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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - May 2011

It could be you ....

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column. 



Give in? Not me!

There has been something really pleasing about moving into our new house and beginning the process of making it our home. It isn’t that it needed anything done as it was immaculately clean, but once I have lived in a place for a few months I tire of the perfect cream walls in every room and we always need more shelf space for the many books and artefacts collected over the years.

Once the home-making was underway I began to really enjoy myself. I papered and painted and sourced units for the books. When they all arrived in huge flat-pack boxes I could hardly wait to open them. Do you remember receiving something in kit form as a child? I was full of anticipation, edged with mild anxiety in case I couldn’t manage the construction, but I was definitely ‘up for the challenge’.

The challenge was a familiar one. Each house I’ve lived in has fallen victim to my paint brush and roller and following flat-pack instructions has never phased me – yes, even IKEA – I love it! You might wonder why I’m relating this in the first person. My husband is only too happy to leave practical things to me, having a rather convenient block about such activities.

What I didn’t build into the present challenge was that all the units would arrive a day after we returned from visiting family in America (beware jet-lag) and days before a large family gathering at our house, followed by a series of house guests for the next 3 weeks. Oh, and the fact that it is some years since I’ve done this and I’m well into my sixties. No, what I saw was a really enjoyable challenge, and I dug into my building project with a smile on my face.

Time flew by. The family gathering came and went with the project on hold. Grandchildren ran around huge boxes, sons and daughters-in-law cooked delicious meals and it didn’t matter that the chaos around was worse than usual. The replacement of a damaged unit coincided with the arrival of the first set of weekend guests, who helpfully did a bit of construction while I prepared meals. Then, between guests, I really got going, staying up until 2am to complete sections.

Another thing I hadn’t reckoned on was that one of my guests had arrived with a dreadful cough and it’s virus was hovering above my head, waiting for me to get tired.

And yes, of course I got tired. In between the furniture building I had been changing beds, washing, ironing, cleaning and baking and as visitors arrived, showing them our new home. As the last guests left and I finished the construction project I relaxed, very pleased with the results, but I was exhausted. The virus found me easy meat.

For the next 3 weeks I had much less fun, lying around feeling very ill indeed. It gave me time to reflect on why I was so badly affected when all indicators have been that I am fortunate enough to be fit, well, able and motivated.

Answer? I am older now. My brain forgets to take this into consideration. A very strong part of me feels that if I only do gentle things in moderation I will be giving in to an old-age mentality that will lead to even more caution and even less activity. It is not how I want to live, being extra careful and avoiding those things I have always taken in my stride. But I have come to the conclusion that to be mindful is not giving in, it is being realistic. I do need to watch my energy levels. There are indicators that tell me I am running the batteries low and I know I, and many others, often over-ride that information for the reasons I’ve just mentioned.

“I’ve always done things like this, just ‘cos I’m 10/20/30 years older doesn’t mean I should avoid them”

I recognise that reaction as one that both my parents, along with many older folk, had to ageing. Back then I called it stubbornness - and worse - but later came to admire their fighting spirit and feel it probably helped keep dad going until his late eighties with vigour. Now it’s personal. I recognise my own resistance to further signs of the ageing process. The trouble is, I don’t know if it is better to carry on regardless and have a go at everything, even if it doesn’t get finished, or to admit it would be best if someone else did it for me and read a good book instead.

I want to have a go, but I want to know someone will help me if I can’t finish the job, and I want to have the time and freedom to sit and sew, write or paint, or read if I feel like it. Am I greedy in wanting all of that?

Maybe I am, but I intend to carry on having a go. I don’t want to revisit the recent prolonged illness though, so must be aware of my own limitations. That will mean listening to what my body says and what common sense – and family - will back up. If I’m tired I’ll rest, if the job isn’t finished by evening it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, if guests come when I’m busy they will be made very welcome but might sleep on un-ironed sheets and be taken to the pub for supper instead of me cooking. They will be offered bakery cakes instead of home-made. It is their company I value, not their complements on my cooking. I hope they won’t mind.

Oh yes, and I’m cutting out kissing as the universal greeting that has become so fashionable in the past decade or two. I just don’t have the kind of immune system that protects me from lurking lurgy anymore. Hugs are in, kisses are out. Sorry guys! My grandchildren can kiss me on the cheek just as children did in days of yore and we’ll have huge hugs to make up for it. They don’t care, they see me as ancient anyway!

Now off to use my lovely new electric sander on the garden furniture…..

What is it that you do which over-rides the reminders of age? I would love to hear.



You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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