When I talk to anyone about my nephew I know my eyes sparkle. I imagine I sound like a teenage girl mooning over her pop star crush — he’s SO funny! He’s SO clever! Ohmygoodness, he did this thing the other day that was SO hilarious! <Insert dreamy sigh> He’s just amazing….. And he is really is. I can provide documented evidence of how Noah is possibly a MENSA-level genius and already displaying the comedic ability of a young Ben Stiller. And that’s before we get to the fact that he’s the Cutest Kid in the Universe.
I know I am biased when it comes to my nephew. I know that all of us who love little ones are biased — it’s part of the deal. We see the magic in them through the lens of our unconditional love. I have moments when I look at Noah and have actual physical aching in my chest. Having the privilege of watching him growing up — and, even better, being an active part of his world — is the greatest gift I have ever been given. It’s been the absolute making of me — I can’t really remember my life before him. It all feels so grey in comparison (okay, so biased aunties also tend to be a bit melodramatic).
Whenever I am with Noah I am 100% present. We play, we dress up, I wipe his bum, we jump on the bed. I do my best to help his mum out and try to be the most hands-on auntie I can be. I’m too busy dealing with my exploding heart to think about my own stuff. But when I get home, back to my quiet life in the city, I feel it hard. Mostly it’s me missing Noah, but woven through is a little ache that’s been growing lately. Knowing this great love I have for my nephew, who feels like a part of me in the way my sister does, I wonder what it would be like to have a child of my own. Created with love and born from my body. To be a mama, with all the sleepless selfless responsibility that involves.
While no one has actually said this to my face, I know there is this crazy idea out in the world that unless you have children of your own you don’t really know what selfless love is. Or maybe it’s unless you’re a mother you don’t know what real love is. Or is it that women who choose not to have children are selfish? Whatever it is, it makes me feel like shit and it’s patently untrue, as any auntie, uncle, grandparent, godparent and carer can attest. I didn’t do the feeds in the middle of the night and I know I don’t carry the responsibility that my sister and brother-in-law do (though I carry the worry with them 100%), but I love Noah as if he were my own child. It feels bigger than just “family” — I feel like I am his second mummy. I don’t know how else to explain it.
I’m at this very delicate point in my life where I have to face the fact that my fertility is declining and the likelihood of me having a family of my own is becoming remote. This was brought home to me last week as I sat in the office of the doctor who’ll be surgically removing my fibroids. He mentioned my age three times in our 20-minute appointment. It was unpleasantly sobering.
I honestly don’t know what the next few years will bring for me romantically or reproductively. There is still the possibility of my own child, and yes I know adoption is an option — the sperm donor route, however, is not for me — and perhaps my future beloved will have children of his own I will grow to love. But just as I wish to find the best most brilliant uncle for Noah, I still hope to make a cousin for him. And typing that makes my eyes prickle with tears, so I know that is the absolute truth.
I don’t have a neat ending for this post. It is what it is. This is my life, my right now, and just as I know circumstances can change in the (missing) beat of a heart, I also trust that this is the path I am supposed to be walking. It’s not comfortable but it is real.
Noah turned four earlier this month and asked for a Frozen party, so we all pulled together and made it happen. It was MEGA.
And bowling for the first time the day before:
“Aging is not ‘lost youth,’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength. It’s a different stage of life, and if you are going to pretend it’s youth, you are going to miss it. You are going to miss the surprises, the possibilities, and the evolution that we are just beginning to know about because there are no role models, no guideposts, and no signs.”~ Betty Friedan
Turning thirty felt like a big deal, and it was — it was my first big age milestone. My first real taste of getting older and all that brings with it. Of course, forty smashed all of that to pieces, and I have no doubt that 50 will do the same to 40. But this is where I am. I have been alive for 41 years as of today, and I wanted to share what it’s like to be here — the good stuff, because heaven knows I could share a week-long series of posts about the less good stuff.
The fact is, I love being older. I love this feeling of wholeness that’s deepening with every new year. I feel rooted in who I am, and while I still get tossed around on hormonal tidal waves, at my core I know myself. I know what I’m capable of. I know my worth.
After 30+ years of feeling like a girl, my forties see me stepping into being a woman. I feel decidedly womanly, and what a deliciously juicy feeling that is. The changes in my body and face are not particularly welcome (understatement) — would I like to erase 10 years off my face when I look in the mirror? Yes, some days I really would. But would I actually want to be 30 again? No way, no how, absolutely not. My forties are proving to be the making of me. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
I deeply appreciate knowing I can survive things. And it’s not just because I experienced such a life changing bereavement in the way I did. I simply have more years behind me — I have proof that time does carry on. That heartbreaks will be survived. That bad memories will fade. That forgiveness can be found.
I love the empowerment I feel in this season of my life. I care less about what other people think of me and will walk down the street like I own it. I’ll also hide in my bedroom on the days I need to, but the beauty of getting older is not having to ask anyone’s permission to do what you need. I don’t know who that permission giver was, mind you, but these days that spectre has all but evaporated. I’m my own biggest cheerleader because after 41 years it finally hits you that no one else is going to do it for you. By looking out for me I show myself love and kindness, and when I operate from that place I have so much more love and kindness for everyone else.
I’ve no doubt 41 might have looked and felt different had I had kids or a partner, but as I have neither I can only report back from the trenches as a single independent woman. I face the (un)certainty of being an older mother, and who knows what that adventure will bring. If it happens — and it’s one of my most heartfelt wishes — I do know that I’ll be a better mother now, at this point in my life, than I ever would have been in my twenties. Not that 20-somethings make bad mums, obviously — just that 20-something Susannah would have done.
So even though there are those rare days I’d give anything to have had my life turn out differently, 99.9% of the time I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m loving being a woman in my 40s, so glad to no longer be that sweet insecure girl I once was, so grateful to have my health and my family, so ready to keep evolving and growing in this life that’s all mine. And hell, if my 40s are this good, I think my 50s and beyond are going to fucking ROCK.
Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with my Ageing Awesomely Pinterest board, and find I’m hungry to hear more stories of how getting older is a glorious thing (as opposed to the usual media portrayal of ageing as the biggest bummer ever.) So I reached out to some of my online sisters for their take on the (delicious) truth about getting older – I’ll be adding links to their posts below as they get published.
So make yourself a hot drink and go read these posts because there is some seriously extraordinary magic being shared today… holy wow!
Denise Andrade-Kroon | Marisa Anne | Sherold Barr | Flora Bowley | Randi Buckley | Pixie Campbell | Bella Cirovic | Tracey Clark | Julie Daley | Ronna Detrick | Danielle Dowling | Elizabeth Duvivier | Ali Edwards | Marianne Elliot | Tanya Geisler | Jo Hanlon-Moores | Andrea Jenkins | Liz Lamoreux | Liv Lane | Jennifer Louden | Hannah Marcotti | Justine Musk | Amy Oscar | Sas Petherick | Jamie Ridler | Andrea Scher | Susan Tuttle | Karen Walrond | Chris Zydel
Friends, I would love to know what you like about getting older. No matter what age you are, what’s deliciously true for you right now?
Updated to add: We gathered all the posts together and made an ebook! You can download it RIGHT HERE xo
I wasn’t going to write about my new tattoo, but as it’s the most interesting thing that’s happened so far this year — other than the miracle sunset — here I am, writing about it. But it’s not really about the tattoo (though if you’re thinking of getting one, I’ll include some tips at the end). No, it’s about the fact that we are so much more than skin and bone.
Let me explain.
In 1995 I got a blue lily tattooed on my arm. It was my second tattoo, and my most visible, and I was thrilled with it. I remember everything about that day, as you tend to do when something life/body altering happens. Fast forward to now. I have lived with the blue lily for nearly 20 years and it’s become a bit faded and past its sell-by date. Over the years I’d toyed with the idea of getting it removed or covered up, but hadn’t done anything about it until this Christmas, when I discovered a tattooist whose work I loved was guesting at a studio in London for two weeks. I made the call, booked the appointments and that was that. It took seven and half hours — plus plenty of good conversation, laughs and a few teeth-gritting moments — to complete my new tattoo. The blue lily has been transformed ready for the next 20 years.
All my tattoos are meaningful to me, and I didn’t get any of them done on a whim. I know tattoos are not for everyone, but how great it is that we get to choose how we adorn our own bodies? Personally I like a bit of permanent adornment. Once an art student always an art student, I guess. While I’ll never go to the extremes some tattoo fanatics go to, for me they are decoration and meaning etched into my skin — spells worn proudly on my epidermis.
So with all that said, it was quite a surprise to wake up the day after feeling wobbly and emotional. I was about to get my period, so I knew exactly what was fuelling the drama, but it wasn’t until I’d unwrapped my arm, washed off the inky gunk, put on my face and dried my hair that I could look in the mirror and check I was still me. And I was, obviously. But after nearly 20 years of looking one way, I now looked different, and it’s taken a few days to adjust to the (intended and paid for) change.
As I cycled through the what-have-I-dones and panic that first morning, I lay down on my bed, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. And it was then that I remembered that I am not my body. That I am — that we all are — so much bigger than the molecules that’ve clustered together to create these body shapes. We’re here on earth for a while, and then we’re not. Our bodies will turn to dust and be gone. And it was the simple remembrance of the impermanence of being alive that put everything back into perspective for me.
I do believe in life after death. Enough weird things have happened in the last nine years for me to know, without a doubt, that there is something afterwards. And this feels like the year I might have to talk about that a bit more… we’ll see. For now, I’m left with freshly marked skin on a body that’s lasted forty years so far, and if it survives another forty I’ll arrive at that grand old age with swirls, feathers and flowers on my arm. And as I sink into the acceptance of the changes — and they go so much deeper than a frivolous tattoo — I’m oddly grateful for this connection to the future.
You see that granny over there rocking the cool outfit and decorated skin? That’ll be me one day.
So if all of that hasn’t put you off getting inked, here are my tips for happy tattoo-getting:
1. If your new ink will take longer than an hour, take lots of food and drink with you and be sure to eat a meal before you leave the house. Think healthy carb-y protein goodness, nuts and chocolate. Plus water and your favourite energy drink (I swear by Lucozade). Your body will need the energy and sustenance.
2. Deep breaths through the most painful bits — and there are always a few — really helps, as does smiling (seriously!)
3. Always tip your tattooist.
4. He or she will advise you on how to let your new ink heal so listen carefully – they know what works best for their style. Products that work well for me are Bepanthen for the early days (thanks to my ink sister for that tip), Dr Bronner’s soap for washing, and L’Occitane’s Shea butter lotion for the itchy-peeling stage. When everything’s healed use Vitamin E oil to nourish your skin and allieviate some of the shine.
5. And a last one for the ladies: try to time your appointment with the second-ish week of your cycle. Getting tattooed the day before your period starts is not much fun, trust me ;)
Recent history has proved to me that choosing a word for the year is effing powerful. And it doesn’t have to be just one word — you could choose two or more, a phrase, a mantra, a statement or a theme. I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts lately explaining why setting New Year’s resolutions are pointless, and I do agree with that — while “get fit” sounds like a sensible goal to have, it doesn’t feel very inspiring. It feels like an order. Choosing the word ‘energised’ or even ‘strong’ affects me in a different way. It encourages me to make better choices. It seduces and cajoles rather than instructs.
For the last five years I’ve selected a single word to act as a guiding light for the coming twelve months. I don’t do anything fancy to find the word — usually a few possibles occur to me as the year winds down and I’ll mindmap them in my journal until one starts taking centre stage. Often I choose a word I know will help me with all I have to do in the coming year — for example, BRAVE was the perfect choice for all the book shenanigans in 2012. VISIBLE was perfect for growing my fledgling business in 2009.
My word for 2013 was OPEN and sure enough, there were plenty of opportunities to practice staying open last year. At times it was like taking a crowbar to my mended heart, but I’d remind myself ‘stay open, stay open’ and breathe through the discomfort. I did a lot of breathing last year. My introverted HSP self would often want to close back down into her cocoon, but all things considered I think I’ve done a pretty good job of staying open. It’s a practice I’m carrying with me into the new year. Probably for the rest of my life, let’s face it.
This year I was tempted to choose LOVE as my word. I’ve been wanting to do this since I started the word-choosing thing, but have always held back for fear it was too obvious. Words are important to me, and I take the selection of my yearly word quite seriously. So I journalled into LOVE to see if it was my true word or were there others I needed to live through first? And there was one little word that’s been tugging at my sleeve for a while. I see it in books and draw it out of oracle decks. It’s been following me around and every time I notice it I feel a nudge at my side…
I have many supporting words this year, including romance, surrender, trust and open (again), but it’s MIRACLES that’s been stalking me. I can’t seem to get away from it, so I’m embracing it as my word for 2014. To me it means something magical and unexpected happening, which is exactly what some of my dreams and desires feel like, so I’m opening myself to miracles this year. I’m holding on to possiblity. I’m believing in magic. I’m trusting my gut. I’m listening for guidance.
I want to experience miracles in every part of my life, and to reach the end of 2014 smiling in amazement at all that’s unfolded. I want to love and be loved. I want to be seen and heard. I want to break out of the cocoon and drink deeply from life. I am so ready for this. I’m not scared to do the work. I’m not scared to make my miracles happen.
I believe in miracles. Don’t you?
Previous words: 2013 :: 2012 :: 2011 : 2010 :: 2009
What’s your word (or words) for 2014? I’d love to know xx