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A Brim Full of Ashes When You’re 45

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!


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Comments on Ann Smith's blog entry "A Brim Full of Ashes When You’re 45"

Good day my fair lady Ann,

Well where to start. First I missed you on the forums. Your wit, cutting words, always keeping me on my toes. I've learned from you to think before I speak or on the forums type my thoughts, and know the facts. :) Your candor and composition are one of a kind. The same goes for your blog, I only read your blog because I find your thoughts to be the most honest from the heart and soul. Maybe living on the ROCK has made you a ROCK of Gibraltar. In acient times the Rock marked the limit of the known world.
As for birthdaya we are juxtapose, I just don't eat right and exercise. I'm enjoying my middle years.
Lastly as for your relationship, what can I say. Everything is transitory, even our lives. Sucks, but it's part of living. As for trusting others, the only one you can trust is you. So before you fall into that black hole again, STOP, love yourself for awhile Ann, just give your love to YOU. Your deserve it. Take care my friend and HAPPY 45.

I wish you peace!

I’m so terribly sorry this happened, Ann.

I wish I could give you a big ole hug this very minute!


I am sorry that this has happened to you. Since being in the forums and getting to know you, I've felt that you are and always will be a strong woman. As the saying goes.."And this to will pass". I know it is paining you at the moment but you will come out of this being even stronger than before.

Dearest Ann,

I am deeply saddened to the point of tears, but I know you will do the phoenix thing. And looks like you know it too, you amazing woman. I just want to send you the biggest hug. You beautiful person, you.


What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hi Ann

From just reading your posts and blogs I recognise you as a strong, beautiful woman, what is inside of you is bigger than anything you may go through and I'm sorry that you've been hurt, just take all the time you need to let your broken heart heal and know that we love you. I wish I had the right words to say, but I never do.

Sweet Hearted Ann,

I am so sadden to hear of this unfair development in your life. It sucks when life makes you do an about face with little warning.

But Ann, I've known you for over six years and during this period of time you have over come some pretty stormy weather. While treading water is very tiring, you have always done so and kept your head above the waves. And dear Lady, you have done so again.

You are an amazing human being. A true inspiration to many of us who have come to know and care about you. You have risen from the ashes and the coals you left behind are aglow for you having been there.

With my deepest respect and love, Ric

Dearest Ann:

I am so, so sorry that this happened. You, of all people, should not have to go through something like this. But I know, just from you writing about going through interferon, that you're one strong lady.(my friends who have hep c and have tried this treatment couldn't go through with it). You will rise again, sweetness. All you have to get through is one day...

Ann~ I had been wondering where you had been lately, and thought to ask a few times. I was hoping you were on vacation and would come back to us soon in the Forums.

I am crying after reading of the split between you and your ex. I can relate all too well as mine split with me a year ago -- and I never saw it coming. I, too, was thinking of ways to rekindle our connection, and then *poof*, nothing.

I understand your numbness, but please know that us Scorpios are always going through change, a constant rebirth. You are strong enough to do that, Ann, and just like the Phoenix you refer to, you will rise from this.

I've missed you so much. Happy Birthday from across the pond. Keep your chin up and welcome whatever exciting new things that are to come your way. Its time for a fresh start.

As painful as it seems right now please realize there are those who block our true blessings. Love yourself and understand he was not good enough for you after all.

Be good to Ann.....


I really don't know what to say Ann, other than you got me thinking of you greatly right now.

Ann, Sorry to hear about this. I know personally what a toll it takes on you when your partner does something like this. I was devasted when mine left me. But I also know that things will get better, sure there are tough days ahead, but you will come out a stronger person! Remember even though it wasn't the best of times, he chose to act the way he did and it was not your fault. Take care of yourself

That shagger-wanker!! Broken promises suck! Well, many many things in life happen for reasons unknown to us. I'm reminded of the Celtic fairytale of Maeldun and how each and every strange thing he encountered were necessary for the final chapter of the tale,as the hermit explained to him. Well, it's all about you now.

You are allowed to cry, yell, laugh, giggle, kick, go for a long bike ride or even a short one.

Big HUG to you and Thank YOU for writing about something so intimate.

Dearest Ann,

God will protect you and give you future and hope. I'm praying for you my dear.

Your story touched me profoudly. Perhaps it's because we're both 45, HIV+ and scorpio's. Or perhaps it's because I've isolated myself for so long in fear of getting hurt, as you did. Being alone has made me stronger, wiser, less vulnerable and - well empty. Please don't give up! It may sound trite, but you will find someone who will give you the partnership and love you need and deserve. And I know that I will, too. Time heals all wounds, even deep ones. Keep speaking, keep being an activist, keep fighting the good fight. From one Scorpio to another, "The pheonix will always rise from its ashes." You will rise again, my friend. It's inevitable. Peace.

Look at our site:
We might have the curable drug but nobody cares.

Gee Ann, it was a pleasure 2 read im not alone in thislonely world of hiv i live in. I know how difficult it is 2 lose ur bettrer half, only i lost my better half to my best friend and this was the one i was supposed 2 spend the rest of my life with, so not only did i lose my best friend, but my best lover 2. So life goes on, and i am 46 years old today, been pozx for over 20 years and was sure i was going 2 be dead of aids by now. Who wouldve thought that i was going 2 die of lung disease before i die of hiv. Who ever thopught that the cigasrettes would do more damage than the needles i would stick in my arm< and how many people do u c walking around withoxygen at the young age of 46? Ann, keep on writing, u give me inspiration 2 write about my diseases, thasts plural, for more than one disease, God Bless U

Reading your story reminded me of things that I didn't need to be reminded of.
Not to hide from myself I take the good with the bad memories.
Turning 45 if I could be that age again.
I am 55 going on 100 with a few acts of being 15 going on 50.
Being postive now for over 18 years as taught be a great lesson.
Seems to really realize what life is I had to learn of my own mortality.
I find no shame in having Hiv.
I hold back my own desires to be with anyone in a sexual way out of respect with them and myself.
I cry more when I see a person die or in pain not because of my own status.
I just understand it more.
I have someone in my life who takes me as I am.
You to will find that which is for you.
It will walk up to you when you less expect it and when your not looking for it.
It's not what you hide or what you try to be that makes a person want you it is because you are what you are.

my 10 year relationship ended this year after I was hospitalized after short term memory loss and a car accident caused by an unseen staph infection... my partner walked out the day I got out of the hospital... I still don't quite understand it, and can only believe that being positive had something to do with it, as until this year I had no complications due to this illness... It's hard, you can be loving, loyal and genuine, but some partners can't handle a partner that has any health problems... sad their loss...

My heart felt wishes go out to you. Do know I feel your pain, not through personal experience but through basic human feelings as any one would. Wesley.


I went through about the same thing over a year and a half ago. I have been poz since I was 18, I am now 38. I never had any idea that it would happen either, but I think that a lot of people who don't want to deal with the status thing have bigger issues. I know that my involvement with my partner for 4 years, I felt actually somewhat afraid of infecting him, so I felt as though it may have been my fault, but after intimacy he would rush to the bathroom to clean up. The last six months we were together he cut me off emotionally and sexually. He had said he was just busy with work, truth is he was working on getting out of the relationship. You know what, it is his loss, I am looking better than ever and am more successful than ever. The best type of revenge is to do well for yourself, and move on with your life. Life is meant for living, and people who do not want to be with us because of our status have not right to be in our lives. We need to be loved for the people we are regardless of our status, and one day we will find that love again.. Just like the Fergie song " Clumsy", when she says the bug bites her agian and she's back. So take the time to heal, but realize that you are so much better than he deserves. Instead of sitting around moping, go to the gym, and take a class in something that you always wanted to do for yourself. Every morning tell yourself in the mirror, I am beautiful and I deserve to be loved for me, and believe me it works. Take care..

Anne: There was an old saying at the end of a novel I once read:

" I shall not grieve what has been lost but find strength in what has been left behind."

The love of my life lifted off the bed in sickness and literally fell into me. He was dead in 12 hours. I remember this passage and for just five glorious seconds I believed it. Now, I revisit all my loses. I am still sad because there are angles like yourself who will always keep loving. Thank you.

I am so angry with all I can't stand it.You've all deluded yourself-no one cares about anybody but themselves-especially men.That is why they leave you when you test positive-or soon after.At this point in my life I hate almost everyone(which I know is sad)but I take my meds everyday hoping my attitude will change.Therapists tell me to get involved with some charity-but it doesn't work.Help me,I don't know what to do.

Dear Anne (and Rick from earlier post):
In the strength and the surrender that comes from 4 years of various health issues related to HIV (I have been HIV+ since 1993), I choose to believe today that life is wise. It helps me build with what I cannot control.

I don't know why things happen as they do. God knows, I am a hard and smart worker. I know I have done my best at every stage of living.

I am also a Scorpio and 45 this year. Life as it is, has turned me inside out. Building with what IS, this "turning" has been (I believe) purposeful for my development and for what I hope to give.

I can honestly say today that I am closer today to being the Diamond than soft Carbon. Diamond via intense pressure.

And, I would rather be the Diamond today.

My life has been wise.

I am new to this forum and...send you my love.

Hey Ann

Sorry to hear the sad development in your life. My first time to post on a blog, but your story touched a cord in me.

Three years ago, I was engaged to be married to a man I thought was the best thing that God could have given me (outside of my son). He was with me in spirit, mind, body and soul (or so it seemed)... Two weeks before our wedding day, we went to have our tests, mine came back positive, his was negative.

What a wake up call. The man that had adamantly stated he would give his life for me, just disappeared only to be replaced by a polite stranger that did not want to touch me in anyway. This was a man that is sophisticated was eductaed about how you can and cannot get get AIDS... Going through that ordeal, I needed so badly to be held just to know I was still valuable. Needeless to say we went our separate ways. When you used the analogy of scooping of your insides completely only to have a heart left over, but that too was a heart ached to badly (I wanted that removed too) I felt that way. I took a plunge, had no one to talk to, was in shock for more than two years and almost missed out on a love that accepted me totally.

While am not trying to take the focus off of what you feeling and make this about me, I can truly say, you are blessed more than you realise because you have an outlet for all the pain you going through. You have people that love you as you are. And most of all you know who you are even without this loser in your life. So, cry if you must (I beleive if I had cried more the healing would have come sooner but I was busy putting on a front coz no one knew what I was going through) but never stop moving and doing good. To yourself and others. One day you will wake up and the pain will be gone. You will feel different and ask yourself why you feel like so, and it will hit you like a ton of bricks, the pain will be gone. You will be healed. Yes the memories linger but like you say you will have risen from the ashes, you will be back in an even better way. The memories only serve to make you stronger when you feel overwhelmed, if you look back at where you have come from, you will definitely know you are strong.

Took me a long time to get here, but am glad that the pain left and joy and peace came back. With that came the man that I now call my husband. He is truly a freind through the good and the bad times. And to think I nearly chased him off because I kept looking back at what could have been...

Be of good courage and know that it's not over until God says it's over.


Distressing news, this.

But you will rise up to the surface with new-found strength, this I know.

In admiration,


Life has a way of throwing us curves...which we don't see coming. Relationships are difficult even under the best of circumstances....You've have had some extraordinary challenges...and you've done so much for so many here on the forum....its no wonder you feel "empty".

My heart goes out to you....take the time you need to recharge yourself. You deserve it sweetheart.....

Sending you a big {{{HUG}}}

Gosh Ann
i'm sorry to hear that. (i wish i was more eloquent)

Hi you! Even if you didn't update your interesting blog for a while, please inform your readers about the today 'World AIDS Day'. HIV/AIDS needs to be well-known to prevent new infections! So: let's talk about AIDS today!

I 'tripped' across your blog (well, not literally, but I did trip UP the stairs this morning). You are an inspiration to all of us who have trials and tribulations. The healing process is never easy, but sometimes we are our own harshest critic so i urge you to not be hard on yourself (something I am told often). I have alwys enjoyed the art of writing, and can tell by yours that you have a bright and beautiful soul. Run with that knowing you are OK in the here and now and whatever thefuture holds for any of us, it's always a lift to people (like me) to know there are others who exist like us. THANKS and peace to you.

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This page contains a single entry by Ann Smith published on November 16, 2007 4:25 PM.

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