Yup, friday 18th December 2009 is a huge day for me in so many ways. I'm 45 (which means I've now officially out-lived both my parents), it's my first birthday in over a decade when I can finally say I'm out of "its" clutches, the day is Friday (my day of birth) and, to top it all, it's snowing! For the first time I can remember since I was very small!
So what's been happening since my last post? Well, to start with, I took the blog down for a while after a major move forward. In response to all the messages and encouragement I'd been receiving, I wrote a book proposal - which was accepted by the very first literary agent I approached; very exciting! So that was why I stopped. Added to which I had reason to believe that it had been noticed by my estranged husband. But the book itself is now coming along very nicely, and I have decided that now is a good time to re-start my personal blogging, it being my birthday and all that...
I'm in a very different place now from the space I was in on my last entry. Lots has happened - many more challenges than I could have begun to anticipate, and I must say there have been times when I've been absolutely on the floor. But now, somehow, I've found my 'mojo' and believe I have the strength to come through everything that has happened, and anything else that is now going to be thrown at me.
My latest and most profound 'ah-ha' moment happened just a few days ago, last weekend in fact. Too many things have happened over the past few months for me to attempt to explain here and now, suffice it to say that at that point I had hit rock bottom after a series of disappointments despite my best efforts to keep strong. Try as I might, even after throwing myself in to new opportunities with all my heart, it seemed that the tables were well and truly turned against me. And I found myself sinking even further down than I had ever been before - and to top it all I'd suffered an ear infection that, had I still been a scuba-diver, would have disallowed me to plummet the physical depths, and in the meantime prevented me from reaching the emotional levels I had to go to in order to purge myself; the irony is not lost on me.
And yet, and yet... out of those depths that I could only imagine, I seem somehow to have found a new strength, a new lust for life (to quote one of my favourite tracks). This is how I found it.
Last Saturday night, 13th December, I'd gone to bed with the now familiar ache in my heart and blind panic in my mind that I'd grown used to over the previous few weeks. My financial situation was at an all time low - I had nothing left to sell. The business project to which I'd dedicated the previous two months (and which had promised so much) had suddenly fallen over, and finding work this close to Christmas was proving to be an uphill battle for which I was not sufficiently equipped. But that didn't stop the bills. Electricity, telephone, oil, my son's school fees, mortgage - all reasonable bills that I had no way of honouring, and from which I had no place (or desire) to hide. I was embarrassed, frightened, overwhelmed and exhausted from the fight.
That night, I started reading a book that had just been returned to me. It's an old favourite entitled "You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" and is a book I've given out to numerous friends and colleagues over the years. That night, though, it had come back to me, returned by a dear friend and adopted family member. It's often said that the teacher or book you require turns up at exactly the right time, and this was most certainly the case for me. I was shattered. I'd spent the evening putting on my best smile, but I knew I was fooling nobody with my jolliness - least of all myself. My skin grey, eyes sunken in to black sockets, skin itching and sensitive, I'd gingerly maneuvered myself in to my bed, taking care not to jolt my cruciate-less knee. Once I'd settled as best I could, I picked up the book and opened it's well-thumbed and yellowing pages.
The words instantly took me to a place of familiarity - a "home" that I'd temporarily forgotten about. No wonder I had recommended it so wholeheartedly to so many people! The book was (and is) a godsend. It's designed for people who are suffering from a life threatening illness - including, as it so wisely states, 'life itself' - and I realised that I had indeed been combating a life threatening situation myself. I may not have had the physical symptoms of an illness, per say, but the depths to which I had allowed myself to sink were certainly life-threatening in themselves. And that was brought home to me by a simple question that was posed in the early chapters of the book.
This was the question. "You have a decision to make. A question you need to ask yourself. For until you are clear, you cannot move forward. The question is this - ask yourself from deep within in your soul, do you want to live or do you want to die?"
It's a simple enough and straight forward question. And you'd think that the answer is obvious. But at that moment, when I read those words, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I could NOT answer the question. In my heart of hearts, from the deepest core of my being, I simply didn't know the answer. And that realisation absolutely rocked me - more than any of the experiences over the past few months.
My blood ran cold, and I recognised that I'd been in a place so dark, so soulless, that I was no longer sure that my life was worth living any more. I've had multiple experiences of suicides - my best friend, two of my mother's best friends, the brother of a best friend here in France, my neighbour when I lived in the flat in Brighton, and perhaps (although not proven) my father. It shook me to the core to think that I had allowed myself to sink so low that I was no longer certain whether I wanted to live or die. And the shocking truth that I hadn't even recognised it for myself was abolutely mind-blowing.
At that moment, the breath went from my body, my mind went blank, and I felt myself on the brink of the black and bottomless pit that was beckoning my soul - and I found with frightening clarity that until now I had almost been willing to accept the invitation. And that was the point when I made my choice. I made my commitment to live - more consciously and with more certainty than I can ever remember. And as I made that choice, I could easily have repremanded myself for being so selfish as to allow myself to sink so low. But instead I had the strange and comforting experience of holding myself in my arms, of singing a lullaby to myself, of forgiving myself for falling so far and so deeply.
So is this what the past few months have all been about? Has my lesson been to find a way to forgive myself? I've spent so long finding ways to forgive and accept the people and situations that have caused hurt to me and to Dylan - but perhaps the person I really needed to forgive and accept had been myself all along?I don't yet have the answers for sure, although I sense that this is indeed the case - but I do know for sure that now I am alive.
Now I choose to live. Not just to survive, not just to be strong and tough and soldier through, but now - possibly for the first time ever - to actually live. To live with joy. With excitement, with passion and energy, and to truly thrive. This is my god-given right, and I have been denying myself this right for more years than I care to remember. So now, in the early hours of my 45th birthday (it's never too late to learn!) I am finally embracing my life with arms wide open. With a heart that is now pumping with joy - and a new-found determination to thrive, not just to survive. For I am sick of that - and, indeed, I was sick. Life-threateningly sick - to the pit of my stomach and the depths of my soul.
Now I believe I am truly on the way to living with peace of mind. Yes, there are still battles to be fought and won, but somehow they've lost their hold over me. They've shrunk. The battle cries are quieter and the scent of fear has all but disappeared. Now I'm here to live. Now I am on my side. Now I understand myself better than before. And now, finally, I don't need the approval of anyone else.
For now I finally love and approve of myself exactly as I am. And I'm grateful for my life. So now, on my 45th birthday, I feel I've been lucky enough to be born again - and this time, I'll take nothing for granted and will look after the one person who can help me. The one person who has been with me all the time. The one person I chose to ignore. Myself.
Happy Birthday, Mel - life has now begun.