So I just turned fifty and maybe due to the serious restrictions put on my big birthday celebrations I will just stay forty-nine. I might start counting backwards going forwards.
I am a slightly introverted Capricorn weirdo so the lack of fuss wasn’t too disturbing. I never usually feel the need to celebrate me being born with too much razzmatazz. Maybe it’s a January thing. A nice meal out with my family and friends makes me happy enough. (Made me happy enough).
But to be honest I felt overwhelmed with love. I received many beautiful gifts, cards filled with words that made me cry, cakes, champers, even my very own balloon installation that made this Walthamstow girl feel a little bit Towie. Oh and so many flowers, last time I had that many flowers I had pushed a tiny human out, turning fifty was definitely less painful.
My friends tweeted Gary Barlow (my birthday twin) and asked him to sing to me. Kind but he was probably a bit busy crooning with Mick Jagger (they were thinking more Barry Manilow for my song).
So I like Oprah and I like thinking. And Miss Winfrey asks the question what do you know for sure? What I know for sure is we all need air. We need water and food. We need to release certain bodily fluids. We need to sleep. We need sunlight. We need love. That is the requirement for basic survival.
I know we transform and grow at such a slow-motion pace that we awake one morning and have become somebody new; somebody taller or with more wrinkles depending on the year. Whilst someone behind our eyes watches every moment as our body slowly changes until it barely recognizes itself and a voice within talks and talks and talks.
There is a whole bunch of other stuff too but most importantly we die. Nobody gets out alive. Doesn’t matter which God you worship, what shade your skin tone is. What body parts you have hidden in your underwear or who you let into those knickers. We all die. And in between, we live. I wish we were taught more about how to die, we might just live better and we might not be so terribly bad at it.
That voice kept asking me leading up to my special day “what has it taken me fifty years to learn?”
Calm is a superpower, silence is sometimes the best answer. The yogi and meditating Mandy knows this. If you stay rational and reasonable you can resolve more than when you let your emotions run wild, you know when you just blurt out the unfiltered not thought out crazy rants that can hurt more than the proverbial sticks and stones.
What I have learnt is our twisted little minds love to remember all sorts of shit. We can go back decades reminiscing over the horrible words said and the nasty deeds done. And clinging to these events can define and limit your potential. Children and siblings are extremely talented in this area of throwing in your face what you did wrong. It is funny how your recollection tells a different tale. And for the last time, I swear I did not lock my brother in a cupboard.
We are all travellers of time and probably spend as many hours in the past as we do in the present. Actions may speak louder than words. But words have a better memory. Why do we love to swim in the murky waters? When it’s gone it’s gone. Move on. The time is now. But going backwards seems to have a mighty strong pull. We would be so much better off if we resisted the temptation to go there so often.
Going all mental is needed sometimes it shakes things up, gets things off our chest, clears the throat chakra and the air. We seem to be a species of opinionated people fixated on having our say. Constantly judging and over-sharing what we think isn’t right. It is pretty pointless as everything is just perspective and perception; Just thoughts and likes and dislikes and preferences. Just more words from the know it all voice inside that talks too much and is governed by our mood. I think we think we are helping, but people don’t like being told. We like to learn the hard way. Here is an idea; just do you. Stop looking and comparing, comparison is the thief of joy. Offer practical help when needed not judgements. And don’t forget to tell people when something is good; pat them on the back for getting it right. A little praise goes a long way.
Having our say brings us a sense of importance and a feeling that our expertise means something. We all think we are right. And when we are not feeling our finest self it feels good to turn the voice loose into the outside world and critique something else. Being human is strange. I am at my very worst when I am not my best.
We verbally beat up the people that we love the most, more than the people we don’t even like. We get comfortable with our expectations of how they should be and feel obliged to tell them. We poke our nose in a lot. Why do we do that? Ironically I think it comes from a place of love or fear which is two heads of the same coin. We aren’t in their body; we can’t hear their inside chatter. The irrational fears and secret dreams that’s classified information. We see what they want us to see. That is all anybody ever really shows; the version of themselves fully dressed and looking pretty; not the naked vulnerable one.
My Nan was calm and quiet. It’s kind of soothing to be in that presence nestled in amongst that safety. It’s a feeling that stays with you. When I stop saying much it usually means I am not in my happy place. When I lose the will to speak be afraid. I get peace from the quiet. There is too much noise sometimes. Although I think my inner voice has verbal diarrhoea. That bitch never shuts up.
It rattles and annoys the hell out folks when they can’t get you to react; especially loud annoying people. That being said my superpower is finding lost things. I still go off like a raving banshee more often than I would like. Guess that comes with being fifty too. I know calm is better than crazy I like how it feels.
Other useful superpowers are forgiveness and kindness and putting yourself into the shoes of others. When my brother was a baby dying from organ failure and there was this whole organ donation debate on whether you would give your organs, I knew how badly we as a family wanted someone’s perfect little liver and bowel gifted to us. We could overlook the tragic gift wrapping to rejoice in its ability to heal our lives and most importantly Jacks.
And that experience really made me consider that if I would be willing to take something so precious surely I must be equally as eager to give. The other valuable lesson learnt from witnessing a long term serious illness up close and personal is that sometimes our own need for somebody that we love to be okay and get better against the odds can blind us to their suffering. I used to pray that he would be alright and I believe he is now. His stay was short and bittersweet. I also learnt that life is tragic and then it’s not again; then it is and then it’s not.
Treat others as you would wish to be treated is an oldie but a goody. We all want to be treated with kindness. We all need forgiveness at times. The world is made up of givers and takers and the givers give a lot and the takers will take take take. I read a quote from Jeff Brown about people-pleasing; he says” Please others, when it truly pleases you.” And as a hardcore people pleaser, it was a bit of a body blow moment. Pleasing others is our drug of choice; it gets us momentarily high. So we keep on giving it’s our healthy unhealthy addiction.
Most of the people I know that have had addictions are the most sensitive of souls. I think they probably just can’t handle how much they feel so they try to feel something else. I think onlookers struggle to understand the self-destruction as it is generally viewed as a really bad lifestyle choice. I think drinking yourself to death isn’t the greatest choice, I don’t feel that it’s a choice at all. Anyone capable of battling those monsters and winning are strong humans.
I can’t even give up my tea addiction. Anyone that reinvents themselves and grows into a better version of the person they were deserves huge helpings of respect. Not judgement and remembrance of their lessons learnt the hard way. Like I said the time is now. And forgiveness is a superpower. Nobody started out their life with bad intentions. No five-year-old kid puts their hand up in class and says Miss I want to be a massive fuck up when I grow up, everyone wants to be the astronaut.
Sometimes I feel our life is out of our control, we are just led down this path accomplishing tasks that lead us further on, meeting the right people at the right time and experiencing the things we need to experience to get us from A to B. Whilst we think we are navigating our own route, I often feel that there are some higher powers up there laughing at our naivety. I do believe we are here to learn, painful as that may be sometimes. I am hoping there is purpose to grief and illness and trauma and despair.
I think you need to laugh as much as you can when you can. You need to do the things that make you excited and passionate, not always possible in our work/home lives but squeeze your hobby in somewhere if you can. You know that thing that takes you to your happy place. Help others if you can. Do something purposeful if you can. There is a lot of fake, meaningless stuff that just seems to intoxicate our minds, we waste valuable hours. There is so much pressure to be more and have more that nobody really seems satisfied, fulfilment is just out of our grasp. Time is a funny thing it flies you know. Enjoy your beautiful youthfulness, your strong bodies and carefree days. Go immerse yourself in all the goodness the world has to offer, some of it is free.
We live in the world of positive Instagram quotes that tell us to think happy thoughts and breathe. Good advice. I love positivity. But reality is what it is and bills need paying, kids need feeding, endless mundane jobs need doing blah blah blah. Some of us are more fragile beings. We can find it very hard to breathe at times. Don’t cry, chin up, calm down, turn that frown upside down are phrases ingrained into our subconscious mind from any early age. Why can’t we just sit with those negative emotions on bad days and ask them what they want to tell us? Why is it so hard to see a grown man cry? Why are we so afraid of anger and ashamed of jealousy? Maybe they are just indicators that something in your own life isn’t how you would like it to be.
Challenging times will pass. Those situations just like people won’t change because you want them to; because you’d prefer them to be a different way. Oh no, you will have to hold on tight and go with it. You will need to adapt and accept. You will need patience, patience is a superpower. There will be a lesson in there that will make you stronger, if it doesn’t kill you first.
You won’t know gratitude until it feeds your hunger pains or perfect health until you feel it aching in your bones. You might never know how much you loved someone until they don’t show up on your doorstep one Saturday morning in April. Did I mention that ghosts are real; they hide in old photographs in the back of cupboards and in your heart space.
You won’t believe your parents when they say school is the best years of your lives until a school reunion in an east end pub reminds you how fun it was awkwardly blossoming into the teenage version of yourself. I do cringe a bit remembering my shyness. You won’t know freedom until you are caged like a bird or Boris tells you to stay home. I think we have to have very close proximity to a thing to really empathise with it. We know a lot of stuff about a lot of things but we don’t know anything truly until we look it in the eyes.
Yin and yang; we need our opposites to know what is good. For a really long time, I have always wanted things to be nice. I am the classic middle child, the glue and the fixer. I crave happiness for myself and for others. I like honest people doing kind things. I enjoy being helpful. But as Dolly says “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” Sometimes it pours; the sun is always shining though.
No one ever got through this life without some sadness or disappointment. I know it’s considered enlightened to be untouchable by what finds its way onto your path. But maybe enlightenment isn’t the purpose of this trip to earth. The events that happen to us and the people that we care for will shape us into the human beings that we will eventually become.
Maybe our purpose for being here is to grow into the best version of our self that we can. Mistakes, bad choices and wrong turns make good stories. I often wonder if our departure time is mapped out or whether we master that final lesson and its graduation time. I live in a house full of people that believe that you live then you die. But I want there to be more. I know with all my heart that there is more.
I tell my kids to keep life simple if you want happiness. I don’t mean play it small I just mean prioritise what is important and meet your needs. We end up over complicating things and having too much stuff that we could do without. No one’s taking it with them. My husband said he’d learnt not to force things. If things are meant for you they’ll find you. He learnt the painful way. His determination wasn’t always his wisest advisor. Sometimes The Gods will have other plans for us. It feels like we are just here for their amusement and they are getting plenty of entertainment value at the moment. In yogic terms go with the flow. And listen to your gut; it will guide you if you let it. Listen to your moods, good and bad, what words they are whispering in your ear. And your mum she is usually right.
Love is the greatest superpower of all; Love is what it’s all about.
Anyway, that’s enough about me.
Thanks for all of the birthday love