Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me.

It's my birthday.

Up until this one, I've always looked forward to my birthday. It's lovely to have one day of the year that's all about you. But I haven't been looking forward to this birthday with great anticipation. This one is somehow different & I'm not entirely sure why.

Today I reached an alliterative number that, if I live to be 100 (not impossible the way human organ replacement is going), puts me in the middle of my life, with just as many alliterative birthdays behind me as there are in front of me.

Maybe it's because I have gone over that hypothetical hump and no matter how optimistic I am about my chance of living to 100, there are most certainly more years behind me than in front of me. At 50, I changed the rules about half way by making up the alliterative rule but I've run out of ways to fudge the numbers. It's time to face facts. I'm running out of time. The list of things I can do when I grow up is dwindling rapidly :-(

I embraced 50 in lycra but there's no way that super suit is going to look sexy at 60. I don't have any grey hair yet but my eyebrows are disappearing and my neck looks like motley, pink crepe paper.

Then there's the look of shock on peoples' faces when you tell them you're 55. Their eyes glaze over and you realize you've suddenly moved into that invisible wasteland that belongs to women over 50.

Perhaps it's because my body no longer reacts correctly to the messages my brain sends. I lose things and forget names and some days I can only manage to do two or three things at once instead of ten! If I join in a drill at netball training I can't walk for a week. The doctor says I have high cholesterol so now I have to feel guilty about the KFC my daughter's bringing me for my birthday dinner.

I've reached the age at which I am legally allowed to retire from teaching. If I only worked part time I would be eligible for a Senior's discount on my insurance. I've moved up an entire age bracket on the 'tick your age box'. In fact, it's the second to last box. The next one on the list is 64+ , and then what?

I should be grateful just to have made it to 55. My Dad didn't and my Mum, just barely. Genetics aren't on my side. Because of their untimely deaths I have no vision of how I should look or act as an old person. To have suddenly become older than the last image you have of your parents is a very confronting experience.

And yet, I don't feel old. Not at all. I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 25, except maybe a bit smarter and more broad minded. I think back on all the birthdays I've had and the calendar says a really long time has gone past, yet it seems like a blink since I was a kid. No one tells you that growing older will be like this. There's no warning that, bit by bit, your life changes until you realize that there are some things you will never get to do again and some that you will never do at all.

Reading back this all seems a bit depressing but birthdays are a great opportunity for reflection. I can't change the fact that I'm 55 but I can choose my attitude to it so I'm going to set myself some rules for the next 4 alliteratives.

I've spent the first half of my life reading about how you should grow old gracefully. I'm fairly sure that means I should cut my hair, stop wearing short skirts and keep my opinions to myself. What a load of crap! Why should I behave any differently now than I did 10 years ago, or 20 or 30 years ago for that matter?

  • I will remain just exactly who I am and who I want to be. I will wear whatever I like & I will not cut my hair unless it becomes a convenient option.
  • If I get rich/ all risk is removed/ plastic surgery gets good enough that you don't look like an alien afterwards, I'll have some. I liked the way I looked better before I got old. In the meantime, I promise myself to not wear my glasses when looking in the mirror so I can pretend I look the way I do in my own memory!
  • If anything, I will become more opinionated & I will voice those opinions loudly and clearly, especially when they concern bullying, racism or other forms of ignorance.
  • I will stop saving so much for a rainy day & I will spend every extra cent I find on exploring the world.
  • I will work until someone tells me I'm not allowed to anymore. (Or until I get rich & then I'll just share my infinite wisdom with really well mannered children & their appreciative parents.)
  • I will continue to give thanks every day for my beautiful children & I'll accept the fact that my husband actually does love me for who I am not how old I am.
  • I will keep learning for the sake of learning & because it will help me retain my cognitive powers for longer.
  • I will think less about what other people think about me and more about what I think of myself.
  • I think I'll become more of an advocate for things that are important because I have an interest in the world still being viable for my grandchildren & their children. I won't give up on the idea of becoming famous.
  • I will stop regretting the things I can't do anymore and embrace the ones I can (This is rubbish. I hate being old).
Happy Birthday to Me.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Be careful what you wish for 
(with thanks to Kate Calvert for the title of this post:)

" Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Mark Twain

Today we took Sophie to the airport and she got on a big, jet plane and took off to America for 6 months.
When she hugged me goodbye I just wanted to scream at her to get back in her baby cot where I could control her every move and keep her safe.

Of course I didn't,  (mainly because I knew Geoff & Jaime were ready to gang tackle me if I did!) and with a happy little wave she strode off confidently through the 'gates of no return' while I tried to sob quietly so she wouldn't hear me.

14 years ago, when she was just 7, she took her first overseas trip with her sister and me and I remember telling her that it would be the first of many trips for her. That I wished her a lifetime of travel & exploring and that one day she would grow up to be a confident young woman who would take her  destiny in own her hands and seek adventure in new places & live every minute of her life to the full.

In between then & now we encouraged her to set goals, to dream large, to aim high. We helped her to set boundaries for her behaviour, we praised when things went well, we condemned mediocrity. We traveled all over the countryside for sport, we saved hard so she could go to university.

She responded by having a go at everything, excelling in most things and persevering with the others. She developed great self belief & the confidence to bounce back from setbacks and learn from her mistakes. She stuck to her goal of finishing her degree in the States and got several jobs to earn the money to get herself there.

So, today I got that wish from long ago.

Treasure your children. Keep them close until it's time for them to fly the nest. Time passes quickly. 7 yr olds become grown ups overnight!

Parenting is hard.

If you get it right your children do just what Sophie did today.

We've done a good job. And so has she.

Happy trails Fofie. Explore, dream, discover. Take the path least travelled, but don't forget to wear your sunscreen and watch out for bees!