I didn’t just turn 50 on the 4th of December, it has been more of a becoming. To become means ‘to grow to be’, and indeed it has been a journey to grow from 40 a decade ago to the place I am at now. Nope, it doesn’t seem like yesterday at all.
I love my birth month so much. It makes me want to hunker down and reflect on the year that has passed, to spend time in solitude, to welcome and enjoy the winter with cozy, warm mugs of coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice, and carrots that are redder than any other time of year, and to buy salted pistachios and cashews and almonds from the dry fruit store/treasure house.
I want to spend my time being at the beach, going on walks there, watching the seagulls and the waves, the fishermen in boats and the ones casting nets at the shore. To feel the sun on my skin, to let the breeze play with my silvery hair, to dig my feet into the soft sand, to lie back and gaze at clouds, to look at pebbles and admire their shapes, colours and beauty.
It’s a challenge for someone like me to navigate wedding season, which coincides with December (it being seasonally the best time of year in Karachi) when there are invitations to events in settings I’m uncomfortable being in. Being social requires a lot of energy, and a lot of things which entail a lot of time spent in shopping places. And the thing is….I’m quite done with putting so much effort into activities that I don’t enjoy.
At 50, my soul feels wilder than ever, more fabulous and freer than ever, and to be honest, it wants to express its fabulousness now more than ever. But here’s the thing: it wants to express itself on its own time and space, it doesn’t want to spread itself thin. Sometimes I think it doesn’t want to spread itself AT ALL.
I thought a few times over the course of this last year of how I would like to celebrate this milestone birthday, and it made me a little anxious and a little pressured to think of how others would expect me to. The funny thing is, I don’t enjoy celebrations and I don’t enjoy being celebrated either. I almost wished no one would remember, as I didn’t want any birthday wishes. I appreciate seamless transitions, don’t I? But my heart knew what it wanted, and it gave me a nudge…and a very nice visual.
The usual suspects (Amu, Huz and Fatu) made a cute little fuss after which we packed some things and set off for the beach. I think we were all in our own head spaces that day, and that was okay. There was comfort to be had in being together, yet doing our own thing. One of the things I feel compelled to do is to clean up as much trash as I possibly can in the area we set up our base camp, I cannot feel at ease unless I do so. We even had a large rake to make the job a little easier (thanks to Huz, who made it a point to buy one.)
The others helped a little but then eventually abandoned the job to go swim in the sea, or sit peacefully and take in the golden hour. I found a large, torn fishermen’s basket abandoned along the shoreline, and decided to use it as my trash bin, slowly filling it with objects like footwear, empty gin bottles, plastic bags, toothpaste tubes, chip packets, juice boxes, straws, rope, styrofoam and other flotsam. If you’re anything like me, you’d know how committed one can get to a lost cause. And yet, when the basket was full to the brim and I looked around me, I felt and saw such a big difference. Amu remarked amusedly that I must have been a professional trash collector in a past life.
People saw me do this work, and I didn’t give much thought to whether they thought I was a loony, or if I inspired them to do something similar. What mattered was that I left the place better than I found it. There were large craters higher up in the sand, where the Olive ridleys laid their eggs, and there were so many eggshells scattered about. I smiled to think of all the little babies that must have made their instinctive path to the waiting waves, and felt even better about cleaning up. Like I had a pact with the protective nature spirits and the elementals to serve them and the original inhabitants in whatever way I could. I know I felt their welcome as soon as I entered the land of the mangroves, it felt like happiness.
The moon rose, faint at first but grew stronger as the sun went down. I took my rake and drew large concentric circles in the sand, claiming the space. We ate, drank, made merry and I couldn’t imagine a better way to have spent the day. It was perfect, even though Huz had been hangry on the way, Amu had been in a troubled mental space, Fatu had insomnia and missed Hasan, and Lums thought we were all a bit nuts. The sunset was beautiful and the twilit beach still had mysteries to reveal. I pulled a chair right up to the water and watched the shapes of little crabs scuttling along the wet sand. There was movement skimming across the surface of the water which I realized was a little flock of small birds only when they touched down on land. As it got darker, we listened to music and danced in the shallow waves that washed up gently on the shore, the tide slowly being pulled higher by the moon. The waves glowed neon with luminescent organisms.
And this was how I crossed over into my 50’s, loving my gentle, unconventional life more than ever. Isn’t it a miracle to think how rare and beautiful it is that we exist? I’m here for it all, and I will slow it down as much as I can, continuing to create my own reality in my own unique ways, so help me Great Spirit. And it was nice to read the messages on my phone as the day went by, and to remember I am loved and appreciated by humans too.