54

Erin Schaden
9 min readNov 26, 2023

I think I like 45 better. Is it ok if I just reverse the numbers and claim 45 for this next year? That would work next year also. But I would definitely not want to continue that trend the year after that…I am not claiming 60 one second before I have to!

Ok, so I guess 54 it is then.

I am out in the desert with my daughter. We are lounging, shopping, got piercings and tattoos. Sometimes I write shit like that and I wonder if I am really 54? Sounds more like the confessions of someone her age, 16 than someone 54. But it is what it is. And I am really giving this whole, “I don’t want to grow up thing…” a run for its money.

I am aging and I think that is what is spurring on this commitment to NOT growing up. Every day I wake to see some new indelible evidence of my own demise. Kind of cruel actually if you think about it. Every day we must face our own decay, demise and eventual death. Not going to lie, not a fan.

I love the wisdom and how many less fucks I give today than I did even a few years ago. I march pretty much to my own drum and spend very little time really worrying about what you think of me, what I post, what I wear, who I am. And that is a gift that only comes with the passage of time, apparently. Although my teenaged daughter seems to have this figured out much better than I ever have. I am going to put that into a checkmark on the win side of parenting. Not really sure I had anything to do with it, but I was there the entire time so it has to have something to do with me, perhaps, in some small part.

This year my birthday has not bothered me one bit. I haven’t really thought about it actually. Usually I begin to dread it about a month in advance. So much attendant trauma around it on so many levels. But as every year passes, I am moved further from the past and more into my present. Life is going just fine and my birthday isn’t going to be an occasion to derail all the wonderful things that are going on.

Historically I have allowed others treatment of me on this day to really alter the way I think and feel about myself. If certain people didn’t reach out, I was destroyed. If certain things didn’t happen, I felt worthless. If some people didn’t remember, or call, or text, or something, I felt like that served as confirmation of my complete lack of rating, of being so unimportant in the lives of others. And this whole debacle started as a kid when it was very hard to have a birthday party because of the Thanksgiving holiday. When I look at what I did to myself for years because of the proximity of a holiday and my birthday, it makes me so very sad. I took a completely out of my control thing and made it about worth and value and appreciation. It wasn’t.

When what I should have been looking at all along was the people I choose to spend my time with, the people I allowed to be called friend, or lover, or partner. That is what I should have looked at. It was my choices in these areas that pulled people into my orbit that were ok with forgetting, or too selfish to do anything to make me feel special or wanted or whatever.

I see this gross misjudgment on my part and am doing what I can to correct it.

This year I am claiming progress because I didn’t start to pre-feel the anxiety and depression before it was time. Most years I begin feeling shitty about what will not occur about two weeks in advance. I didn’t do that this year, in fact I didn’t even think about it.

This trip to the desert was spurred on by my daughter, not me. The party tonight was insisted upon by my dear friend Elizabeth. For me, I have spent no time attempting to pre-feel or plan for the disappointment that inevitably comes on this day in my life.

I did pretty good last year too. But this year I did not remediate a resentment…and I cannot say that for last year. I had expectations and COVID and both sucked.

This year my birthday feels fresh and different. Likely because I am changed. It is never going to be the outside things that make me whole and complete. Instead it has been my stubborn insistence that something, or someone, can make or break me on today or other days. And so it has been.

Today I wake with the sun rising in the East, creating a pink tint to the desert floor. The stars, a million miles away, doing their best to continue their twinkle for just a little longer. I lay in a very comfortable bed, with amazing bedding, watching the day break from where I sit. My child and dog in this same bed, snuggled into me. Fuck, what more could I ask for?

I do not feel 54, although since I have never been this age before I have no idea what that is supposed to feel like. I feel like I do almost every day — somewhere between 16 and 35. There is still so much of me that hasn’t grown up yet. So much of me that got buried under the influx of booze, trauma and men. I feel I am just beginning to sort all of that out, even though I have actually been sorting it out forever. I say just beginning because if I live to be 100, I am sure there will still be unresolved shit from my beginning to resolve or at least attempt to come to terms with…

And that is how I feel today, like a beautiful work in progress. Vacillating back and forth between a grown ass woman and a little girl. Never sure exactly where I am on any given moment until the moment passes and I can reflect back and then identify myself in time and space.

It has taken me this long to find out who I am and then to love me for it, flaws and all. I will never be ALL better. But I like the trend. I ran into an old friend a little while ago whom I hadn’t seen for at least 25 years. He said I glow. And I think I see that too. I mean I feel it, the light beaming from within myself. Something I can honestly say I have never felt or experienced before, not even during pregnancy. I just felt like a cow being fattened for slaughter while pregnant. Too much weight gain, too diabetic, too much out of my control to feel like some sort of Mother Earth Goddess. My loss, I know.

But I feel it now. I am the most comfortable I have ever been in my own skin. My body does not feel like an inhospitable host, or intolerant hijacker. I am in peace talks with this shell of my being, and I will report the talks are going well.

Mentally, I feel sharp, clear, alive. I do not hold onto thoughts that do not serve me and I am learning to walk from people and situations that fail to honor my own commitments to myself. It has taken a life time but I am changing who I let in and how much. Feels like progress.

Spiritually, I feel so very close to God. Like I don’t want to be any closer because then I feel in danger of being brought home. But I sit in meetings, or with myself, or pet my dog or a cat, stare at my children with wonder and amazement that they came from my body. Watch my parents talk or tell me things. Even look in the mirror which has not always been particularly friendly to me, and I can feel the presence of all that is holy and good and right. I can see that this feeling, this presence of the Divine, it is also present in me. I am not sure why it took me so long to recognize this, but regardless, I see it now. I am a part of this life and that deep abiding love resides within me.

Work has totally changed for me. I get to do this amazing work with amazing people whom I love and have had a long history with. I get to help people with all this crazy knowledge and information I picked up through the intervening years. I get to do this work from my home, for myself. I am fucking grateful. I could not ask for a better work situation. I am so very grateful and honored. Appears that my long walk away from all that I left, was worth all the pain, doubt, financial insecurity and fear. Nothing stays the same, not even my ideas about what value I have to others.

Parenting this last year has been a hard year. My son graduated and moved away. And with that came a very hard period of time without contact. And I thought it would kill me. But instead, the space and time allowed both of us to heal in ways that we both needed. And today, our relationship is better, with boundaries. My daughter still home and our life peaceful and fun and without a great deal of issue. I am doing my best not to think about when she will leave in a year or so because it makes me sad. But I also know that she will launch herself into her life as will I in mine. Home is a place that changes over time. The love that is housed there remains unchanging, except perhaps, that it ever deepens.

Partnered life still evades me but I am fine with that. I am not dating, but I am not not dating, if that makes any sense. Honestly, I am tired of thinking about it. I don’t know if I am capable of partnering. I don’t know if that is in my cards. And I really don’t give all that many fucks about it anymore. If it is meant to happen, it will. And if it doesn’t, I love my life all the same. I feel whole, complete, at peace, no men required. I do miss sex though…or waking up entangled with someone I love. That is what the cats are for…to be clear, the tangled up part, not the sex. Fuck, I can’t believe I just clarified that! But I did, so there you go.

I have so many friends, less than I counted in years past but deeper, more meaningful connections with people that matter to me as much as I matter to them. I have room for new additions, and this last year, the great Divine has brought some people from the past back around. And I am grateful…they were never gone, just distant and now there is room for them with all the friend and lover house cleaning that has occurred over the past two years. I have space. For me, for them, for new. I feel there is a balance in my relationships today that I have never experienced or enjoyed previously.

My life is fucking good and I feel worthy of all the good stuff. I also see some defects that need spiritual attention and I am on it. I am not sweeping them under the rug, or pretending they are the problems of others. I see myself, as clearly as I possibly can, and I love myself anyway. I do not grant myself a pass but I am not beating myself to death with my issues either. I am forever a work in progress but this time, this year, I can say, without reservation, I love myself better and more completely than I ever believed possible. While still being willing to grow and stretch in ways and manners that are not very comfortable.

53 was a great year. I am grateful for the pain, the loss, the growth, the change, the uncertainty, For it allowed me to grow into this current version of me. My relationship with myself the best I have ever known and ever evolving.

I woke up this morning at 4:37 am. Which coincidentally was the exact time I was born 54 years ago. An auspicious beginning to another year. I am grateful, I am blessed and I am here living my best life. Thank you to all who have grown me up, who have leveled me, who have challenged me, who have loved me, who have left me, who have remained. I am better for all of it.

54, no make up, no fucks given. 54 isn’t so bad afterall.

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Erin Schaden

Who am I? I am all that I write, all that I learn, share and grow. Read and find out? Check out www.nakedrandomthoughts.com for more.