• Lara Flanagan

Turning 45 in Atenas

Updated: Feb 28, 2020


I turned 45 late last week.  It is something I would never have predicted. If someone had of told me 12 months ago that I would celebrate my 45th birthday in Costa Rica I would have told them that they were bat shit crazy.   It probably would be timely to write one of those letter to my 18 year old self about all the wisdom I had accrued in 27 years and I did contemplate it for a little while as it is just the sort of project I could really sink my teeth into.  However, after a little bit of thought and a glass of wine or two, I decided that I didn’t really have anything to say to my 18 year old self.  

I like where I am right now, I am not just talking about being on a mountain top in Costa Rica, I am talking about being a pretty happy person who has weathered a few storms and is the creator of two funny little creatures.  If I changed anything then I would no longer be right here, right now, and that is not remotely appealing.

When I decided I wouldn’t change a thing, I wondered for a while if I was full of shit, as I am prone to be, and I examined each of my decades.  My first decade was officially my childhood.  I had a wonderful childhood.  My parents were prone to a little eccentricity, but I did not know it at the time, I just thought they were fabulous.  A few of our years were spent in the grounds of psychiatric hospitals (Dad was a psychiatrist) and there are vague memories of mum catching prawns with patients and the school bus coming into the hospital grounds to pick us up so lots of little arseholes thought we were lunatics.  

Psychiatric hospitals generally have fabulous grounds and at Morrisset, even though part of the hospital was for the criminally insane, and sometimes the screams would haunt my dreams, we were on the shores of Lake Macquarie.  In Toowoomba, the grounds of Baillie Henderson Hospital were endless and I have memories of playing in a vine covered old ruin that we were later told was infested with red belly blacks.  There were creeks, there was a large family of aunts and uncles, endless cousins, camping trips to Fraser Island and holidays in the old house Jerome on Hastings Street before it became ‘Hastings Street’.  The kids ran wild and would disappear for days whilst the parents drank too much, played vicious games of Canasta and went to bed in the wee hours finding whatever bed they could.

My first decade ended (or round about) with moving into what I will always deem to be my childhood home at Runaway Bay.   The Broadwater, Nausica the boat, hours in the pool. Friday nights were the best nights in the world, as a kid I would fall asleep to the faint smell of cigarette and pipe smoke from outside as Mum and Dad drank too much or had people over.  Always, always in my mind there was the soundtrack of Leonard Cohen.  It is like he is embedded in my brain.  People think he is a miserable old git.  But for me, Leonard Cohen will always be about the songs from a life that was pretty idyllic and never complicated.

The second decade as a teenager was all about school.  Most of it anyway.  I am not one of these people who says that my school years were the best years of my life but I enjoyed school.  I had a great group of friends, I was a bit of a nerdy git who liked to study and I had fun.    When I finished school I had no idea what I really wanted to do which is why I will never expect my 17 year old Archie and Rissie to have an idea.  If they do, great, if not, no pressure.  I did well at school, I am sure I could have done a lot of things, I was offered a partial scholarship to study Law at Bond University but I decided the most sensible option after being accepted was to go study acting at Kelvin Grove.  I probably knew early on that it was not for me, as breathing out of one’s chakras, in particular my arsehole would always make me feel like a wanker.  I think I lasted for about 9 months before I became a university drop out and then I finished my second decade pursuing two things I would always be very good at.  Drinking to excess and getting involved with entirely unsuitable men.

This continued into my third decade, my twenties, until I made a rash decision to pack up my things and head to Japan.  I cannot say I enjoyed Japan but I met one of my dearest lifelong friends there so it was meant to be.   A return from Japan with a basic grasp of Japanese got my little foot in the door of the Tourism Industry and thus my 20’s began in earnest.  Halfway through that decade I again packed up my bags and headed to the UK where I would excel at my job, my drinking and my involvement with unsuitable men.  I also saw more of the world than I had ever hoped to in the space of 5 years.  Whilst I was in the UK I met so many wonderful people who I am still in touch with today, along with my very dear American friend.

My fourth decade or my thirties was all about love, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.  I returned from the UK and ended up working for Make-A-Wish which I loved.  I fell in love with my husband, we had a whirl wind romance that involved falling head over heels in love, too much alcohol, too many fights, a crazy amount of moving house as we broke up time and time again, and somewhere in the middle of all of that we got something right and created two little creatures from scratch.  Some things are just meant to be.  By the end of the decade we were over, finished, exhausted and done.

My fifth decade, my forties, has been the one filled with the most amazing, exhilarating, terrifying and fucking awful change.   I am only halfway through it and I sometimes feel the need to grab a bottle of vodka when I even contemplate what the next five years may bring.  A very much spur of the moment decision saw me and the kids packing our bags again and heading to live and work in an Historic Home in Tenterfield.  I was only intending to stay a few months but some nine months later I bought a house.  Just over a month after moving into my dream country cottage I had my guts ripped out with my MS diagnosis.  For a very long time I hid a very dark and twisted soul.  A dream job for me turned into the stuff of nightmares complete with nasty villains and after all of that I discovered a strength, a peace and an overwhelming sense that I was doing ok.  It was at that moment that something inside of me made me book three around the world tickets and some nine months later I find myself typing away on a mountain top in Costa Rica.

So I have nothing to say to my 18 year old self.  Maybe eat a little less crap, drink a little less, do not pick up that cigarette and put sunscreen on your hands and neck you little fuckwhit.  But that would be about all.   I like where I am at, and I even I like how I got here, warts and all. I embrace the good, the bad and the ugly.  Without every moment I would not have countless hilarious memories that will bore my kids to death when I am old and grey.

I must admit I was completely bereft on Friday, which was my birthday, when the new owners of the house turned up and my builders started packing up.  How the fuck dare they?  Go away, go back to Europe.  Leave me my builders.  How else will I know when to have breakfast, when to lie down on the slate and nap, to have lunch and to pack up for the day.   Maybe out of respect for the new owners the builders were not here on Saturday and I was lost.  I did not know what to do, so I stayed in bed for much of the day and contemplated my life without my builders.   They are back today, but it is not the same, they are merely putting finishing touches on the outside of the house and now they all camp out under a tree that I cannot see, for their breaks and siesta.

On Friday night I was standing in the kitchen at the window, as I have gotten into the habit of doing in the last two weeks and I realised I was staring into the new house.  Every light was on and at night it made me realise how close we were and how much I could see.  I was glad my kitchen light was off so they could not see what a pervy neighbour I had become.  The new owners, I am told, are Swiss and appear to be very European as they like to walk around naked.  Standing there at my window, finishing off my birthday vino, mourning the departure of my builders, I was not in the right frame of mind to see a naked Swiss man stroll out onto his balcony.   He even bent over to pick something up with his back to me and I got a full glimpse of his tackle.   I am glad I had almost finished my vino as I choked on my last mouthful.   I made a mental note to myself to make sure that I stopped doing a quick dash from the bathroom to the bedroom for my pj’s as we now had neighbours.

Even with my new European neighbours I would not change a thing.   Maybe, in a perfect world, I would have got my builders to stay for a little while longer.  That’s all.   One month more would have been fine.   Turning 45 in Atenas will be one of my favorite memories, with its mountainous, volcanic backdrop, its lighting by fireflies, entertainment by my two creatures and the realisation that I would not change a thing.  (Except the builders.)


#Journey #CostaRica #Motherhood #Worrying #Travel #Travelingwithkids #Hope

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