No, it’s not. As you may recall (or probably won’t), my birthday is in November.

But I’m going with this birthday idea as I feel like switching the ‘anniversary’ thingy to a ‘birthday.’

I know it sounds oddly celebratory, but I also know that you have read stranger things on this website so remain unafraid to explore this latest idea with you.

Anniversary concept

It’s been 15 years since the ball went pop and I dropped to the concrete floor of our home/office warehouse. For most of those years, I felt like I was going backward – the issue was stripping my life away.

What I mean by backward is that I felt my ageing process was really speeding up. I was growing older… before my time. I felt like life was running out.

Since the moment when Theo and I felt we had totally rebuilt our lives (the occasion marked by a new fur child and new car after relocating and starting a new business, my-God-that-sounds-MAD-all-in-one-sentence), I have a feeling of moving forward – but it’s not ageing.

And, on the other hand, I kind of don’t feel 52 either…

Trying to make sense of this has been no different from deciphering all the other confusing states I’ve experienced through this ongoing health issue.

But I do believe I’ve figured this confusing state out!

It’s a bit unbelievable but I keep feeling I’m back at the age of 37 – that’s the age I was when I left my true wholesome, real, uninjured and unconfused self.

The ‘good’ moments are transporting me back to the feeling of 37… it’s a resumption of life!

So it’s only appropriate that 15 years after the pop, I mark the ‘juncture’ as an arrival back into the world… this is why I feel it’s a kinda birthday!

Menopausal, in pain and happy at 52?

Mad, surreal, all true characteristics of an ongoing chronic illness.

Since my 50th, Theo’s and my livelihood had started to sort itself – we made a home. Finally, life had a foundation on which we could resume building. We hadn’t been ‘building’ anything for 12 years!

Soula's 50th at NGV

Then COVID-19 hit, and life got confusing and unpredictable. It was hard to know where life was heading all over again!

But, COVID-19’s lifestyle ended up being great for me – I was living inside my safe and happy solitude bubble, and I had no social pressure. So I focused on myself and I paced.

My 50th birthday was a great celebration, all low-capacity-activity considered. Since then, I see the trio of pacing, my new lifestyle, and the spinal cord stim have been my winning combo. I can see I began resuming year 37 since re-establishing myself at year 50.

But the icing on this birthday cake is made up of my Inflammasome discovery. It’s just been magnificent meeting my elephant.

Indeed, I’m not pain-free, and my feet roar and burn and feel like they’ll explode. My seating cushion is still my closest mate, sit/stand is the main agenda of the day, I can’t drive, and commuting is still an issue. But the management of these difficulties and the in-between bits are so different.

Storms are even enjoyable! My hands give me the weather signs, but I’m not lying on the floor feeling my insides are trying to get out of my body because of a weather change.

The volume has come down… cake, please!

Birthday gifts

The greatest gift delivered on this birthday, though, is abundant real hope.

Actually, I’m not hopeful anymore; I’m anticipating that my quality of life will continue to get better. The smiles will be longer and broader, and Theo and I can plan and resume our lives…well, from a different place in another way, but it still feels youthful.

I haven’t ever felt a better time to click my heels and head back home (I might ditch the balloon ride; after all, who’d ever trust an inflatable gadget again?). But, I certainly feel it’s the right time now for self-trust and self-belief in my body.

Enough of this wild, confusing and cruel journey. It’s time for cake.

You and Me, Louise Blyton
Untitled 58, Melinda Harper

ABOVE: The first-ever gifts purchased to celebrate an anniversary. Artists Louise Blyton and Melinda Harper are dear friends who I have also curated in an upcoming exhibition at Queenscliff Gallery. Their strength and support have been with me through this 15 year period and I have always wanted to live with their artworks. Theo purchased these two pieces to celebrate this 15 year birthday.

BELOW: Me at 52 years of age resuming 37 years of age…

Soula Mantalvanos It's time for cake