I am 50 and feel I have no future …

Dear Gillian,

I stumbled across your website at just the right moment: as you say, the universe sends us what we need! I turned 50 earlier this year and the whole process of looking backwards and realising that I have far more of a past behind me than future in front of me has raised a lot of sadness. I feel I have no future,

I realise now, with 30 years of adult experience behind me, that my family was very emotionally deprived. My parents, I imagine, got married because that was what was expected of them. My mother was very buttoned-up and concerned with what the neighbours would think about anything and everything. My father was more spontaneous and had his feelings closer to the surface, but I think he was suppressed by my mother’s way of being. There was a lot of emphasis on behaving oneself and doing well in the household but very little warmth or passion of any kind. I don’t think I ever saw my parents show each other what I would now think of as real affection. I grew up thinking of this as normal: it makes me very sad to think of it now. Sad for them and sad for me as a child, looking for warmth, acceptance and affirmation and finding a kind of chilly, begrudging pseudo-intimacy. I know that, despite having had several close and intimate relationships in my life, and getting in touch with my own feelings, it is a place I fall back into very easily, particularly when relationships are under stress.

I’m also grieving (I thought I had done enough of this!) for the way in which my parents’ lives and decisions hijacked my adult life.  When I was in my mid-20s, just as I was getting my career and own life off the ground, my father killed himself. It was a massive shock for everyone. There seemed to be no real reason for it. A few money troubles, but nothing unmanageable. My mother insisted he wasn’t depressed – but then I’m not sure she would have noticed the signs. The grief and horror of this had a huge knock-on effect on my life. I talked openly about his suicide and discovered that there was a massive stigma around the whole subject. The wonderful new job that I had just landed fell to bits; I had to take time off to deal with the fallout of my father’s death, and grief meant that I wasn’t the positive, energetic individual they’d appointed to the post. I was very quickly made redundant. There was a recession at the time and work was difficult to find. I feel that I never, despite working hard, managed to build the career I had had in front of me. I also lost the relationship I was in at that time.  Many friends melted away at this point.  My mother was devastated and looked to me for help with everything. I went to stay with her for a month to support her and was away for nearly six. When I managed to ‘escape’ back to my independent life, not much of it was left.

At this time I went into psychoanalysis, on the recommendation of a friend who honestly thought it would be good for me, and spent the little money I had on thrice-weekly sessions with someone who, I realised nearly four years later, had about as much warmth and empathy as my mother (ie virtually none) I look back now and would go so far as to say it was abusive.

By my mid 30s I had got myself back together and was enjoying life again. I had a new partner and things were looking up. We were talking about having a family. Then my mother developed the first of a long series of cancers that eventually killed her 9 years later. Perhaps it will sound stupid, but all the analysis and healing work I had done had left me feeling protective towards her. I could see that because of her emotional disconnection she had lost a wonderful part of her life. And I admired the stoicism she showed when her illness was diagnosed: there were no ‘why me?’ histrionics, just a calm acceptance. She lived close to me and my partner, so I took on a lot of the care and support in looking after her. Half of me wanted to do this: to try and heal by showing my love in practical ways (which is what she could understand). I realise now there was an equally large part of me that resented and hated having to do it. As she became more ill she became more dependent. My partner found it all a terrible strain. We kept trying for a baby but nothing happened. I was trying to keep everyone happy (!) but couldn’t do it. He eventually left me for someone who ‘didn’t have baggage’ and very quickly had a child with her.

My sister and I looked after my mother round the clock for her last year. The doctors had given her two months; she lasted for fourteen. You can forget all the hype about hospices, Marie Curie nurses and so on: there is no really useful help available for carers unless you can pay for a private nurse. At the end it was just a sheer sense of duty that kept us going. It was a huge relief (I feel guilty about writing that, but it’s true) when she died. We gave her as good a death as we could.

For the last 5 years I have had a new partner, but I practice a Buddhist-like detachment and don’t depend on him in any way – to the detriment, I think, of our intimacy. He is struggling to build his own business and needs a lot of support, both practical and emotional. He is kind, funny, loving – and his needs drain me. I don’t bother him with my own, difficult-to-pin-down feelings. Like most men, he is happier with concrete things than ‘emotional baggage’. This looking after others seems to be a pattern.

So, I am 50 and I feel that, despite the many good times I have had and continue to have, I am programmed to a general sense of sadness and loss. I can’t look at the world optimistically for long. Whenever something good happens, I wait for the pay-back. I reflect on the choices I could have made – though much of the time there didn’t seem to be any choice. So much potential lost. Children not born. So much not fully experienced. People tell me they experience me as warm and giving, sparky and funny: I wonder whether they choose not to see the sadness and loneliness or whether I really hide it so well. And maybe my life has been no more painful than anyone else’s…

I would like to find a way to support others without depleting myself. I would like to find a way of shedding the worries about old age (surviving for years on a tiny pension, then dying alone or worse, in some vile care home). I am sure there is a realistic way of being that is positive and optimistic but doesn’t block out the more painful side of life. It’s just that I’m stuck in a bleak little cloud at the moment…

Thank you, if you have read this far. I hope I haven’t come over as victim: I don’t feel like a victim.

Blessings to you and your family.

Dear Pauline,

Thank you so much for sharing what is intensely personal for you, I appreciate the trust. Firstly know that I am here for you whenever and whatever at the end of the telephone, secondly I want to reassure you that the way things feel and are at the moment can change dramatically and quicker than you would think.

Your message is very insightful and on a rational and intelligent level you know what has been going on. However, on a deeper level there is a lot of hurt, anger, resentment and a host of other emotions – “stuff” that really needs to be released so that you can enjoy a wonderful, happy and fulfilling life (yes you can have that I know it to be true, no matter what your age. It’s a bit like having a boil or a really infected spot, the body does its best to deal with what is going on but a some point the pus (bad stuff) has to come out. Your experiences have led you to a set of beliefs and these in turn set your expectations and lead you to more of the same and it becomes a vicious circle.

I believe you have reached a point in your life where you are now not only ready but desperate to dump the bad stuff, once it is out the pain or burden goes away and the healing can fully take place. In order to do this you need guidance and a safe, loving space.  There is no need to sign up for years of therapy, you have “been there, done that”.  I do however urge you to attend the two day workshop which would be enough to release all that you are carrying both consciously and unconsciously.  Whilst there are good and obvious reasons why you are feeling as you do it is amazing how many people tell me, following a workshop, there was something else they had forgotten or not rated as important that came out and brought them the most amazing relief. So no judgements about yourself or the process, sometimes we need to give our rational/intelligent selves a rest and get right to the heart (your heart) of the situation.  Take a look at the testimonials page to see what others have experienced

If travelling is an issue then go to my links page and follow the “achieve Your Dreams” link you will go to a site that lists teachers throughout the world and you will be able to search under your county for a local practitioner. If finance is the issue trust and affirm that what you need comes to you.

Pauline, there is a happy life waiting for you, a miserable old age is not your destiny. You come across as open, honest and generous of spirit, a real gift to the world and in particular those around you. I know that you will find who or what you need very soon.

As I said before I am here if you need me and my thoughts are with you on your journey. With love, Gillian