Ah, Birthdays. My 40th birthday (and the six months either side) disappeared down the black hole of interferon/ribavirin. If I experienced the throes of middle-angst that year, I cannot recall. I guess I feel a little cheated really; a time-honoured, teeth-gnashing, drama-queen rite of passage passed me by. Oh well. Birthdays have never been a huge deal for me anyway and I?ve mainly always celebrated having survived another year. This year felt a little different though; perhaps it was a touch of those middle-aged blues I missed at 40.

Sometime early this summer it began to dawn on me that come November, I?d be 45. I started taking stock of my life and looking at areas that needed work. I got my bicycle out of storage and started exercising. I looked into Champix (aka Chantix) and started taking it a few weeks prior to my birthday. I started cooking more and fast-fooding less. I was slowly building up a healthier life-style all-round; I decided I was going to be the fittest middle-aged woman I could be.

I also took a good look at other areas of my life. I reaffirmed my commitment to activism by agreeing to speak on World AIDS Day here on the Rock, along with a local radio interview the day before. I started looking into ways of managing my time more effectively so I could write more and pursue other creative ideas I?ve been kicking around for years now.

Another area I examined was the relationship with my partner of eight years. I felt it was rock-solid, but maybe could do with a little tweaking and updating. We?d been together eighteen months before I got my HIV diagnosis and not only did he stick by me when he tested negative, but he was my rock at the time and ever since. We?ve had our ups and downs over the years ? what couple hasn?t ? but through it all we remained best friends. That friendship and some shared spiritual beliefs were the bedrock of our relationship. I called him my partner, not boyfriend, because it felt like a totally equal, adult, life partnership. I thought we?d be together until the day one of us died. We?d been engaged for years and there never seemed to be a rush to get married. For various reasons we never lived together, but as my daughter?s grown up and his parents grew old, the day we?d move in together seemed closer. We were solid; unshakeable.

Well, how wrong can a person be? If any area of our relationship was lacking, I guess it was on the passion front. We?ve both been busy over the past year or so and there were the problems with my back and hips earlier this year, and the move, and my ?women?s problems?, but nothing, I thought, that couldn?t be worked through. In fact, the weekend of my birthday fell at a fortunate time in my monthly cycle and I?d planned on taking full advantage on the chance to re-introduce some of the passion that had been missing recently.

Too late. He?d started seeing his ex-wife in early October, behind my back, and a few weeks of ?talking? progressed to ?shagging? just days before my planned, intimate birthday weekend. What made it so devastating was the fact that years ago we?d made a solemn promise to each other that if we ever became attracted to someone else, we?d either not act on it or not act on it until we?d finished our relationship. We vowed to be honest about this sort of thing and never go behind the other?s back. It was something I took very seriously, to the extent of cutting a very dear ex of my own out of my life completely. It wasn?t easy because I still care about this other person, but I did it because I believed in the relationship I was in and loved my partner too much to hurt him in anyway. It was a sacrifice I made willingly and without regret.

Of all the men I?ve loved in my life, I thought he was the one who loved me too much to hurt me. I thought it was this mutual, partnership thing. I?ve never trusted anyone so completely in my life. I thought my heart, at long last, was safe. It wasn?t though and I feel as though I?ve been eviscerated. There?s absolutely no going back now either.

I?m slowly coming out of the bewildered stupor I?ve been wandering around in the past few weeks. I?ve not been active in the Forums because I felt so totally empty and had nothing at all to give. When I say I?ve felt eviscerated, I mean that literally. It was as though someone took a scoop and cleaned me out totally except for my heart. My heart was screaming in pain while the rest of me was numb and empty. I struggled to find the words to describe what was going on ? and for much of it I still cannot find the words even now.

Does any of this have to do with me being HIV positive? Maybe a small bit, yes. I don?t think I?ll ever know quite why he did what he did or what the main contributing factors were. He?s not been very forthcoming with that information and I can?t help but suspect maybe HIV did play a part he doesn?t want to admit to, after years of saying it didn?t matter.

For those of you who may be curious about the title I gave this blog, it?s a play on the song Brim Full of Asha by a band called ?Cornershop?. You see, I?m a Scorpio and an alternate symbol for Scorpio is the Phoenix. I?d been thinking about the Phoenix rising from the ashes (as I have in the past when my life has been turned upside-down) when this song came on the radio. I started singing along, but changing the words to ?a brim full of ashes when you?re 45?. When I finally sat down to write this blog, it seemed to be an apt title.

I will rise from the ashes yet again. This isn?t the first time life?s given me a brim full of ash and I suppose it probably won?t be the last either. And in a pleasing little twist, I?ve discovered that ?asha? means ?hope? in Urdu so now I’m singing “a brim full of Asha when you’re 45”. Yeah, I?ll be ok. ?Time?? and all that.

Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow!