I was looking at my pooch last night as she took a flying leap from the floor to land on my lap. ‘She doesn’t know she’s middle-aged,’ commented my husband. ‘Do you think she’ll ever grow up?’
It was her birthday yesterday – Adventure Spaniel was 8. That’s 56 in dog years.
He was right though – she doesn’t know that she’s middle-aged. And why should she? She’s happier not knowing. She is, however, becoming more vocal about what she wants, and even a touch more wilful…but always with a wag. I can learn a lot from my dog about attitude to life.
I’ve never been one for labels. I detest titles and hierarchies – at the same time that I recognise they are necessary. I’m happy to call whatever shots need to be called in the office, but when someone calls me ‘Boss,’ I cringe – even though to them it’s probably about respect. It’s the same with the whole Mrs Tracey thing: that’s not me – it’s my mother-in-law.
I have the same relationship with numbers. I get hung up on the number in a label, the number on the scales, the number on a birthday card, the numbers I used to write on the white-board every day that would determine whether the day would be completely hell-ish or actually close to ok.
It’s probably why I dislike the concept of middle-aged. It’s a number – or, rather, a group of numbers – and a label combined…my two least favourite things in the world. Yes, I’m 49. In March I’ll be celebrating turning 50. Will I be celebrating it? Absolutely. I’m about aging positively – but not about labelling it as such…and yes, I realise that makes absolutely no sense at all.
Yesterday I was listening to a podcast on my morning commute. It was (as it often is) The Creative Penn and Joanna was interviewing Jonathan Fields from The Good Life Project. The Good Life Project, in case you’re interested, is all about what makes for a good life – I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming.
Anyways, at about the 38 minute mark he talked about how studies have shown that – despite the creaks and the pain and the influence of Mr Gravity – as people get older, their happiness (or contentment) tends to increase above that of younger people whose bones don’t creak when they sit down or stand up, and whose faces go back to normal quickly from sleep wrinkles. It’s largely to do with a letting go of things that can hold you back from being happy. Things like expectations, worry over what others think, undue concern about what others have, that need to keep up with the Jones’s.
As we get older, we tend not to care about that so much and instead do the things that make us feel good. We look for the things that light us up. He said that we give so much up in the name of being and adult – and one of those things is play. There’s nothing about being a grown-up that says you have to extract the levels of fun in your life. He said a lot more about actively looking for opportunities to play, but that’s a whole other story.
The thing is, as we get older we also realise just how quickly life is shooting ahead and that all those things we worried about that were dramatic and big and chaotic, really didn’t matter that much – in hindsight. In understanding this we gain a perspective that allows us to lighten up.
Like Debbish said in her post yesterday, sometimes we realise that what holds us back is not our age, but the expectations of what we thought we should have achieved by now.
There’s not really that much I’d like to go back in time for. Perhaps I’d like to be the size I was when I first thought I was overweight. But other than that? It’s the years that have given me all these fabulous experiences – and all these fabulous experiences have also left their mark on my face and my body. It’s like that meme that says something about if you could give up wine and be skinny for ever, which colour would you choose: red or white?
Besides, as Indiana Jones once said: It’s not the years, it’s the mileage…and I’ve still got plenty more in this engine.