You’re a kid until you’re 30. You’re young until you’re 40. You’re cresting the hill at 50. Nobody knows for sure exactly when you’re middle aged. I suppose it depends on how long you expect to live. We are a society obsessed with chronology. Read a news article and you’ll see the ages of folks regardless of why they’re being written about. We contrast age to success and failure and we compare ourselves endlessly based on what we feel we’ve accomplished. Maybe we feel we should be further along. Maybe we console ourselves that there’s still plenty of time.
I see it simply. You spend your 20’s trying to figure out who the hell you are and what the hell you want. You spend your 30’s trying to get it and maybe you raise a family and maybe you don’t. Maybe you follow some dreams and maybe you don’t. You get to your 40’s and you’ve lived more than 50% of the average life span. Like it or not -you’re gonna take stock.
The biggest thing that strikes us when hearing a news report of a death (assuming we didn’t know the person) is their age. There is a number we have in mind (though we’re not completely sure what it is) and if the person was above that age we say that they lived a good life and if they were below that number we say that they died too young. What’s a good age to die? Why do we want to believe that living a long time constitutes a “good life”?
“The point of life is to live and to live means to be aware: joyously, drunkenly, divinely aware.”
– Henry Miller
My favorite author, Tom Robbins was touted as a bit of a guru in the 1970’s. He was interviewed and asked, “what is the meaning of life?” The story goes that Robbins laughed and responded that he was not at all concerned with the meaning of life but rather it was the feeling of life that he was interested in. This is what the French refer to as the” joie de vivre” (the joy of living).
It seems that as a society we have become so obsessed with doing and achieving and accumulating that we have lost sight of feeling and believing and savoring. We all know this but most of us are at a loss as to what to do about it.
I have been fortunate enough to know and learn from a lot of strong women in their 50’s and 60’s. These women referred to these period of life as the F@ck It Years. This is liberation – becoming free from self imposed limitations and societal expectations. Things that used to matter no longer felt important to them. Vanity became too cumbersome and comfort became more valued. Perfectionism became accepted for what it is – an impossibility. Inhibition and fear of conflict seemed to magically leave these women. They speak their minds and couldn’t possibly care less if it bothers anyone.
Perhaps the best form of wisdom involves the willingness to learn from other’s mistakes and life lessons. I have had excellent teachers. I am 44 and I am beyond middle age according to medical science. I have learned that I have no time to waste on regret, on worrying what other people’s opinions of me are, or on keeping up with the Jones. I have met the Jones of the world and I don’t have time for them either.
I like surrounding myself with people who have the guts to really live. The Universe connects me to amazing people. I get to do something I love for a living. When I am mindful I am grateful . I have everything I need and a lot of what I want – much of the world cannot say that.
It really is all in how we look at it. The simple truth is that life changes you and how you look at things. This is natural. What we’ve lost sight of is the fact that if you don’t like the view then you can change it. To paraphrase my friend Ardis (a truly great woman who has wrestled with life and won). “It’s simple – what do you have control over and what don’t you? If there’s nothing you can do about it let it go and pray. If there is something you can do then get off your ass and go do it!
The quality of my life is endlessly enriched by wise women like Ardis White.