Today is the last day of the month in which I turned fifty.
Edna O’ Brien wrote that August is a Wicked Month; for me, it has always been a reflective month. This year was all the more so. A big birthday comes with big expectations, some pressures and big hopes. Of course, in reality, it is just another day… and any day, any event and any action is given meaning only by the labels and importance that our collective or individual consciousness assigns to it.
But to me 50 is important.
There is something that gives me an inordinate and almost childish sense of pride in declaring that I have reached this age.
Three years ago I wrote a book that showed that reaching fifty hadn’t always been on the cards for me.
Writing that book was the start of an intensive phase of trying to shake off some of the unhelpful habits that I had developed over many years; habits which had, in many senses, helped me to survive and succeed but which were no longer needed and had, in fact, become harmful.
Writing that book was very helpful to me and, by all accounts, has helped others who have read it. On several occasions I have also hugely regretted writing it and putting so much of myself out there, particularly when others have used the vulnerability in it as a reason to judge me and even attack me.
On balance, though, I am very proud of what I did.
But that book was not the end of my story or indeed the beginning of some new, completely balanced and content me.
Without doubt it contains insights and wisdom by which I need to live my life…But since writing it, I have learnt that wisdom and insight don’t solve things on their own.
Sometimes the things that help us most are not rational and cerebral but rather physical and emotional.
So, here, some additional insights at the advanced age of 50.
Keeping going doesn’t get rid of painful feelings. If we want to really free ourselves of emotional pain, we need to stop and face it full on. For me, talking did not achieve this. Connecting physically with the memories (through EMDR) and with my physical self (though yoga) has helped. It hasn’t been easy and at times I have wanted to give up and revert to the frantic habitual activity that has enabled me to cope for so long. But frantic activity is a substitute for real life.
You will never be enough for everyone else but you can learn to be enough for yourself. 50 is a good age at which to decide whose opinions matter and whose don’t. It is worth writing a list. And checking it twice. Or a million times.
Hormones have a lot to answer for. When you think you have relapsed into mental ill-health, it is probably the menopause.
The internet is an astonishing force for good and an astonishing force for bad.
Everything you are going though has somewhere been felt by someone else and expressed in a song or book. Never stop listening and never stop reading.
Love is the answer. Love for your self and love for others and the planet.
If someone thinks you are a weirdo then that is more to do with their fears and insecurities than it is about you.
You are enough, more than enough, right here and right now. I am too, even though there are many days when I don’t feel it.
I’ve made it to fifty. So there.