook
There are 90 lessons. I’ve done about three
6) Learn to make sushi
I already have the stuff I need. I really should just do it!
7) Teach the boys to cook
Slightly value and the youngest will be 9 when I turn 40 but he can be a fair way there.
Travel and Experiences
8) Take my stepsons on their first foreign holiday
They have never left the country and we’ve discussed it with their mother. The hope is to go to Spain next summer. My parents took me to Spain a lot as a child so it’s rather special to me. Naturally the baby will be coming with us but taking him abroad is a given.
9) Take an annual trip with the husband
My mum and dad had time away from my brother and I. The first will probably be to a hotel in Manchester while the baby is at my mothers’ but what is important is that I am a wife as well as a mother.
10) Swim in the Dead Sea
Mmm floaty light.
11) Spend a week in Rome
I’ve never considered Rome for a mini break as I want to do it at leisure and see lots of sights. One to save up for.
12) Take the husband to the Far East
I can’t wait to show him!
13) Visit Egypt
My mum, brother and eldest stepbrother have all been and it looks amazing.
14) Experience the thermal pools in Iceland
Not that there’s much else to do in Iceland...
15) Attend the Goodwood Revival
Cars and Fashion together. What’s not to love?
16) Run the London Marathon
The idea of this terrifies me but I’d love to see London from that perspective.
17) Go on safari
I was never bothered until I did a mini elephant safari in Sri Lanka and was blown away by watching them in their natural habitat. Now I just need to convince the husband that he wants to go!
18) Learn how to apply eye liner
I can’t. I need to be taught.
19) Buy a red lipstick
I have never worn red lipstick. Apparently there’s a shade for everyone.
20) Go blonde
I went red in the pursuit. I think it needs trying properly (ie. via hairdresser) once.
21) Fit back into my corset
My corset is tiny. I currently have a waist measurement over 40 inches. I want to lose the baby weight.
22) Have a dress made for me
My sister-in-law-to-be is having her wedding dress made for her. I was never that bothered about my wedding dresses (I’ve had three) but like the idea of something I wear time and time again.
23) Buy more designer shoes
I bought my Jimmy Choo’s when I threw out my ex husband and my Louboutins when I passed my PhD. I like the idea of my collection reflecting key moments in my life. Speaking of which, having a baby is a pretty big deal... is the Prada S/S range still in the shops?
24) Attend London Fashion Week
I’m not too concerned about trying to get tickets to a show but there’s so much else going on that sounds fabulous.
25) Complete a large cross stitch kit
I’ve done cross stitch for years but rarely finish anything as I’m not a fan of the finished article (I do it because it’s meditative). I’d like to actually finish the one I’m working on now though. No real reason.
26) Make annual photo books and DVDs
I already sort my images but this is the next stage. I want to chart the children growing up.
27) Read a Dickens novel
I’ve read loads of the classics but have never finished a Dickens. My best was getting through ¾ of Great Expectations. It bugs me.
28) Rebuild the deck and get a garden room
To be exact, pay someone to do this for me.
29) Decorate seasonally
This is something I started in January when the living room felt really bare after the Christmas decorations came down. I have a few Spring/Summer decorations (eg. bud vases) and want to roll this out so that year round the house keeps changing its look.
30) Pay off the mortgage
Really quite hugely aspirational since we have about 33 years left on it but our monthly repayments are small so once we’re settled regarding the husband’s post redundancy move I’ll look to increase them.
31) Not become a millionaire but...
Sure it’d be nice to be a millionaire but my focus is on having an income that requires minimum input such as that from rental properties, owned businesses and so forth. The husband and I have lots of ideas about how to make this happen.
32) Have a plan in case all three kids want to go to medical school when they grow up
33) Invest in a piece of art
The husband and I have been discussing future investments and rather fancy taking a punt on art. We’d only buy something we loved so it would be risk-free in that respect but you never know, we could hit on the next big thing.
34) Understand the stock market
Because I haven’t a clue.
35) Learn to ski
I wanted to do this at university but I had ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) then I focused my travel on the Far East. I imagine I’ll be terrible at it but want to give it a go. I reckon I’d rock après ski though!
36) Blow glass
I want to do a glass blowing course. I reckon a day long experience would do, just enough so I have something I can look at and think ‘I made that.’
37) Be able to touch my toes (again)
Just before I became pregnant I touched my toes for the first time as an adult (after doing The Shred). I want to be able to get back to that point and stay there. I’ve never been very flexible but want to change that, if only to help me stay healthy as I get older.
38) Teach my (biological) son to swim
I can’t wait to do this. I was getting excited at the Huggies Little Swimmers at Sainsburys today. I met a foster mum in a pool a short while back and she had taken her foster son from 6 weeks.
39) Learn a foreign language
I’ve been lazy. I didn’t even learn Malay when I lived in Malaysia. But I’d like to buy a property abroad one day and my current choice would be Istanbul so I want to learn Turkish.
40) Make a 50 before I’m 50 list!
It’s the only way to go.
Once I saw 30 as the magical number where one becomes an adult. I think that was what lay behind the 30 before I was 30 list (mostly completed). I wanted to tick certain boxes before I got too old and boring.
On the eve of my 30th this now seems absurd to me. I feel as though I’m only just getting stuff figured out and have come to realise that doubt and uncertainty will never truly go away. One goal on my list was to own my own house. I’ve done this this but last week I found out the husband is being made redundant. We’ll be fine, but it highlights the naive simplicity of a list of goals to achieve which will mean you’re sorted. Even if we didn’t have an oh-gosh-that-is-a-very-long-time kind of mortgage there’d be all the costs associated with owning and running a house.
There’s a scene in the first episode of Lost where upon their speaking for the first time Jack tells Kate about his panic on the operating table when something went wrong with a patient. He allowed himself a certain amount of time to panic then just got on with fixing her.
That is a bit how I’ve been viewing my twenties as they’ve neared to an end. There have been mad times (the party girl challenge*) and bad times (I have been too far too many funerals) and much of it undercut with a sense of panic. OCD is an anxiety disorder and I have spent much of the last decade trying to juggle things and get everything perfect.
I’ve been telling myself as the weeks go by that I’ll let myself worry until I’m 30 but then I need to just get on. Very little planning has gone into the weekend’s party but I’ve been forcing a c’est la vie attitude. Twice the plans for the cake have fallen through and my mum now has a final solution (in a nice way, not a Nazi way) and I’ve not even asked for details.
Obviously my OCD isn’t going to disappear because I’ve willed it so but I do believe I can control my reaction to it. After all, I’ve never let fear stop me from doing something (I fear being scared of embracing life more than I fear any challenge) so if I’m going to forge ahead I may as well try to see the anxious thought and then see it on its way rather than do the same actions but let it steal a little of my sunshine.
I’m excited about turning 30. It all got very real when my mum arrived on my birthday with a helium balloon with big numbers on it. Big birthdays definitely feel different. I suppose that’s because the force you to reflect. That can either be positive or not. Having had my wild child days and travels and now being in a settled place that supports my reflection being positive. Perhaps if I hadn’t travelled or was in a less happy place I might fear my life was passing me by. I remember hating turning 23 – I felt I was rushing towards my mid-twenties and had nothing to show for it.
So I don’t feel properly adult but I do feel more like I’ve figured out what it means to be an adult. It’s less about having the answers than it is about having a strategy. When we heard about the redundancy we didn’t know what we were going to do but we did have a plan. It started small (a couple of beers and a notepad and pen in the garden) but we knew it would develop.
I’ve been alive for enough years to know that a few years down the line I’ll be looking back on this as one of many hurdles that have been scaled. Things just don’t seem to be as big as they used to be when I was younger (my seven month pregnancy belly excluded). Even when in the midst of crisis experience is saying we’ll get through it.
I’m going to be so placid when I turn 50!
In the meantime there’s something to start thinking about. Forty things to do before I’m 40!
There are a few things left on the old list but it’s largely underway. I’ve nearly finished cooking the different cuts of the pig I bought and baby is on his way.
1) Publish a book
2) Have a baby
3) Cook a multibird roast
4) Go to an airport and take a flight chosen on the spot
5) Watch a sunset and sun rise without going to bed
6) Make a film or documentary
7) Ride a motorcycle
8) Buy an entire animal and cook it
The new list won’t carry any of these things over. I suppose that gives me 48 things to do but hey, I have 10 years in which to do it all!
* The party girl challenge was something I did aged 25. I had recently moved to Malaysia and didn’t really know anyone so for one week I vowed to go out every day. I met the girl I went on to spend the most time with that week. I also got really stuck for options and nearly went country dancing one night. Fortunately fate intervened and I met a rather dishy German stockbroker.