50 Things I’ve Learned From 50 Years of Life

“A happy birthday this evening, I sat by an open window and read till the light was gone and the book was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride the day down into night,
to sit alone, and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand” 
~  Ted Kooser

 

It’s my birthday today. Yay me!

I’m fifty, and it feels GOOD. Originally I was going to post a quick picture of me as a kid, looking all cute, and a few others through the years to now. But when I dug out all my old photos and memorabilia a funny thing happened. I saw so many pictures of friends I have loved and lost, so many family members who’ve passed, and friends whose lives have been touched by tragedy. It made me realise just how lucky I am to still be here at fifty, well loved, safe and secure, with work I adore, despite having had so many health diagnoses and prognoses predicting my demise or failure, and several near-death experiences, starting back when I was in my early twenties. Sure my health is still an ongoing adventure, but hey – I’m alive, and determined to make the most of every day. I’m still here! That deserves celebration!!!

Here are fifty things I’ve learned that have been helpful to me and which might come in useful for you too:

  1. Everyone needs cake on their birthday.
  2. I am not everyone’s flavour, but I am some people’s favourite, and that’s enough for me.
  3. It’s always better to be kind.
  4. No-one is immune to suffering. We all get to have our turn.
  5. Big old trees have much wisdom to share if you can get still and listen.
  6. The sun comes up after even the worst nights and things do look better in the morning.
  7. Sleep is under-rated as a coping mechanism.
  8. Clean sheets and a shower always make you feel better.
  9. Life is too short to live it for other people’s approval.
  10. If you don’t do what matters to you now you might never get your chance.
  11. Don’t wait for things to be perfect.
  12. Surround yourself with people who are real, caring and who think well of you.
  13. Shut the door on mean friends and people who treat you badly or with a lack of respect.
  14. Life needs more picnics and less overtime.
  15. Good books, movies and music are a kind of soul medicine.
  16. Sometimes you just need to take a road trip.
  17. Yes, you really do need to eat your vegetables and get enough fresh air and exercise.
  18. Never be afraid to seek a second opinion.
  19. Getting older is a privilege.
  20. Practice good hygiene, wash your hands after you go to the toilet and before eating, and consider others when you are ill. Not everyone has a robust immune system.
  21. It really is okay to indulge your craving for junk food, sweets or ice-cream occasionally.
  22. A part of you never changes, and stays solid and anchored inside you through all of your life experiences. That essence is always there for you to tap into.
  23. A part of you will change and grow and move you far from where you started. As you change you may outgrow people, places or situations. That’s normal. Don’t let it stress you.
  24. Sometimes we come full circle and find ourselves back where we started, but with new understanding and wisdom. That’s a sweet moment of realisation.
  25. Love is worth the risk of pain and loss.
  26. Laughing opens your heart and lets the light in.
  27. There is something magical about being a stranger in a new city. It unlocks all kinds of mysteries inside you.
  28. You need comfortable shoes for big adventures.
  29. Forgiveness is almost always about you and not the other person.
  30. Listen to your instincts, and honour your intuition. It was given to you for a reason.
  31. Some time on your own to think about everything or nothing is time well spent.
  32. Everyone should be able to cook a handful of meals well. Not just for survival but for satisfaction too.
  33. You’re never too old to learn something new.
  34. Do what you can to help others, if you are in a position to do so.
  35. It’s okay to put your own needs first.
  36. Follow your passion, or at least your curiosity. Who knows where it might lead you!
  37. Life rarely goes to plan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome anyway.
  38. There is always someone or something that can help you manage pain better. Ask and keep asking until you find what you need.
  39. Being vulnerable is a strength.
  40. If you don’t want to do something say no.
  41. If you want something say yes.
  42. It’s better to have been rejected or to fail than to never have tried.
  43. Failure often leads to success.
  44. Every week needs a complete rest day. On the other days? Meditation gives rest on even the craziest of days and can be done in minutes. Learning to meditate is a gift for yourself and an investment in your well-being.
  45. Treat yourself well, and allow yourself pleasure.
  46. Find the things that make you feel like you and then surround yourself with that energy. It could be yoga, a perfume, soy chai lattes or books. Let something define you. Be okay if it changes.
  47. Fall in love. Keep loving, even when it gets hard. It always gets hard. Once you learn how to navigate the first hard bit the wonder of an ever-deepening relationship can reward and comfort you your whole life.
  48. Fall in love with yourself. Let it be a life-long affair and treat yourself gloriously well.
  49. It’s a good thing to be a little different, odd or unusual. Keep being yourself.
  50. Celebrate life – the milestones, the anniversaries and seasonal festivities, the successes and the ordinary. Celebrate on your own. Celebrate with loved ones. Celebrate with strangers. Let each day bring at least one small moment of grace or gratitude. Feel everything deeply and be unafraid.

Thanks for being part of my life.

Sending so much love your way, Nicole  ❤ xoxo

I’m Taking A Short Road Trip

“Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy. 
There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.” 
~  Charlotte Eriksson

 

Early next month I will celebrate my fiftieth birthday.

My husband has been bothering me for months, asking what I want to do to celebrate. And I kept avoiding his question. I didn’t think I wanted a big party, but part of me was trying to juggle the possibility, and all that ended up doing was deflating my party mood.

To further muddy the water I’ve been working on the final draft of my memoir, and combined with a year of hospitalisations, near-death experiences and lingering complications, as well as my background companion Lyme disease, the realisation of just how long I have been living with chronic illness and all that has stolen from me has been quite confronting.

Finally, after a long walk down to the river and back, I had a clear head. I am alive. That is what turning fifty is all about. I am still here, and it is up to me to fill my bucket with the things that matter to me. Fifty is no mean feat for someone who has nearly croaked it four times now. So I came up with a list of options. A birthday celebration list, and this is it:

  • A road trip with Ben, and he has to make some excellent playlists for me as a soundtrack for our adventure
  • A small but fancy and delicious High Tea with my sister and a group of my closest girlfriends
  • A weekend away writing, where all I have to think about is words on the page or going for a long walk to ponder a plot point. A place where my meals are cooked and my bed is comfortable, and I can get a cup of tea whenever I want.
  • A holiday, somewhere new, anytime in the next year, where I can sip champagne with Ben and count my many blessings
  • A raucous dinner party at home with my neighbours and Byron Bay pals, followed by a bonfire in the backyard, under the stars
  • A big meetup with Dana and all my students, YOMmers, and Cauldrons and Cupcakes peeps – with tasty treats and crystals and lots of hugs and fun
  • An early morning beach walk and meditation, with time for ritual, journaling, oracle cards and reflection time, just on my own with the big sky and my Aunties and Ancestors above me and the earth beneath my feet.

 

I brought my list to Ben. This is it, I said. I’m going to do one of these. Can you help me pick?

He read over the list, and then he smiled.

Do all of them, he said.

We’ll start with the road trip.

 

So today that’s what we’re doing. A few totally unplanned days away, wherever the road takes us, while a dear friend looks after the dogs and the farm.

Elle, I haven’t forgotten your question about God, the Universe and why stuff happens. In fact I’ve been thinking about it all week while we’ve had no phone or internet here at the farm. I’ve begun a blog post to answer it but it till needs a bit more thought. It was a big question, and it deserves a decent and considered answer. Expect one in the next few days.

Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for you to write a list of your own, my friends. Just because you can. Just because you’re alive. And that’s worth celebrating every day of the year.

Sending you all my love, some hugs and a very good virtual cuppa, Nicole xoxo