This week, I’ve been celebrating my 50th birthday with family and friends and it’s been brilliant. I wouldn’t say I’ve been dreading turning 50 but it is a landmark birthday and, if it hadn’t earlier, society does deem you as “old” thereafter.

I’m mostly ambivalent about my age but I’d ticked off my 30th and 40th birthdays with a decent celebration so it seemed appropriate to do the same for this one.

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What might have been

It’s two years since my previous blog post. So much has unfolded during the era of the covid-19 pandemic that it’s hard to know where to start. I suppose it might help if I explained what I thought was going to happen.

At the start of 2020 I have to say I was very happy. I had a great girlfriend and the kids were doing as well as could be expected. Work was hard going but I was on the cusp of starting a new project that I was pretty excited about.

We I had plans for a big holiday; a visit to Orlando, en route to Tampa where we’d attend Wrestlemania. My girlfriend had no idea but on our last night in Orlando, I was going to propose to her by a lake that we’d found ourselves beside when we were there together in 2018. The idea had taken shape in my mind in the time since.

I also had my annual trip to Indianapolis all booked up with no idea how I was going to pay for it once I came back from Tampa. But that was all in the future and, at the time, I had no cause to worry about the future. All I knew was that I’d be engaged to the girl I was in love with and I couldn’t wait for life to unfold.

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If I had known

Most of my poems are just a bit of fun. The ones people know of anyway – the ones I’ve come to recite on St Andrew’s or Burns’ nights. However, now and then I’ll write a poem just to get emotions and thoughts out of my head and down onto virtual paper. Doing so is a release of mental pressure and I’ve a folder full of “abandoned”, incomplete verses that have spilled out of my mind at various times but were too personal or painful to either complete or share.

One that hasn’t seen the light of day is If I Had Known, which I wrote in early November 2021. In the space of 18 months I’d dealt with the loss of various people from my life. I’m not going to name names but they were people who were special to me, people whose lives had been intertwined with my own for varying lengths of time. Yet for one reason or another, I’d lost them.

Emotional pain from a sense of loss is immediately jarring, like being startled by a sudden loud noise and only being able to escape the echoes when there’s distance from the source. In the poem, I tried to capture my feelings at the loudest point, so that I might be able to measure the change as the echoes fade over time.

That said, reading it back even four months on makes me wince a little. I’m still bruised from a couple of years of seemingly relentless emotional trauma, with the backdrop of the global covid-19 pandemic making life feel like a nightmare I’m only just now waking up from.

Writing this poem was like drawing a line in the sand from an emotional perspective. I had to acknowledge the hurt, tuck it safely in a folder and try to move on. For World Poetry Day 2022 I thought I’d take it out and publish it here instead of hiding it away. I’m not sure why. Perhaps as part of the healing process. I hope it resonates with someone else.

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