The Biggest Birthday Yet

The Biggest Birthday Yet

Good lord, it is two days to my 50th birthday. I am not ready to own such a majestic number, never mind have to blow out that many birthday candles. Also, it means I have to stop ‘turning’ 50 and just be 50.

I have literally devoted my entire 49th year to getting to this birthday, and there’s something about the anticipation that is devotional and romantic as opposed to the actual attainment which is often something of a let-down.

On my 49th birthday, I decided to spend the whole year ‘turning’ 50. I could feel the pivot, the angling away from youth, even motherhood, vanity certainly, consumerism, excesses, and the internal curving towards the second half of life, though in reality, I have absolutely no plans to live to 100, so it is more like the last third.roses | Joanne Fedler

I do not wish my children gone, though they are leaving me in all kinds of ways. I do wish my periods gone. I am so damn ready for menopause to settle me down – I have plans for what I’ll spend my monthly tampon budget on and they involve roses – the blended kind.

Over the past few years, I’ve become sick with possessions. The books, the scatter cushions, the niknaks, the overstuffed wardrobe (when in reality, I always wear the same few items over and over again). I have dozens of fancy outfits for occasions that by now, I know will never come – red carpet affairs, fancy dinners, celebrity events (which, by the way, I only tolerate in my imagination and detest in reality).

Four holidays in a campervan with Zed over the past years have switched me on to the lightness of being that comes with owning next to nothing: two sundresses (one to wear, one to wash), a pair of sandals, a sunhat. The peace of dispossession. The clarity of thought and emotion clutter disrupts.

I got a professional declutterer in who, over a period of two full days, helped me go through every cupboard, every item I have bought, collected and hoarded. She asked me hard questions like, ‘does this object bring you joy?’ and ‘why are you holding on to the past?’ As a result, I got rid of at least 40 percent of everything. I was shattered with exhaustion by the end of it all, but felt like I’d just had a colonoscopy of my entire consumerist existence.

On my 49th birthday, I made a list of everyone who has made a difference in my life and decided to track them down and write a letter of gratitude to them. I opted not to send emails. Despite my love affair with keyboards and the time I’ve spent in front of computer screens, I still keep a journal. I love stationary and who, to this day, doesn’t love to receive a letter in the post? I bought expensive, beautiful, handmade paper and envelopes.

There’s an intimacy when a letter is penned by someone’s hand. I write more slowly by hand than I type, and I wanted slow. I also wanted no record of the letter. I wanted it to be a one-off; that once it left my hands, I would entrust it to the ether, the postal system, the forces that be. And how I was rewarded with this. Recipients were overwhelmed – some had no idea how they’d impacted on my life.

The Turning | Joanne FedlerI have just now finished the last of the 81 letters. I feel utterly replete and complete.

For the past few years, I’ve been toying with the idea of a Vision Quest to mark my 50th birthday. To this end, I’ve been having sessions with a spiritual mentor to help prepare me mentally because the thought of spending 4 days without food (only water) out in the bush, alone with just the spiders and the snakes and the sky and the trees, actually makes me want to vomit. But I’ve begun to appreciate how all the activities that inspire nausea in me, are precisely the ones I still have to tick off on my ‘TO-DO-BEFORE-I-DIE’ list, even though I have spent a lot of time with my back turned against this knowledge. Perhaps I’ll conquer this in the coming year.

I collated and produced a book of poetry, The Turning: Poems from my life on my 50th birthday which needed a publisher, so I… ahem… became a publisher. I will give away copies to all my friends and family and anyone else who cares enough to want 50 TMI insights into my life.

I have opted for no party – just an intimate ritual with my absolute closest circle of friends and family where I will light 50 lanterns and give thanks for this life and the people who love me. Lantern | Joanne Fedler

When Thursday dawns, I’ll be down at the beach doing a sunrise yoga class with one of my favourite yoga teachers (if the forecast is wrong and it doesn’t rain) and I will probably get into the ocean, which I will hate but has to be done.

I want for 24 hours to be, in Mary Oliver’s words, ‘a bride, married to amazement.’

I will remember my friend Emma, who left when she was 35 and never got to be 50. I will think of my late grandparents – the ones I knew and the ones I never knew. I will think of my late nanny Violet who fiercely protected me – from nightmares and foolishness. I will miss my family and friends who are far away. But my sister Carolyn arrived over the weekend and we have already started the festivities.

I am giddy with excitement and gratitude for this chance to grow another year older. What a gift.

Thank you all for being part of my journey so far.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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The Turning: Reflections on Reaching 50

The Turning: Reflections on Reaching 50

I am taking the business of turning 50 terribly seriously.

I am dedicating the twelve months since my 49th birthday to this incongruous milestone, given that the actual age of my physical body – half a freaking century – and how I feel inside couldn’t be further apart had Donald Trump built a wall between them.

My 30’s and 40’s wore me down. Immigration, motherhood and establishing a new career stress tested the collagen out of me. Back problems. Heavy bleeding. Anxiety and panic attacks.

But in my 49th year, I feel more girlish than I’ve felt since my twenties. I recently completed an evening indoor rock climbing course and was the oldest person by a decade in our group. I’ve started wearing high heels. I’ve found a lipstick I like and can wear without looking like a clown, a soft brown by Natio, endearingly named ‘Flutter.’

In my 49th year, not only have I learned to live with my big nose, but I’ve befriended it. It belongs on my face – finally. I’m relieved I’ve outrun vanity and have never succumbed to the pressure to involve a plastic surgeon in the matter.

I give blood regularly – my iron levels are high because my periods have started missing their appointments, as if my uterus has gotten intermittent Alzheimer’s.

I’ve stopped colouring my hair. I feel an endearing gentleness to the emerging streaks of white and think of them as my own natural highlights. Until I met up with an old lover who used the term ‘slippery slope’ about my natural look, which in a previous decade would have made me feel ancient and undesirable but at 49 makes me think he’s a bit of a dick. I’ve given up on being radical about anything, so when I’m in the mood, I still colour my hair, but only with products without ammonia that are body and planet friendly. And I’m perfectly delighted when the white grows back again.

In my 49th year, I’ve given up friendships that have been draining me for years. I’ve pulled the plug on people who make me feel like a therapist (without the fee) or a life-support system for chronic help-rejecting complainers. I did this gently and without guilt.

I’ve given up alcohol but not in a sad feel-sorry-for-me way. Because I realise it makes me feel shit and I really don’t enjoy it that much.

I do a lot of yoga. Without trying to be the best in the class.

I’ve stopped wearing anything remotely uncomfortable. This means graduating from bikini to granny panties – that frontier that once crossed, one can never uncross. And though actually seeing my panties in the laundry basket causes me to wince – just a teensy bit – the relief and joy of actually pulling those generous spacious undies up without a tight elastic castigating and pinching my belly makes it a perfectly happy compromise.

I say ‘no thanks, I think I’ll have an early night,’ often.

I’ve thrown out every single polyester item in my wardrobe.

I’ve gone through twenty photograph albums, and gotten rid of thousands of photographs, only keeping a few, which when I have time, will be scanned and plopped in the cloud, that lovely virtual space that never gets cluttered.

I’ve hired a VA.

I’ve made a list of every person who has made a difference in my life – old teachers, friends from school, ex-boyfriends all over the world, people who’ve opened doors for me – some without even realising it – and I’m busy handwriting letters to every one of them. It’s a ritual of deep gratitude for all the people who have crossed my path. I’m even writing to people I no longer speak to (only a couple) to thank them for the role they played in my life, even if our relationship is over.

I’m reading books on abundance. Everything by Marianne Williamson.

This is the year that I finally got an American publisher for a book I self published. I was finished with ‘trying,’ so all I did was put my best work out into the world and Hay House came to me with a publishing offer. Just at the point in my life when it didn’t matter all that much.

My kids suddenly – and I’m talking never-saw-that-coming-whiplash suddenly – outgrew their need for me. Mothering had been upon me, a psoriasis of effort for two decades, and suddenly it left. Lifted and peeled, like a miracle cure. But a cure for what? For the neurotic need to be needed? As if I’d been told ‘no more treatment is required – you’re free to get on with your life…’

What shall I make for dinner?” which was always a thought relating to everyone else’s but never my own preferences, boomeranged back to me. What did I want for dinner? A question so disused, so undusted and locked in the back of the closet, I struggled to relate to it. That there was a ‘me’ tucked in there somewhere. I’m having to to tug it out, wipe it down, and assess it.

With my nurturing of others forced into early retirement, I feel oddly bereft, shorn and unsure. I’m still feeling blindly for the shape of myself, clean and whole. Like a newly laid egg.

But as the year draws towards my 50th birthday, I cannot suppress the excitement. I’m planning a ritual. It will involve 50 lanterns. A photoshoot. And a white dress with goddess sleeves.

In Mary Oliver’s words, I will become a ‘bride, married to amazement.’ Bring it on.

Published in The Sydney Morning Herald

 

A historic moment shared.

In my 49th year, my publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, published its first book, The Turning: Poems from my life on my 50th birthday.

The Turning: Poems from my life on my 50th birthday

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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