So, I turned forty last week. It didn’t pass without great fanfare, parties and names in lights.
I had a great time, those involved in planning it did a sterling job. I felt like a princess, which is exactly how one should feel on one’s birthday.
Turning forty has been playing on my mind for quite some time…I say quite some time, I mean probably since I was about thirty-seven. The number of grey hairs was becoming un-pluckable, the skin started to journey south and ‘laughter lines’ were no joke…what a stupid name! My knees creaked and it seemed I could only stand up if I made a kind of ‘ooph’ noise. Forty loomed like a dark cloud, quietly reminding me I’m heading closer to the inescapable jaws of death (I’m a cheerful soul).
From the beginning of 2018 I’d struggled. I don’t know if it was the milestone on the horizon or if that was just coincidence, but I’d entered the year with a heavy heart and a foggy mind.
I should have been full of excitement and gumption, I was starting my own Zumba class and a prestigious gym chain had asked me to work for them too. Work was okay, Harriet was a happy soul. I had no house, work, money, relationship worries at all. On paper life was good, really good, and I was painfully aware of that.
When I was a naïve and sparkly eighteen year old, I had obnoxiously announced I would retire at forty, that I would have made it big, earned a shit load of cash and I’d be off around the world with Christian Slater, who had succumbed to my womanly wiles whilst I was on holiday to LA.
However adults around that time had stomached me and my adolescent pomposity is beyond me. If someone did it in front of me now I’d laugh the precocious little fucker out of the room.
Anyhoo, life isn’t like that. I’d never chosen what I wanted to be when I grew up and was still pretty much searching. I disappointed myself, even when I’d got everything I’d wanted, I was ashamed, and struggled massively with the idea of being a forty year old failure.
However I got through those first few weeks of Zumba classes when all I wanted to do was sleep was a mystery. I hated that gym, ruddy hated it, from the strip lit room to some of the mean girl gym bunnies that frequented the class…but I thought I had to do it, because, after all, that is what I had wanted.
By March I was dead on my feet. I constantly felt ill and tired. I didn’t care about anything. I got a massive parking fine that should have made me shit my pants and head down to the local council offices with an axe, but I blindly paid it without as much as raising an eyebrow.
I’m sure friends must’ve started muting my messenger rantings or ducking in doorways to avoid me. I’d become a negative Nancy that I know I’d have avoided.
I certainly didn’t feel like writing, and I’m sorry my blog has taken such a hiatus….I just doubted myself too much to try.
I knew I had to do something. A change of dosage on my antidepressants, sessions with a counsellor (I found one I actually like…well done him!!), reading self-help books (though I’m not quite sure why I thought Fearne Cotton was the guru to trust, It’s not like I’d been hanging out at the back of the Celebrity Juice studio so I could ask her how to live my life before). Slowly I started to feel better.
Weirdly, the thing that actually took the majority of the weight off my shoulders was turning forty. A cloaked figure didn’t come and offer me a nice jaunt on the River Styx. People didn’t point and mutter ‘the shame, the shame’ because I’d not achieved a Nobel Prize.
I realised I didn’t have to do everything, and I calmed the fuck down. I reviewed my priorities, what made me happy and I acted upon them. I binned off the clinical gym that was so anti-Paula, I asked for term time only at work, because worrying about if my elderly mother could cope with the world’s most dangerous five year old was keeping me awake at night. I said I didn’t want to go to the theatre because the thing sounded pants, and it felt good.
The birthday party made me realise that I am a success, because I have built the best group of people around me. Funny, individual, caring, talented people who make me laugh and dance and drink more shots than I should.
I have the best child. I have always claimed not to have heroes or a role model, because who wants to aspire to be like someone else, yet Harriet has become just that. She is amazing, fearless, hopeful and joyful. If I could just have 10% of Harriet’s lust for life I’d be a lucky girl.
I have a great husband who has stuck around when no one should. Thank you Dave. I don’t give you anywhere near enough credit.
I have no idea what my future holds. No one does. Shall I revisit the pit of despair that is depression? Probably. For now though I’m taking time to get to like me…an alright girl with an awesome group of friends just trying her best.