Monday, 27 January 2014

The 50th Wedding Anniversary.

My parents have just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary, which is truly amazing. It is such an incredible achievement, especially when life hasn't always been that easy for them. Going through the ups and downs and being able to come out the other end still smiling, well, it's made my sister and I very proud. We also feel very lucky to have had their love and stability all our lives, so thank you Mama and Pops.

I think to find your soulmate, makes you one of the lucky ones. Not all of us do. I always imagined I would be in the same situation as my parents, thirty years from now, but unfortunately I just haven't met the right man. My longest relationship has been 4 years so I'm a little off target, and even if I met the love of my life tomorrow and lived until the ripe old age of 90, I still wouldn't be able to reach that golden number. Having been around for 45 years of my parents' relationship though, I think I have quite a good insight in to what makes a long and happy marriage, as long as you meet the right person. Love, laughter, friendship, and trust.

I think these are all qualities that relationships need to survive. Love gets deeper over the years, the laughter shared and the friendship effortless. But trust is crucial because once it has been broken, it is nigh on impossible to get back. Looking at divorce around the world, most relationships end due to either financial matters or infidelity, both of which are based on trust. Financially, it is not lack of money that causes break-ups, it's when either partner hasn't been honest about money... wether its what they earn, how they spend it, or an unmentioned debt. Infidelity, of course, is the worst kind of betrayal and it seems 71% of the population cannot forgive or forget, and the marriage ends in divorce. Some couples obviously do survive it though... 29% according to the statistics, but I'm not sure how their lives are ever the same again after this. Once a partner is unfaithful, every late night or office drinks party suddenly take on a different meaning. You may have it in your heart to fully forgive but can you ever really forget? My parents trust each other unreservedly, they always have, and that is one of the reasons they are still together.

I forgot to mention another crucial ingredient to a long and happy marriage... arguing. Personally, I think those couples who say they never have an argument or raise their voice, are just plain weird. It's not natural to keep every irritation or annoyance in, I mean, where does it go if doesn't come out now and again? My parents love a good argument and my sister and I have grown up with a natural inclination towards feistiness. As long as it doesn't linger, then arguing can be a very healthy release. Health experts agree... they say it's better to have a quick and satisfying argument than avoid confrontation. Avoiding an argument, biting your lip or simply walking away, actually raises your cortisol levels. Cortisol levels = stress. You may not realise what's going on in your body but as long as you aren't screaming and throwing glasses, then maybe it's better to let it out next time. I went to a wedding last year, and whilst giving advice to the newlyweds during his speech, the best man quoted the famous line, “Never go to bed angry”, and then followed it with, “Stay up and fight all night instead”. I love it.

With my parents, they will have a row, and two minutes later, be asking if the other wants a cup of tea. My friends and I can be at a dinner party and have a complete barny over something in the newspapers, and be perfectly fine after a few slurps of wine. Boyfriends and I have had almighty debates, and then gone out for the day as if nothing has happened. The only advice I would offer, however, is to never have an argument in a confined space, like a car for instance. I have heard quite a few hilarious car argument stories and been involved in half a dozen myself, and none have ended well

So love generously, laugh often, trust implicitly, and argue now and again, and you may just reach that elusive anniversary as well.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Simple Pleasures.

I have decided not to make any Resolutions this year. The reason for this shocking break from tradition is because I have just looked at my New Year's Resolutions from last year, and from a list of 8, I managed to successfully fulfil only two and a half of them. Poor, I know. It seems I was a little too ambitious so I am going to be a bit more spontaneous and keep things simple. There's nothing wrong with planning things you want to do in the year, but writing them down and making a solemn vow to everyone that you will succeed in all of them, you are pretty much doomed to failure.

Here was my list from last year and how I got on:

1. Learn Italian.

I began well with this challenge and managed to find a wonderful course on Monday mornings in an old Georgian townhouse in Mayfair. The teacher sounded great and the course, which focussed on conversation rather than being textbook heavy, had a maximum of six students. Perfect. A week before the course began, I received an email saying that due to two students dropping out, they were having to combine the Monday morning class with the Tuesday evening one. Well that wasn't going to work. Tuesday evenings were my swimming/aqua aerobics/pilates or yoga night. Fail number one.

2. Learn more than two chords on my guitar.

Again, this started off promisingly. I bought a guitar book and found out where to get my guitar re-strung, and that's pretty much as far as I got. Fail number two.

3. Lose two stone.

Yes, I did successfully lose two stone. Did I keep off the two stone you ask? Um, well, no. Due to the massive failure of number 8, I gained about 7 pounds.

4. Get knees fixed (again).

This is where the half comes in. My knees aren't fixed, per se, but they are being looked after incredibly well. I have had intense physio and half a dozen appointments with my very creative knee surgeon. Yes, my knees are still officially crap and at some point in the near future, they will need to be operated on, but in the meantime, Mr Orthopaedic and his team have come up with some ingenious methods of delaying the surgery. I will spare you the gruesome details but it basically involves injecting steroids and a rather odd gel substance under my knee caps and around my tendons which act as a painkiller and fake cartilage respectively. It's now up to me to make the call. When the pain makes my life intolerable, the surgery will go ahead.

5. Go to Copenhagen with my two girlfriends.

I'm not entirely sure why this hasn't happened. We have talked about it and discussed dates, and I have scoured websites and guidebooks but it hasn't gone much further than that. I did end up going to Alaska in September and my friends also went on a couple of trips so maybe we just ran out of time. As far as I know, Denmark isn't going anywhere, so this will happen eventually.

6. Travel down the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.

Again, I spent quite a bit of time looking into this and found a couple of friends that really wanted to do it with me, but once again life got in the way, money became tight and suddenly it was winter. Boo.

7. Visit Havana.

Same as the above. If you don't plan it and book it when you think about doing it, then it's unlikely it will happen. Most of my amazing trips around the world have been... book and pay now, plan and worry later!

8. Get a boyfriend.

Ah, now, I suppose I was quite successful with this resolution to begin with because as you know from reading the blog, I dated with incredible gusto for the first 3 months of 2013. Then in early Spring I fell in love and by mid Summer I was heartbroken. Enough said.

So you can see why I may be slightly apprehensive about making such a comprehensive list again. My only declaration this year is to keep things uncomplicated. I am stripping it back to basics, and by that I mean quite literally. On the evening of January 1st 2014, after watching a horrific programme called 50 Shocking Facts about Diet and Exercise, I cleared my fridge and cupboards of about half their contents.

I like to think I'm pretty savvy with what's right and wrong about dieting... the only way I managed to lose two stone last year was by eating less, exercising more and not putting any crap in my body. Simple. But this programme told me, in detail, about one of the most dangerous things in my diet and something I have completely overlooked in my quest to be healthy... aspartame. Not only was it once listed as a biochemical warfare agent by the Pentagon, but it also took over 15 years for it to be approved by the FDA at all, which makes it slightly suspicious. Yes, it's the killer sweetener that is added to pretty much everything. Now, from a very young age I knew I had a slight allergic reaction to this sweetener, and was told that if I drank diet Coke it would make me slightly hyperactive. Yay, I thought, what fun! When I learnt to drive, I didn't mind at all being designated driver… I would happily slug back gallons of diet coke in the pub, while my pals downed pints of cider, and as they passed out under a table I would be laughing hilariously, bouncing off the walls. Brilliant. I order diet drinks very rarely now because I know they aren't good for you, but as this programme revealed all the other names that aspartame disguises itself as, I realised how many products it was hidden in. I went through my kitchen ferociously studying the ingredient labels, throwing away yogurts, pickles, sauces and spreads. It was in my chewing gum, my hot chocolate, and more worryingly, some of my vitamins and supplements. I honestly thought it was ok to have one sweetener a day in my tea or coffee, to have the occasional 'healthy' ready meal or sugar-free dessert but I know now, that if you are going to take away the fat and sugar, it's going to have to be replaced with something else to make it taste good. And it's that 'something else' that I'm going to avoid like the plague.

I am going 'au natural'. It will not only mean eliminating sweetener and any other additive and preservative from my diet, but I am going to really really start appreciating the things that make me happy... the simple pleasures of life. Hanging out with my wonderful family and friends; phone calls rather than hurried emails; going for long walks; stretching; driving my bruised and battered Gigi; laughing; having a good cry; crying with laughter; losing myself in a book or film; kissing; hugging; eating the perfect fillet steak; drinking the smoothest pinot noir; an open fire; a smiling, wagging dog; Bruno, my hot water bottle; and that warm cosy feeling you get when life feels, just right.

Oh, and this isn't a New Year's Resolution by the way... just saying.