When I was in my mid-40s and working hard on the corporate ladder, hubbie and I decided on a spur of the moment holiday. Unusually for people of our (then) age group, we booked two seats on a group coach tour around New Zealand, rather than hiring a camper van and exploring the country independently. I was too exhausted to do more than follow the crowd. It turned out to be a great holiday, and brought us into contact with a diverse, experienced, active group of people who were at a different life-stage than us.
One day, I found myself saying that I felt I had achieved in life all that I needed to. “If I died tomorrow, I’d die content,” I said. A septuagenarian fellow traveller looked at me sideways. “That’s a strange thing for a woman of your age to say,” she replied, slightly shocked. For my part, I didn’t understand her confusion – wasn’t dying content a good thing? Better than the alternative, in my opinion. And I had already chalked up more life experience than the average bear – how much more did I expect to be my due?
Of course she knew that I had a lot more living yet to do, and it was because I was currently stuck on the corporate treadmill that I couldn’t see the difference in one day versus another, or realise the day would come when I would be flung off the carousel.
Almost twenty years later, with four lovely grandchildren, and – despite the lack of university undergraduate studies – a Master’s Degree, being just two examples of the notches added to that belt of life’s experiences, I am now facing one of the most hectic times of my life, with no hint of where it will lead, and whether there is an end-point, or whether this is the start of another life altogether.
In two weeks I turn 60. The band is booked, the guests invited, and if they wish to chat with me, they had better come on to the dance floor. I intend to celebrate that my health and fitness have made this journey with me. I’ll be kicking my heels up for all I am worth. (note to self: make sure the band plays “Wild Thing“).
In three weeks my memoir will be in store. I Belong to No One covers the first nineteen years of my life. When you read it, you may have a better appreciation of why I felt I was done and dusted by forty. The synopsis appears at the end of this post.
In five weeks I will hold the official “book launch” (come celebration). Arrangements for that are still a work in progress. The invitation list, for one, is still to be compiled.
In the meantime, interviews and promotion will be under-way. Many are already booked, including a very serious forum on the social impacts of domestic violence. I hope I can live up to the responsibility of reaching out to people in that discussion, and wherever that may lead.
A teenager in the 1970s, Gwen Wilson grew up in Western Sydney. It was a tough childhood. Illegitimate, fatherless – her mother in and out of psychiatric hospitals; it would have been easy for anyone to despair and give up. Yet Gwen had hope. Despite it all, she was a good student, fighting hard for a scholarship and a brighter future.
Then she met Colin. Someone to love who would love her back. But that short-lived love wasn’t the sanctuary Gwen was looking for. It was the start of a living hell. Rape was just the beginning. By sixteen she was pregnant, her education abandoned. Australian society did not tolerate single mothers; prejudice and discrimination followed her everywhere. In an effort to save her son, Jason, from the illegitimacy and deprivation she’d grown up with, Gwen chose to marry Colin – and too quickly the nightmare of physical abuse, poverty and homelessness seemed inescapable.
In 1974, in the dying days of the forced adoption era in Australia, this isolated teenager was compelled to make a decision about her child that would tear her life apart, one she would never truly come to terms with.
I BELONG TO NO ONE is one woman’s story of all she lost and how hard she fought to survive and eventually triumph.