By the time you read this, if all goes according to my family’s wicked plans, I will be semi-conscious in a caravan on the Yorkshire coast, nursing the mother of all hangovers.
On Sunday 23rd June 2013 I reach the dreaded milestone…my 50th birthday. Fifty whole years on this planet. Yikes! How did it happen? I have absolutely no idea. I mean, it seems only yesterday I was in my bedroom back at my parents’ home, recording Paul Gambaccini’s countdown of the American Top Forty and trying desperately to hit the stop button on my cassette recorder before he started talking again. I don’t know where all that time went. I was just fifteen! I don’t get Smash Hits through the letterbox any more. I get funeral plans and offers of cheaper life insurance! It’s baffling to me that I’m fifty. My dad used to say to me that you never really feel any older in your mind and he was right, though I doubt I believed him at the time.
Anyway, fifty is what I most certainly will be on Sunday, so to celebrate this epic achievement, my sister came up with the idea of a weekend away. Just the girls. Strictly no men, no children, and no pets. That was fine by me. Then she dropped the bombshell…and no laptop! What?? So that’s why I am being super organised (and breaking the habit of a lifetime in the process) and writing this blog post early, scheduling it to be released the morning after our first night clubbing.
Clubbing! Ha! The last time I went clubbing – I kid you not – I don’t think I was even old enough to be in the nightclub legally. It’s funny how most of my social life occurred before I was even of an age to drink. Oh, the fun of it. Dressing up, slapping on the make up, trying to look sophisticated so that no one would ask me if I was eighteen. In those days, no one had photo ID. No one really seemed that bothered about proof of age. I remember going to see Saturday Night Fever at the local cinema without a scrap of make up on. It was an X certificate (eighteen and over) and I was fourteen years old at the time. No questions asked. In you go, enjoy the film. Ooh I did…I really did! Though hearing the F-word spoken with an American accent for the first time in our lives amused my friend and I so much that we had to imitate it all the way home. Yes, that’s how mature and sophisticated we were. No wonder we got in so easily.
I was a young mum – nineteen years old when I had my first child. So really, after that, clubbing was the last thing on my mind. I stayed at home, looking after my young family and bit by bit my confidence ebbed away, and the thought of going out at all socially became a terror to be avoided at all costs. I suppose the good thing about turning fifty is that you become more confident. I’m not sure why. When I look back at photos of my young self I can see that I was quite a decent looking person. I certainly had no reason to hide away from the world the way I did. Yet, I rarely went out and the thought of going to a club or a party was enough to bring on a panic attack. I was constantly apologising for myself. Strange. Now I don’t look anywhere near as good as I did then. But somehow, I am more at ease with myself, and feel more able to face up to strangers than I did before. Maybe it’s because, having lived through so much I can see that it’s the person that matters, not the outer shell. I am more interested in other people and their lives now rather than being totally absorbed in what they must be thinking of me. Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous and I still have to psyche myself up to get out there, but I am going out there! I may be scared and still feel nervy but I can make myself do it and nine times out of ten I really enjoy myself having made the leap. And the main thing is, I like me now. I spent a lot of years beating myself up for not being perfect, not being “as good” as everyone else. Who these mythical people with their perfect lives were I have no idea. Age brings the wisdom to recognise that no one has a perfect life and everyone makes mistakes, has worries and doubts, fears, insecurities. I’m not that special after all! 🙂 And I have survived! I have battle scars to prove it. I am proud of the way I have coped with the difficulties and obstacles in my life. I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, and it’s only now looking back at it all that I can see that.
This year has been quite a traumatic one. I think maybe turning fifty had a lot to do with that. I started questioning my life, growing restless, scared. All this life…all these years, and what had I achieved? I felt useless and was becoming increasingly aware of my own mortality. It’s hard when people you were at school with start shuffling off the mortal coil, and I’ve heard about a few in the last year or two. It’s scary stuff.
‘How do you think I feel?’ my mother demanded when I voiced my fears. ‘The first thing I do when I get the paper is turn to the death announcements. There’s always someone in there that I know!’ Crikey.
They say that there are three stages of a woman’s life – aspects of the triple goddess, if you like. (I do.) They are, maiden, mother and crone. I think the problem with me is that I didn’t make full use of the time when I was a maiden. My shyness and insecurities kept me prisoner and I wasted all that precious youth hiding away from the world. Then, when I was a mother, I was so harrassed and stressed, and struggling so much with financial and personal problems that I wished those days away, too. There is nothing guaranteed to make me cry more than seeing old videos and photos of my kids when they were little. Remembering a house full of noise and chatter and laughter and tears and kids fighting, and wretched Disney films playing over and over again, and spilled drinks, and frantic mornings getting them all up and ready for school, and chicken pox, and Christmas mornings and family holidays…oh how I miss them all, and yet, when they were little I longed for them to be grown up so that my life would be peaceful.
And now, I have to say, I feel my days as a crone are approaching. How do I feel about that? Well, a bit scared, obviously. It’s weird to think that you’ve had most of your life and what’s ahead of you is likely to be at least a bit less than what you’ve already had. On the other hand, having wished my time as maiden and mother away, I think it’s only right that I make the most of my time as the crone. After all, if I wish that time away there’s not an awful lot left, is there? Anyway, being a crone can be a very positive thing. Crones have more patience, more wisdom, they know what they want and what they don’t want, there is time to look around and think about themselves rather than others, to surround themselves with people they love, do the things they want to do, and stop worrying so much about what other people think about them. Crones do not have to worry about bringing up their children. They may have the pleasure of grandchildren (I’m lucky. I have four beautiful grandchildren and I love them all to pieces.) But when the day is done, they also have the pleasure of handing them back to their parents and claiming back their space and time.
So, all in all, I think I will embrace the crone and do my utmost to enjoy my life now that I’m half a century old. As you read this, I will be in a posh caravan with my sister and sister-in-law, my two daughters and two of my daughters-in-law. They are some of the loveliest women I know. They make me laugh. They have mopped away my tears more than once. They have been right there beside me through some of the happiest and saddest times of my life. I have been beside them in some of the happiest and saddest times of their lives. Some are mothers, some are maidens, one is just behind me in approaching Crone-dom. All of them are special and loved. And every one of them is intent on giving me a birthday to remember…or forget. (It will only take two Bacardi Breezers and I’ll think we’re celebrating Christmas. I am a very cheap date.)
So, my laptop is banned, my Kindle is banned, even my phone may be banned (though not if I can help it!) and the birthday celebrations are beginning. There had better be cake!
Have a great week x