On reinventing yourself

In my last post I talked about the slow life, and I’ve been pondering the concept of changes ever since. I hope you’ll excuse me if I indulge myself a bit more. There’ll be garden and house and Highlands stuff soon, I promise!

This is my first Monday ever of neither being a student nor gainfully employed. I am, at the grand old age of 35, medically retired. My condition is somewhat controversial, and – infuriatingly and unfortunately – not seen as grounds for retirement by my pension scheme. Most days my body thinks it’s 80-odd: my joints hurt, my muscles spasm randomly, my vision is poor, I can’t process what I hear properly, I repeat myself, my memory plays tricks on me, I grumble about the neighbours playing music outside and kids running and shouting and babies screaming. Get off my lawn, you noisy young folks! I have the accoutrements of old age – a walking stick, a rollator, a wheelchair; dark glasses and hats; a slow, unsteady, shuffly walk; the inability to follow conversations about most aspects of contemporary culture.

As I pootled about the garden earlier, enjoying the warmth of the sun but resenting its glare, I thought about how despite all of the above I’m decidedly content. Part of this is to do with being cheerful and positive – I’m a wholehearted optimist. But it’s also circumstantial. It’s partially about being here, in Scotland, in the Highlands, in our cottage and garden. It’s also about being with Seamus – he is my people, in a way that no one ever has been. But most of all it is to do with allowing myself to reinvent myself – to no longer be defined by what I do, or where I workwhat I’ve achieved, but instead to focus on how I contribute to my communities.

The most important step in this process has been changing my name to go with this new persona. I used to go by my middle name and my professional last name, a hyphenated amalgamation of my maiden name and my first married name. This has served me well over the years, but because it was linked so closely with work, and writing, and publishing, it felt no longer relevant to my new life. So at Christmas I decided to go by my actual first name and my married name, and it was announcing this change to the world that made me feel able to let go of the past and get excited about the future. Today I received bank cards in my new name, as well as the official letter from work dismissing me on ‘the grounds of capability due to long term ill-health’. When I thought about this day back in spring I was very worried about how I’d cope, but as it turns out I’m actually ok with it: the letter is about person with my former name, and that is no longer me.

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To me, nothing heralds the arrival of summer quite like borage. It transforms the garden from a place of potential to one of overflowing bounty. It’s a fitting symbol for my reinvention.

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