I always think of my life as divided in three quarters of around 25 years each: the first including my childhood, my teens, and my life as a young adult, my first job, and my wedding.
Then the following 25 years: adult life, consolidating my career, having my children, change of jobs, the loss of my dear father, the breakdown of my marriage, a new love, my boys growing from childhood to their early teens.
Then the last quarter, the one I’m already in – celebrating fifty, with a different outlook on life in general and on some aspects of my life in particular, major changes in my aspirations…
Through my my life during all these years, most important of all – the people. Those who welcomed me with open arms and raised me with love but never forgetting duty and ethics; those who love(d) me and whom I love(d) and those who have always been there, by my side even when we were far apart – my friends.
It may seem strange to divide one’s life in such a way but to me it makes sense.
My first quarter was the one when the foundations were laid for the years ahead. I was born in Mozambique and had the happiest childhood one can imagine back there; even if my parent’s marriage was not a happy one and there were some quarrels, soon we forgot about them, and even when they separated we were not unhappy – after all we were cherished children and continued to be so.
The huge blow was the revolution of 1974 in Portugal and all that ensued: the fear, the dramatic changes in our life, the moments of terror during the 7th of September massacres around our city, and the realization that we’d have to leave for good: our house, our country. Then, yes – my heart was truly broken.
Then our adaptation to life in Lisbon, making new friends, enjoying high school, the parties, the first loves (unrequited ones, but still meaningful!), the first boyfriends, going out with friends, deciding what my future career would be, studying hard to get into University and making it there!, life at University, studying harder and harder, the new friends, the crazy adventures lived with them, the fantastic holidays in Madeira, great loves, becoming an adult, graduating, the first job – by chance in the financial sector, and there I stayed – meeting my future husband, falling in love completely, going serious, plans for marriage, my family (most of them) against it, overcoming all difficulties – and getting married on a beautiful, sunny, happy day: “for better or for worse, until death do us part”.
(It ended being for better and for worse, but not “until death do us part”. Fortunately we are both still very much alive!).
Then came the first, happy years of marriage. When I didn’t even want to think of having children. Then the hard times, the heartbreak, the survival of our marriage against all odds, and my total change of heart – and now that I wanted children it seemed I was not able to have them. After many medical exams and a nasty treatment I was finally pregnant, and the day I learned it was certainly one of the happiest in my life, in our lives.
Job changes, the pregnancies, my babies, the incredible feelings of motherhood, seeing them grow, so loving, so cute, their first days at school, sleepless nights when they were ill, teaching them about life, telling them stories as I love to! The second quarter passed by in a hurry; soon they were not babies anymore – even if they will always be my babies – and were playing rugby and going to their friends’ birthday parties.
Then a huge blow – the day I discovered my father had cancer I could not believe it. At 73 he was young, full of life, in great spirits. He was operated on but would not undergo any radio or chemotherapy – and he died within months. I admired his courage (being a doctor he knew what sort of life expected him should he undergo these treatments) but I still miss him every day of my life. And so do my boys, who lost him too early.
The slow, but inevitable breakdown of my marriage, delayed by a common project – our beach house – but impossible to prevent. Fortunately, it was a much civilised (even friendly!) divorce and we continued to raise our children together – we still talk about them every day and discuss everything about them together. As all parents should.
Almost immediately after, the loss of my dear grandparents, within two years of each other; they were already very old and frail, but still, and forever, the persons who had probably loved me the most, who raised me and made me what I am. So many losses in so few years – it was very hard.
Then a new life, a new chance at love – totally unexpected. The inevitable slow down of a great career so far and the need to adapt to new circumstances. And the need to grow inside, and to change the way I look at so many things.
And so we come to the last, final – still beginning, one hopes – quarter of my life. The one that begins at fifty, that I celebrated with a huge party to which I invited my family and all my true friends. With one or two exceptions – for unexpected reasons – they all came. Present were also some of my boys’ best friends, whom I dearly love as if they were my nephews, because I have known them for quite a few years – and they were happy to come and celebrate with Aunty Teresa.
In my speech I thanked everyone for coming. I thanked my family – those who were present and those who were in spirit – for having given me so much love and for having guided me into adulthood, for having provided me with the “weapons to fight”; I said I was very grateful that in my life I have always been free to make my own choices – my decisions, right or wrong, have been solely mine, and that, I feel, is a privilege. Then I said a few words to my precious, darling boys, to my love – an unexpected, but lovely, gift from life – and thanked my friends for being that – my friends, loyal and true, for better and for worse and (I really believe it, in this case) “until death do us part”.
And some of these friends came forward and also said a few words – Luisa talked about our lifelong friendship, Rosario (my friend from Madrid) talked about our unexpected friendship forged during a week’s training in Paris 20 years before and finally my friend Pedro (whom I met during my post graduation course) talked about my ability to bring all my friends together, and make them enjoy being together even when they hadn’t met before.
I was very moved by their words and I can truly say that having my family and all my friends around me made that memorable evening one of the happiest of my life. One can see that from the photos – I have a radiant smile on my face. Moreover it was a lovely June evening (the celebration was a few months after my birthday as I wanted it to be in the summer) and all was well in my life.
And so I’m living my last quarter. How long it will last? Who wants to know! I feel I have learned so much in the last few years, I’m much more spiritual, looking more inside myself, trying to improve every day. I give much less importance to petty things – that before I considered so important, such as my ego – and much more to small things that I didn’t even consider relevant but that I now know are very important and make me happy. As long as I’m in good shape, physically and mentally, I’ll enjoy life and will go on trying to become a better person and to bring some joy, help, and warmth into other people’s lives, my family, my friends, my colleagues.
And, last but not least – and what a rich life I’ve had, I have, with so many happenings – I very much want to go on telling funny, sad, normal, incredible, crazy, scary, beautiful, romantic – but most of all meaningful – stories. To my readers.
Because in my life, I’ve been, I am, many things, it’s true: a woman, a mother, a professional, a lover, a friend – but I’m a storyteller too. And I just love it.
(Now that I think about it, I could also divide my life into decades…and each decade would have its own story…I’ll think about it!)