This time last year

A friend of mine was on the phone earlier – she’s upset about not being where she thinks she should be at this stage of her life. I tried to tell her that things move on, and if you feel a certain way now, it will undoubtedly change. I wrote the blog I’ve copied below a year ago, just before my 42nd birthday. When I read it back, I sound like a very lost lady indeed.

Since I wrote this blog I split up with my boyfriend so you’d think I’d be wallowing even more, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve moved on from the sadness below. My friend will move on too. I don’t think about what I don’t have so much any more (off-loading on to you guys via this blog helps too). But I tend now to focus more on what I do have. If you read to the end, you’ll see that I was preaching that a year ago – but reading between the lines, you can tell I didn’t really believe it.

I believe it now.

Here’s the blog…

Excuse this contemplative blog but another birthday approaches and I do like to beat myself up around this time of year.

I’ve been thinking about the choices I’ve made that have brought me to this point in life. And I’m also, truth be told, dealing with the disappointment that is starting to compete with my middle-aged spread for the weight that I’m now carrying on a daily basis.

Whenever I write a blog about this kind of navel-gazing, I immediately get inundated with calls and emails from friends asking if I’m okay and I want to say upfront that I am. But there’s always a ‘but’ in life and I’m trying to make sense of my ‘but’ right here. Ok, maybe that didn’t come out so good.

Significantly, I am questioning the fact that I have never married, but more so the fact that I am also notably, fundamentally, indubitably and undoubtedly childless. Or child-free as the PC-brigade like to call it.

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve managed to get to this stage of my life completely unencumbered. I’ve gone through, if not a lot of relationships, but enough to think that one might stick. None did.

Was that my choice or theirs? I’ve always told myself they didn’t work because they weren’t right, and that’s a handy excuse but now I realise that nothing is ever 100 percent right. My decision at key points in my younger years was not to compromise. I was career-focused and convinced that fate would lead me to the right person at the right time. Fate clearly missed that memo. And now, from time to time, regret creeps in. However, I fully own my choices – and in a recession, owning anything is good thing, right?

But I love kids and it’s weird that I don’t have them. With the news of another pregnancy, a little ‘what if?’ spark inside me dies. Maybe that’s why the glow of youth dissipates? ‘It’s always someone else,’ I think to myself. But I also wonder if sometimes women of a certain age have children just to have something to do? It’s the next step, right?

There’s an imperceptible change that occurs in your physiology around 35. Your body aches, ambition wanes, the glittering career loses its gloss and so naturally it’s time to think about ‘the what next?’

I’m pretty sure it’s at this point many women start to panic. From what I’ve seen of my friends, their children give them purpose, and anything that gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning is officially ‘a good thing’. But the point I’m making is that for some of them, their choice at that particular stage in their lives was to compromise. Decisions were made, children were born and for some of them it’s worked out better than others.

Do I regret not having children? Some days, most definitely. There are times when I feel like a lesser woman because of it and that’s hard to come to terms with. How could I not have fulfilled my biological prophecy? Those pitying looks from mothers when they find out I am childless land like punches, some hard, some soft. Do I cry about it sometimes? Hell, yes.

But the rest of the time, I’m fine with it. No, honestly I am. (I’m smiling as I write this sentence because I realise it will sound completely schizophrenic but it’s true). I couldn’t imagine bringing a child into this world without a loving partner by my side, and throughout my 30’s I never found him.

I’m now too old to have children. It’s not so much a biological thing, although I suspect it might be difficult, it’s also the fact that I’ve been childless for so long. From this post-40 vantage point, it truly feels like something I should have done 15 years ago. I’m not sure I could flick the switch. Another significant choice?

One thing is for sure though, I’ll be celebrating my birthday this week with the people who are close to me. If I wasn’t getting older, I’d be dead, so I’m grateful for the good things in my life and believe me there are lots.

And if I choose to, some day I will tell you about them.

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