Why I'm here ...
I'm right where I need to be.
It may not be where I want to be but I know ...
It's where I need to be.
Every decision and action I've taken before now
has led me to this exact moment and location.
You need to know that I'm writing this following a recent viral meningitis attack.
On 18th May 2018 almost a month ago now ...
I woke up having suffered during the night with a severe headache.
I shot a quick text to my best friend to let her know that I suspected this was a viral meningitis attack.
How did I know?
I've been struck 4 times previously.
My first attack being at the age of 18.
I really didn't want another hospital stay but I had the familiar symptoms.
My first attack occurred when I was living at home with my parents and they took me to the hospital.
The last 3 attacks happened between 2013 and 2015.
I was 50 and still in my relationship.
That relationship ended 7 months ago and I now I live on my own with my 18 year old son.
I'm not one to panic.
So I grabbed my clothes basket and put some washing on.
As you do.
I didn't want to have to ask my son to do my washing if I did end up being admitted to hospital.
I didn't want him to have the responsibility of making sure I had clean underwear.
I rang the NHS direct line for advice. After explaining my symptoms they suggested I just go along to casualty.
I should have known that of course.
So I hung up my washing and packed a bag with toiletries,
and a writing pad and pens.
My son agreed to accompany me by bus to the hospital.
After 11 hours of waiting and examinations ...
At 2 am I was given a lumbar puncture and they started me on IV antibiotics.
The next morning viral meningitis was confirmed for the 5th time.
I spent a week in an isolation room on strong antiviral medication and of course IV paracetamol - the only thing that touches the pain.
Repeated attacks of viral meningitis are rare. The doctors don't really know much more than I do. On this occasion they admitted that they've had to rely on the internet to find out what to do.
They did diagnose me with Mollaret's Meningitis again.
I share that story because it was around this time 5 years ago that I got really worried.
I'd been off work following that second attack for about 4 months.
I had just turned 50 in the January just a month after losing my mum.
Even after being released from hospital I had ongoing headaches, pain in my joints, hearing, speech and memory problems.
I worried that I may not be well enough to carry on in my job.
However, even though I had not fully recovered I returned to work.
I was the main bread winner and paid 90% of the bills. I couldn't afford to stay at home.
Within a few months I was struck with viral meningitis again and admitted to hospital.
This time there were complications. I had kidney failure due to the medication I was taking.
When I came out of hospital on this occasion I started to look at ways that I could bring in an additional income that did not rely on me having to commute to work.
I started researching online and that is when I got interested in the idea of blogging. I looked for courses and training.
It was slow going because I still had ongoing symptoms.
I continued to suffer from headaches and severe fatigue.
During that time my weight kept increasing. That was another worry and preoccupation of mine.
Then in 2015 I was struck again with viral meningitis.
Another hospital stay. Not so long off sick and I returned to work.
I must admit that I've struggled. Continued fatigue, headaches and difficulty concentrating.
In September 2017 my relationship of over 20 years came to an end. It was a mutual split though still emotionally painful.
Between September 2017 and January 2018 is a bit of a blur. Not surprising I guess with the emotional turmoil that comes from a relationship break up.
I started to think about my future.
And not just think about it.
I was worried about my future ...
My health ...
Where I would be living ...
I guess all the things that come when a relationship comes to an end.
At 55 I was also pre occupied about retirement. I don't think that is unusual but I guess ...
Now I'd be going into retirement as a single person and not as part of a couple.
I also had the divorce to think about.
The house will have to be sold.
Will I be able to buy another home or would I have to rent?
Would I be able to get a mortgage at 55?
Do I even want the responsibility of a mortgage going into retirement?
I had all this stuff going through my head.
Now I'm not one to sit around worrying.
I got on the internet and started to ask Google questions.
As you do.
I wanted to learn more about retirement and pensions.
This was the first time that I realised that I knew very little about the practical and financial issues around retirement.
I have a company pension but each time I received a statement I didn't really take that much notice.
Now I was single I had to think about this on my own.
How much money would I need?
Where would I live?
The main thing I learned during that initial research was that I needed to understand my finances.
More than that I needed to be in control of my finances. I did not feel in control of my finances. I've always been worried about not having enough money.
Through all my relationships I've been the person who has been in stable employment.
At certain times I've had up to 3 jobs simultaneously.
I've been the person with the main responsibility for paying the bills.
I remember my GP advising that I should consider reducing my hours after my 4th viral meningitis attack. I did talk about it with my now ex but I was too worried about how we would cope with a reduction in my salary.
So on reviewing my situation at the start of this year I realised that I had very little savings.
On Sunday 7th January 2018 I wrote the following in my journal:
"FREEDOM AT 55 PROJECT
Health | Wealth | Productivity
This is about my journey back to myself.
My emotional well-being."
Then there was a gap ...
My next entry in the journal was on Monday 5th February 2018.
"I pushed the restart button.
This is a 90 day experiment.
The Freedom At 55 Project has started.
3 Areas of Focus
I am at my ideal weight of 9 stones. I look great. I am fit and have
lots of energy. I feel and look sexy. I run up the stairs with ease and pain free.
I have an emergency fund to cover 6 months of expenses.
To be earning £80,000 per year. To have enough money
that I am financially independent and no longer need to work
a 9 to 5 job. To have the money to buy my dream home outright.
I am debt free.
Follow a daily morning ritual that ensures I have optimal productivity for the whole day.
I am happy doing what I'm doing.
I am grateful for where I am in my life right now. I put my oxygen mask on first so that I can be of service to others.
I am stress free.
I appreciate every moment that I am alive."
There is then another gap and my next entry is on Monday 12th February.
"I've not really made up my mind how I want to use this book. I thought about daily journaling. Using it to identify my goals and to document my journey and results. Maybe I'm thinking too much.
Maybe I should just pick it up and start writing wherever and whenever.
So this morning at 9:15 am I have picked it up and started writing.
There are tears in my eyes as I write. I have just started calling my work counseling service because I need someone to talk to. Yes, I'm feeling really upset right now ..."
I stop there because what I was upset about is related to the relationship breakup and I want to keep it private.
I share because the first thing you need to know about me is that I'm not one to give up.
I'm also aware that it is usually out of struggles and distress that decisions are made and opportunities created.
On Sunday 18th February 2018 I wrote the following in my journal:
"Yesterday Ntathu introduced me to the concept of money journaling. She shared a blog post by Sarah L. Cain - www.highfivingdollars.com - I Journalled About Money For 30 Days. Here's What Happened."
Since that date I've been journalling almost daily. I completed the 30 day money journaling challenge.
I learned a lot from that experience and I can honestly say that I'm going through a transformation in all areas of my life.
The main thing is that for the first time I feel more in
control of my money ...
I'd go as far as to say more in control of me.
This is still a journey and it is very early days yet.
Though I've suffered a recent set back I know that what I've learned over the past four months has helped me have a more positive mindset about where I am right now.
I would not have wished to be ill again but it has allowed me to take stock.
I'm right where I need to be to continue learning and to continue growing.
I'm not one to keep my learning to myself.
I am passionate about teaching.
I trained as a teacher many years ago and although I left the profession I continued to find opportunities to teach.
So I see this blog as a space for me share with you what I've learned.
I love the act of teaching but I know that as a teacher I am foremost a learner.
This is a two way process.
I don't know what has brought you here today.
And if you are still reading this I don't know what it is in my story that has kept you here.
What I do know is that whatever your story ...
You are right where you need to be right now.
This is an opportunity for you as it is an opportunity for me.
I have at least 4 months worth of journaling to share with you in this blog space.
Maybe this is about me needing some kind of accountability.
If I continue to journal each day I'll always have stuff
to share with you.
Who knows ...
Although I've published a few blog posts before this one ...
I want you to treat this post as my introduction.
My original plan was to publish a blog post once a week on a Monday.
That may still be what I do.
Though I'm thinking I'd like to publish content more
frequently than that.
Maybe I should just experiment to start with.
I must be careful because I have a ton of ideas and it is so easy to get overwhelmed.
I'm also recovering from illness and as much as I want
to speed forward ...
I must take things slow and allow myself time to recover.
Writing has always been a therapeutic activity for me.
In the past I have suffered from depression and during
those times I turned to writing poetry. I may decide to share some with you sometime in the future.
I want to say that I've not suffered from depression for many years ...
But I think there have been times when I've been very low and close to crossing over that boundary again.
I know that when I'm struggling emotionally writing is my go to place.
So maybe that is what this is for me right now.
As part of my self care I have a daily morning ritual which includes walking.
During that walk I record an audio.
I'll be sharing those recordings on this blog also.
On my walks I usually listen to podcasts. Depending on how my mind takes me I'll share some insight from what I've listened to or ...
Sometimes my thoughts are hijacked randomly and I'll just share whatever it is that comes up.
The audios I'm recording at this time you'll be aware of how I'm coping with recovery right now.
I think that maybe I should stop now.
If I allow myself I can keep going.
Though I'm very much an introvert out in the big wide world ...
When it comes to writing the words just seem to flow.
This isn't just my journey it is yours too and I'd be
honoured if we could journey together.
The Freedom At 55 Project is my journey to become more money savvy following the breakup of my relationship in my 55th year. I share what I learn about saving money, retirement planning, pensions and living a simpler life. I want you to know there is hope. It starts with reconnecting with your true self and deciding to take charge of your life.