Saturday 24th January I celebrated my 50th birthday party and found myself surrounded by many lovely friends and family. It was a beautiful moment to share my reflections on life, on our past, our present and our future. This is what I said to them:
I am so embracing this moment. I find myself surrounded by you, my lovely friends and family. Moreover, I find myself in good health.
So, I am embracing my mid life and I dare to not call it a crisis. Not sure it is truly mid-life either. I do know that I have this urge to look ahead and identify those key things that I still want to do, and that I still need to do and that is plenty.
So, I am embracing my mid-life opportunity. Re-assess where I stand, what history I have created that will partly determine next steps, but also, very much, how to continue to create the history that lies ahead of me; a future history that I won’t be creating on my own. I hope that many of you will play a role in that piece, that we will be creating it together.
When turning 50, you realise you have cut certain corners. And I now understand I have joined a particular club, as people welcome me to this club….At 50 you have taken certain decisions and there is no turning back the clock. I guess at every age one cannot turn back the clock, but it feels with turning 50 you become more aware of the path you have walked.
I have been very fortunate with my path of life. I have not walked it alone. I have walked it with so many, and many of you here were part of my walk of life so far. It obviously started with my family. I am so glad that my mum and my brothers are here with me to celebrate this important milestone. What wonderful and protected childhood we had, with lots and lots of sports. Camping in Denmark. Mum, you and dad were a great example to me of living your own way. You were so not the standard, in that local Groningen community. Daddy did not have the leading career and was the cook in our house. You were a working mum in a time when working mums were totally exceptional. In addition, you were active in local politics. Dad supported you, but was your critical challenger too, fortunately. Roald and Sven, my brothers, what threesome we were when we were young, what fun we had, though maybe not when we were playing school and I was pretending to be the teacher and you were my pupils. Yet growing up was great together. In Groningen our foundation for life was built.
All three of you have witnessed the small Inge grow and turn into the woman I am today. We have lived through so much and I am aware that you may have been surprised with some of my choices and some of my behaviour. But I trust it is clear that love conquers all.
Sigrid came into my life at a very young age. We celebrate a friendship of almost 40years. Can you believe it? Sigrid was a present when I was 12 years old. I did not really have any friends at that time. In fact, I was bullied at school. I remember expressing my wish (to the Universe) that what I really, really wished for, was a friend. And there she came. My prayer was fulfilled. We recently celebrated our friendship over a good glass of wine.
And of course there is Jos, my soul mate. Without Jos my life would not have been the same. We have travelled and worked across the world. Together we have crossed many boundaries during our life. Even when we started our family we pushed many conventional borders. I am so grateful to you and will love you forever.
And we have these lovely children together, Chiara and Timo. It’s been amazing to see you grow and it has been such special experience to be a parent to you. And I realise I have not been a standard mum. I have had my moments of guilt when I found myself wondering why I so desperately needed show the world that women can be a mum, a wife, a friend and have societal impact. Yet, if I look at you now, both young adults, I believe it was all right. I so hope that you will appreciate the choices I made. I say cheers to you and to our life long bond. I love you so much.
Please join me in raising our glass to Claire who has contributed to making this party happen. We met 15 years ago and have gone from strength to strength in our friendship, traveling many similar paths, experiencing comparable transitions. Thank you so much for all you have done, but, more importantly for our deep friendship. I love you.
All of you here have a special place in my heart. You have all come out of the different pockets of life over the decades: family, hobbies, spirituality, work, communications, dancing, ecology, travel, reading, training, etc etc.
The beauty of living and working internationally means that one can connect with so many people from other countries, other cultures. And you probably know that I call myself a xenophile, I am intrigued with what is different and by people who are from a different culture, different customs, different beliefs. It makes life so interesting. So how wonderful is it that so many of you have taken the effort to travel from afar to be here with me tonight. You have travelled from the Ukraine, from Spain, from Norway, from Switzerland, from France, from Belgium, from the UK, but also from the street around the corner from here, from Venlo, from Eefde, from Den Haag en Groningen. I am so grateful that you have all come here tonight to celebrate with me.
Turning 50, I have to name it, also gives me a sense of mortality. And that is all right, actually. It further stimulates to make sure that I will really put my time and energy into the things that truly matter. I anticipate a stronger sense of having to make certain choices. I guess I will be creating my bucket list of what I still need to do in terms of life, both from private as well as work perspective.
Mortality, however, also brings back the memory of my father, who passed away in 1987, so a very long time ago. He has always stayed with me though. And he is missing from my party, though I guess in some dimension he is here with me, with us.
Not sure how many of you know, my father survived the Second World War by escaping the Westerbork deportation camp. It scarred him for life and determined the rest of his path. With my mum he found happiness and she allowed him to life the life that he could lead (without too much emotional upheaval). She gave him that space. After his death in 1987 she found an essay he had written after the war, when he returned to High School. That essay is amazing, a very special story. Around 10 years ago with a group of people in Groningen, my mum worked to have it published. I have been meaning to translate it for many years, so I can share it with those that matter to me, but who do not master the Dutch language. I never found the time, or rather, never took the time. Until this summer when all of a sudden I needed to translate it and the whole booklet. One thing led to another and it became a new project and one that I worked on closely with my mum, which was wonderful. That surely must be something my dad would have been so happy with.
We did not know he had written this essay. Mum felt little torn about making it public and I understand. Their deal was not to talk about history. However, I have become convinced that he meant for us to find this beautiful story and I trust that he would be all right with me sharing it widely. I need to contribute to making this world a better place. I hope that by sharing his story I can contribute to sowing the seeds of peace. In my writing I connect my stories to his.
I am very happy – and proud – that I can present you with the two copies tonight, a Dutch version and an English version. There is a copy for each of you to take wit you for when you leave tonight. Make sure you pick it up. They are not the same. The English version has some more context setting, including two blog posts from me, and it does have the original Dutch text as written by my father. And as I write in the English version, in the reflection, in my father’s line of thinking and writing, I would like to believe that I can feel his soul and that he observes me from that faraway, unknown land of eternal peace.
Which brings me back to spirituality and the theme of tonight – Moondance. You might know that I have become very interested in exploring spirituality and embracing what comes with it. When reading about Wicca few years ago, I realised how rich and closely connected with nature this modern religion is. And I wanted to embrace it. Contrary to what many think, Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life. The name Wicca is preferred to its true name of Witchcraft to escape prosecution and misunderstanding, which Hollywood has exploited quite interestingly.
Witchcraft is a spiritual system that fosters the free thought and will of the individual, encourages learning and an understanding of the earth and nature thereby affirming the divinity in all living things. Most importantly, however, it teaches responsibility. We accept responsibility for our actions and deeds as clearly a result of the choices we make. We do not blame an exterior entity or being for our shortcomings, weaknesses or mistakes. If we mess up or do something that brings harm to another, we have no one but ourselves to blame and we must face the consequences resulting from those actions. No ifs, ands or buts and no whining…
That is where I find myself with turning 50. No ifs, and or buts and no whining. Looking ahead, embracing the path ahead of me, of us.
So tonight’s theme ‘Moondance’ is not coincidental. In Wicca one acknowledges the cycles of nature, the lunar phases and the seasons. Tonight the Moon is waxing, we have a crescent moon. It is moving from The New Moon to The Full Moon. This is a time for spells that attract, that bring positive change, spells for love, good luck, growth. This is a time for new beginnings, to conceptualize ideas, to invoke – to embrace the future.
I feel a need to bring people together. We face a lot of challenges moving forward, at many different levels. If we as humans cannot connect, we will not be able to deal with those challenges. So please do accept the ask I have given you for tonight, use the strength of the waxing moon and make new connections. Let’s trust that this connected party is an example of how we can inject energy to fuse good impact.
I would like to raise my glass to 2015, to the New Year, to you. I hope that I will be sharing many moments with many of you, and if not always in person, then certainly in spirit.