Another year older…

I turned 47 this year.   I can no longer kid myself that I’m only half way through my life…I’m on the home run now.

I’m minded of T S Eliot’s poem Little Gidding which is the last of the Four Quartets:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

I feel like things are coming around again.

As a kid I wanted to be a teacher. I worked in marketing for a year then went into teaching until I had kids and then I’ve been a researcher, lecturer, trainer, coach, mentor, consultant, facilitator, writer amongst other things.

  • What are the different roles you have played in your life?
  • Which roles feel most like ‘coming home’ for you?

And this year I come back to teaching.  I have explored and yet come back to where I started but knowing myself a little better.  In my 30s and early 40s I was trying to be someone else; it felt like it was now or never to prooove myself to the world.

And now I just want to live a life with people I love, doing what I love and am good at.  I love learning. I love reading. I love sharing what I know so that other’s can reflect and think how it makes sense for them.  Yes I coach and mentor and all the other stuff and behind it all is a love of learning.

The more I have been able to say to myself that reading and learning and sharing learning is what I love..the more I have done it.  I’m in the process of putting together some on line stuff which should really be called ‘stuff what I learned the hard way so that you can learn it more easily’..but probably won’t be.

Life is also coming around through Facebook.  A friend has set up a group for my old secondary school and so loads of people are connecting and chatting and catching up with each other.  We’re all in our 40s or older.  I think if we’d ‘met’ in our 30s there may have been more talk of careers and acquisitions such as partners, cars, houses and kids.

  • Who would you like to catch up with?
  • How can you start to re-connect?

Now we meet in our late 40s we’re just teasing and remembering and catching up. It’s fun to re-connect and share photos taken with pocket cameras on film cartridges developed in Boots.

How fast time has passed and I know that’s another cliche…but catching up with and messaging on Facebook with old sixth form friends has been easy and fun.  Where has the time gone?  All that getting and achieving of my younger years seems less important than the delight in finding people who shared some of the same experiences as me.

I have 2 New Years and one starts on 1st September with timetables and year planners and so I’ve been reflecting on my priorities for this year and they feel much clearer than last year:

  1. Time with people I love and enjoy
  2. Time outside, walking, swimming, cycling either alone or with others
  3. Time alone
  4. Learning and sharing learning

In that order.

  • What are your priorities this academic year?
  • How will you honour them?

My friends, family and community support, care for and challenge me.  We have fun, we share our journeys without feeling like we have to get involved or take control of them.

Health matters more and more as I get older. Not now so much about how I look, but as an investment to living a long and healthy life to see my boys as far into adulthood as I can.

My mum died aged 63.  Only 16 years hence from where I stand.  16 years ago I was 31, childless, living in the south, with fewer grey hairs.

Two times 16 years ago I was 15 and spotty, great boils on my back and never been kissed as I just felt so ugly.

I may not have two times 16 years ahead.

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them

I felt that when mum died.  I’m the next generation lining up to face mortality.  The day she died I aged.  I don’t think we can ever prepare for the loss of a parent or parent figure, we are left alone,orphaned and never quite ready to be so.  My mum had been an anchor, when she died, I had to weigh my own anchor, create my own mooring and navigate without her guidance.

I got things very wrong until I got better at steering.

We never know when the last time will be.  I’ve mused before how we remember the first time we meet a person, the first kiss, the first time we have sex.  But we don’t mark the last kiss, the last hug because we don’t usually know it is the last.

Endings creep up on us without us noticing. New beginnings tend to come in with more pomp and ceremony.

  • What do you want to appreciate more?

On the beach this year I watched the bodies:  not of half naked men; gleaming muscles and water slick hair. Instead I watched the older women. I noticed the shapes and curves of limbs well used to walking, carrying and hugging. I paid attention to skin stretched by time and children.

I saw breasts meeting waists and arms strong yet wobbly.

I also saw beauty and grace. Shining white hair on elegant necks on top of straight and proud backs.

I saw tender touches between older couples familiar with each other’s hand on waists and knees.

I saw slim hips, firm thighs and weathered faces creased with the lines of life.

I saw women cut through the water with ease and power and the energy of their younger sisters.

I wanted to see age, to pay attention to it, to get to know it if only a little, to see what lies in store.

Because I can’t ask my mum about the menopause, or teenage kids, or turning 60..I have no map apart from what I draw myself.

 And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from

So I am left with this thought that how we age, as with how we live is a combination of the genes we have inherited, the curve balls that life throws at us and the decisions we make about how to think about and live with those variables.

So I can choose to spend more time with people I care about. I can choose to stay eat healthily and exercise. I can choose to keep my brain active and I can choose to take time for myself.

The rest I have to let go of. I can’t predict when things will end, or change.  I can only live right here and right now and deal with things as they come up.

I’m learning when to walk away, when to say nothing, when to stand up for what I believe.

I’m learning to ask for what I want and need clearly.

I’ve stopped thinking that the world or people ‘should’ be a certain way and am getting better at accepting what is and moving towards what I like and away from what I don’t like.

The older I get, the less I feel that I matter, I’m just one of billions on this planet, this planet owes me nothing..I feel grateful more often for what I have rather than what I don’t have.

The older I get the less I know and that is a great relief.  I don’t feel the need to prove, justify or even explain as much as I used to..I am who I am.  If you like it move closer, if you don’t, move away..it’s all fine.

J

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

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