Sunday, January 18, 2009


One of my goals for this mid-life crisis is to cast off some of the fear and anxiety I hold around me like a security blanket. My nickname is Neurotic Nelly. I’m a self-confessed control freak. If I’m not in control, I’m likely huddled in the corner, a quivering mound of insecurity. I don’t want to be Neurotic Nelly anymore. I want to be Positive Paula.

I have a sort of bucket list of things I’d like to do before I die. Most of them strike a cord of terror in my gut. Which would explain why I haven’t done them already. Here’s the condensed version of my list:

1. Go to Australia.
Sounds pleasant and rather exciting, don’t you think? Not so easy to do when you’re phobically afraid of flying. Now fulfilling this goal would require me to be suspended at unnaturally elevated heights for an extended period of time, at a high rate of speed. We’re talking minimum 18 hours here, depending on the departure point. Being a Canadian living in Scotland, I have flown over the ocean quite a bit over the last ten years. My coping method included large amounts of alcohol and graduated to large amounts of alcohol mixed with valium. Got so as I was pretty drunk when I landed. I was in Rome once with my husband, and when I de-planed, I naturally had to pee really badly. I rarely make it as far as Customs or the baggage carousel without having to run to the nearest toilet. Come to think of it, I drink so much before I get on the plane, I always have to pee before take-off, when everyone’s getting settled in their seats. So, we had just landed in Rome and I got to the ladies room and commenced my business, so to speak. Well, I locked myself in the toilet stall. Could not figure out how to get out. I don’t think there was anything particularly difficult about the locks on the toilet stalls in Rome, I was just too pissed to figure it out. I’m shouting “Hellllooooooo…..heeeelllppp me pleeeeeeasseeee”. I’m not upset, if anything I think it’s hilarious. Two German girls had to talk me through unlocking the toilet stall door.

Funny story. I am not a good person to sit beside on a plane. If my husband could get away with it, he’d settle me in my seat and go to the opposite end of the aircraft. I can be embarrassing. I always advise my seatmate that I’m a scardey-cat flyer and ask them to please ignore me and tell them I’ll be fine. Well, I was seated on the isle (naturally, so I can be the first one out in the event of a crash landing. And also 'cause I have to get up to pee so much) and there was a really sweet fellow to my left, and his wife was on his left. Drink service had passed and I had a happy glow in my belly and I was wondering what’s so bad about this flying thing anyway? Dinner service begins and thankfully, it includes free wine. We’re all getting along famously when we hit a really bad patch of turbulence. BAM, we drop down a few feet. I immediately become hysterical. It’s what I do. We’re all clutching on to our trays as the plane bounces about. In the mêlée, the sweet man to my left grabs my hand and holds it through the whole thing, comforting me. I’m declaring loudly that this is not normal. “I’ve flown a lot” I say, a note of doom in my voice, “and this is not normal”. I’ve got the sweet man beside me terrified. Of course, things eventually settle down and I look around and take stock. I am not dead, the plane has not crashed. I’d like to finish my wine to celebrate not being dead, but it’s nowhere to be seen. The sweet man beside me looked sheepishly down at his lap and confessed that he drank it. Turns out he didn’t have enough hands to hold his wife’s hand, my hand and make sure my wine didn’t spill over during the turbulence, so he sucked it back! Bless him.

This story actually has a somewhat happy ending. I realised it was getting pretty bad after the above incident. I was at risk of being arrested for being an obnoxious drunk on a plane. How embarrassing would that be? Last year, for unavoidable reasons, I had to fly something like six times in two weeks. I reached a few conclusions. Bars in Canadian airports aren’t open at 6am like they are in Scotland. They won’t serve alcohol on a Canadian flight before something like 10am!!! It’s physically impossible to maintain that level of terror when you have to fly that many times in quick succession. Once these fates conspired against me, I had to accept that I would be unable to control what happened once I got on that plane. And I will not stop flying. I may be frightened, but I have never let my fear of flying keep me grounded. I still get scared, but I seem to have let go of most of the abject terror. Turbulence and I are still mortal enemies, but I no longer get stinking drunk just to get on a plane. Since then, I have actually flown without having a drink! Ok, it was a one-hour flight. But a one-hour flight is like seven hours in phobically-afraid-of-flying-time. So perhaps a little jaunt to Australia is in my future after all….

2. Go skinny-dipping.
Have you ever gone skinny-dipping? It’s fabulous. I’ve done it once during a family camping trip. I was 12 years old. I’m surprised I was that outgoing. I was not enjoying the whole camping experience. I spent most of the trip whining because there were no electrical sockets to plug my hair dryer into. (Wow, some things really don’t change!). There was nothing but trees around for miles! I was bored. At least I could go swimming. I don’t know what made me do it, probably boredom, but one day I got under the water and tugged my swimsuit off. I pushed off the bank and it was glorious. What a feeling of freedom and release. I’ll never forget it. I’ve never done it again. The closest I’ve come was to go sunbathing topless in Greece. That was almost as good. Very liberating. I resolve to cast off my inhibitions and go skinny-dipping as many times as I can as an adult. If you don’t like what you see, may I suggest you turn the other cheek?

3. Sing on stage.
I’ve always been told that I have a good singing voice. Now that I’m older, I realise it’s not true. People were just being kind. But I still love doing it anyway. I sang in school plays, in the chorus mind you, where I could hitch my wagon to the melodious, in-tune voices of others around me. One of my favourite things to do is to turn up a much-loved song and belt it out at the top of my lungs. My hairdryer is my microphone and I always finish the song to a standing ovation. (You realise this is in my head, right?).

Secretly, I want to be a pop star. In my heart of hearts, I know there’s not much call for middle-aged women who weigh 750 pounds and can’t carry a tune. Ok, there’s Rita McNeil, but she can carry a tune and what are the chances that the market can support two of us? Not that I hold a candle to our Rita.

My dirty little secret is that I love the American Idol show. I know that I could so get to Hollywood! No way would I be one of those deluded audition-ees who are simply gobsmacked when Simon smacks them down like the dogs that they are.

So, let’s recap. I’m middle-aged, I weigh 750 pounds and I can’t carry a tune. Sounds like karaoke night to me!

Finally, I'll share with you the reason I wrote about fear today. Today I went sledding (note the above description of my good self). As an adult, I have only been sledding down a driveway. Hugely fun, but not frightening in any way. Today I was invited to another sledding hill all together. It was high, it was steep, it was fast and it was icy. I sat down on the sled at the edge of the run. I contemplated my mortality. I decided that I was too afraid to do it. I was so very disappointed in myself. Once again, I was letting my fear rule me. I spoke sharply to myself, let out a gut-wrenching scream, and pushed myself over that “cliff”. It was fantastic. This time, I won the battle that I rage with my fear.

I took no prisoners.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


We bought skates. Yesterday. My husband and myself. Both of us. We’re not spring chickens, either one of us. My husband is a bit older than me, he’s 61. I’m 43, and I weigh 750 pounds. Ok, I feel like I weigh 750 pounds. Most of it is between my boobs and my knees, and sinking fast.

My husband was born in Scotland and I have lived there for the last 10 years until recently. One of the many reasons I love Scotland so much is because the weather doesn’t really go from one extreme to another, like Canada. Where we lived, it was pretty much even all year round, hovering pretty close to a few degrees above or below zero in the winter. We never had need to purchase a shovel. In the summer, we’re talking an average of about 18 degrees. To illustrate, I have the whitest legs in the world. They look like appendages you would find on a corpse. They haven’t seen the sun in the last 10 years. See? Not too hot, not too cold.

So then we re-locate to Canada. In the winter. My goodness I forgot how limiting snow can be. It’s pretty tricky to drive in, isn’t it? And it’s generally very cold, and wet. I must admit, we spent the first few snowfalls cocooned in our room in a rather unpleasant state of shock. We trembled at the sight of the first flake. We were ruled by the tiny little bastards, those harmless looking harbingers of doom.

Slowly, we are starting to metamorphose. We’re getting through our “firsts”. The first time being snowed in. The first time driving on slippery roads. The first road trip in the winter. The first time getting stuck in the snow (in a graveyard no less, that was fun). We are now the proud owners of two shovels. As far as road travel is concerned, we’re pretty much set. Due mostly to the kindness of friends and even strangers, and a ton of money (it’s not cheap to prepare your car for winter!), our car is pretty much equipped with winter get-stuck-in-the-snow-could-be-stranded-for-hours supplies.

Once we reassured ourselves that we were unlikely to die of hypothermia in our car when it careened wildly off the road and into the snow in a thousand differently imagined scenarios, we started to branch out a bit. To look at snow as, while not necessarily our friend, maybe a little less than our enemy. To be frank, we were looking at declaring a truce. It started the day we went sledding.

It began innocently enough. We were visiting with friends who had three children of sledding age. They wanted us to come out and watch as they had their fun. Grimacing at the thought of spending any length of time in the company of snow, we traipsed outside and watched the kids, camera in hand. They were having so much fun. Echoes of winters past started running through the halls of my brain. Days when winter was embraced and not avoided at all costs. Hours spent going down the hill, feeling like you could fly, oblivious to your soaked skidoo suit and your runny nose. The anticipation every time you climbed back up that hill. Knowing the next run was gonna be the fastest yet!

Suddenly I was pushing a child aside, grabbing her sled and going down hill on all fours. Now in my mind, I was a sleek, speedy, sledding fool. The subsequent pictures have proven otherwise. 750 pounds on all fours crash-landing into a tree do not a pretty picture make. But boy, did I have fun. Don’t get me started about my husband. We sledded till we dropped. We outlasted the kids. We laughed until we cried. I can’t remember the last time we had so much fun.

Suddenly, winter wasn’t such an evil beast. We weren’t going to invite it over for dinner and drinks, but we could spend time in its company without running for cover. We had made our truce.

Yesterday, a friend related excitedly that the pond next to our house was close to freezing over and would soon be ready for skating on. We jumped up, drove to the nearest sports store, in a snowstorm no less, and bought ourselves a pair of skates each.

Could this be heading for an all-out love affair?

Perish the thought.

I’ll let you know how the skating goes before we talk commitment.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Well, I have no idea how I did it, but I deleted my entire blog. My apologies to everyone (ok the one person) who has commented, I’ve lost everything and had to start over again. My URL was no longer available either, so I had to make up a new one.
Luckily this happened when I only had two posts up. Should this have occurred after a particularly prolific period, it may have signalled the end of my blogging career. I don’t know if I would have had the patience to cut and paste everything as I’ve found myself having to do now. Not to mention all the settings and uploading all the photos…

So, sorry…I’m new at this. Let’s hope I don’t destroy anything else or I may take it as a sign……not meant to blog…no blog for you…bloggus interruptus…

Wish me luck.

Growing Old Gracefully

Gracefully, ha! What's graceful about it? For one thing, there's the hair. Facial hair. More than one kind. The first one to appear was a thick, black hair sprouting from my upper lip. A moustache! I was growing a moustache! As if that wasn't bad enough, they started popping out from under my chin. Fast forward to a full beard just like granny used to have. Just great. I am now the fastest plucker in the west. But that's not all. I go to sleep with all extra hair plucked to within an inch of its life and every few months I wake up with a thin, white hair about two inches long on my cheek. How is this possible? I swear it's not there the day before, it just magically appears in the morning.

And have you noticed that writing gets so much smaller as you get older? I hit 39 and suddenly started squinting at regular-sized print. By the end of that year I was the proud owner of my first pair of glasses. Now at the ripe old age of 43, I seem to have to hold the book pretty far way in order to make out the words. The size of the print in any book I want to read is now a serious consideration. I've avoided the large print section at the library, but it's only a matter of time.

I remember, way back in the 80's, staying up past 9:00 at night. Now, I twitch if I'm not in the immediate vicinity of my bed by 8:30pm. Pull an all-nighter these days? Well, ok if I set aside three days to recover.

I also find that professional people, you know, like doctors and lawyers, they're all starting to look like they're 12 years old. The other day, I went onto the liquor store and jokingly asked the 9-year old serving me if she wanted to see my ID. She never cracked a smile. She sent me a smouldering look that said, "Move on Grandma, you're so not amusing".

Now the night sweats, they're just charming. No, I didn't pee the bed, I just soaked the sheets with a lovely sheen of perspiration. Very attractive. I know I'm soaked with sweat during the night because I feel it when I get up 5 times to go to the bathroom!

This is bad. I think I'm going bald. I'm not a good-looking woman. My best feature is my hair. And I think it's falling out at an unnatural rate! I may have to fashion a comb-over, just like my father. This is very upsetting. I really feel bad for men who suffer from premature baldness. Is there such a thing as hair plugs for women? I don't have the kind of face where I'd look good if I shaved my head to cover up the fact that I was bald. Sinead O'Connor I am not. How do ugly women manage hair loss?

I have so much to look forward too, and possibly in the not-too-distant future. I really dread those wrinkles you get around your mouth that make it look like a bum-hole. How do you cope with that for goodness sake?

I think growing old gracefully is so hard because in my mind I'm still 24. And in this deluded mind of mine, I expect to look in the mirror and see a young, unlined, facial-hair free reflection. My mind is no longer connected to my body, I think. My mind thinks my body can go like the freakin' energiser bunny. My body reacts in a more age-appropriate manner and tells my mind where to go. Loudly and painfully.

Grow old gracefully? Maybe if you're skinny with a full head of hair and really good-looking with great skin. Plastic surgery, and lot's of it, seems to be the only solution to me.


Well hello out there. Welcome to my mid-life crisis. Glad you could join me. My name is Donna Watters Dickson. I am a Canadian citizen who has been living in beautiful Scotland for the last ten years. This year, I decided to have a mid-life crisis. Could I just buy a sports car? Oh no. I had to pack up my husband and the rest of our lives and move us across the pond to Canada.

Oh, and I also retired from my 23-plus-year career in social services. Am I trained to do anything else? Nope. And I'm only 43, not quite retirement age yet. So, to translate, I'm unemployed and far from everything my husband and I hold dear.That's the scary bit. The exciting bit is that we've signed up for a bit of an adventure. Yes, we're far from home, in a strange place, don't know anyone and I don't have a job (Oh God, when do I get to the exciting bit???).

Ok, here comes the exciting part...we're far from home, in a strange place and I don't have a job. We're living a bit more in the moment right now, exploring our surroundings and looking at what prospects present themselves to us. Not many people have the same opportunity, I know. Life ties and binds us sometimes. We had our share of ties and binds, but we cut what we could, and tethered others in the care of friends and family and set off.So, I guess this blog is happening at the start of this adventure. While I wonder what tomorrow holds, I think I'll take it one day at a time for now. I may still buy that sports car yet...