Month: April 2016

MIDLIFE MUSINGS: ‘For oft, when on my couch I lie/ In vacant or in pensive mood,/ They flash upon that inward eye/ Which is the bliss of solitude;/ And then my heart with pleasure fills,/ And dances with the daffodils.’ – Daffodils by William Wordsworth

I can’t write in the office. It feels too much like work, and I go all researchy, thinking I should back up my ideas with scientific evidence and include a bibliography. In the office I have two screens (for when I’m doing my proper job), ideal for when I need lots of windows open at the same time, but too distracting if I just want to … muse.

So I’ve moved to what we call the big room, where the view is a little prettier, especially if I don’t look too far to the mess at the bottom of the garden. For the benefit of the person who suggested (prompted by my monthly cry of ‘what shall I write about?!’) that I talk about springtime and fluffy bunnies, the view from here is of happy daffodils, pretty primroses (which appear unannounced, by magic) and, yes, a real life fluffy bunny.

Perfect for musing. Although there’s something appealing about getting serious and going all academic and researchy. It’s all part of my midlife ‘what responsible, fulfilling, grown-up thing shall I do in the next phase of my life?’ thing. I fancy being like Dr Pamela Stephenson-Connolly, the comedian who retrained as a psychiatrist. This is in the hope that I will one day be respected and taken seriously [insert scientific evidence for theory that youngest in family is never taken seriously; therefore never takes herself seriously; therefore people never take her seriously].

Similarly, I have a new-found respect for Ruby Wax. I found her a little scary as a comedian, but I am now really quite impressed. Driven by a need for scientific answers on why she’s always suffered with depression, she took herself off to Oxford to study psychotherapy. Her subsequent books (see bibliography) on how the brain works, depression, and mindfulness, make hilarious and accessible what is so often a bit complicated or just plain gloomy.

Honestly, I’ve always been a little sceptical about the whole mindfulness thing and have sort of avoided it. I suspect that it is basically what we used to call sitting down and having a nice cup of tea in the old fashioned way, by which I mean actually sitting down and relaxing and perhaps staring out of the window at the daffodils. But over time we’ve evolved to perceive that as being plain idle. Instead, we squeeze so much into our schedules that we don’t even stop for coffee – we grab a grande skinny macchiato at the drivethrough to drink in the car on the way to the gym, at 5.30am before work. As Ruby explains, ‘You could say that multi-tasking has driven us mad; like leaving too many windows open on your computer, eventually it will crash.’

Ruby’s argument is that of all the different ways of treating depression, including medication and talking therapies, the regular and long-term practice of mindfulness is scientifically proven to be the most effective. Which is a pretty incredible claim. I’ll delve more deeply and let you know. Then maybe I’ll head off to university and do a masters in Psycobabble, and write papers with abstracts and footnotes and references and everything. Although, it looks like I won’t be alone, as Ruby observes, ‘many women like myself choose to study therapy when they meet the wild surf of menopause; the hormones dry up and they realize the chances are low they’re ever going to be hit on again, so they find themselves wanting to care for other people or starting a rest home for stray cats.’ Or bunnies, perhaps. Sigh …


Wax, Ruby. 2013. Sane New World: Taming the Mind. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Wax, Ruby. 2016. A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled. Penguin Books.