October 8, 2013

On Turning Thirty-Fifteen

I hadn't planned to do anything special for my birthday this year. After all, forty-five isn't a 'big' year ending in a zero and, unlike Jack who celebrated the big double-figure milestone this year, I have been in double figures for quite awhile now.

And yet, as so often happens in our family, a plain old vanilla Monday birthday turned into a whole birthday weekend and I had the loveliest, busiest few days, allowing my brain to ignore the fact that I was, in fact, turning forty-five.

Forty. Freaking. Five.

Quick, pass the champagne. Let's turn it into a birthday week!

The thing is, when I think of that number (let's say it again shall we? FORTY-FIVE!) I don't actually connect it to myself. A forty-five year old person should be a stable, settled, accomplished adult. And occasionally, I do feel that. But for much of the time, I feel like an awkward, naive misfit who's still trying to find her feet. I mean I only discovered eyebrow waxing when I was thirty-four. There I was walking around all Kahlo-eque with a monobrow for three whole decades when I could have had perfect arches and a nose that didn't emerge from a small forest! Girls in their teens know about eyebrow waxing. How come I didn't? Too busy knitting leg-warmers probably.

This year, more than ever, advancing another year in age has given me pause and I've come over all reflective.

In the small, wakeful hours of the morning when you can't turn off a brain that is determined to dwell and wallow and turn molehills into huge flipping alpine regions, I play the horrible, terrible, no good numbers game.

At 45, my mother had a 27 year old daughter, all grown up and off her hands. My daughter is 2. When she is 27, I will be staring down the barrel at my 70th birthday.


I pray every day that I will have managed to keep my marbles and good physical health so that she can enjoy her travelling, career-building, family-starting decade with a mother who is in a position to still help and not hinder.

Forty-five is half of ninety, which means I've only got another half of the game to go. Another half in which I need to score all those tries and conversions so I can hold up some kind of trophy at the end, and not just a plaque that says "Was good at knitting leg-warmers and baking cakes."

Shall I be really macabre? If I lived in the Middle Ages, I'd have been in my grave for the past 15 years, assuming I'd lived to the average life expectancy age of 30.

So let's dwell on the good instead.

The upside of feeling not-quite-grown-up is that I also feel reasonably young in mind and body. Well, most of the time. Living with a toddler helps with that, but I'm beginning to understand what my mother-in-law meant when she turned 80 and said "But Shell, I just can't believe it. I still feel like I'm in my twenties and haven't changed a bit."

The years are passing by, sure, but our basic essence, who we are, doesn't change much. I'll always be curious. I'll always prefer vanilla to chocolate ice-cream. I'll always feel like there's more to learn, more to do and see, just like I did in my twenties.

I still yearn.

And I'm in some pretty sexy, sassy company, turning 45 with the likes of Naomi Watts and Kylie Minogue this year. Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry are already there (the old hags!). But it's rather sad to think that I've outlived Princess Diana by 9 years (where did THOSE years go?) and that sweet little boy of hers, who I remember leaving the hospital in his mother's arms, just left hospital with his own baby in his arms.

And now I sound just like my nan, so enough with the royal baby reminiscing.

But the yearning is important. As long as I'm yearning more for the future than for the past. When I start crying over the royal babies of other royal babies coming home, then you'll know I've hit the point of no return (and slap me while you're at it).

I've also learned to take pleasure in the present, a skill I needed those four decades to develop.

So I celebrated 45, or as my friend called it, my thirty-fifteenth! I like the sound of that. Two more numbers that have meaning. I gained a step-mother when I was fifteen and became a step-mother when I was thirty.

There was champagne and cake and a sparkly helium balloon with the words "Happy Birthday Shell" written on it that Francesca appropriated for 48 hours, insisting, since she chose it, that it was hers. She even slept with it to ensure nobody else could snaffle it.

There was a day in the city with my gorgeous gal-pal Susie during which we may have drawn breath for, oh, around five minutes. We talked on the bus, we talked on the ferry, we talked all through lunch and the whole way through our hand and foot treatments at the day spa. When we got to the Art Gallery of NSW, we went straight to the cafe and talked for an hour, then talked our way around the Contemporary, Modern and Classic exhibitions.

Lunch at the Ivy was followed by tea and macarons on the fancy floor of Westfield.

Some creepy 'installation' in the contemporary section of the Art Gallery of NSW. That is a dead clown on the floor. Told you. Creepy.

I was spoilt with gifts by family and friends - a handbag from Mum, a wallet from my generous step-daughter, dinner and babysitting from the boys, a beautiful pair of silver earrings from Jack, an ipad from a husband who not only tolerates my technology addiction, but enables it. And lots of lovely bangles, cuffs and pendants from friends who know how much I love to accessorise!

Birthday spoils, featuring the annual homemade card from John full of pics from our year.

So here I am, thirty-fifteenths, grateful for my health, my fabulous family and friends, and especially grateful that we don't live in the Middle Ages. The lack of sewerage systems would be a deal breaker and I'd be sure to muck up all those thee's and thine's.

Hopefully I have another thirty-fifteenths ahead of me to achieve the things I still yearn for.

"You don't have to be just one thing. But you have to start with something."

Do you know the song 'Amazing Life' by Clare Bowditch? No? Well, here it is. Listen to it somewhere quiet. It's a gentle and inspiring kick up the butt with a velvet boot. Take her words on board. I intend to.

Tell me, how did you feel on your last birthday? Excited, reflective, depressed, in need of vodka or just looking forward to a nice bit of cake?

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