Well – yes – it’s that time of the year again. February is my birthday month and it seems to come round quicker every time now. I always think of a birthday as a time of reflection, so I will use this moment to look back at the past year, both personally and also at the wider picture.
On a personal level it has been a rather strange year for me- rather more than usual friend and family stresses, but these have been set against some really pleasing personal achievements. The friend and family stresses I hope will sort themselves out – they usually do given time. I just have to learn patience, something I’m not very good at.
On the achievement side I managed to publish FULL CIRCLE in May 2016 http://www.janemcculloch.com/books, the last book of my THREE LIVES TRILOGY. It has had some very pleasing comments and reviews – but for the next year I really must concentrate on marketing my books, especially as I have now finished another novel, THE BRINI BOY. This I hope will be published in March or April. It is now waiting for the cover to be done by the clever Rachael Carver at Green Door Designs (she did the greatly admired designs for the Trilogy.) I actually entered this latest novel into the UK International Novel Competition and was both surprised and delighted to learn that I had reached the second round with only 250 entrants left. This in itself seems quite an achievement and one that I really didn’t expect, so very chuffed.
The other consequence of a birthday at this time in my life, is to reluctantly realise I am getting seriously older. I never used to think much about age. Now I do. Ever since I had an ankle accident three years ago, with its endless complications and now arthritis in both ankles, I really do have to finally accept I am not as young as I was (clichés can come in useful) – in fact I must now accept that I have reached the last period of my life, old age.
I have long thought that adult life divides itself into three parts. The first section is either devoted to pushing forward a career, or pushing out babies, or trying to combine the two! The second section, which I found the hardest, encompasses that weird time between 45 and 65, when it seems too easy to settle into something of a rut, either with work, or relationships, or both, with neither turning out to be very satisfactory. Looking back it seemed to be an endless struggle . It is therefore something of a relief – I speak personally on this – to slip into the last section of my life. Although I know that time is running out, on the whole I have found this the easiest and most pleasurable time of my adult life. I can enjoy children and grandchildren without the worry and responsibility. And my time is my own. So much is written about loneliness in old age – and I will return to this in a future blog. For me I can avoid loneliness if there is a good book to hand, or music to play, or something of interest (not the news) on the television. Also there is the joy of DVD’s – particularly the old films which I return to again and again. Family and friends can be visited without the shackles of responsibility. One of the great advantages now is that the responsibilities of family and work are over – there is a wonderful freedom in old age. There can be pleasure without the terrible worries that have come with the previous years. Of course there are still financial struggles and illnesses to cope with, but for me this is a small price to pay for being able to enjoy so many things that I didn’t have time for before. Time becomes the most precious commodity there is, especially as you don’t know how much you have left. This is probably why I am churning out novels at such a rate!
I have just been reading Margaret Drabble’s new book, THE DARK FLOOD RISES. It tackles the theme of old age, loneliness, and death. She is a brilliantly clever writer but I found this book dense and hard to read and in the end, rather depressing. I don’t want to be depressed in these last years. I want to squeeze out every minute of joy I can.
Given the state of the outside world over the last year that last statement would seem rather peculiar. It appears we live in dark and dangerous times and a great deal has happened since my last birthday, most of it unsettling and a good deal of it worrying. More of this anon – but suffice it to say, I am an optimist and hope we have learned enough from the dark areas of the twentieth century to avoid catastrophe in the twenty-first!