Is anyone else turning 40 next year? And how do you feel about that?
Once upon a time, I went to college. A friend introduced me to a new song called “Growing Old” by The Origin. It was a great theme song for college freshmen tottering, as we were, between kidhood and adulthood. That’s right, I was 17 and somehow worried about growing old and succumbing to all those things that make adults boring.
Take a walk downtown
see the monkeys goin’ round
full of pride and greed
they try to tell me what’s going down.
Was it you who held your dreams
deep in your soul
well I’ve got mine, yeah,
I’ll be the one to rock ‘n’ roll.
How many time have you lied outside
to make yourself feel fine
How many times have you cried inside
I’ll tell you
I’m not growing old
It also had a great, upbeat sound which made it very catchy. Here’s a sample. (Yes, I still have both the cassette and the cd.)
What constitutes a mid-life crisis? First of all, when is one in the middle of one’s life? Second, what is a crisis, exactly? Third, who determines whether or not one is in a crisis? Fourth, am I getting too philosophical about this?
Okay, it is reasonable to predict that many people will freak out a little bit upon facing their fortieth year. I’m not going to pretend that we should all feel so grateful to have had so many good years and hope for at least that many more, even though it’s probably true. I’m going to say that it’s relatively normal in our society to want to stop the clock or even turn it back (note: normal does not always equal healthy). According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, people between the ages of 35-50 have the most cosmetic procedures. (I’m going to be optimistic here and say that beyond 50, we begin to accept ourselves for who we are… or that’s my hope.) Some people turning 40 have big surprise parties with black balloons and silly “over the hill” gifts. (Hint, do not do this to me.) Some throw their money, figuratively speaking, at a fast vehicle to try to slow time for themselves. There are those who take it as a wake-up call to begin participating in triathlons, gaining a measure of control over their aging bodies. Some just find it all very depressing, while a few are so psychologically healthy that they hardly notice the milestone.
I can’t say where I fit into the picture yet; I still have a little time. But I can see the writing on the wall- I have a tween entering middle school next year!- and I hope I weather it all with some amount of grace. If not, I hope you’ll forgive me for whatever strange behavior I might engage in over the next few years. Maybe 50 will be smoother.
cccccccImage © 2011 Group Lotus PLC
Oh Maren my darling. Forty seems so young to me. I don’t think of you as growing older. I only think of you as MAREN. When I look at you I see you at all ages: as a baby, a child, a teenager, as a wife and mother — all at the same time. For many years I imagined myself to be 23 — at least on the inside — while my body continued to age. This lasted until I was about 40. Then, suddenly, I seemed (to myself) to be about 35 — I aged more than a decade seemingly overnight! Then it was 50. Now I seem (to myself) to be about my mid-fifties on the inside, but my body continues to grow less and less able to respond to my (mid-fifties) demands. I say “jump!” and my body responds with “get real — we don’t JUMP anymore”. I say “run!” and my body responds with a fast walk, but only for a few paces. I think the reality of it is that only the body grows older. The thing inside — the thing that gives life to the body — only grows in experience, in scope, and in wisdom — not really in age. Our real age is what we believe ourselves to be. Part of me is still a teenager. Part of me is still a kid. Part of me enjoys playing with children. Part enjoys teasing teens. Part of me enjoys interacting with interesting adults (but not with UNinteresting adults, I note), and part of me enjoys assisting those much older than I am. This is what eternity is all about: only our body gets older until at last we have to exchange it for a new one, in a new life, in a new world. This goes on and on for a very, very long time (as we measure time). Maybe there will come a time when we have a body that doesn’t age at all, and we don’t measure time at all. Then we will be whatever we believe ourselves to be!
Thanks, Dad. I remember Grandma C saying that she certainly didn’t FEEL 75, it was only while looking in the mirror that she was convinced she wasn’t much younger than that.
I remember jumping around in our dorm room with you, listening to that song. Turning forty does give me pause, but just think of all the things you’ve achieved, all the things you still want to do, and how long it takes to earn them. It kind of makes me psyched to be right there with you, staring down the proof of all our hard work.
p.s. Geary is amazing. (But you knew that.)
Rachel: Good times, indeed. And, of course, you’re right; it is a scenic overlook point on the journey. Life is interesting that way. You think you’re not changing very much- it’s like you’re just adding yellow and brown paint to the canvas day after day and then you step back to see that the wheat field looks quite nice. But then there’s still the sky to paint in, so you know you have to keep going. (I could come up with dorky “Life is like…” analogies all day long.)
Well, life’s not like that supposed box of Whitman chocolates in Forest Gump. For spring break, I went to Beauford, So. Carolina, where they filmed much of that movie and became a fan of a shop called The Chocolate Tree where you can get delicious homemade chocolate candies. I was told Tom Hanks liked them, too, and so his Whitman box was actually filled with his favorite Chocolate Tree chocolates.
As I thought about it, I think that’s an even better analogy. As we grow older, we have more opportunity to hand pick our experiences and to choose only the best (not that we don’t get some unexpected knocks). I’ve found life’s been getting better, and (on my first actual day of my (second) retirement (just kept working last time), I’m excited about opportunities to expand my life even further. Fostering good health is crucial–just hoping I get myself in shape for Machu Pichu
To quote songs, I always liked one by Joni Mitchell (written before you were born) about growing up called the Circle Game: ” Though his dream has lost some grandeur coming true, they’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty, before the last revolving year is through.” And to help me get through birthdays, I try to remember that every day we are a year older that we were a year ago–so it’s just a day like any other (sort of). Just enjoy the journey.
We aren’t getting older. Our kids are just catching up to us.
nice one, ton. i rarely have time to think about my age, but when i do it is consolation that you two will always be older than me. that’s something. but it’s weird when my “little” brother is in his mid-30’s. i have a friend here who was recently talking about re-inventing herself for the now, or really re-considering herself, letting go of expecting things (including herself) to be like they used to be, in the teenage years, in the newlywed stage, whatever, and letting her just be who she is now, with her current interests, her current body, her current station in life. this attitude seemed to me to be what graceful aging is. i’m mulling it over a bit, wondering what that would look like on me, how that would feel to me.
the other day at the pool i ran into a guy i knew in high school and have not seen since graduation. he was there with his wife and 2 kids. he recognized me first and we sat there in the shade, catching up, holding our toddlers. i met his wife and thought that she seemed about my age. but steve still seemed – and looked, save a wrinkle or two – seventeen to me. he told me of time in the army, law school, travels, etc. i told him of college, mission, grad school, career, motherhood. he acted like a grown-up but, like how dad sees you, i just saw the teenager i knew in him. and at least a little vice versa since he recognized me.
aging is a funny little thing and i think it’s ok to get philosophical or behave strangely or whatever you want. it will never be a crisis for you. you do everything gracefully.