You might say that my life was a rollercoaster. For most of the 37 years I was married, the ride was mostly downhill. Not in a million years would I have imagined that I would have a soft landing. Today I live in Richmond, southwest London. In fact, I’ve been living in my wonderful flat since I left my marriage aged 59 in 2004. I remember one of the non-negotiables when I was looking for a place to live was that it had to have a dining room. I discovered, since I left, that I love cooking – not just for myself but I particularly love cooking for friends. The things that matter to me the most are walking the talk; continuing to learn new things; sharing what I’m learning through my coaching, my writing and my talks; my friends; and, above all, my relationship with my new partner Paul – not only because we’re happy together but also because I keep learning so much about myself.
I married just before I turned 21 and remained married for the next 37 years. Thirty-seven years often feeling unloved, unimportant and lonely. Having tried – and failed – for many years to create the closeness and emotional intimacy I so longed for, I was finally able, with the support of Alan, my life coach, to dig deep to reach the anger that had been simmering within me and that I’d been afraid to connect with for so long. I’m often asked why I waited until I was 60 to leave my marriage of 37 years if I was so unhappy. My reply was always the same, “It takes as long as it takes. It’s just a question of being ready to take action.” And, while that’s true, there was something else. I’d finally reached the point when I surrendered to the truth: “I can’t do this anymore! I deserve better! I deserve to be happy!” THAT’s why I left. Looking back, I can see that the anger I felt at that moment was a powerful emotion. It finally enabled me to say “Sod it! I’m out of here!” or I might have said, “Sod it! I’ll do whatever it takes to sort out my relationship!” But, one way or another, the status quo was no longer an option. Leaving my marriage was a watershed for me. Even though I was the one who walked out, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. In fact, it was one of the most painful decisions I had ever made and I grieved bitterly. Yet, I never doubted even for an instant that I’d made the right choice.
My next watershed came about shortly after I left my marriage. I was fast approaching my 60th birthday. I’d been feeling really vulnerable, trying to figure out what being 60 actually meant to me. Eventually I realised that I had intimidated myself into believing, even briefly, that as a 60-year-old I would no longer make a meaningful contribution or participate in life. What made this so strange was that the evidence of my life even then was the complete opposite. But one question kept popping up though fleetingly: “Will I ever find love?”
I spent the next years creating a life that’s turned out to be the richest in love, meaning and purpose. I’m doing things I have never done before – including paragliding in Turkey which was a truly joyful experience. Sue paragliding For the last 4 years I’d been running a u3a group (University of the Third Age) called ‘The Life Enhancing Group’. One day I thought it would be fun to start another group which I called ‘Come Lunch With Me’. That’s how Paul and I met. He was one of the people who phoned – and, as they say, the rest is history.
… there are certainly many people who, as they age, become increasingly vigorous and energetic, more broad-minded and tolerant, living with a greater sense of freedom and assurance. It is important to remember that ageing and growing old are not necessarily the same thing.”