Thursday, 16 June 2011

Piggy in the middle

The past few weeks have been very full. And yet compared to this time last year I feel as though I have been doing very little apart from chasing my tail and turning in circles. Last year I was engaged in enthralling conversations with myself about "voom" and motivation.

This year - my PTA chairmanship has me contemplating lucky dips or face painting at the school fair.

It's just not the same somehow.

Mindful of these altered preoccupations and ambitions, and the attendant alteration in my energy levels and sense of personal "voom", it is with a mixture of pride and resigned regret that I announce my stepping off the line and over it. 

What line? You ask.

Oh - just a notional line really, not a real line. More a metaphorical construct. The line dividing the young people from the middle aged.

As those of you who stop by and read my musings would recall, I entered a new decade last year. Late last year. At that time I lamented the passing of youth. One feels one ought to doesn't one, even though one feels in most respects much as one did at 23 or 28, anyway, or maybe 34. One looks back over the years - the blur of time - and wonders where it all went and why the trip to Antarctica got overlooked, where that nice fellow from Law School is now and whether those girls from school who post their pictures on Facebook realise they look 40. But all the time, for several years in fact as the thirties trickled, or perhaps gushed, too quickly past, one was filled with incredulity. How can one be 40? In cosmic terms it is barely the blink of an eye - and yet in real terms one feels so young and vital. One feels as if one's whole life is before one. One wonders what on earth one has been doing with one's time.

And then gradually the inner deeper recesses of the soul begin to make peace with and accept the reality - not that there is anything new to accept. There is just a slow and steady dawning of awareness. The denial subsides. One is no longer really young.

Despite a little too much conscious thought on the matter (most of which I attribute to a morbid preoccupation with mortality that has afflicted me for many years), the actual acceptance phase has come along quite quickly and calmly.

Indeed if this is like the stages of grief we hear about, then I am not sure that I really went through the anger or bargaining...

Nevertheless, the acceptance phase has been a walk in the park - so far.

Shall I tell you what happened?

Nothing cataclysmic mind you - this was a slow dawning - remember.

1. I cut off a lot of hair and looked and felt younger even though I suspect I looked less attractive. The youthful carefree nature of the "do" trumped the need to look attractive.

2. The youngest "Off-Spring" turned five and finally gave up his pushchair. He now scoots to school leaving me gasping and panting in his wake as I try valiantly to keep up with him and his brothers.

3. In interviewing for jobs I found myself apologising for my age.

4. The glossy weekly and monthly magazines one scans in the queue at the supermarket - and the online versions thereof have never been so appealing - everyone worth photographing is my age (apart from Wills and Kate).

5. My knees hurt.

6. The charming and gregarious caretaker at the Off-Spring's school told me he that he guessed he and I were the same age. (I guessed, wrongly, that he was older than me!)

6. The idea of camping is no longer anathema to me.

7. Yet, I love nothing more than being at home.

8. I worry more about avoiding dementia than wrinkles.

9. The mere mention of the word "club" (of the night variety, not the fitness or health sorts) gives me palpitations.

10. I bought a wheel along shopping trolley thing to carry my stuff around in (a chic one!) despite the remonstrations of the Off-Spring before I bought it that I was never to buy one on the grounds that only old ladies use them.

The truth is that even though middle age is the new "second youth" and 40 is the new 30, it is called middle for a reason - and not the obvious and depressing one about the actual middle of one's life. 

No the middle I refer to is more about how one feels. Caught in the middle of friends and relationships. Interrupted in the middle of a conversation (all the bloody time). Between a rock and a hard place far too often. Too far along to turn back. Not far enough along to cruise. Far enough in to know what's going on. But also stopping, treading water and gasping for air now and then...

And according to at least one US newpaper full of photos of happy, botoxed, silver foxes, middle age lasts until well into the 60s. By the time we reach that milestone the names will have changed though.

So in order to be ready for all of that, I am preplanning my knee and hip replacements, signing up for bridge and bowls now and spending a lot of my gym time on balance exercises. I am doing all I can to keep the synapses firing and the system working efficiently.

Don't worry - most of the time I still feel 23. Just a grumpy, tired, wise and a little haggard, 23.

Moreover, I don't mean to suggest that interesting conversations with oneself are not the domain of the mature. Quite the contrary. Rather, it is with the wisdom that comes with middle age that I realise that lucky dips are wasted on the young, and the enthralling conversations are only going to get better.

Or - to be blunt - chairing the PTA ages one terribly!

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