Another year, another birthday.
I’m 46 years old. I cannot believe it…
That’s 4 years away from 50. That’s a half century. That’s unbelievable. I still feel like I’m in my twenties but with grey hair.
I was born in the same year as Naomie Harris, Angela Griffin, Chadwick Boseman, Sterling K Brown, Mike Colter and David Oyelowo. I have the same birthday as Jennifer Lopez and Rose Byrne. I’m a Generation X, Leo and Chinese Zodiac Dragon. Ruby is the birthstone for my month. When I was born James Callaghan was the Labour Prime Minister and it was a Saturday. My heart has been beating for over 16,000 days…
I feel like I should have reached some kind of epiphany and understanding about life. I should be a bastion of knowledge and maturity. However the past year has shown me that I am far far away from that. That past year has been horrible, largely tainted by a long term friendship that deteriorated into something unrecognisable. It’s strange, there have been many awful things that I have experienced and endured in the past decade but somehow this was the worst. It broke my heart, literally.
It completely destroyed my sense of self, self esteem and feelings of self-worth which where always at low capacity anyway. Everytime I saw a social media meme about getting rid of toxic people I would always put myself in the place of being that toxic person who needed to be eliminated and removed. I couldn’t see myself other than through the lens of the other person who painted me as a person that had on numerous occasions – ignored and belittled them. I was perceived as a person who was incapable of meeting their emotional needs. It’s not the way I saw myself, and these comments over the years felt like personal attacks. Personal attacks that meant that there was no room for me to properly reflect on what was being said and examine how this perception of me had arisen and what I should do about it. When issues where forcefully brought up, all I felt I could do was defend myself. There was not even a thought that an apology might be offered because my very being, my character felt under attack in a way that felt unfair. The manner in which the attacks happened also meant that I would never have the mental space to think about what lead the other person to this place and how I might act on this.
When I did finally sit back and look back – when our friendship had reached a place of no return – I realise I did not think about just how vulnerable this other person was. I didn’t think about the impact of my actions on that persons thoughts and feeling in the context that they were living in. Many times I was caught up in the paranoia of my own whirling thoughts. Many times I would have the polar opposite perception of what was happening or not even be aware that something was afoot. I engaged in hours of mental gymnastics to try and understand and make sense of I information presented to me, the version of myself described, but that I did not recognise. I would be anxious day and night, thinking what did I do wrong today? How am I going to mess up today?’ How am I going to make this better?’. I was on edge all the time and could never relax. Writing about it now, I realise it took a great deal of mental energy from me, on top of anything else that might have been happening at the same time.
In subsequent conversations that I’ve had with other people, they have not had that experience of me. They tell me I’m quirky. I’m kind. I’m not toxic to them. And although I’m not like other people, I’m not a bad person.
I did write to my friend and apologise. It was the right thing to do. I had to take a long hard look at myself and it was not easy or nice. I don’t believe that it reflects all of me but I do believe that it was a part of me was triggering to that other person. I say this because I’ve simply not had that experience with anybody else but I’ve had to acknowledge that this does not negate the experience of this other person.
I read in many articles and listened to a number of podcasts on friendships ending to try and make sense of why I’m still feeling on edge, sad and bereft. It seems that it’s not uncommon for people to feel worse after a breakdown of a close friendship than perhaps a a romantic relationship. Maybe there is some truth to that.
I’m not sure why I am writing all of this down now. It’s been in the background for years and more acutely in the past few months and weeks. I guess because it is my birthday and I missed her being around this year. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lovely birthday this year. It was perfect and in fact just what my battered soul needed. I was surrounded by the people that I needed to be surrounded by. I was contacted by the people that cared and I felt quite loved and cared for in all the ways that meant something.
But I was just aware that she was not there and I did not hear from her in anyway that was meaningful. It did occur to me that perhaps the universe was telling me that this was no more than I deserved but then I had to let go of that negative thought and acknowledge, that perhaps what the end of a friendship looks like, well, at least for the other person. I still am slow to arrive at that station but I guess there was no mistaking it at that point. That is my assumption but I’ll never know what the other person is thinking on that unless I ask, and maybe, now is not the right time.
So what next…? I don’t know. I am constantly wondering if I am meant to reach out and start again. However when this thought passes through my mind, my gut feeling is that, it’s not the right time. I am not sure when the right time will be, or if the right time will ever arrive. I think if we ever become friends again, it would look very different. I would be different. I hope it would be mutually nuturing and affirming friendship – like it was at the very beginning.
For now I need to look forward to what the future holds and what I want to do with the next stage in my life.
I think for me, the major thing that I need to conquer and work on, is fear. I feel like that is one of the major things holding back in certain areas of my life. My inability to say ‘no’ to things that are not in my interest for fear of upsetting people, forever wanting to be a people pleaser and not rock the boat. As I have written in other posts before, I am slowly learning to set boundaries around areas of my life where there had been none. I also need to be saying ‘yes’ to more things that will help me grow and develop. I should not be afraid to get out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that does mean sitting in discomfort of not appearing to be the person I want people to believe I am.
In the time that I was not at work and recovering from my physical challenges, I also spent time reflecting on my childhood and early adulthood and how those experiences would have informed by current reactions to people and things. In looking back I was able to untangle a little, the complex way in which my mind has been working for the past few decades. I’ve tried to understand why I react the way I do in certain situations and then think about whether that is really serving me or others in a positive, useful and constructive way. Again, more often that not, many times I’ve come to the conclusion that I have been afraid most of my life. Afraid to say ‘no’ and afraid to say ‘yes’. I been frozen on one spot like a rabbit in the headlights. It’s a wonder I have achieved anything in my life and I wonder what my life would have looked like if I had been less scared in my formative years.
Well, I can’t turn back time now. I am not sure I would want to. I am where I am now and my experiences have made what I am today. I have to use them as a platform and stepping stone to a better place. I need to work out what that better space looks and feels like.
At the moment, it feels like resting when I am tired.
It feels like making reasonable efforts working in an NHS system that is broken but not overdoing it – there will be no thanks and praise and the clapping has long been forgotten.
It feels like making more effort with family, being kind but firm with words and boundaries but being generous where nothing else will do.
It looks like understanding and embracing the many differences between me and my husband but celebrating the things we do have in common and bring us together.
It looks like cultivating and nuturing the wonderful friendships and relationships I have in my life and learning from the mistakes of my past.
It feels like, engaging in the present moment, the here and now, being fully present and being OK with the feelings that I experience. Knowing that the feelings are there for a reason, that they will pass and that I will continue to grow and learn.
It looks like making better choices when it comes to food, consumption and exercise – I’m not getting any younger. The planet is on it’s knees and I’m acutely aware of trying not to leave a terrible legacy for the generation coming behind me and that as I get older I will have less resilience to exist in a world that is getting more and more difficult to live in.
It also does feel like writing about all the food that I love to cook. 😊
Writing is something that is hard-wired into me. I have to write. I think I would burst if I couldn’t express how I felt in words. I still haven’t produced that book yet but it’s not over yet.
Well, good-bye for now. I survived 46 trips round the sun and I need my sleep more than ever!
Until the next post.