Monday, 16 April 2018

Microblog Monday Miscellany

  1. In case you missed it, I finally wrote my review of the Fertility Week that was featured on a TV programme here about a month or two ago.
  2. I've been reading a couple of ALI blogs recently where people are contemplating ending their pursuit of a family through IVF. When people are actively and openly talking about this, I do think it is appropriate to let them know that there is light on the other side. So, in case they might be visiting here, I  remind them of that fact, and refer them to a couple of my favourite and perhaps most relevant posts:
    Infertility's Waiting Room and
    Feeling Left Behind
  3. That previous point took me down the rabbit hole of old posts, and I got caught reading a number of them, which always (ALWAYS) leads me to cringing at (but not always correcting) all the missed typos that come from being too lazy to proof-read after editing/restructuring, or from autocorrect on my iPad! 
  4. If you're one of the Microblog Monday bloggers, know that I always read all the posts on the list that week, even if I don't comment. I try to comment even on the parenting or pregnant blogs, but there are sometimes when even simple platitudes don't come, and I become the keyboard-equivalent of speechless, not because I find the posts triggering or hurtful, or because I've turned my back on your blogs (and that goes for pregnant/parenting non-MM bloggers too), but simply because our experiences are so completely different.
  5. I am finding it a struggle to keep up with all my blogs (yes, perhaps having three is one or two too many?!) as well as exercise, eating healthily, looking for jobs, other writing projects, ridding myself of 2018 things in 2018, my photography course, Instagram (@travellingMali) and Fb, keeping up with my Goodreads challenge of only 25 books this year, caring for elderly in-laws, keeping house, etc etc, so at the moment, I am thankful I don't have kids on top of all this!

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Fertility Week: Highlighting infertility and loss on mainstream media

Some weeks ago, I mentioned here that a nightly news/magazine-style programme on one of our major TV channels was going to present a Fertility Week. I recorded each night, and have now finally got around to watching them, to report back.

They introduced the series one Friday evening. I did however immediately email them, asking that they ensure they include examples where people didn’t walk away from infertility with children.

Monday evening was information night. “Fertility, the “F” word, a big effing deal.” The statistics were useful. One in four couples face fertility issues, which is more than the population of the South Island. For someone who grew up in the South Island (ie, me!), that comparison is huge. They explained the issues of unexplained, male and female infertility, and when you should seek help for under 35s and over 35s.

They interviewed a couple with a low sperm count and low AMH. They were young, but had been dismissed by doctors, and they urged people to get tested. They noted too, that they hadn’t told many people in their lives – until now! And they talked about the invasive questions, and that people don’t take the hint that they don’t want to give answers. “People don’t quit when asking about babies,” they said, ruefully. Josh, the host who had suffered infertility, agreed. I wondered if anyone watching this would really understand what they were saying, would realise how painful these questions can be, and would change their actions.

One of the co-hosts talked about his own story. Josh noted that his first baby is due soon, but that really it is his fourth, but no-one accepts or recognises that. He talked about how difficult it is to open up, and that he noted that when others on staff announced pregnancies, he decided would ask if they had faced difficulties. Almost all of them had, but none had spoken of it. He emphasised, “it was a relief to know we weren’t alone.” And on reflection, he thinks it would have helped if he could have talked about it as they were going through infertility and loss.

Tuesday evening they turned to science. They talked about government funding, the requirements, and the cost for private patients (or those 40 and over who don’t qualify). They interviewed three couples who together had years of trying for children. But they didn’t include anyone who was not successful with IVF. So even though they noted that, percentage-wise, you’re more likely not to get pregnant than to get pregnant (under 35 about 45% success rate, over 42, a 10% rate), there was no discussion of donor eggs or sperm that might boost those rates. The visual of the happy interviewees with their babies/children would be the lasting image many people would take from this segment, giving a dishonest impression of the possible and probably outcomes. Let my eye-rolling commence.

On Wednesday, they talked to the guys, which I was pleased to see. They emphasised issues around male infertility. Of course, one man they interviewed couldn’t resist going on about his “miracle.” Sure, after two ectopics and seven miscarriages, he was understandably ecstatic. But he didn’t seem to register that others might not be so successful. He stressed the “need to address” the problems, “especially something like this that can be remedied.” Queue further eye-rolling from me.

However, I had some hope. Because each night, the group of three hosts is joined by a guest, and this night their guest was JJ, a well known radio host and Dancing with the Stars contestant who has spoken up in women’s magazines about her and her husband’s infertility. I knew she didn’t have the “miracle baby” outcome to her infertility. And after the man who waffled on not to give up, she spoke up.

JJ talked about her eight years of infertility, the multiple unsuccessful IUIs and IVF cycles, and the fact they never got their baby. She was in tears, but spoke through them, determined to explain why some people do have to stop trying. She talked too about the emotional impact on her husband. It was important, I wanted to cheer for her, but I believe I was crying too. You can watch her piece here.

Thursday night they turned to adoption. “When all options are exhausted, some turn to adoption.” But thankfully, they almost immediately pointed out that adoption is “almost impossible” in New Zealand. Adoptions by non-relatives have plummeted by 98% over the last thirty years. This is one reason why I get annoyed at the “just adopt” brigade, and why I get annoyed at the people who say that we chose to resolve childfree. When I say that sometimes there are no options, you need to believe me! They noted that adoptions in New Zealand are almost always open, perhaps unusually. And they pointed out that adoption can be complicated, and that there are almost always issues of abandonment and trust involved.

They didn’t really cover international adoption, or the cost of that, and the difficulty of doing this from New Zealand, but I guess they had limited time. 
I did appreciate the clip of a woman commenting that, because she couldn’t adopt (domestically or internationally) due to health issues, she struggled at times. She explained that yes, she might be happy for others, but at the same time she felt sadness and grief for herself. Mother’s Day, which is only a few weeks away here in NZ, is particularly hard. Apart from JJ, this was the only childless outcome openly discussed the entire week.

The final programme of their Fertility Week talked about the stress of loss and infertility on relationships. They quoted women who had told their husbands that they would understand if he left them for a woman who could give them children. They talked about friendship losses as well, about whilst you might be happy for your friends, sometimes it was too hard to be with them and their families. Or finding that friends weren’t always patient or understanding.

Of course, in interviewing people about this, they didn’t edit the clip where another woman with a baby on her lap stressed to keep trying, to keep going. The insensitivity frustrated me – I'm not sure if she wanted to give hope, or was just so thrilled with her victory she wanted to shout it from the rooftops. She certainly didn't recognise the damage that this pressure to never give up could do to people at the end of their limits. A knowledgeable producer might have been able to counter this, but it was all done too quickly, with little time to elaborate.

During the week they had been running a hashtag to get people to share their stories. The name of the hashtag was simple, catchy, but misdirected. #mybabystory implies that there is a baby, when for many people going through infertility, and needing the support of others, there is never a baby. Even searching #mybabystory does nothing but bring up photographs of babies, potentially very triggering for people looking for support, going through infertility now, or trying to come to terms with their No Kidding lives after infertility. I felt that this was a big fail, and I wonder who they actually consulted for advice when putting the week together.

They finished the week with the stories people wrote in to tell, and each of the hosts had read these out in a pre-recorded segment. It was emotional, and you can see the final segment here. They couldn’t bloody resist, though, could they? It became dangerously close to a “just adopt” segment, and they only included one quote from someone who never became a parent.

Still, there was one sentence which I listened to with a very different perspective. “I have unconditional love for a baby I didn’t birth,” wrote one parent. I assumed that this comment was about adoption. But I read it, and related to it, in another way. It could just as easily have been me talking about my unconditional love for babies never born. I think all of us here can relate to that.

My conclusion is that this was a very successful week, and they deserve the praise the programme received. Personally, each of the hosts dealt with the issues with tact and sensitivity, and it was a welcome airing of issues too often kept hidden in the shadows. 

But they could easily have done much better, simply by changing some words, editing some clips and scripts, and being a bit more balanced. Ultimately, their discomfort with the hardest part of infertility – the fear that the outcome won’t be what is most sought after  – led to the fact that they pretty much ignored that outcome. And they certainly didn't point out that a No Kidding life isn't full of pain and regret and sadness and envy, but can be full of friendship and joy and adventure and fulfilment. Clearly, they should have called me for advice!

Still, brava to The Project NZ for their Fertility Week.

Some other links:
Jesse Mulligan, the host of The Project, wrote this article summing up the week.
A clip about invasive questions from a guest who doesn’t have children.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Little girls need old women

Recently I smiled when I read a post that commented, “little girls need old women,” but almost immediately thought of my own old age, only a decade or two away, and our confident plan to be somewhere where any transitions can be dealt with more easily in our old age without children, and realised that it will be harder to be around little girls there, to be the old woman they need, to get the rewards of being there for someone else. At first, I felt conflicted, wondering if it means I should try to stay in the wider community as long as possible, so that I might have the chance of meeting little girls I could befriend and nurture and listen to? Maybe my plan isn’t as reasonable as I think it is?

I thought of the logistics of doing this, and then I thought of the effort of trying to move, when frail and vulnerable and easily stressed, without any younger generational support, when it was inevitable that I would have no choice but to move. No, my plan still seems sound (though I do have another fifteen or twenty years or so to figure it out properly). And sure, I can be the kindly great-aunt, the one ready to listen to great-nieces when or if they visit. But living where I do, without any relatives nearby, the opportunities for that will be severely limited. So whilst my plan might be sound, what it may mean is that infertility has robbed me even of being the friendly old lady across the road. I feel a little sad at that, because old women need little girls too.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Childless Success Stories Revisited: Our Declaration of Independence

Loribeth’s post about a New York Times article (which I didn’t read due to the paywall, and didn’t feel I needed to, given her excellent recap) which essentially gave the message "never give up" added to a comment on a post, from someone who said they always liked "hearing success stories about infertility." I was frustrated at both these instances, and the view that the only success stories are those who have children after infertility.

Six years ago this month, I wrote a post about this subject called The real success stories. Go read it if you haven’t – I was going to repost it here in its entirety, but realised I had some more things to say, so in the interests of brevity I’ve just provided the link. Because you see, six years later, I’m frustrated that pretty much every word of it is still relevant (though of course, I hadn’t really expected change in society to occur that quickly).

And so, once again, I wonder why, in this supposedly more accepting age, in the 21st century, people still focus so much on the so-called success stories (ie, those with babies). They don’t want to hear the stories of those of us who didn’t have children. But why don’t they? What is wrong with hearing the stories of those who battled bravely, didn’t achieve their desired outcome, but went on to live good, full lives? What is wrong with thinking about those of us on a different path than we might have wanted? What is wrong with acknowledging that there are some of us who have suffered real loss? Why does it make them uncomfortable? And what is wrong with acknowledging that there can be happiness and pride and fulfilment in a life that is different from theirs?

Why are people so uncomfortable and afraid of the different? The answers are obvious, of course, but I think today I needed to rant! So in brief, I know that humanity finds it hard to cope with the idea of “different.” There are myriad examples of this, in every society, all over the world – discrimination and bias are, sadly, key features of human nature. And those in the majority like to feel that theirs is the best, the happiest, the only legitimate outcome. Hence the inability of so many to acknowledge those of us who don't come out of infertility as a parent.

Actually, though, if I think about it, maybe some things have changed. International discussions about childless leaders now invariably criticise discrimination against women without children, rather than accepting and justifying it. Here in the ALI community, our numbers have grown, and we are becoming harder to ignore. Mel’s Round-Up, for example, regularly includes posts from the not-so-Silent Sorority of No Kidding bloggers* on the road less travelled and on different shores, living the next 15000 days of our lives without baby, rising from the ashes of infertility, sometimes brutal in their honesty, bent but not broken, inconceivably eloquent. Posts are written, interviews given, articles printed, and books published giving our perspective. I’m so proud of everyone doing this.

But I say again, in our Declaration of Independence, so-named by Loribeth in the original post's comments, that I believe we are the true success stories. We are the ones who fought to get what we wanted, who did everything and (sometimes) more than those who have children, and still didn’t get what we wanted. So we learned to want what we have. We may have endured agonies, perhaps years of grief and adjustment, but we learned to retrain our brains away from the if-onlys, to find new hope for different things, to blossom and thrive on an alternative path, to embrace ourselves, and our lives. Born out of hardship and disappointment, we are the true success stories. I celebrate you, and I celebrate us.

* Those other excellent bloggers not able to be mentioned here are included in my blogroll.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Redirecting No Kidding resilience

This year I’ve been rather distracted from this space, as you may have noticed, what with new self-imposed and enjoyable projects that are more time-consuming than I expected – blogging, and photography, and summer! – and, less enjoyably, external pressures and obligations that I have been finding very stressful. I have, however, just realised that some of the things I learnt about resilience after infertility and No Kiddingness might actually help me again now, and so I am promising myself I will do more of the following:
  1. Get out in nature, and feel the joy of it, and feel gratitude for my body carrying me through it.
  2. Deny the narrative of the voices in my head, and the voices of unhelpful people (after all, what they say is probably more about them than it is about me), and  let them go, because I know they’re not true.
  3. Stop letting others dictate how I feel, stop letting them belittle me, when I'm doing so much more than they are, as their comments and actions are probably about them, not about me.
  4. Let go of the anger, because it only eats me up, and forgive them, even if it is only to stop bringing myself down.
  5. Stop being so hard on myself, and show myself some self-compassion - I I don't need to justify my actions to anyone when they are coming from my heart.
  6. Take control of what I can control, and use that to move myself forward.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Two things: 1) a promise, and 2) a bouquet

I promise that I will get around to - soon - reporting back on the series on infertility run by one of our leading TV stations, that I flagged here, but I haven't watched them all yet - life taking precedence, I'm afraid. I did see the very last in the series, and was pleased that they included the voices of people who had responded to the programme.

After last week, I also wanted to give a shout out - a virtual bouquet - to the No Kidding community's supporters who are parents. Whether you came to parenthood through infertility or fertility or circumstance, it really means a lot to us that you read, that you participate in conversations, and that don't treat us like pariahs, or ask us to be silent. I especially appreciate those people who have maintained an openness to other outcomes, other ways of life, and don't judge us for that. Your voices, and your support of our voices, gives us courage in speaking our truth both here in the blogging community, but also with parents in real life. For example, I know that if I have received support or comments here - whether you agree or disagree with me - it makes me more prepared, and more confident, to express my point of view, my experiences, in real life. And I thank you for that.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Being proud

I have some longer posts brewing, but in order to get a Microblog Monday post out, I was looking for an easy and hopefully happy topic, as there is much negativity in my head at the moment (hence my limited blogging), and I don’t want that to spill out here.

I was thinking of my No Kidding readers and fellow bloggers, who invariably I’ve watched go through deep disappointment and disbelief, and experience real grief, and I watch them express these emotions honestly, rawly, each in their own, brilliant style. We are all there to support them, and any new people who come through.

Then, slowly, the grief subsides, though it comes and goes, tormenting, at times, mocking. But gradually too the hope and joy return, contentment sets in, and they gain wisdom, acknowledging their journey, writing things like, “I could not have written this two years ago.” These journeys warm my heart, as I’ve been there and know how hard it is, but I am always confident they would emerge out the other side, still (or once again) largely okay. They warm my heart for another reason too, because I know that the progression is there to give others hope, to show the way to those people who will, sadly, always be following in our steps.

I am so proud of you all.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Monday Miscellaneous: What I'm doing

  1. Hoping that everyone in the UK found the Day that Shall Not be Named passed peacefully, and that you're ready to get back to normal without all the hype.
  2. Ending my nine days away (read about a section of it on A Separate Life here), and grateful for the time away, but slightly annoyed that it wasn't at a time (and therefore place) of my choosing.
  3. Realising this is my life now (see above).
  4. Happy that my country is really beautiful, has great food, and is easy to travel around, and that I can do so out of high season/school holidays.
  5. Ready to work on a particular project, and really move it along.
  6. Frustrated that I am struggling to find a way to earn money in these last years before retirement.
  7. Determined to try to let things go more, so thinking about getting back into meditation and yoga.
  8. Committing to find exercise that will carry me through the winter that will inevitably arrive ... just not yet, please.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Real life

We found someone to look after the kids so we're going away for a few days. Scratch that. We found someone to stay with the elderly in-laws for a few days, so we're going away for a few days. Our life at the moment isn't so free and easy, but those who think that the No Kidding live free and easy lives are short-sighted. Just as those No Kidding folks who think that having children is all about playing happy families are blinded to the realities of life.

So we've hit the road, and we're going to explore a part of New Zealand we don't know very well. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to crack up in a day or two, but we didn't get to choose when to go away. So we have books and music and wine, and if we have to hunker down at the beach bach we've booked, then we're ready for that.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Talking about infertility and childlessness

You could have knocked my socks off. I was watching a recorded TV programme the other night,  forgot to fast foward through the ads, and then I heard Jesse (I've written about him before) talking about our Prime Minister's pregnancy (and since then another Cabinet Minister has announced her pregnancy, as has a well-known TV personality), and how tough this news could be for those don't have children. His 5-day-a week TV programme is going to run a series of items about infertility this week, to
"make conversations about not having babies as natural and normal and open as having them." 
I don't know if he's talking about himself - he does go on a bit at times about being a father, but equally tries not to say things like "as a parent" and to be more inclusive. and when he asked "that question" he did note there had been a lot of discussion in the team about whether it was even appropriate to ask.

I found this article and video, and I will be watching/recording this week to report back.

This is the first time I've heard any prominent media programme talk about not having children as the most normal thing possible. I wanted to cheer. I just hope that they include those of us who don't come out of infertility with babies, as well as those who do.

Monday, 19 February 2018

No Kidding Living – Childlessness is Always Present

A post this morning about being reminded about infertility at a doctor's appointment surprised me a little. It surprised me because it reminded me that those who come through infertility without children can forget about it for periods of time. We see a lot of writing (and commenting) from compassionate, thoughtful women who have children after infertility, and remember their journey. But I'm not sure I ever realised that they might be able to think, "oh yes, infertility," as if they have forgotten for a while they were infertile, as if it is now irrelevant to their lives.

Those of us who didn't come out of it with children don't need to be reminded about infertility, because the inevitable and inseparable outcome of childlessness is always with us. It doesn't really pop up and remind us, as it would be as unusual for me to think, "oh yes, I have no kids" any more than people with children might think, "oh yes, I have kids." We live with our realities every day.

But I wanted too, to remind you that this isn’t necessarily a painful state, as I noted in my post from a few years ago, in Getting Over It.

Friday, 16 February 2018

"Get out of my uterus!"

I don’t usually do book reviews, but I’ve just finished reading We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union about her life. Actually, if I’m honest, she read it to me, as it was my latest audiobook. It is great hearing memoirs read by the people who have written them.

I didn’t know anything about her, other than she looked vaguely familiar, but I saw Trevor Noah interview her on The Daily Show, and looked for her book. I loved the book. I love her. She’s outspoken, funny, and brutally honest. She talks about racism/colourism in the US. And she talks about feminism. Or perhaps I should say, she talks about her life as seen through these lenses, with intelligence and insight.

So I was surprised – though I’m not sure why I was surprised – in one of the final chapters, for her to introduce fertility as a topic. She mentions the endless speculations about whether she’s pregnant because she was photographed wearing a jacket (when it was cold), and how difficult that made an appointment when she went for a non-gynaecological scan, being asked about five times whether she was sure she wasn’t pregnant. Then she talked about multiple miscarriages, about IVF, and about how hard it all is.

“Get out of my uterus!” she said angrily, wondering why people think they deserve to know all the details of her fertility or infertility.

I second that. Well, I would if I had one, but you know what I mean.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Enjoying the gifts of infertility and blogging

I started writing my Monday morning post, but the several blogs I’ve read the last day or two all provided such great inspiration that I knew it was impossible to stick to eight sentences, so today I’ll write my Microblog Mondays post, and then another later in the week – keep a look out for it!

Today I wanted to note again one of the great joys of my No Kidding blogging life, and that is meeting other bloggers. I meet you all online, which is truly special, and I feel as if my life is much broader than it might be, simply because I chat with you all on a regular basis. That, it turns out, is the top factor contributing to longevity, so I thank you all in advance!

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Valery, her partner and her beautiful daughter, as they are on their tour of New Zealand. We sat under a pohutukawa tree beside the beach, as Suzy fearlessly climbed on the playground and the trees, and chatted face-to-face after all these years of chatting computer-to-computer. We’ve learned each others’ real names, and got used to using them!

I look forward to the day when I can do that with many more of you.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Being an aunt

I’ve been busy this past week being an aunt. On Monday, I taught my nephew how to make my delicious fudgy chocolate brownies. He’s 18, off to university in a week, and needed to know this essential information before he goes. I took pleasure in pulling out my mother’s old measuring cup, melodramatically telling him that my mother had taught me to bake with this cup, and now I had the honour of teaching him.

The rest of the week I hosted my sister and my littlest niece, who at nine-years-old turns out to be not so little, as she tried to use my No Kids status in her favour. When I asked her to do something because – not having children – I didn’t know how to do it, she pointed out that I "could use the practice!"

But I could go one better. I pointed out that one of the advantages of not having children was not having to do certain things that children could do for themselves!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Another (#3 this month) ageing without children

So a few weeks ago I wrote about ageing without children, and some of the comments prompted me to write a much longer post about ageing without children, in which I realised I do have some sort of plan. Then yesterday, we toured a retirement village nearby on their open day.

The person showing us around said, “you know we have an age limit, don’t you?” laughing, so just in case, we clarified that we were looking on behalf of my husband’s parents. We were given information and taken on a tour with a man who had lost his partner, and was thinking about moving in himself.

He commented that he didn’t have an Enduring Power of Attorney set up, because he didn’t know what to do when he had no family. He was doing everything right, moving in when he was able, joining clubs and keeping active, but it was obvious that he was feeling vulnerable. The staff member didn’t bat an eyelid, referred him to a forthcoming talk on setting up POAs if you don’t have family, and made him feel comfortable, that there was a solution, and that he wasn’t alone in dealing with it. In doing that, she made me feel more comfortable too, about our own future.

Monday, 22 January 2018

She was one of us ... but no longer

So, back in October, I noted that our new Prime Minister was one of us, a No Kidding woman. Turns out it wasn't by choice, as she's always said she would like children, and has said that she and her partner had been told they were going to need help to conceive, and that they had put that on hold when she became leader of the Labour Party in the middle of last year.

In case you haven't heard, as the news has gone around the world, she has announced that she is pregnant. Given her openness about their infertility (though I doubt she would use that word), and my desire to see women in all positions, regardless of their family arrangements, I am very pleased for her. I wince a bit that she's going to be used as an example of the "stop trying so hard/just relax and it will happen" brigade, though I doubt she was at all relaxed during the election campaign, which is when she must have conceived (although she found out only after the election).

I also am pleased that the initial public reaction - that I heard or read at least - was positive ... well, except for my SIL, who ranted at me on whatsapp that it was dishonest of her to take the position when she knew she was pregnant, that she'd never cope doing both jobs. I knew I couldn't respond with any of my normal responses, which would have been "if she says she can cope, and has plans for the event, then I believe her," or "you'd never say that about a man," because the inevitable response (either said bluntly, or implicit in a withering comeback) would have been "you've never had a baby, so what would you know?"

So I just said, "well, isn't it good that you're not a New Zealander!"

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ageing without Children: The Plan

I love it when the comments on one of my posts leads into more thoughts, and another post. I thought I’d clarify that I am thinking a lot about our retirement and old age at the moment, due to caring for ailing parents-in-law who didn't really plan in advance. But at the moment, our plans are just thoughts really, as we’re still in our 50s, still hoping to earn a little more money before we retire, and still hoping to travel, and spend some more prolonged time overseas. The important thing at this stage is, I think, our recognition that we need to plan ahead. We can't leave it to chance, and the goodwill of others. Besides, increasingly, I think that would be selfish.

In my observation, old age covers really three periods of life:

Youthful and Active Old Age
The first is when we first officially retire, when we don’t feel or look old (and indeed, many of our contemporaries may still be working), and when we are – hopefully – relatively youthful and active. That’s a time that I feel we can truly grasp the benefits of having no children, and go anywhere, and do anything (finances and health willing, of course), though to be fair lots of people travel now, because it’s the first time in their lives that they are not constrained by jobs or children either. Travel with friends who are parents could be a real bonus at this time of life, because we're all equally unencumbered.

This is when my parents first left New Zealand shores, and explored some of the world. They also explored their own country, travelling by car, camping very cheaply, and they had a wonderful time. They went out for meals more often, to movies and shows (that weren't options living on the farm), they got involved in new hobbies, making friends who would be important in later years.

I know a couple of different people now who spend NZ winters where it is warm, and return for the summer. They don’t spend much money doing this, but they’ve been able to organise their affairs to travel this way. I love the concept. I also would like to return to Thailand and live for a while, or at least spend six months or so there. It’s definitely an option for us, and spending NZ winters on a beach in Thailand (with air-conditioning in a house, because I actually am a wimp when it comes to heat) when we’re in our 60s is a nice idea.

It’s a good time to downsize too, in our case to be able to afford the lifestyle we hope to have.

I hate to think though, that I would spend this time, which should be liberating and exciting, sad and afraid, worrying about the future, and constraining my activities and location because I feel I need to be establish a support network so I can feel safer in ten years time. So Jess, maybe Bryce is right, and you can, in fact, retire anywhere you want!

Middle Old Age
To me this is around 70-75 – again, health willing – when it is important to establish a home base in an environment where we can enter old old age. Some people at this age move to be near their children, but we can’t do that. We will need to decide whether we want to settle down (finally!) where we live now, where we have good friends, but no family, or if we want to move near others in the family. Though the risk there is that they can always move too. So, where we will settle is still to be decided, but I'm confident we’ll get a better feel over the next 20 years!

I like to think that we can move into something like a retirement village, still with our own house or apartment, but with nearby facilities if we need them long term. Yes, we might be younger than those moving in, but I think it’s important to do it before we absolutely need to do so.

Middle Old Age is when we can maintain our existing friendships and networks, or make new ones from others in similar circumstances, or through clubs or volunteering.

We’re probably not going to be quite as adventurous in terms of travelling, but I hope we will still be able to go out and see the world. We might be doing escorted tours, rather than jumping in a car and finding our own way, and perhaps a few more cruises too. But we’ll be doing it from a home base.

It’s an age when health issues make themselves known, or when dementia can start hinting at its presence, and that’s absolutely when it is necessary to make changes to ensure that there is adequate care as the condition deteriorates. So it is a time to get those Powers of Attorney and Wills updated, and to consider living Wills/medical directives.

Old Old Age
These are the elderly years, the years when everything feels harder, even if you are still mentally alert. It’s a time when confidence falls, fear grows, and there is comfort having people around who can help if you fall. A lot of people wait until they’re this age before they look at moving, but by now the idea of moving is too daunting to be able to do it. And so they struggle, lonely and afraid. These are the years I think we worry about, and the years I want to plan for.

I think the key is having a different mindset. Whilst we can’t foresee all eventualities, and every good plan will have its flaws, we know we can’t just wait. Those who simply rely on their children to look after them in their old age are, I think, quite selfish. Being prepared, thinking in advance, and organising our affairs as much as possible, will make life easier and less uncertain for us. It will mean we will have friends around us, that we won’t be lonely, and that we’ll have support systems (whether paid, or family, or friends) in place when we need them.

The good thing too is that governments and agencies are recognising more and more that people are old and lonely. I also have no idea of the type of technology we’ll be relying on in 20-30 years, both in terms of helping us cope, but also in terms of connecting us with others. Maybe I’ll be filling my days chatting to my friends, and you all, and my overseas nieces and nephews and their children, on the Skype-equivalent of the 2030-40s, interacting with each other as if we’re having you over for lunch, or sitting down chatting over a coffee. Maybe I’ll be doing things I cannot imagine yet! My grandmother spent a lot of time phoning her friends when she was old and living alone, and felt connected that way. She could never have dreamt that I might have an online life connecting with friends all over the world, let alone how I might spend my old age.

So actually, when I think about it, the future could be quite exciting!

(And it appears I do have a plan, of sorts. Thanks for the chance to think it through here.)

Monday, 15 January 2018

Ageing without children (again)

The last few months have been busy caring for my rapidly ailing in-laws, and it is leaving little time for us to do much else, let alone look for work, travel beyond an overnight trip, work on our own garden and home maintenance projects, or – for me – no opportunity to even get out with my camera to complete some challenges in my photography course.

This last week, my in-laws Wills and POAs were updated and finalised; of course, my husband did everything, organised the lawyer, provided the drafts, talked it through with them, etc, based on his parents’ wishes.

With my MIL ailing over the last few months (she’s 94, and went through a course of chemotherapy!), we have been at least part-time carers, thinking of things they don’t think about (the chemotherapy affected MILs mental ability(, or don’t see (my FIL is going blind), and doing as much as we can without taking away their independence.

As a result, the issue of who will care for us in our old age hovers over me, although I try not to ask that question, as I’ve accepted that there will be no-one in particular we can rely on; though I hope one or two of my nieces might still be in the country.

Once again though, it is a reminder that we will need to get organised early, and live in an environment with plenty of support. We won’t have the luxury of leaving our decisions until we are in our 90s, when ultimately someone else has to make the hard calls. But in retrospect, watching my in-laws, I don’t think that is at all luxurious, or lucky.

Making positive decisions for our own personal care and welfare when we are younger and more lucid will mean that when we are elderly and vulnerable, we should already be somewhere we are comfortable (physically and emotionally) and don’t have to worry over decisions we are no longer capable of making. Maybe there are advantages to knowing that we have to do it all ourselves?