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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday 13 March 2017

Two days, three women, one message.

I've been thinking hard about three women I've talked to in the past couple of days.

They are facing very different challenges in their lives. But one of their situations puts the others' in perspective, somehow.

The first woman lives in my town, and has done the same job, in the same workplace, for more than 20 years, with hardly any changes in working practices there in that time. For instance, there is minimal use of IT; and there have been few improvements or updates in workplace furniture and equipment. She has skills and experience to offer and commands a reasonable income: one which secures her a couple of decent holidays abroad each year. She has a partner and kids she speaks fondly about, her own home, a car, and some good days out. But competition in her field is fierce, and the company's client base is dwindling.

I'd met her in the street on her way to work. "Hi", I ventured. "How are things with you?"

"Oh you know," she said, gloomily. "Same old. Nothing changes, does it?"

I bit my lip for a moment, and changed tack...asking about her weekend plans. It turned out she'd been given tickets for a major sporting event. One that some might give their eye teeth for. "I'm not that keen, actually," she said. "To be honest, it bores me. But I suppose I'll have to go to it....."

And off she went; even more gloomily, mumbling that she needed a fag before "going in there".

As I meandered home, I wondered if she'd ever tried to initiate change at work; seek advice; acquire new skills, or change jobs completely. Maybe it would make her life happier. She could choose to do that. And also, choose when to say a polite but firm "no thankyou" when she's invited to events that she doesn't enjoy. But she'll probably carry on spending 40 hours a week grumbling about her job and her social life. That's a sad waste of time, isn't it?

The second woman is a much loved friend of mine. We keep in touch via social media, but hadn't seen each other for more than a year, so arranged to meet for coffee. My friend has worked in the public sector all her life: in the NHS and in local government, re-inventing herself, re-training along the way, and achieving senior roles. She's loved her work. She's always been a loving, caring person, and is proud that her work makes a real difference to people's lives.

But she's becoming increasingly frustrated about budget cuts, about seeing bright colleagues having to re-apply for their own posts, then failing, and being made redundant. Like most of us, she knows people who give 110% every working day--then get sick, or too 'old', or just too tired, to enjoy the retirement they've worked towards. And she doesn't want to become one of them.

She knows she'll worry about the people she'll no longer be able to help. But she also knows that's
she's earned a break. She's done some financial calculations, and, even though she's years away from retirement age; she's found a way to live on less. And she's going to walk away.

She says she might do a bit of part time work at first. But most days, she's going to turn off her alarm. Have days with her friends and family, and days alone. Days walking. Days baking. Days driving to the coast for a paddle and a 99 with a flake. And days doing bugger all. She's going to change her life, and do what she chooses.

And so to the third woman--a passing acquaintance I exchange a brief hello with from time to time. She's lived a reasonably comfortable life in a reasonably comfortable market town in middle England. She's elegant. Accomplished. Sociable. She has children who are now young adults, whose company she enjoys. She's in her fifties. And she has early-onset dementia.

At this moment, she has a diagnosis, but little clue whether her condition is going to move forward gently, or gallop ahead. She has no idea whether, if her children have children of their own, she will manage to remember their names. Or even live to see them at all.

She didn't expect dementia. And no one would ever choose it. There is nothing she can do to reverse her diagnosis, and no sure way of knowing what her future holds.

I'm not saying it's easy to walk away from a job...or snap your fingers and find another one. We all have financial responsibilities that shape the way we spend our time and our money.

But you have one life. And not a huge amount of control over its length. You might chortle your way through to a hundred. Or face one of life's nastier right-angles this time tomorrow. So..... quit grumbling. Redirect your energy instead into finding people, places, work and play that make you smile.

On Facebook, these comments:

Debbie Mitchell great blog post. Really rings true xx
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Frances Food for thought Jane. I'm just at the stage now where I'm ready to throw in the towel at work. X
LikeReply35 mins
Helen  Towel thrown...1 week 2 days to go!!! 🤗
LikeReply126 mins
Frances Well done Helen
LikeReply24 mins
Jo Cunningham Wise words my friend. I intend to take your advice!

Lisa Silvester Tresise Time passes so quickly and it's quite confronting that we only have this one life to do something that inspires us. I've had many opinions on why I have gone back to Uni at 40 but if I'm getting older anyway I may as well be doing something I love and making an actual difference in people's lives. 😘😘

Carol Holliday 27 April! Counting the days. Xx

Samantha Bentall Great blog post Jane. Thanks for reminding us to make the most of every day

Thanks for responding, ladies....and why am I not surprised that there are ping-ping-pings from my friends and family...who are all positive and upbeat about life ....and are bloody well making the most of it? I guess that's why I love you!!! x