As I approach the big 4 0 – I contemplate the discussion I had with my friends over dinner .. not just any dinner but my birthday dinner, a belated event.
We discussed reaching the half way milestone in our lives and what we had achieved.
“I don’t think I have achieved very much at all” I said, then my wonderful friends reminded me that I had.
I owned a business for over a decade – which had it’s challenges, mostly in the form of survival. I had travelled parts of the world, by myself, I have been writing since 14, and of course there is radio presenting. Sounds grand right? Well it wasn’t and sometimes still isn’t.
After some reflection I came to the conclusion that if nothing else I had survived, I had survived situations, like the one when I ended up living with a drug dealer, who almost killed me because I owed him the deposit money for the flat we were sharing. We met at work and immediately hit it off, he took my under his wing, like a brother. I found myself asking him to flat share when we were both looking for place to live.
I was barely 21 and thought I was invincible, of course several months later I wasn’t. I was broke and broken. Sat in a police station sobbing my heart out whilst a work friend sat with me, offering support.
Recalling what had happened only 24 hours ago, when I’d come back from work to find my little box room completely trashed. My flat mate ran down the stairs and grabbed me by the throat, he said if I didn’t give him his money back he would kill me and my family.
The rage in his eyes frightened me and in that moment I questioned who this man was, he certainly wasn’t the man I knew. Finally he let go of my throat and I ran, I ran out of the flat into the streets of Manchester (where I was living.) I ran and ran and ran. Eventually the stich got the better of me and I sat down on the curb. It was pitch black on a winters night.
A car full of men drove by, then reversed back, a fear of dread coming over me,. “You look cold darling, come, come inside.” All of them willing me to come into the car. I got up and ran again.
I didn’t know where I was when I eventually stopped. I did know that no car was behind me and I noticed the well lit empty streets.
“What shall I do God?” my thoughts hadn’t caught up with the reality of what was happening. I remembered my really cool brick phone in my work bag.
I made a call to whom I thought was my best friend at the time, and told her everything, my legs were numb, my voice shaky, almost horse like.
She said that she was living with her mum and dad and they wouldn’t want trouble at their door and to call the police. In her way she tried to comfort me, I didn’t need comfort, I needed a bed, sofa, a safe space. Not to be on the streets in the middle of the night on my own.
Looking through my phone, I found a colleagues number and called him. Not expecting him to answer, except he did. I told him everything and he gave me his address and offered his sofa. “I’ve just moved in, the house is a tip and I have no food, is that OK?” “Yes” I said, silently crying.
I made my way through the most roughest neighbourhood known in Manchester at that time. I arrived at my friends house. He was right, the house was a tip, dust everywhere, it was clear he was in the middle of decorating. But I didn’t care, the fire was on and there was a sofa ready and waiting for me. I spent the next hour talking about what had happened, sipping some water.
Shortly after I noticed a huge picture of a beautiful African lady. She had the most colourful headdress on with an expression of survival.
“Who’s the lady” I asked pointing towards the painting, “oh, that’s my mother” “wow, what a beautiful lady,” “she was” my friend replied, the following words stunned me to tears, “she died today.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment, a man full of grief, yet he listened to me and my problems, gave me safety and warmth for the night. Then escorted me to the police station the following morning to support me whilst I reported what had happened.
So when my friends talk about achievements I don’t see having a business, writing and presenting as the only achievements, they don’t define me as a person.
The biggest achievements have been relationships, the kind of relationships that have come out of the blue in times of need, the kind that have taught me life lessons on how to be kind to others during bad times.
I have been applying this in my own life for the past several years, there have been times when my own world has been falling apart, not knowing if my dad was going to live through another day, or how I was going to pay my rent and feed myself, yet at the same time holding out a hand of peace to someone who had been unkind to me. This is an incredibly hard thing to do, and ashamedly I don’t always manage it.
What’s the point of being a Christian if I’m not going to at the very least try, try to live the example set before me.
There are so many articles about the ‘mid-life crisis’ and for some years I feared I would have one, this still might come true, I’m 39, single – which for some is enough to feel like it’s not enough.
Having a mid-life crisis can come from an inner inferior complex of not feeling adequate enough for this world, we now know thanks to neuroscience studies that our mind, heart and gut all have a brain, millions of neurons talking to one another.
So thoughts and feelings all create a mesh of emotions, which can cause chemical reactions. Being mindful of what triggers cause what type of thought and emotions is a good place to start. If we were taught this at school then we would have a much more thoughtful society. I’m sure of it.
If and when I have a mid life crisis, I sure won’t be fearing it, I will meet it head on, another notch on my life belt of survival and revival and no doubt one or two more grey hairs.. oh Lord have mercy!