Self Help – Where to From Here?

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The world of self-help books is growing at approximately 5% per year and in 2014 the industry was worth $11 billion in the US alone.  It proved to be recession proof with sales showing no abating either in the UK or US during the bank crashes or the turbulent times thereafter, but probably this is when they were needed the most.  Not unlike what has occurred over the past few weeks and I’m sure there will be another spike in sales to marry up with Trump Presidency fiasco.

They cover many categories and whilst dysfunctional relationships are the bread and butter of self-help they are by no means the preserve of the sad single female looking to draw Mr Mediocre into her web of white wedding and ordinary ever after.

The titles are as varied as the advice they offer Women Who Think Too Much, It’s called a break-up because it’s broken, Ignore the Guy; Get the Guy, Who Moved My Cheese,  How to poo on a date, How to get a nun into bed (is this guy for real, self published naturally), Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them and my personal favourite How to Manage Your Dick and its Destructive impulses; a kindle favourite I would imagine, not one for Waterstones.

There is no shortage on how to find your inner happy whether it’s by controlling comfort eating, putting away the bottle, saying NO, saying YES, healing your life or getting the life you really want to live.  The advice flows in torrents as it appears that there is no ailment or relationship that doesn’t have a self-help book to accompany it. If you’re a lover, parent, husband or wife, sibling or child there is danger and damage highlighted at every turn, every conversation to be analysed in-depth or regurgitated for a future misery memoir, no act of kindness or otherwise to go without dissection – quite frankly it scares the hell out of me.

And whilst I like to believe all these books are well-intentioned they do come along with a mind-boggling amount of instructions that need to be followed in order to unveil your happy and successful inner self.  They usually start with filling out lists, analysing key words and committing to the guidelines on a daily basis.  I say guidelines but swap it with doctrine and it wouldn’t be out of place, disobey at your peril.  Here I am back at Trump Presidency again…

Take The Rules for example this self helper guaranteed women true love and a marriage proposal in 12 months if followed exactly or your virginity back.  As you can imagine it caused a lot of controversy not least because it appeared to put back the women’s movement back by about 50 years, by advising against returning phone calls and not talking too much – that’s me screwed!

Despite their ongoing popularity self-help books do not offer an instant remedy or impeachment to your particular problem and in order for them to be objective you need to work at it.   But in today’s world of chaotic lifestyles and instant gratification it feels like we need a book telling us how to even begin a programme of self-improvement.

And if you’re wondering if such a book exists, it does.  It’s called ‘Get Your Shit Together’ and is selling like hot cakes!

50 Shades of Grey

Last night when padding into the bathroom to proceed with monthly hair-colouring ritual – armed with the survival kit comprising black towel, black flannel and dust sheet for the floor, I have previous – I realised that I have been colouring my hair for 35 years.

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It started innocently at the age of 14 with a Clairol Glints – a little mahogany here, some chestnut there and before long I was hooked, moving on from semi-permanent colours until I reached the zenith – permanent hair colour, staining bathroom suites, cabinets and walls as I went.

On leaving school at 16 I bleached my shoulder length hair and dyed it bright pink, with a cyclamen Crazy Colour thereby rocking a head of candy floss coloured tresses.  My Father saw it, narrowly avoided swallowing his tongue and offered to pay for me to have it dyed back to its natural colour.  Like any insolent teenage I was astounded;  ‘why on earth would I want to do that when in my mind I looked like a funky mermaid’, unsurprisingly Pater didn’t agree and I’m not convinced he’s ever got over it.  It was a watershed moment, from thereon my hair colour changed as rapidly as the English weather, jet black with a fetching yellow and red undercut, orange, aubergine, platinum blonde you name it I’ve dyed it.  Top tip; blue looks terrible, avoid at all costs rather buy a wig from Claire’s.

Admittedly there have been a few mishaps along the way, going from blonde to black with a green based dye left me with a khaki coloured thatch, and platinum to red meant that the end result was hi-vis orange!  And let’s not forget the time I’d gone from blonde to black, (I’m starting to see a trend here), and my hair was a lilac purple mash-up.   Met a nice fella at a club and he offered to take my coat and wait for me in the foyer to give me a lift home.  Told him about the hair incident, low lighting hiding a multitude of sins and he assured me he didn’t care.  Until that was I walked into a fully lit foyer when he exclaimed ‘fuck me it’s purple’ threw my coat at me and ran out the door into the night and never  seen again.

I blame their descriptions, the beguiling names are too much for me to resist, this month I am Mystic Violet – as yet unable to see into the future or read auras but that may come soon.  For my entire adolescent and adult life I’ve been colouring my hair and now that large sections of it are going rapidly grey I’ve realised I have absolutely no idea what my natural colour was, and it’s a bit too late to find out.  What worries me more is that as I fall into my 50’s I will end up looking like Mrs Slocombe!

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The Great British Holiday

The Lake District – Day 1

We have just taken out my furry friends out to make wees at 10.20pm, it is still light.  Not, get your book and sit on a lounger light but no need for a torch with dusk hovering in the near distance.

Day 2

This morning they woke us to go out and again it was light.  Dutifully I pulled on a jersey, lassoed them up and took them out to do their business.  On getting back to the cottage I checked my watch – 4.37am!  The last time I saw 4.37 I was coming home from a long night out and even then it wasn’t light.  Does the sun never set in the Lake District?  Yesterday as we drove up hill and across fell we joked that we could be in Mordor looking at this dramatic and slightly sinister landscape; now I’m not so sure it was a joke, as if we’ve travelled to a parallel universe and it only took 6 hours in a Kia.

Day 3

This holiday is the first time we have taken the girls, and it comes with own set of pros and cons.  Whilst it’s lovely having them around and stops those sighs of ‘wonder how they are’ it does mean that we are unable to eat out at restaurants and enjoy long boozy suppers.  We are confined to more progressive tea rooms and pubs.  However they were the perfect foil for husband not being able to wonder around the Beatrix Potter exhibition and likewise have saved me from being dragged into every outdoor shop the Lake District has to offer.  You do however have to consider their routines when away and whilst they seem quite settled in their new house both are suffering from holiday constipation.  As a sufferer myself I can sympathise, I didn’t think that leaving the familiarity of their own tried and tested walking routes would create such an affliction, I was wrong.  Today husband and I have walked the girls up and down the fells in the pouring rain trying to spur on a poop.   Fellow dog owners will understand that you take great interest in your dog’s bowel movements and have no compunction in discussing them with not only your partner but any fellow dog walker and I would have used today to gather some useful research material.  However on the fells there were no walkers to share the constipation with, only one very wet, bad tempered husband.

lake district rain

Day 4

I never thought I would be lighting log fires every evening on my holiday, did I tell you this is my summer holiday.  All I can think is that when the sun shines this must be God’s own country, day 4 and I’ve yet to see it.  Today the rain has followed us relentlessly, wherever we drove, the rain followed like a wet stalker. We have spent more time in the car parks than the parks themselves, but what’s a UK holiday without doing a crossword in the car with the rain beating down.  I know now why I have eschewed English holidays previously in favour of hotter climes, the meteorological unpredictability.

Day 5

Hallelujah the sun is shining!  We scurry outside to feel the sun on our faces and muzzles.  The girls go crazy charging up and down the track unencumbered by sideways travelling train.  We bundle in  the car and  go sight-seeing.  As suspected when the sun shines it is truly spectacular and we are in awe of the aquamarine lakes, and rich emerald forestry that surround them.  We spend the entire day travelling to lakes and parks, each one outdoing the previous for its beauty and enchantment.  We arrive back 12 hours later, exhausted, exhilarated and desperate for a lie down.

lake district sun

Day 6

Woken by the rain drumming on the roof and a dog grizzling to go outside in the drencher.  I clamber into wellies and my waterproof when the dog decides that the holiday constipation issues are over with explosive style.  Rain is running down my back and both dog and I are looking pretty unimpressed with the mornings proceedings.  And whilst the dog continues to off load  and looks apologetically at me, I get wetter and colder and understand why for 30 years I have eschewed the beautiful British Isles for sunnier climes.

After what feels like an age the dog and I paddle back to the cottage and within 10 minutes I’ve booked next year’s holiday – 10 days in Sardinia, expected average temperate 32 degrees; Lake District you are truly magnificent but I need sun!

Facing Fifty & Frightened

I am 49 in less than a week, and after that I will then be standing on the precipice of 50, and quite frankly it frightens me.  In fact I am terrified.

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Because I can’t see it as a personal milestone, it’s more like a testament to my uselessness.

Let’s be honest I can hardly imagine Madame Curie saying to Pierre, “If only I’d studied harder and been a little more resourceful.”  Or Mr Nelson Mandela turning to Graca Machel and lamenting  “Wish I’d done more for the people of South Africa and made a greater impact on humanity.”  Dr Jane Goodall hardly turned 50 thinking that she was a wastrel and needed to look for a purpose, nor did Mother Teresa wish she’d made more of an effort.  In short all these people had drive, determination, and passion; something which I am lacking in spades.

And let me not think of amazingly talented and dedicated people like Billie Holliday, Martin Luther King or Ayrton Senna who were not fortunate enough to make it to 50 and reach their magnificent potential.

Looking back I realise I have spent the last 48 years in abject apathy like a sloth with an attitude problem.

This is not a vanity issue. I didn’t realise ‘she’s got a great personality’ was a euphemism until my late 20’s.  I was under the impression that it was a compliment and delighted by the fact that people thought me funny and vivacious not realising it didn’t mean that, in fact it wasn’t very flattering at all.  So it is not a case of concern over fading looks, more like the realisation of a listless lifestyle and squandered years.

I have 12 months to make amends by atoning for the previous 588 lacklustre ones, and I’ve got no idea of where to start.  Hitting half a century has generated more questions than answers.

It may be time to hit the library’s Self Help section.   If anyone knows of a self help book entitled ‘How to get off your arse and make something of your life’ please send me the ISBN – I’d be ever so grateful.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48289187@N00/19642387101″>On the Edge</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

 

 

Why I can’t wear scarves

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I am a big fan of scarves, but from here on I have forsaken them.  I have a cupboard full of them, the lovely colours, patterns and floaty fabrics that keep you warm and cheer you up instantly.  Wrap a scarf around your neck and it’s like being caressed by a smile rather than popping your head in a noose.  I love their chic appeal, bringing a whole outfit together, one simple accessory that coalesces shoes to the jacket to the handbag, simply divine.

 

 This was however until I looked into the mirror last Monday to admire the complimentary effect the white tulle scarf with tiny black strawberries had on the day’s outfit when I realized I had made a terrible mistake.

It did not unite my outfit with a flourish of sartorial elegance it simply disconnected my middle aged head from the rest of my body, highlighting the bags under my eyes and bringing into the spotlight the crows feet and burgeoning jowls.  My disembodied head did me no favours it simply gave prominence to the fact that I was aging and saggy.  It seems like every week there is another part of my body that is slowly sliding ground-wards, melting and morphing like a dinner candle at the end of a very long evening.  If I carry on like this, my arse will be at my ankles by August.

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Why is gravity such a git? My treacherous scarf instead of disguising this inevitable ageing it cruelly accentuated every facet of it. This Saturday I will be hot footing it to my local PDSA charity shop to deposit the scarves for a worthy cause and I will spend the foreseeable future being bloody cold rather than looking like a stout sagging dowager.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/93965477@N02/24576982323″>Ribbed Cowl Neck Sweater in Grey by Tommy Hilfiger – Shoots Official – 2015/2016 Fashion – Photographed by Jason Hargrove – #shootsOfficial</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/77654185@N07/15169144055″>Does anyone in the US know how to “pull off” a scarf?</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

Adult Supervision

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I left home at 18, which was the norm back then. You completed your higher education or apprenticeship, got a job and left home pronto. Only the gifted few went to University and stayed with a foot in both camps, not fully moving out until in their mid-20’s.

I met husband when I was 36 meaning that I had 18 years living by myself apart from 2 brief spells when I played house with patently unsuitable men and a glorious couple of years living with some amazing girlfriends. Rest of the time I was an adept singleton, nothing untoward happened and the creases which make up life’s rich pattern got ironed out rapidly and with little fuss.

A truly independent modern woman, that was the persona I fashioned for myself, and even after meeting husband I managed to maintain a lifestyle that told would make any Cosmo reader proud.

Lately though every time husband travels on business leaving me alone, the fickle finger of fate slaps me around the chops making me look inadequate and wanting, those tiny creases in life now appear rapidly bunching and my explanations are prefaced with “it wasn’t my fault” like an indolent teenager. In the past 6 months I have:-

  • Lost the dog in the New Forest. Husband’s number was on her tag and nobody especially me, wants to start a conversation with “Don’t be furious, I’ve lost the dog but someone has found her, so please pick-up all numbers calling you” he was in South Africa at the time and had only been gone 24 hours – not impressed. Nett result dog recovered by some kind people and collected 90 very long, worrying minutes later.

  • Fallen in the fish pond, after losing my balance on an edging tile resulting in multiple bruises, frog spawn and slimy pond weed; took 4 days to shower the smell off.

  • Been responsible for getting the dog poisoned, she ran off for 2 minutes whereupon she found some rubbish and ate it resulting in an SOS vet visit on a Sunday afternoon

  • Dislodged the crown on my front tooth from recklessly eating a toffee. Only after a lot of persuasion would the terrifying Russian receptionist accept that this WAS a dental emergency, coupled with the fact I was holding aforementioned incisor in front of her face.

  • Contracted flu, had allergic reaction to the medication and passed flat-out in Morrisons, came to with someone waving a bag of lettuce over my face, could have been worse – could have been a stinky kipper.

Having been together for over 12 years he is used to my moments of lunacy and outlandish behaviour but has never doubted my self-sufficient ways, in fact I like to think that my independent stance is one of the things that attracted him to me in the first place. And to the best of my knowledge he has never been scared, until recently, of receiving a phone call from me whilst away. I heard him chatting to my Mum the other night discussing his two-week trip to Sweden. Whilst I don’t want to be accused of ear wigging I think he was trying to her convince to come and spend the fortnight with me.

48 and he has arranged a baby sitter, it’s for my own safety ….

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/36217762@N00/25633134671″>don’t give me a hand, just be with me</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Feeling Frumpy

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About 15 years ago it came as quite a shock when I realised that the soft slapping noise following me around was my bum banging on the back of my knees, I comforted myself with the thought that long as I had spanx I could get through it right? Except what has followed is much worse.

This latest ageing dilemma started several months ago when it started taking me ages to get ready. It’s not that I haven’t decided what to wear but every time I put on an outfit which in my head is cute and quirky, I find a frumpy and middle-aged woman looking back at me in the mirror.

Everything is looking MUMSY!!

I have been inspecting the suspected crime scene that is my face to confirm if this is indeed the nerve centre of the middle aged aura. Is it the hooded eyes, the crows feet or the droopy mouth that are the perpetrators of this ageist violation, or just a deluxe combo of all 3. And the findings? I’m running out of plump in all the important places. My juicy face fat has slid down to my ever burgeoning midriff. What was once moist is now dessicated, curves replaced by crepe and perky overtaken by limpness.

That very essence of youth, the dewy plumpness that oozes from every pore of the young has seeped out of me when I wasn’t looking. Youth has left me like a one a night stand. No apologies, no phone calls, or plans to pop in again – just gone. I feel abandoned, the longest relationship I ever had was with my youth. So I creep into this new era feeling dowdy and apologetic for my lack of plump and join all those other lovely ladies in their 40’s who feel exactly the same way.

In the sweet shop of life where once I was a juicy fruit I have become a liquorice lace and it takes a bit of getting used to. It has also made me realise that as I now look like a member of the WI I need to seriously up-skill my baking abilities.