A long overdue update on LIFE
Well it’s been a very long time since I posted anything blog related for melbrady.com
In fact, since just before I moved back to Tassie during Covid.
The idea of moving home wouldn’t have struck unless the pandemic gave me time to think about what was important. Three words kept floating to the surface FAMILY, COMMUNITY & NATURE.
I had been feeling disconnected for some time before covid hit, as a single, childless woman my life was very much about me. Yes, yes founding Embrace Age and putting myself out there as a 50 something woman ageing naturally was something I really got my teeth into for many years. I tried to be what I wanted to see in the world to show my peers we weren’t invisible in ageing (especially in advertising) and to a huge degree that succeeded.
When I first looked for inspiration to grow out my silver hair there were few and far examples. Fast forward to all the ads and tv commercials and collabs I accepted because they aligned with my thoughts on embracing age and the hundreds more I rejected because they didn’t. I truly felt as the pandemic hit my foot could step off the gas.
So many mid-life women out there now all going loudly into their fifties, sixties and beyond. Not, (as it seemed to me) slipping quietly away believing society when it told them they had no value.
So, let’s circle back, March 2020 I made the choice to move home, sold up, packed up and was back in Tassie just after my 58th birthday.
It was wonderful to have Jobkeeper to keep me afloat whilst I created beauty content shooting myself and product for many major beauty and skincare brands.
During that time, I took on the support of my mum, dad and stepmum. I helped my dad finally get a Parkinson’s diagnosis and helped my mum with doctors appts, shopping etc.
At that stage my elder brother Shane was living with mum and helped with the day-to-day stuff.
Fast forward to 2021 as jobkeeper ended I tried to find a job. Well, that did not go according to plan. As a freelance advertising stylist, I had never really encountered ageism, my experience was valued and indeed I had trained and mentored over a dozen stylists over 20 years. I really didn’t think I would encounter any difficulty finding a job, boy, was I wrong.
I applied for dozens of mainstream jobs, many retail (companies for whom I had styled)
and did not hear back from a single one. So, it was jobseeker for me, honestly, I think it was such a shock to me no one here in a regional town thought my life experience was of any value. Just an age on a page. Too old.
So, content creation wasn’t enough to keep me afloat, needing to pay my rent I applied for a waitering job, casual hours don’t offer and real and permanent wage. I was the first to start and the first to be sent home if the restaurant was quiet. Even there my life skills and experience were discounted it was demoralising, to say the least.
At that stage I discovered I could volunteer for a charity 30 hours a fortnight for my jobseeker payment. I did this for 6 months but even on top of the money I made from content creation it just wasn’t enough for me to pay my bills.
By the end of 2021 the manager of the charity I was working for offered me a part time role. Thankful would be an understatement. She gave me enough part time hours to just keep afloat.
It’s an interesting thing to realise the life I had told myself I wanted manifested itself in that role. Closer to community, yep, hole in one.
All my life skills seemed to align with the role, styling skills, by way of merchandising, general knowledge of pricing by way of being involved with retail styling for decades and most interesting of all my compassion for people, twofold, talking with people who donate, listening to their stories of ‘stuff’ and stories of those they’d lost and why they were donating.
Stories of customers in need, the most vulnerable in our community who were reaching out for help through the charity.
Training and mentoring volunteers hit a sweet spot too.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2022 I was promoted to assistant manager, I’d never earned less but felt connected in a way I’d never experienced.
Still though, I struggled financially.
Then in February 2022 my brother Shane passed away of an accidental drug overdose.
Right there in his rooms under my mum’s house. A day that will go down in my life as one of the worst, I’d never seen a dead body before, the fact it was someone I loved was terrible. Though he looked so beautiful and peaceful in death as he had never been in life.
Consoling my mum through this was heartbreaking.
At the same time my rent was about to be raised $80 per week, as we all know rents have risen ridiculous amounts. And one of the demographics truly at risk of homelessness was mine. Indeed, I had written years before women over the age of 55 were at the greatest risk of homelessness, too young to get the pension, too old to get a job.
I struggled for answers, what to do? My mum couldn’t be alone in her house and now my brother was gone the simple answer was to move in with her, but this wasn’t an easy choice. He had lived in the two small rooms under her house for 27 years, it was to say the least disgusting. Rat infested ceilings, nicotine stained walls, cold wind blowing through holes in the walls, a door that wouldn’t close, um, not to mention it’s where he died.
My dad and stepmum gave me the money to renovate the space, it took me months to make it happen, winter set in, my fingers froze. I cried a lot as I renovated, ripped out the dried ratsak ceiling, peeled back the layers of wallpaper off the masonite walls, ripped out the old mouldy window. I felt him whilst I cried, I know he would have been proud of what I went through to achieve the result. A bright white, warm comfortable space the cat and I could call home. (you can see the renovation here)
July 2022 I moved in to take on everything I could to keep my mum company. Then in September, disaster struck again. Mum had a heart attack right there in front of me, 10 days of horror dealing with regional hospital. I took on the role of advocate for her during that time. Why advocate you ask? Well, it seemed to me information was very thin on the ground. Trying to make the right decision about surgery was made very difficult, I truly felt like the medical professionals treat bodies like a bag..yes the body is cared for but a humans emotional state was pretty much ignored.
Finally, mum had a very tricky stent placed and then once home I cared for her for months until she was somewhat better. It’s coming up to a year since the heart attack and she is still not the woman she was. She has her good days and bad days, and some days it’s very very bad.
Now let me wind back a little, last year I took on helping all my folks remove their wills from the public trustee, we worked through putting in place medical guardianships and powers of attorney should anything happen to any of them. Earlier this year I helped mum navigate My Aged Care to be eligible for a subsidised cleaner and just recently spent hours and hours with my dad and stepmum for dads My Aged Care assessment. Far more than mums need dads Parkinson’s has really progressed, so my stepmum really needs more help with him. I can truly say navigating all the hoops has been frustrating and rather opaque. We are still not there yet, the months of waiting lists have taken their toll. The hours and hours my dad has spent jumping through those hoops has been at times terrible.
I have asked myself am I pushing too hard to fast for all of the things he needs to be put in place. And even though we are now on the waiting list for him to receive a package will he even agree to strangers helping him? I really don’t think so..yet there is only forwards, one foot in front of the other.
I think the government seem to think it’s all under control but there is a complete disconnect, codes may be generated but finding any suppliers to provide the care we need in their regional town is impossible. I feel frustrated to say the least and wonder if I feel frustrated how is it for older folk who don’t have family to help them navigate? I’d say nigh on impossible; they’ll end up in care anyway because they can’t navigate the hoops the government have put in place to keep them in their homes.
Meantime, here I am splitting my time between working at my charity job, helping my mum with medication, doctors’ appointments, shopping and support. My stepmum with my dad and in the few hours I get to myself creating content for the brands I think align with my views on ageing.
Which, friends, leads me to my views on ageing..many years back when I first coined the hashtag #embraceage it all had a different meaning.
Now after this lived experience my mind wanders to thoughts on ageing, what is the point of ageing without dignity?
What value is placed on our older folk? I have read much about forced guardianships by the public trustee, terrible stories of vulnerable folk who have no one in their corner.
Ageing can be death by a thousand cuts, I feel this for my dad, a man who has built homes with his bare hands, who in my child’s eye resembled a big bearded pirate to now a somewhat lesser version of himself. He can no longer play golf, or bowls or fish or garden. His mind tells his body that it can do the things it once did but his body just cannot.
My mother who built the most beautiful garden sits in her chair in pain and frustration because she can no longer spend the hours, she did amongst it.
So, at what point does embracing age turn to dreading it?
I’m 61 and fit for now, my life is opaque I’m so far down the rabbit hole caring I don’t know what will happen next.
All I know is I am definitely connected to family and to community, my life is no longer selfish. And as hard as it is, I’m a better person than the person who left Melbourne during the Pandemic.
I also know I’m not the only one who has been through radical change since Covid struck, I listen to stories of love and loss every day at work. And as my heart opens I feel a sense of place.
I still enjoy creating content but only on one platform, my Instagram. I just don’t have time to do facebook lives or curate anything else. Time is in short supply because, well, life is short my lovelies. If we are given the opportunity to live it (unlike others I have lost including my dearest friend Helen who passed from Cancer without me back in 2021) then we should live it. If you are unhappy with your life my best advice is to help others, because through helping others we help ourselves.
If you have read through this ramble and any of it resonates then let me know. I'd like to hear your thoughts or experiences on My Aged Care, The Public Trustee, Hospital and Nursing home care, homelessness, ageism and how your life might have changed because of Covid.
I will continue to be thinking about ageing but now, the concept of it, for me at least has changed.