Change happens every day, we all go through it. Some changes are small, some are big and some become challenges. Today, I want to introduce you to Ellen. In the past few years, she’s experienced a lot of change including happy changes and not so happy. In this interview, you learn how challenge makes her stronger.
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
I am Ellen Best, I took a surprise early retirement at age fifty-four. As of May 2017, the husband and I live in a small village just outside Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk England (UK).
You are currently a writer, was that something you always wanted to do as a child? If not, what did you want to do?
Yes, I was either reading or writing for as long as I could remember. I could put my feelings in a poem or disguise them in the wonderful world of a story. For many years writing was a secret I shared with no one.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. When you got remarried at 54 you also moved across the country to Somerset. Can you talk us through the timeline and how you adjusted to two big changes at once?
It was much bigger than it sounds because I gave up work (where I had been for ten years) in September and we moved within a week down to Dorset. We were renting a house to give us time to find where we wanted to be. One week later we returned to Suffolk for respective stag and hen celebrations. From there we flew to Hawaii to marry. It was exciting and scary at the same time.
On top of being married and also moving across the country, you also found yourself in early retirement. Can you tell us why you stopped working and how you adjusted to this change?
Having worked from the age of fourteen, I had been with my first husband since sixteen, married at 21 divorced twenty-nine years and nine months later. This was a million miles away from what I expected. I was shell-shocked when the husband of three weeks suggested it was my time to be spoiled. I can still hear him saying. “We do not need you to work, we could travel and have some adventures of our own … it’s our time now.” Where we moved was pensioners paradise; all geared up for the last place to live. There was very little work and any there was had been earmarked for locals who seem to be being forced further away due to holiday lets and retirement towns.
We threw ourselves into house hunting and six months later purchased a fixer-upper, he restored the property himself so we could live mortgage free. The husband, being not only wonderful but extremely clever, transformed the house. With so much happening and the compromise of living slightly more rural to get more for our money, meant there was no familiarity at all. No time to think or plan my retirement.
I made friends with five people one for each year, lovely friends but it wasn’t enough. I launched myself into my writing, some days I would write for eight to twelve hours straight. During the five years that followed the move, we traveled extensively. I also threw myself into the large garden… not literally but figuratively speaking. We redesigned, dressed and presented the house; it was beautiful. I gave talks to cancer recovery patients, how to find myself again after radical surgery. I presented some active workshops on how to dress your new shape, giving hints and tips to assist both men and women with getting their confidence back. Other than the presentations and workshops I didn’t attract any paying customers as an image consultant. It seems Rural Somerset is not the demographic for my skills. I still gave the service to the recovery group and enjoyed it immensely.
My Father passed away which was tough, I think I kidded myself he was going to be in his favorite chair when we went back … he never was.
We didn’t settle, it was a compromise too far. Each time family visited we would have the most amazing adventures, beach walks at midnight, sunsets watched from the highest point, barbecues and impromptu dancing to old 45’s… then they would leave. Tears and sadness followed undercover of numerous bubble baths, I would fall into a black hole for days. When we returned to visit, we said we were going home, eventually, we did. The husband told friends back home that I was leaping off the pavements, grinning at people, silently begging them to be my friend. So I guess we had tried hard enough.
Recently, you moved back to Suffolk. How did that move differ from the previous one?
Our move back was to a fresh village, one neither of us knew but within the realms of all our family and friends. Now we could feel orientated and hunker down and make a new life. We purchased another home to bring back to life, an old Victorian schoolhouse with a well in the garden. I could channel Jean Brodie as we viewed it.
You missed home while you were in Somerset, now that you’ve moved back home, what do you miss about Somerset?
My few friends, the sea, the views and stupidly enough the anonymity. Oh, and the accent, to hear the west country vernacular is something else. The stories and characters were fabulous fodder for short stories, flash fiction and just to fill my notebooks. We miss the garden we worked so hard on. The river that charged past the bottom during Autumnal storms and bought assorted wildlife when it gently meandered.
On top of all of these changes, you recently found out about a genetic condition which has been life-changing. How are you doing?
I only found out in June, it has been a shocker, not only had I never heard of Haemochromatosis (genetic iron overload) I had the job of informing my four sisters and Mother that they needed testing. Although it is quite common for this to happen what occurred next had me stunned. Not one who is often stuck for words …. As you probably guessed. It was as if I was causing the problem, one sister told me to keep my drama to myself while Mother believed I should not have told anyone; least of all them.
June to December was a round of diagnostic examining, tubes down and up, orifice’s I had forgotten I had were pumped with goo examined by cameras’ and discussed at length. This was an extremely difficult time. I pulled out a book my sister gave me when my marriage failed. ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, I don’t often talk about my dabbling with alternative ways of thinking, but just sometimes, things out of the blue, out of your comfort zone and your beliefs; work. For a second time in my life, it brought me back, evened my thinking and helped me cope. The husband is wonderful he came to each appointment, remembered to ask what I had forgotten… supported and cajoled me.
The treatment is simple but tough. A pint of blood given once a week until the TSAT drops to 50 and the ferritin sits between 30 and 50. I am almost in that position now having given 22 pints since August. Then the hope is we can keep it there. I will need to have Venesections for the rest of my life. Some days I can’t string my words together, can not tell you the day or what I just said. A bit like dementia. So my writing has all but stopped. I am attempting to resume my blog as there is only so much reposting of earlier work you can do. This brain fog is horrendous for me because I write, but is only one of the conditions this disease brings.
Looking back over your moves and early retirement and your illness, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you felt wasn’t working out and you dropped or changed along the way?
I wish I had been stronger and not buckled under the fear of being a nuisance. Four different doctors and three surgeries, over five years have told me nothing was wrong. I went with acute exhaustion, breathlessness, stomach problems, yellow skin, joint pain, I thought I was going mad. We moved back and the first GP to see me recognized the catalog of symptoms … he knew straight away. If we had not sold up, if we had not moved right here, well we won’t ponder but again; everything happens for a reason.
Did you get any advice or help from others while making these moves and going through these changes? What is the best advice or assistance that you got along the way?
Be strong, keep your cup half full and keep laughing. The book has kept me … optimistic.
The husband as always, keeps me centered. You have to have great respect for medical science and our national health, like me, it may flounder but it could be worse.
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone who is going through a big life change like getting married and moving across the country or illness?
Every day is a bonus and if it is tough … smile, because there will always be someone worse off than you. Retirement scared me until it paled into significance. That must tell you we have something to learn each step of the way. I am still me, in fact, I am a better me for all my experiences. My novel is hovering around final edit and once I am able to I will finish it. My dream is to be a published author, see my book on a shelf in the library.
My writing, my humor, and the husband keep me going. As always I keep him on his toes … *sniff* He would not have it any other way.
So watch out world this woman comes up fighting.
You can find Ellen at the following links: