Article by writer and psychotherapist, Christine Webber
The irrepressible super-star Petula Clark was reported recently as saying that she ‘doesn’t do birthdays’. She claims that she never thinks about how old she is – 83 – if you’re interested – and never celebrates these anniversaries. I admire this viewpoint. It’s refreshing – and probably is one reason why she is still enjoying a thriving career after 74 years in the business!
Personally, I believe that refusing to allow yourself to be defined by your age is the best possible way to keep young. This was one of the main messages in my 2010 book, Too Young to Get Old. I have also always vowed that I will never actually ‘retire’ even if I do choose to give up certain activities in favour of others. I am sure that working keeps us young!
One of my new activities this year has been to bring out a novel. I say ‘new’ but in fact I wrote one before – 29 years ago!
Who’d Have Thought It? is about the adventures of a mid-life GP who has to rebuild her life after a divorce, but who quickly realises that being single in your fifties is very different indeed from being single when you’re young.
In a bid to publicise it, I did a number of interviews for radio stations, TV programmes and websites. Lots of people asked me fascinating questions, but the most interesting was posed by Jane Woods, who is a trainer and international authority on women’s development in business. She wanted to know whether I had returned to writing fiction because it was something I was burning to do before I reached 70. She also asked whether my decision to put aside self-help books and write stories had anything to do with Mary Wesley whom, you might remember, was an author who started turning out best-selling novels in her seventies.
Now or Never
I realised that Jane had uncovered something about me that I had been slow to see in myself. Like Petula Clark, I’m not very bothered about birthdays, but I had to admit that the fact I will be 70 next year did have something to do with my change of direction. I think I had a deep-seated sense that it was ‘now or never’, and that if I didn’t get on with it, I might leave it too late.
More than that, looking back at my life, I realised that I had achieved various other career goals around the time of significant birthdays. I became a TV announcer in the week I turned 30. I published my first book the year I was 40 and so on.
This has set me thinking about these landmark times and about whether they play on our minds more than we realise.
As a psychotherapist, I often see clients who use Christmas and New Year as motivating factors. It’s common for a new patient to say something like: ‘I was so miserable on December 31st that I made a pact with myself to change my life so that this time next year I’ll be a happier person’.
I’ve also seen individuals who are disappointed that they have reached a certain age without achieving certain things. For example, people often have an expectation that they will be married with children by the age of 35 – and are very miserable when this hasn’t happened.
As I write this, I note that our new Prime Minister has just celebrated her 60th birthday (October 1st).
I can’t help wondering if she always had an ambition to get the top job before that highly significant birthday. I believe it to be entirely possible! What do you think?
Who’d Have Thought It? by Christine Webber
Who’d Have Thought It? is a romantic comedy, set against a backdrop of all the turbulence which typifies mid-life in 2016. It’s a novel which will make you laugh and cry – often at the same time.
Dr Dawn Harper – GP and TV Doctor
“A truly heart warming and heart rending story of being unexpectedly single again in your fifties – and a brilliant reminder that we really don’t know what goes on behind other people’s closed doors.”
Bel Mooney – Daily Mail columnist
“Who’d Have Thought It? is thoroughly engrossing, entertaining and well-written. If it had Joanna Trollope’s name on it nobody would be surprised.”