I didn’t get around to writing a birthday post this year. Partly because I have written one every year, trying everyone’s patience in the process, partly because the birthday itself was manageable. If you are having trouble with birthday depression, blog about it!
So the birthday itself was fine, apart from spending literally – I kid you not – up to three hours online finding the right restaurant: a recently opened Middle Eastern place in South Caulfield, nearish to home. It was worth the time spent – the place made up for its pretty basic ambience by being right in terms of food, location and price. Everyone was happy and I got to eat enough hommous and falafel to last me to my sixtieth birthday.
This was the restaurant. I would go back there in a jiffy.
Did I mention it was my fiftieth? Turning fifty is a bit special, what I mean is other people think it is. Sisters who don’t normally buy you anything leave birthday cards with money in them. Aunties you rarely see send cards or express a desire to see you. Wishes are expressed to see you blowing out birthday candles surrounded by the nephews and nieces.
I wonder if fifty is in some ways the biggest milestone of all. Half a bl—dy century – how amazing is that? Just to have survived that long, to be honest, feels like an achievement. Am I biased? Have I just enjoyed the attention too much? Part of me wants to rest on my laurels, to sit back and from my venerable age hand down my matchless wisdom to the younger ones.
But a post-fifty scramble is upon me.
Fifty is the time when you realise that the ‘now’ that you constantly revile, fight with, curse, try to come to terms with, forgive and generally are up against will change, is itself impermanent. Behind the scenes, the crew are arranging for a change of props, while the writer is preparing new calamities for the melodramatic heroine. The invisible/visible event of old age is looming, and rather than having a mid-life crisis (isn’t everyone in the West in an ongoing mid-life crisis after the age of twenty-eight?) I’m experiencing more of a mid-life scramble. There is so much to do and I am staring into the abyss of my mortality. Hurry! Hurry! life urges me. Like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, there’s no time to waste.
The New York poet Frank O’Hara adopted Lewis’s white rabbit much earlier than I. In a journal he kept at the tender age of 22, he wrote: ‘one must hurry, one must avoid the impediments, snares, detours ... I’ve a long long way to go, and I’m late already.’ I understand how he felt.
Is this why I've published four ebooks on Amazon and am in the middle of a fifth? Like a woman who keeps having babies one after another, then has to stop and settle down and look after the ones she has, writing another book gives me an excuse for not marketing the completed ones. So the one I’m writing now, I promise myself, will be the last for a long while. And I promise not to unduly harangue my long-suffering blog readers too much* about these books; I have, or am preparing or resurrecting, separate websites or blogs for three of them, possibly four.
All this work is self-created, is really a hobby, and by definition shouldn’t be stressful. My paid work with clients should come first. So when I get too panicky about this I tell myself that it’s something I just started doing because I had too much time on my hands, that it is a skill-development thing, and that any success or otherwise is not the main issue.
Paid work must come first. I want more of it, and I must get myself out there to get it. More panic.
This scramble is partly because the drugs are kicking in and I’m able to do more. But my energies feel all over the place, I’m having trouble prioritising. In fact, I even wrote a new poem while sitting in front of the tele the other day, and have just sent it and a few others off to a poetry journal. Submitting work to a literary journal is so much less effort than it used to be in the days before email. If I’m knocked back, which is likely, I’ll be disappointed but not devastated.
Equally frustrating is of course that my hang-ups are still holding me back – that in fact there is still an angry fifteen-year-old inside waiting to get out, not to mention an attention-hungry five-year-old, and both will do anything in order to get attention. And I’m still very isolated, apart from the self-help group I attend and seeing the odd friend. The group is still a huge challenge for me – I will blog about it soon.
I bet anyone reading this blog from a mental health perspective is quietly shaking their heads and mouthing the word ‘manic’. (I’m not bipolar as far I know, but my SSRI does make me a bit high during the day, with a downer at night.) But when you come up for air after a long period you want to snatch at life while the mood lasts. You don’t know how long it will be before you get pulled down again. Oh those big gulps of air! I’ll breathe them in while I can.
* I said ‘too much’ – there’ll be a bit of skiting but I’ll keep it under control.