Tuesday, March 01, 2011

When I Was 35

From where I stand now, 35 doesn’t seem so very far away. A short stretch across the plateau of family life, surely not much has changed in the intervening 10 years? Reading Charlotte’s post on her life at 35 and casting my mind back, I was surprised to discover how much has changed in my life since then. Even more surprised when I read her post of several years ago about being 25 and found that I'd followed her lead that time too and written a post about my life when I was 25. So much I had forgotten about. Thanks Charlotte for setting me off on a nostalgic voyage of re-discovery once again!

When I was 35 I was adjusting to having two children, our new baby daughter having just joined our two year-old son. I was busy learning the tactics of diplomacy, compromise and negotiation. I learned to read aloud as I breast fed and survive on very little sleep, as our son had conveniently given up day-time napping, just as his sister came along.

When I was 35 we lived in a tiny two bedroom house in South London with a pocket handkerchief garden. We’d spent four months living in South Africa the previous year, but had returned to London try and make sure that our business would support us when we moved for real. We still thought we could keep a foot in both worlds. Two years later, we moved to South Africa anyway and plunged in with both feet. Now we’re living in a spacious straw bale house that is the opposite of our London house in almost every way.

When I was 35 I was finding out what it was really like to be a stay at home mum to two small children. When our son was a baby we’d lived in the photographic studio that was both home and work, and there was always someone around to hold the baby, if I wanted to go to the loo or cook a meal. My husband was usually around, even when working and our baby son was happy to be handed around a group of admiring photographer’s assistants.  Living in a house a commute away from the studio, there was just me and two kids for most of the day. I had to find my own resources and quite often my husband would arrive home to find me slumped on the sofa with a howling child on each side of me, as I let the afternoon meltdown run its course.

When I was 35 the toddler groups at the local Waldorf school were a regular weekly outing, a necessary escape from the house. I didn’t then know that my kids would end up going to a Waldorf school themselves, but I loved the wooden toys, crafts, natural fabrics and friendly atmosphere.

When I was 35 I bought organic products from Sainsbury’s and Tesco. I could get organic flour and organic everything for very little more in price than the regular products. Fair trade chocolate slipped into the trolley every so often too. Then we moved to SA and to my dismay I could hardly find any organic products on the shelves of supermarkets. It took me a while to figure out alternatives over here, and even longer to realise that even better than buying organic would be growing our own  organic produce.We're still a long way from being self-sufficient but enjoy harvesting tomatoes, guavas, almonds, strawberries and veggies.

When I was 35 I had still never cooked a Sunday roast. We had Sunday lunch whenever we visited my parents in the country once a month or so. In South Africa my mother’s Sunday roasts were no longer within reach, so I finally learned to cook my own and now we have them almost every Sunday, except in summer when the very idea brings me out in a sweat.

When I was 35 my life not only revolved around my children but was absorbed completely in their whirlwind. Now my life still revolves around them, but there is a calm space in the middle of the whirlwind, where I can work and write and occasionally imagine that I am separate from them.

When I was 35 jeans and a black Gap rib jumper with a Burberry sheepskin waistcoat were my winter uniform. The Gap jumper is getting a bit holey now, and I’ve bought new jeans since then but I’m effectively still wearing the same winter clothes as then and that warm waistcoat has survived remarkably well – to whoever left it behind in our photographic studio all those years ago, I am eternally grateful!

When I was 35 I developed strong arm muscles from pushing a three wheel buggy up and down the steep hills to the local park near our house. I probably got far more exercise then than I do now, as walking was the easiest way to get out of the house. Now I manage to keep my arm muscles strong by kneading bread dough every other day.

When I was 35 I had never even considered writing for either work or fun. I read avidly as I always had done, and collected books for my kids to read one day, but was too much in awe of writers and their expert weaving of words into enthralling stories to even dream of becoming one myself. Now I write for work and fun, but am still nowhere near writing the stories that I love reading so much.

When I was 35 I was just starting to discover homeopathy and other alternative medicine. I liked the practical stuff,  but crystals, reiki, past lives, angels and such like were way out of my comfort zone. Now I’m getting comfortable with all that woo-woo stuff and discovering a spiritual side of me that I didn’t think was there.

When I was 35 I had never heard of blogging. I made new friends who lived close by and had toddlers and babies to share play dates with. Now I have new blog friends on the other side of the world and blogging is the social lifeline that toddler play dates once were.

When I was 35 my garden an outdoor space with a clothes line and a few small trees hopefully planted. I never really got to grips with it. Now at 45 I finally have a successful herb garden much to my own surprise.

What were you doing when you were 35? This isn't a meme, but let me know if you are inspired to join in the retrospective!