I have started a love affair.
I've been married for 38 years, have raised four children and am enjoying watching the grandchildren - seven to date - arrive and grow. But lately, there's been something missing. Something quite fundamental that I've felt so keenly it's made me sad. I've developed a yearning for something else, something more, and now, finally, I've acted on it.
I'm falling in love again. The object of my affections? Well, that would be me.
You see, back in the day, I fell for the old rallying cry that we can have it all. Motherhood, love, career, being active in the community, looking after ailing parents.
That of course, is a load of old toot. We can't "have it all", we can only have bits of everything, because there are only 24 hours in any day and we, as human beings, only have so much bandwidth.
I wanted to be a "good" mother, so that was my focus. I did my best to work freelance, but mostly had to do that in the wee small hours, staring at a computer screen through blurry, gritty eyes and using tea and cake to keep me awake. Which, of course, impacted on my perception of myself as being a good mum - and on my rapidly expanding waistline.
I wanted to be a "good" wife, so I stood aside when I wanted to join a drama group that clashed with football training. I fitted my work around his and shoe-horned my ambition into snatched hours, rimed with guilt. (He has always been encouraging and supportive, but, of course, I could only ever be second fiddle when he was bringing home the bacon).
I wanted to be part of my community, but the sheer demands on my time looking after my children, my father, the house and our lives in general made the idea just too overwhelming to me. So I put myself on the back burner.
I didn't do that consciously, of course. But like many of my peers in the sixties, I was brought up to be a "good" girl and put everyone else before myself.
Recently, though, things have changed. Over the past ten years I have developed a yearning that is almost spiritual in its intensity. A yearning to connect with myself in a deeper, more committed, more meaningful way.
I thought I'd dealt with it. Ten years ago I wrote my blog about turning 50, writing my way out of a deep depression. I became a photographer and built a business. I travelled alone and wrote and, eventually, set up The Midlife Movement to help other women rediscover themselves in their middle years.
Turns out, I've only been scratching the surface. Because in the middle of all that activity and achievement, I got even better at "doing" and forgot about "being".
I have a strong, undeniable feeling that I am entering a new phase. I can no longer ignore the small, quiet voice that urges me to slow down, to be still, to listen. So, in the middle of the rather wonderful whirlwind that my life has become, I have started to carve out time for me.
It sounds like a terribly cliche, "time for me". What does it mean? Well, I can give you an example. All my life I have used food as a mechanism to cope with difficult feelings. There's a specific combination of fat and sugar that makes me feel grounded, that turns itself into cake, or biscuits (cookies, for my US friends). After a long period of stress and distress, you can imagine the effect this has had on my body.
I had an epiphany recently that when I am craving cake, what I actually want is to be still and reconnect with myself. I want to feel that bliss that comes over me when I stop and watch the birds, or hold the baby and feel his little heart beating, or read a poem. And I realised I don't "allow" myself that time and space.
The time has come. It's as if a curtain has fallen and I see clearly what was behind it all along. I was there. Waiting for someone to love me in a way no other human being can.
So I've begun to take the long baths I love, making time to rub cream into my skin. I've joined a fitness reboot programme to help me feel the blood pump round my body again, to strengthen my life force. I no longer yearn for my yoga mat, I roll it out and take the time for that moving meditation that comes with the connection between breath and body.
I make time to read, for pleasure. I walk through the trees and listen to the birds sing, and stop to feel the winter sun on my face. I check every negative, bullying thought that crosses my mind. I allow myself to rest and sleep.
Of course, I am still working, creating, loving my family and friends. But I am learning to say no more often, and yes to myself. For in the process of slowing down and listening to the sound of my own heartbeat, I have fallen in love. Fully, truly, and forever.