The Reckoning

I can’t remember feeling young. 

I was that kid who seemed to have an other-worldly shift about my drooped shoulders. At University I was the go-to for deep and meaningful conversations about life, the Universe and everything.

And yet now, I even type in old age into Google and I don’t get a sage old woman brimming with sense and wisdom. NO, I get that pic of a Bedouin woman, all dried out.

Dried out? And now I embarrass my children – dried out, really? 

I have been wise for as long as I can remember, and that’s OK. It’s just, recently I’ve been feeling old.

It’s not about the silver wisdom streaks I have painted in fire red at the hairdressers’ every six weeks or so. It’s not because of the silver streaks across my expanding flank, or thigh. It’s not about the lack of attention…I was promised invisibility in my forties and yet I still seem to enjoy the cheeky smile or cursive eyebrow that suggests something…

No, it’s not those typical markers of age and stage. It’s these, these new-age versions, of the same.

About two months ago my 40 kg puppy (it’s a mindset, not a body frame!) thumped into me side-on and dislodged my knee cap. Amongst the doctor’s whistles and gasps, he murmured about orthopaedic surgeons and on-going physio. I feigned deafness. (An old age sign if ever there was one).

I muttered and swore all the way, the entire 200m from my car to the x-ray rooms but when the elderly gent offered a kind arm I smiled and said ‘no thanks, all good.’ The x-ray results were good and bad.

I don’t have a torn meniscus (yay) but I do have arthritis.

Seriously?

That means, of course, that I can never again run-off the excess from a weekend of wine and pork. Does anyone know if Pilates can have the same calorie gazumping effect?

Following the arthritis diagnosis, which was by no means a small thing, there was the continuing discussions with my Mum who has been more than a little unwell. We’re not sure how old she is – she says 78yrs, my birth certificate suggests 80 years.

Does it really matter?

What does matter is that she has become increasingly unwell. Oxygen reliant, unwell. Prayers in the 2 am dark, unwell. My elegant, vivacious, character of a Mum. And yet in the midst of the stress and the drama I haven’t reacted well. When asked to transport her to A&E I freaked. Barely breathing (me as well as her) I drove like a nutter through the Brissy traffic to the private hospital. Except, no one told me that there are two hospitals side by side in North Brisbane. I’d arrived in my mercy chariot at the wrong one. In the end, I had to wheel the patient in her chair in 26degs heat from one hospital to the other.

Surreal. And sweaty.

To be fair, I didn’t behave well. I tried, but actually, I didn’t manage to pull it off. I was not Florence Nightingale under fire. More a sweary Nurse Ratchett in need of a drink.

I felt old then.

Tired. But then, as far as I’ve observed old and tired are somewhat the same thing. Tiredness can be physical, mental, spiritual. Sometimes, it can simply be all three.

The patient recovered enough to go home and maintain her independence, as is her raison d’etre. I ring when I can. It’s not easy.

I recovered from my sprained knee, but just this past week I’ve been feeling so terribly weathered.

One child (are they really children now?) has gained a boyfriend, one a ‘proper’ job and another a tertiary future she cannot wait to begin.

And me?

This week with the wind and the rain whipping at my heart and mind I’m feeling nest-empty-useless. Oh sure, not working every hour God sends has meant that I can reach out and help those around me, and there have been a few, but in my quiet moments, I wonder ‘what next?’

What’s my mission now? Another book? Sure. But what? What next? What should I be doing?

At 49 years old I don’t feel invisible at all. Perhaps that’s because I have never relied on my physicality, my sexuality. Instead, I’ve relied on my intellectualism. But I’ve never felt physically faded because in reality I never had that physicality at all. Yet, I feel weary. Will a holiday fix it?

My toy-boy husband, six years younger doesn’t suffer the same fate. He wears his wisdom streaks like armour. He should. He’s earnt them. Life’s not been fair to him and he is no longer the carefree young man he once was. I stand by him, and yet, and yet my arthritic knee aches…

Or is it a simple truth – my kids, my parents are moving on. I am no longer the Queen of my environs. And no matter what I do, I have chin hairs and a bloody good starter-beard. I am staring down the reality of an empty nest. Me, my arthritis, exhaustion, and all.

Middle age is a bitch. And no amount of oils, and smoothies and wellness retreats will make it better.

Some women enter the menopausal age with defiance. They are proud crones. Am I? Crone is my second to least favourite c-word. There’s no respect there.

What will make a difference, is a sense of purpose. I’m looking for mine, right now. I’m fighting back the urge to grab a backpack and go save the children. Or fight for the freedom fighters, or to slip the homeless a tenner, or to simply answer the dulcet Facebook Messenger tones when one of the womb fruit need me.

I need a purpose.

Do you have yours? Tell me about it. Inspire me. I have about forty more years on this planet, what should I do with it?

 

Death of a Blog

Kiwi modern storyteller

I guess it’s sad to start with a death. But, in truth most new things do start with the ending of something else.

In the words of the song – every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

I decided at the beginning of the year that Vegemitevix was to be quietly and humanely put to sleep.

After all, I can’t relaunch as Vicki Jeffels Author and start this blog without saying goodbye to the old Vixen.

Rebranding is quite involved, as any marketing consultant will tell you, and I’m still working on changing all the social media accounts and organising redirects. Vegemitevix.com is still up but more as a headstone than something alive and dynamic. In time, I will quietly turn the life support system off and it will cease to be.

But oh the memories will live on.

Not least of which because some of them have been captured in my book From Pavlova to Pork Pies which was published late last year.  Other memories will live on in our heads, as contrary to perceived wisdom things don’t live on the internet forever – we are so bombarded by information from every quarter only the truly relevant remains vital. The rest will fade away, gracefully. Just as the old gang has faded from view.

I lecture in Digital Marketing now and when I consider the blogging hey-day of 2008-2012 I am in awe at what we achieved. Young bloggers have no idea how much easier it is now to get started and to turn professional. Back then, the majority of ‘Mummy bloggers’ were trying to keep their career lives happening whilst raising the kids, and we fought hard to be taken seriously. When brands asked us to blog about shampoo and offered a bottle as payment, we sent it back. We said ‘thanks but no thanks’ to SEO opportunists who demanded backlinks for ‘the exposure’. ‘Just think of the exposure’ they’d say. We’d laugh into our keyboards. Who did they think we were? Numpties?

Blogging was very much a community activity back then. We would all comment on each other’s posts and share the love around far and wide. It wasn’t unusual to have over 40 comments on a blog post, these days you’re lucky to get two or three. We developed writers’ groups (Remember Judith’s Room?) and clubs – BritMums, NetMums, Kiwi Mummy Bloggers – and we supported our mates. Somehow it was all more social and less competitive back then. More grime and giggles more wine than whine.

These days things seem so much tidier. Less messy. Perhaps, less real?  I haven’t decided if this is all image and artifice or whether it really is a change in how we live now. Do we all now live in our competitive little, sanitised bubbles? Are the Insta posts in their glossy styling and careful curation simply a reflection of our tidy lives?

During a recent howling storm in NZ some kindy kids in Thames were let out to play in the rain. They had a ball; jumping in puddles, squelching through the mud, and sliding down the slippery slide. Someone took video of the kids playing and shared it on social media. At the time of writing that video has had over 27 million views. Why? Because kids don’t often play like that anymore. They’re not allowed to play that way. They’re ferried by anxious Mums to after school activities or escorted home to a nice clean play on ipads and tablets. Playing in the storm was seen as dirty, slightly dangerous play, a rebellious expression of freedom. Kudos to the parents and the staff involved who had the courage to let kids get dirty and who didn’t give a flying frittata about being seen as ‘bad Mums’.

But it’s not just this generation of kids who’ve changed, their mothers (and fathers) have changed also. We seem to all be shy of getting mud on our clothes or wearing the wrong clothes and God forbid seeing that image displayed on social media! So many of us still curate the stories we share. We present a brand sanctified, ultimately safe stream of stories on our social media.

But some of us old storytellers still linger, fingers on the keyboard, humour honed, razor wit sharpened. We’ve done the nice, the nuanced, the brand beautiful and we’ve learnt that though we gained audience we lost authenticity. Blogging isn’t so much about brand engagement for us anymore, it’s more about good old fashioned soul speaking, storytelling. And in the best stories, there’s always a bit of blood, sweat and tears.

I turned 49 the other week. That was a shock. I keep thinking that I’m still the Vixen of 39 yrs old fighting the world for her cubs, and then I pass a mirror and realise, although the vixen’s still there, she’s greyer now and a little thicker around the middle. We all change, we all grow older, some of us even grow wiser. (I’m working on that). But I’m no longer an expat mummy blogger. We’ve returned home and the kids are all but grown up. Two of my three kids have left home and the baby (the baby!) is in her last year at school.

And so, it’s  time for a new chapter. I’m writing more, with another series at the plot planning stage, and I’m teaching, sharing my learnt lessons. This vixen may not need to growl at the world to protect her kits anymore but she can still hold her own. I’m no longer dependent on brands so I will speak my soul and tell my stories and, importantly, I’m not frightened of being seen to be a little bit messy.

I’d love it if you came with me as I navigate changing careers, the empty nest, the middle years, and the next stage of my crazy life.

Vix x

NB/ I’d love it if you signed up to my mailing list and followed my page on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram.