Waiting to Exhale

images-2I turned 50 on a fall day in 2002

I  have always been excited, happy and grateful to celebrate each birthday. It was just one more piece of evidence that I was a survivor, and the alternative to getting older held no appeal for me.

Reaching this milestone was different. I had lived a half century!  Wow!!!

Why, then, did I feel such a sense of trepidation? Underneath my enthusiasm I could feel it…a hesitation almost….a tightness entered my chest. I couldn’t understand it.

In a year that should have brought great happiness, I lost my joy. I couldn’t understand it. Our businesses were doing well, our family was doing well, we had just bought a small lakefront cabin where we could escape the demands of being business owners and operators. Life was good. What was wrong with me?

At first I chalked it up to menopause…I’d been struggling for a few years with mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats …  all the worst symptoms that the unfortunate women of the world deal with….I’d bought the full meal deal from that menu selection.

But it was more than that. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The answer was there, just at the edge of my consciousness…I could feel it, sense it, swirling, ducking, darting…taunting me.

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That year, generally, was one of the worst of my life. It was like I was holding my breath waiting for something horrific to happen. My sense of unease grew worse as the year progressed. I didn’t want to travel, I was on edge all the time.

Although my 50th birthday was significant, it  was my 51st that I remember most.

I am blessed to share my birthday date with our first grandchild, our granddaughter who, that year, turned 8. As was our tradition, we celebrated together, having a wonderful dinner at our house, opened our gifts and blew the candles out on our pumpkin pie and cake.

Although nothing particularly memorable happened that day, I remember feeling like as though I was breathing again…and then it hit me.

I had spent a year holding my breath, figuratively…and in some sense literally. That day, the day I reached 51 years of age, I finally exhaled.

Oh my God! I knew the answer! I had known it all along, I was just too frightened to give voice to it…if you think it, that’s one thing. If you speak it, you risk willing it into existence.

I had been terrified all year. I have been told my whole life how I look like my Dad, how I think like my Dad, how I act like my Dad.

My father died four days after my 23rd birthday. He had turned 50 just three and a half months earlier. Was I so like him, that I too would be dead at 50??

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I remember that night…the night of my 51st birthday. After everyone had left or gone to bed, I sat quietly on the deck in the cool autumn air and I breathed again.  Once again a piece of evidence that I was a survivor. I was my own person. I wasn’t totally like my Dad. I was alive. And I gave thanks.

One thought on “Waiting to Exhale

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