I haven't blogged for a while, and I might write about why another time (it's partly related to the topic of this post) but today I wanted to share a mile stone that I passed a couple of weeks ago, and what difference it's making to my life.
It was my 63rd birthday last month. Nothing special in that - a bit depressing perhaps, to be another year closer to old age and the big sleep - but not significant in itself. However, my mother died of cancer at the age of 62 and the fact of that has been at the back of my mind (and recently right at the front of it) for a decade or so. Back in December last year, I crossed the actual dateline in years, months and days lived that my Mum had lived. I got foolishly anxious in the days leading up to it (on top of all the anxiety from the Covid debacle) and, once I got through that day without pegging out, I breathed a superstitious sigh of relief and got on with my life.
However, in the few days before my 63rd birthday, I found all the old anxiety creeping up on me again. What was the point passing that point in December if I was still going to die at 62? I should say, by the way, that I am in perfect health, that there is no earthly reason why I should have died at 62, just the anxiety that has become a constant companion in the last year made me fear it.
So, as I went to sleep the night before my birthday, I was glad to have the Climber beside me for comfort and reassurance (of course, I didn't tell him anything about this anxiety - as the son of two parents both still gloriously alive in their nineties he wouldn't understand.) When I woke up in the morning and the Climber wished me Happy Birthday, I found myself spontaneously throwing my arms in the air and shouting "I made it! I made it!" He had no idea what was going on but it was a clear sign of the stress I had been under for a long time, and the relief that I felt on waking.
That stress had several components - generalised anxiety, survivor guilt, plus the horrible sense that, because my Mum and I didn't really get on, somehow I didn't deserve to live longer than her. That chorus of inner critics can be hard to ignore.
From the moment of that shout of joy and relief in bed, I have been more relaxed. I honestly feel like I've achieved something - ridiculous, I know, but still... I felt moved to draw two little posters for myself, to remind me not to allow stress to dominate my life. The first one states in bold black letters NO MORE FEAR! The second is at the top of this post and is a celebration of life. I hope my Mum would understand my relief. Even though we weren't close, I would much rather have her, as the Climber does with his parents, here and in my life - for her sake and mine. I think we would inevitably have drawn closer as we both aged and perhaps found ourselves to have more in common.
So now, having passed that long-anticipated birthday, I do feel freer, I do feel (a bit) more light-hearted about life, I even feel more confident. My attitude to life now is to try not to worry about dying. Better people than me have died younger. And to try to enjoy every day as much as possible, not to allow anxiety to ruin whatever time I have left.