In the film Brooklyn, due to a turn of events, Eilis unexpectly finds herself back in her backwater Irish home town.
She gets involved with an amazing man who asks her not to return to her life Brooklyn, but rather to stay and make a life with him.
“But this isn’t the life I imaged for myself”.
This line really resonates for me.
I’m 39, turning 40 next summer and this isn’t the life I imagined for myself.
This is quite a raw and scary post for me to write. I’m writing to those of you who find yourself feeling disappointed with the hand that life has dealt you.
I talk about what’s it like to be a single woman, with no children, knocking on the door of 40.
These may well not be your circumstances but the theme of ‘things not working out as planned’ will probably ring true.
I can’t believe that I’ve been around for nearly 40 years.
Some days I’ll notice a wrinkle, a tiredness, a grey hair and reality dawns on me – I’m approaching… dare I say it… middle age.
Some days I’m pretty cool with this.
Age is just a number and all that…
But I also have bad days where I carry a pain, a sadness, that this isn’t the life I imaged for myself.
The Life I Imagined for Myself
So what had I imagined?
The only solid things that I’ve hoped for were to be happily married and to be a mother – as a strong independent woman this is quite hard to admit!
Everything else was pretty vague.
It kind of feels like the vague ‘everything’ else bit of my life has worked out so much better than I could have imagined:
I live in a beautiful part of Scotland (Inverness), near to my parents and sisters, who feel more dear to me than ever. I’ve wonderful friends both near and far. I feel known, loved and accepted. I have a home, my own business doing work that I love and find meaningful. I’m healthy, strong and fit. Life is full.
But at times I feel terribly alone.
All the people who are close to me have many other pulls on their lives.
I feel regret for relationships that haven’t worked out. I wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake somewhere down the line.
I feel fear that this is how it will always be.
Me, trying to make the best of things but in my heart SCREAMING for someone to bare witness to the little moments… The small things… details of life, that most people wouldn’t find interesting.
In lots of ways my life must sound enviable, I can do what I like, I can spend my time and money on what I like, yet I have this gnawing feeling that something isn’t right.
That rather I should be putting my resources into caring for my children.
But my children don’t exist.
Yes, the relationship and motherhood chapters of my life story aren’t over yet. More and more women are starting families later and later so things may work out.
Yet turning 40 seems to be a marker for me in realising that things may not work out as planned.
I’m not sharing this as a ‘poor me’ self pitying post. Rather I share to give an honest context to my message.
I used to tell myself different stories about why I was single.
I constructed and played internal narratives on a loop:
I wasn’t pretty enough, I was too fat, I wasn’t smart enough…
(See my blog on Loving away the self hatred and the diets for more on this).
Through self reflection, counselling and good relationships I now know none of these things are true.
To quote an old aunty, the reason I’m single is:
“The ones I’d have wouldnae have me.
The ones that’d have me I wouldnae have!”
I just haven’t been lucky in love, I’m a wee bit fussy and some of the men I’ve liked have been a wee bit fussy too!
I honestly believe that now and I wish I could have sooner rather than filling my head with self doubt.
For me one of the wonderful things about getting older is that I feel an increasing sense of self acceptance. I enjoy my own company and like who I am.
I’ve got better at learning how to dull the monsters in my head.
When life hasn’t worked out as planned it is really easy to blame ourselves but often ‘shit just happens’ and it’s outside of our control.
If you find yourself full of self doubt maybe you can try this same practice? Always measure the thought against the truth. Right now as I write this I have a nagging thought:
No one is going to like this blog. They will think you’re being needy, self indulgent and oversharing.
Is this true?
The facts are:
- Some people will like it, some won’t.
- Most people wont read it.
- Some might think I’m being needy, self indulgent and oversharing/
- Others might find my honesty resonates with their experience and it may help them on their journey with self acceptance.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver
Much of this blog has been taken up with description of my story and pain at disappointment but for the most part these things aren’t on my mind. I accept my circumstances and seek to live well. My life is what I make of it. I don’t want to take a moment for granted.
Practicing gratitude is one of the most important disciplines I’ve learnt.
Taking the focus of what I don’t have and zooming in on what I do have changes everything.
Whatever our circumstances, life is hard. Pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience.
We all have dreams that seem to be slipping away.
If you’re in a relationship your partner might be pissing you off right now.
If you’ve got kids you are probably too knackered to do half the things that you want to.
For me, I’m going to continue working at losing the self doubt and growing in self acceptance and gratitude.
I might not be a mother but I want to be the best Aunty in the world.
I might not be someone’s partner at the moment but I want to be the best daughter and sister and friend that I can.
Preparing to turning 40 has woken me up to the fact that I’m not living the life I imagined – but maybe my imagination wasn’t big enough?
Post script: 19th May 2020.
A few years have passed since writing this blog and my imagination for my life has grown in unexpected ways. I’ve learn more about what really feeds my spirit – through my connection with the outdoors, with wildness and through my counselling work. If you’d like a safe space to explore the gap between your life situation and what you want to imagine for yourself you might want to consider working one to one with me. More details are here.