They say 'life begins at 40', well I guess mine stalled a bit, so I'm going for round two from a slightly older age... ok, no hiding it, I'll be 51 this year. Worried? (I mean me, not you!) Not really, as long as I am reasonably healthy and active and enjoying my job, I guess age is not something that has really made me stop and ponder or worry about my mortality.
However, it's a bit late to start again in other ways, especially if you ain't exactly 'eye candy' (OK, actual definition is OFU - see previous posts for what that means). But never mind. I think finding happiness is about finding yourself more than anything. So, I'm on the hunt! But I won't be navel-gazing or mirror-watching. I'm gonna look out there for who I am and who I can be.
There's things in life I really enjoy - and I want to do more of them. Travel, dance, sing, play, be out there and living life. But that doesn't mean I won't follow my obligations - being a good mother, friend, employee. Yes, the latter is important to me too as, once again, I find myself (by design) in employment with a strong social responsibility. And that is, I know, where I am happiest and most productive. So I am heading for a good life, but not hedonism. Still with me?
I know I need to eat less and exercise more - and one of my 'plans' is to start swimming again. OK, that's not huge, but it means taking time for me. This year has given me many opportunities as well as challenges. I have met some amazing people, done some quite unusual things, and learned (as ever) a huge amount. I never stop learning (I don't always act on what I learn, but I do love new experiences). There's a bit more of a spiritual aspect to my life now, but I still don't buy all that 'god' stuff. Never will either. She's got to show up in person to get me on the team!
Over the past year I have found some new and wonderful friends, as well. And, interestingly, I have learned to 'chat'. No, not the WWI habit of taking lice off eachother (the origination of the word), but simple idle chatter with friends on the phone. Now that may not seem unusual to you - something you do all the time perhaps? But actually not something I was comfortable doing for many years.
I remember a good few years back my friend Jan phoning up and after a short conversation thinking to myself 'now what did she want?'. Well, she didn't actually want anything, just to chat - but I was not a chatter over the phone, it was quite simply a skill I didn't have. She must have felt a bit put off by my response on the phone - but I honestly didn't have the experience of calling just to talk about stuff. Calls had to have a purpose or reason. God - what a bore I must have been! I can imagine some of my contemporary friends raising their eyebrows at this (the calls, not the fact that I am a bore) - I am quite often found nattering away for over an hour on the phone now. See how people change.
Well, we all change, all the time, and sometimes it's slow and unnoticeable, and sometimes it's drastic. Most often it can be a combination - a slow build up to something extreme. Well, maybe and maybe not, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I like change. I have gone through some extremely difficult and challenging things in the past few years, but change - painful as it can sometimes be - is also good.
So here I am, ready to face a new era in my life. And though I am on my own, I know I have my kids, my friends and actually lots of strangers and 'friends to be' who will help me, wish me well and be there if and when I need them. Just like I am for others, so I hope they will be for me.
And if I am dissapointed? Well, I'd rather live in optimism and be disappointed than be pessimistic and proven right. Being right ain't all it's cracked up to be. I know.
I guess this post is the first step in accepting the huge changes in my life. Time to stop feeling sorry for myself and - as my son kindly advises me - 'move on'.
Photograph: me playing at Cambridge Folk Festival 2011.