Susie, Age 70
What a lovely relief to discover your page when I was idly Googling ‘feeling sad at turning 70’, which I was last week on February 18th.
I had decided that this year, after excruciatingly disappointing previous landmark birthdays, 40, 50 & 60, I would make this one count (last chance saloon?) and so I booked a long weekend in Rome with my best friend. What a wonderful weekend it was, blue sky, sunshine, and visiting all my favourite places in that most beautiful city, truly wonderful.
On returning home, aside from somehow becoming host to a stinker of a cold, it all felt a bit different. Having had the company of my dearest friend for four days, the solitude of my home hit hard suddenly. I have lived alone for twenty plus years now, me and my adored dog.
I have worked all my life, reasonably successful in my career, but three years ago I was rather brutally shown the exit door by my company, no happy farewell party for me, with balloons, champagne and gifts galore, but a sudden redundancy. Boom, the end. It hit me really hard having worked all my life, feeling valued and popular and yes, I’ll admit it, I thought I was Queen Bee.
I sat for days on end weeping and staring out of the window that December, and slowly descended into what I can only describe as the black hole, lonely, feeling pretty worthless and altogether pointless. Anxiety attacks had me keeling over, me, of all people, Ms. Confident. Who’d have thought. I had good friends and a beautiful son and two grandchildren, as far as they were concerned all was well. I was a master of disguise you see (which is why the ‘high functioning anxiety’ label was eventually attached). It was only when the front door was firmly closed, the smile dropped and the tears fell.
Anyway, fast forward, I realised I was never going to find another perfect job, with hours that suited, so after a couple of awful ones, and my God, they were awful, I gave up trying to find one. I’d cut my suit according to my cloth, and budget to stay within the realms of my pension, using my savings for ’emergencies’ only. Slowly slowly I climbed out of the black hole, I rejoined my gym that was once a company perk, as an off peak member and got back to my much loved Yoga and Spin classes. What a tonic they were, a couple of hours every morning out of the house and with other human beings, of course. Staying for a coffee and a catch up after classes was out of the question, couldn’t afford that now, but who cares, I have a Nespresso machine at home!
So, for the last eighteen months plus, life was good again, Hoorah! No more rushing to be anywhere I didn’t want to be, no constraints, come and go as I please. Yes, sometimes over holiday weekends I might feel a little melancholy, after all, wasn’t everyone else in the whole world having a marvellous time with their families and friends? No, I know they most likely weren’t, but…..
So, I’d settled at last into ‘retirement’. I did nothing I didn’t want to do, never rushed and loved walking my dog for miles through the glorious countryside around me, occasionally seeing a friend for coffee or dinner out, (my close friends are all younger than me, with husbands and kids at home and full time jobs) and even less than occasionally seeing my son and grandchildren, who, have the busiest schedules under the sun, with a myriad of out of school activities and my son working long shifts for the NHS, and his wife also with a full time job. Everyone busy busy busy, and all envying me not working, hmm, if only they knew. Nevertheless, I felt content and life was good, again.
And here we are right now, the best ever birthday trip, and the warmest February in the UK on record, with the sun blazing every day to date and Spring right there on the horizon. So, why, I wonder, do I suddenly feel rather sad? That now, time feels like it’s running on low, like a petrol tank that cannot be refilled. Me? The one with Carpe Diem tattooed on her wrist? Oh the irony. Me? The one that’s always preaching mindfulness and to look no further than tomorrow? Yes, that me. I do so hope this melancholic feeling is fleeting, I never realised that a landmark Birthday could on one hand be so fabulous and on the other, actually rather daunting. Perhaps it’s this awful head cold I’ve picked up, which has sapped my energy to zero and made me a sneezing and snotty prisoner almost, in my own home for the past week. Or perhaps, it’s because I’ve turned 70? Answers on a post card please?