Not a wedding kind of girl

Last week I went to look at a wedding venue nearly a year after I got engaged.

It was the first place I looked at, and it will be the last.

You see, it seems I may be the opposite of a bridezilla now the time has finally come for “me” to become “we”.

Now, not only did I forget to tell most people that I was in possession of an engagement ring for about six months, it seems that the actual business of getting married wasn’t high on my list of priorities either.

I haven’t even written about my betrothed much either, which is odd given I’ve devoted more column centimetres to my hair in the blog over the years than I have to the man that I agreed to marry.

Without getting all psycho-analytical about it (yes, I know that’s not the correct terminology), if I bothered to do some naval-gazing I guess the reason why is that no one wants to read about a relationship that is as smooth as an icy gelato on a hot summer’s day.

No writer wants to come across as content and relaxed – rather we are supposed to be tortured alcoholics who spend most of the time muttering alone in the dark.

Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t been that incarnation a few times in my life.

However, perhaps my paucity of ponderings about my lover is likely because I want to retain my supposed extroverted edginess, built up over many decades while I steadfastly remained single when everyone around me was not.

Traditional is never a word that has been used in the same sentence as me it seems.

For more than 45 years, I have been the bridesmaid, the witness, the usher, and the token single girl at a wonderment of weddings.

I’ve drunk all the free champagne, wreaked havoc on the dance floor to out-of-tune renditions of Michael Bolton and Madonna and made small talk with strangers who became friends for just one night.

Then, as the years rolled on by and I remained stoically single, I watched on as many of those unions started to fracture to the point that they could never be healed.

And, just as the number of singles in my sphere started to swell as divorce parties replaced nuptials, I was no longer one of them.

The thing is being single for more than four decades means that on the outside at least not much has changed.

A few months ago, I went to Vietnam on a whim after getting a cabin fever so unhelpful that my fiancé suggested it could only be cured by getting out of the house – and out of the country – for a while.

It’s funny, though, that on my return some people asked whether he was OK with me taking off with little notice when it was his idea to start off with.

You can see why I am marrying him.

As the months have sped by since he proposed in our courtyard surrounded by the sunflowers that he planted me, I’ve realised that I was never a wedding kind of girl.

I’ve never dreamed about a big ceremony or a special kind of dress.

A friend even had to take the reins recently when I admitted I had no preferences when it came to dress designs let alone sleeve types or fabrics. Friends indeed.

Even though this year has been ridiculously frantic as I co-launched a business (you may have noticed the significant reduction in these blogs as a byproduct), I think I’ve used that as a bit of an excuse to not organise a wedding that I never dreamed about being in.

That said, I can’t wait for the wedding, I just have zero interest in organising it.

Now, just because I’m not a wedding type of girl, that doesn’t mean I never thought I’d get married.

I did, even if many people thought I wouldn’t, or considered I was just being too picky or had become too independent or too successful.

I’ll just leave those viewpoints right there.

I’ve always believed in love and was prepared to wait for as long as necessary.

So, now that I’ve recognised that I’m not a very “weddingy” type of girl, I’ve come up with a cunning plan that will see me marry the man who accepts me just as I am next year.

She’s one of my best friends from high school…. and she just happens to be a wedding planner, so I don’t have to be.

Why menopause is not for pussies

As I searched my fiancé’s home for evidence of an affair that didn’t exist, it never crossed my mind that my thinking might be a little, well, off.

He was shifting from his house to mine after asking me to marry him a few weeks before.

We’d only been dating for six months, but when you know you know – or so I’d been told over the years and never believed it until the same thing miraculously happened to me.

But as I helped to clean his house, I became more and more suspicious.

Everywhere I turned I expected to find some evidence to prove that this man who I had agreed to marry wasn’t all that he seemed.

I even spent a few minutes hysterically explaining (and channeling Samantha from the Sex and City movie – the good one) that I was not the type of woman who cleaned other people’s houses.

As someone who has had a fairly even temperament most of my adult life – I’m generally glass 95 per cent-full most days – the fact that I was behaving rather strangely was not at all on my radar.

It wasn’t until later that night when I had time to reflect that I’d been a bit of a psycho that I wondered out loud about it.

“Do you think it’s my hormones?” I pondered.

My fiancé, whose temperament is uber laid-back, just smiled at me and simply said, “Probably babe. That’s why I didn’t react.”

At the time, his steadfast (or so I thought) refusal to engage in my clearly “logical” line of thinking had made me even more skeptical about his true nature.

But, unbeknownst to me, he clearly understood something that I did not…

His fiancé had temporarily turned into a crazy woman and he had decided to ignore the more alarmist aspects of my behaviour rather than inflame the situation more than I was already doing all by myself.

You see, it’s not like I didn’t know I was going through menopause, because I got told the Big M was on the horizon when I was in my late 30s.

The thing was my doctor and I decided to pretend it wasn’t happening, so I remained on those little contraceptive pills for a few more years.

Looking back, and certainly in the past year or two, it’s clear those little hormone masqueraders weren’t working as well as they used too.

That can be the only reason to explain some of my odd behaviour, including thinking I’d fallen in love with a dude I met on holiday – and then being some maniacal version of heartbroken for the best part of year.

Or the time that I ran out of my front door like a mad woman intent on berating a couple of frightened electricians who had dared to turn off the power because of a dangerous electrical fault.

Oh, dear me…

So, by the time I was 45, it was clear – whether I was perimenopausal or not – that I probably didn’t need to keep taking a pill a day to keep the babies away.

I threw them in the bin, but over the course of the next few weeks and months everything started to change – and not for the better.

My mood, obviously, was all over the place and I developed something lovely that we liked to call “neck sweat”.

I also put on about eight kilograms and my bum, almost overnight, was nowhere near as perky as once it was.

Then there was the problem with my waterworks that lasted for three months while a plethora of doctors diagnosed everything from an inflamed urethra to the fact that I had fractured my spine at some stage (which was news to me).

As it turned out, it seems that even menopausal women can still get a UTI from too much shagging with their beloved.

Of course, all of these changes and misdiagnoses did not a happy woman make but I can’t blame my vanity on my abysmal behaviour.

That was menopause plain and simple.

Within a few days of my creepy cleaning episode, I realised that I didn’t want to spend the next five, 10 or 15 years coming across as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, so I went to see a specialist.

Not long after, with some much-needed assistance, I didn’t think that my fiancé was having an affair or even that he was the devil incarnate.

I also didn’t need him to mop my neck with his t-shirt anymore, which we were both quite happy about.

Apart from another less than honourable episode, which not very strangely happened after I’d forgotten to take the second dose of my magic natural medicine every day for about a month and drank too much wine to boot, most days it feels like my head is on reasonably straight.

If, some days, my brain starts to tell me things that just aren’t there, at least I now have the foresight to (mostly) keep my mouth shut until it passes.

And that is why menopause is not for pussies – and it’s sometimes not much fun for the people who love them either.

The new dawn


On 4 January last year I posted this on Facebook:

That horrific moment in the long Alzheimer’s journey when you sit opposite your mum and realise that you’re no longer her daughter, but some random stranger come to visit 🙁 

And it’s taken from that day to this to write this blog.

For the first few months, I literally couldn’t put into words what it felt like.

For the next few months, I struggled to go and see mum with the knowledge that it seemed as if I was no one more special to her than the tea-lady.

Then a few months after that two special things happened that changed my perspective and allowed me to move forward.

Rewind to that fateful day, though, and I was visiting mum after being overseas for a few weeks over Christmas.

It’s funny now that it took me more than 15 minutes to realise that she seemed to have no idea who I was.

We were chatting, or the semblance of chatting that it had become, about inane bits and pieces.

I was happy to see her, and she seemed happy to see me.

Then my mother said to me: “I haven’t seen Nicola for a while.”

I am Nicola, which I said to her, as I tried to comprehend that the day I had been dreading had come to pass much sooner than I was prepared for.

Mum looked at me long and hard and said nothing.

I couldn’t let it go so I repeated, “It’s me mum. I’m Nicola, remember?”

But no matter how many times I tried to convince her of the truth, that I was indeed her daughter, there was silence and she just stared at me or off into that distance that only people with dementia can see.

My car was packed for a surfing trip and I vaguely remember leaving her seemingly nonplussed with what had just occurred and deciding to still drive to the coast.

Along the way, I rang my sister and cried long and hard as I navigated the open road towards the waves that I hoped would heal me.

By the time I arrived, it was too late to surf, so I sat in my hotel room and tried to keep busy.

I opened my laptop and keyed in my password, but it appeared it was wrong.

So, I tried again and again and again, but that password of many years standing had been deleted from brain.

The same with passwords for this blog and my online banking accounts.

Like some kind of wild woman, I tried to force myself to remember them and was scribbling ridiculous combinations of passwords on my notepad, until my youngest brother – who was abreast of what was going down… my sanity – told me to pull up stumps and go for a walk.

It’s raining I text him. Take an umbrella, he replied.

And, so I did.

I walked around that seaside second home of mine for an hour or more and then was overcome with an unusual tiredness because it was only 7pm.

So, I went to bed and dreamed of passwords that weren’t correct when I tried again the next morning.

I grabbed my board and went out in the water.

My surfing skills were crap, but the meditation of the waves made me feel slightly saner.

I got out confident that my passwords had been reinstated inside my brain – they weren’t.

After a few more vain attempts, I decided that it wasn’t worth giving me a stroke, so I gave up.

My fingers were rested on the keyboard in that final act of submission and that was the moment when they moved – I’m sure of their own volition – and I was soon staring at the wallpaper of my laptop.

Not long after I was logged into this blog and my bank accounts simultaneously, too.

Fast forward several months, and as I battled with this new era of my mother no longer recognising me, a random encounter gave me a new perspective.

I was telling the story to a friend of my neighbours who was house-sitting.

I had never met him before and have never seen him since.

He listened as I recounted the worst day of my life and he simply said: “It’s like your brain had to reset to the new version of your relationship with your mum.”

He was right. It was the new dawn. One that I’d long known would arrive, whether I was ready or not.

A few months later, I was visiting mum and had quite a bad hangover from a very long business lunch the day before.

My sister, the first person I called on that darkest of days, was visiting from overseas and was due to meet me there but hadn’t arrived yet.

Mum was lying in her bed as she does most of the time these days.

Her bed looked very comfortable to someone like me whose head felt like all the liquid had been sucked out of it and my brain was banging drily against my skull.

So, without a second thought, I lay down next to my mother and automatically swung my arm over her, too.

Immediately, she maternally started stroking my forearm – just like she used to do when I was a kid in her arms and needed my mother to comfort me when I was distressed.

And then I knew.

The new dawn was not about my mother not remembering who I was, because she does.

I know it.

She simply can’t say my name anymore.

And I’m finally alright with that.