#amwriting

I love summer holidays. I mean, everyone loves summer holidays, sure; but I’m pretty certain I love them more. To the moon and back. Or at the very least, the east coast of America.

My husband’s family hail from the Massachusetts area (The Spirit of America!), and so we take an annual pilgrimage here to see them, as well as my sister and her family, who are in New York and come up for a few days to join us. We usually squeeze in the odd dinner with friends and my mum and stepdad have recently taken to joining in the fun as well. It’s a big bonanza of a summer, and the past few years we’ve spent a whole month here, just so we don’t have to cram everyone in and feel like we’ve never even had a holiday by the time we get home.

It’s hectic and hot, and on busy weekends, a little overcrowded at the house, but lazy days on the beach and dinner by the water and endless rounds of tipsy evening Bananagram battles more than compensate. And maybe thanks to all of this, I go through a strange transformation that confounds everyone who knows me: I become a morning person.

To be clear, I am NOT a morning person. I hate waking up, I hate getting up, and eight years of parenting have failed to cure me of this. I have not ‘got used to it’. I’m a night owl, and a terrible procrastinator when it comes to bedtime; I’ll find any number of projects to do at 11pm that will see me through until the early hours, and have been known to deny myself of sleep for the most ridiculous of reasons, like trying on old ballgowns to see if they still fit, or watching back-to-back episodes of shockingly bad tv until I can’t bear it any longer.

But when I’m in Rockport, everything changes. Maybe it’s the light, which is beautiful at every time of day, but especially at dawn; maybe it’s the peace and quiet, the simpler life away from the city; maybe it’s just the friendly relaxed vibe of this wonderful place by the sea… but every day for a whole month, I’m in bed by 10.30, and the next morning find myself awake early enough to catch the last of the cool morning breeze, grab a cup of tea, and plonk myself down in ‘my chair by the window’, to do the most luxurious, ‘me time’ thing I can think of: write.

Why don’t I write like this in England? Or anywhere else, for that matter? Why should this place inspire me to be so prolific, where so many other places fail? There’s a reason why people pay a fortune to go on writing retreats, clearly. The very act of being isolated from normal life, with the knowledge that I have a whole month – not 10 days, or a long weekend – but a whole month with nothing much else to think about – inspires me to write, and not just a little – a lot. There’s plenty of time to let ideas develop and get them down on paper, without the interruption of the school run, or nice-to-have can’t-turn-it-down actual-real-life paid work, or the temptation of a coffee with friends. I don’t have to arrange play dates or go into town for a meeting, or promote a show, or visit the supermarket for the third time in as many days. No one is texting me, WhatsApp-ing me, Facebook message-ing me – and if they are, I’m 5 hours behind them and don’t even carry my phone with me most of the time. Fact: my phone hasn’t been charged in 3 days. It still has battery. That’s got to be some sort of record.

Or maybe it’s the light. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it. I’m writing and it feels good.

 

 

 

My first menopause

‘Your test results were very interesting.’ My gynaecologist looks up from the typed paper in front of him and smiles.

I smile back, an idiot grin with my heart beating overtime. ‘In what way?’

‘Well, you have no oestrogen.’

‘Sorry?’

‘Here’s your results here.’ He points. ‘It’s so low as to be unregisterable, see? And here is the average for a man.’ He points to the information table on the right hand side of the page.

‘I didn’t even know men had oestrogen.’

‘Oh, yes. And more than you do. I have more oestrogen than you. Jeremy Corbyn has more oestrogen than you. Arnold Schwartznegger has more oestrogen than you. There’s a good chance you’ve had your menopause…’ he looks up at me again. ‘Although you don’t look like you’ve had a menopause.’

‘You don’t know what I looked like before,’ I reply, a little in shock. I’m 42 years old and Arnold Schwartznegger has more chance of getting pregnant than I do.

HRT

My gynae and me discuss the issue at some length to try and unravel the mystery. I had trouble conceiving at 34 and my family history is one with early menopauses casually sprinkled throughout, so it’s perfectly possible. The middle aged spread I can’t get rid of, the insomnia, the casual way in which I am prone to tears; it all points to some sort of hormonal breakdown. But my gynae is convinced I can’t possibly have had a menopause without noticing, and my normal, pre-menopausal FSH levels would back up that theory.

‘We’ll prescribe you some pills and pop a new coil in. If you feel like superwoman after a month and you don’t have breasts like bullets (cue mildly inappropriate hand gestures) then we’ll know we haven’t overcooked you and we’ll probably carry on with that and just keep an eye on things.’

‘How will I know if it was the menopause or not, then?’ I say.

‘If you have another menopause, it wasn’t the menopause,’ he says. ‘It’s about a 60/40 chance you’re through it.’

I leave the office a little shell shocked, wondering a) if my gynae is a stand up comedian in his spare time and b) if I’ve actually pulled off the menopause of the century. What if that’s it? I ponder. No night sweats, no hot flushes, vague forgetfulness, marriage still relatively intact…please GOD let that be it.

A month later, thanks to a big pile of pills (which, let’s not dress it up, it’s HRT), I’m feeling pretty superwoman-y. I’m running twice a week (which is a first in a lifelong history of exercise avoidance), I’m playing tennis, and I’m able to remember things much better than before. I’m running a business, parenting, and balancing a pretty hectic social life, and for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel permanently knackered. I realise I’m 42 and I don’t care if I’ve had my menopause. I try not to think too much about the scenario where I haven’t; I figure only time will tell, and if I feel good right now, then who cares?

I think about writing, because it’s what I do. I think about how I used to blog, and how much I enjoyed spending time on my thoughts once a week or so, to make sense of things that happen, be amused by life, or tackle a difficult issue. I tried to start another one a year ago, about being a middle aged feminist. But I realised, feminist though I am, I didn’t want to work within that particular remit. I wanted to do something that celebrated all the quirks and wonders of mid-life. Being in my forties is turning out to be miles more fun than my thirties, and infinitely more satisfying than being in my twenties. I’m wrinkly, a bit floppy and fat, but enjoying the ride. So I’ll write about that, I think.

Welcome.