At some point you may become preoccupied with sickness and death. This may have already happened and you have reached a happy state of acceptance, if you like me are a parent of young children and of a certain age then The Fear is deep set and rears its ugly head in the middle of the night. So my next plan is to rid myself of The Fear and deal with what life throws at me when it throws it and not dwell on it until then. It’s easier said than done but I am now beginning to recognise a pattern in my friends and peer groups which I think I could learn from.
Could it be that their coping mechanism is so simple?
What I have noticed is that the almost and just turned 40 year old friends generally fall into two distinct categories. In the red corner; the drinkers. This group still party like its 1995 whether its alone in the kitchen in the evening, down the pub with friends, hosting ‘dinner’ parties (ha!) or trying to look younger in a club. A way to cope with ageing and the stresses of adult life, because yes we are now indisputably adults, is to blur it slightly with alcohol. I am not sitting in judgement, if it is within reason and doesn’t hurt anyone then knock yourself out. I do. The blue corner however may disagree. I will call them the fitness converts. How many of your friends reached their mid-thirties and suddenly took up a sport, and not just a weekly pilates class or a kick about with the lads. I’m talking 5 days a week training for marathons, triathlons, treks in mountainous peaks, extended bike rides. How many of you look at Facebook updates every morning of how many miles Tom, Dick and Valerie have run, cycled or swam that morning? Just as much as in our twenties we bungee-jumped, parachuted or earned a PADI diving certificate, this age leans less toward high adrenaline, more to high endurance sports. The irony is that ten years ago many of these fitness fanatics didn’t own a pair of trainers let alone matching lycra.
My problem is I am jealous and at the wine phase and as everyone knows there’s nothing more likely to wake you up in the middle of the night with The Fear than that extra glass of wine drank. Someone needs to write step by step instructions to discovering the inner marathon runner, how to get a kick out of exercise, more importantly how to get to the stage everyone goes on about but at no point have I experienced – the endorphins that give you a natural exercise induced high. How much do I have to suffer before I become an addict? Step 2 of the preparing for 40 plan turns out to be the same as many New Years’ worth of resolutions, take up some form of exercise, keep the bad habits to a minimum or stop them altogether (ouch). I wonder if The Fear stops if you know you are doing everything possible to lead a healthy life and I wonder if I’ll ever find out. I have a few months left so must get a move on and choose my sport, I’m thinking something unusual and low maintenance, any suggestions…
When I close my eyes and am drifting off to sleep I sometimes see words appear, I think it’s my as yet unwritten novel. As I am on my way to dreamland it’s hard to decipher but I can clearly see pages and read words and more importantly understand the plot. As soon as I am awake it’s gone. Perhaps if I could photocopy my thoughts my novel would be written by now rather than a few pages of 500 words here and there. I’m sure if I joined a class or read a how-to book I would know that writing a novel isn’t as easy as sitting down and writing whatever mush is in your brain but I am going for the organic approach and hoping for the best. In all honesty I am hoping that my magic going-to-sleep novel is a talent that others don’t have and by harnessing this super power I will eventually write my best seller from a partially comatose state. We’ll see. I have been seeing my novel for at least 15 years and I haven’t made it into Waterstones yet.
As time ticks on it’s becoming a pressing issue and by the time I hit my 39th birthday I had an overwhelming sense of despair. If you knew me you would know that this isn’t unusual and as my Mother often reminds me, I am a cup half empty kind of person. However on my birthday morning I awoke to my kids shouting/crying/fighting (or maybe they were singing and laughing but as I say I have a more negative take on life than some), and I realised that I need to achieve something more in my life as time is running out and the one thing I have always wanted to do and never got round to doing is write. Unfortunately most of my brain waves and creative thinking takes place at inopportune moments, whilst driving or sitting in the pitch black willing my children to go to sleep and by the time I can write them down they are forgotten. Another excuse I know, so I took the bull by the horns and set about writing the elusive Novel. I started by reading back over my numerous childhood diaries and bar none, I am ashamed. Was I really so shallow? The answer is undoubtedly yes but I am pretty confident that I have turned a page, teehee, since then.
So step two was to let my imagination lead me. Fortuitously for my research, but not for my bank balance I had time on my hands to reflect as I had recently been made redundant and had become a stay at home mum, which frankly meant lots (x1000) more work than a regular job but plenty of time without sensible conversation and so time to ponder. I should also point out that I live away from my homeland and so am without many of the trappings and spoils of familiarity. A perfect time to at least start the scratchings of my masterpiece. But no, disaster, instead of writing my magnum opus I slunk into a sorry state of sadness. With time on my hands while my babies had their morning and afternoon naps I looked through old photos, read old diaries, sorted through the unopened boxes I shipped from the UK eight years ago, searching for inspiration, and it just made me more introspective and sorrowful for the life experiences gone by. So now I have a pen and paper by my bed and am hoping that my mysterious sleep novel will magically write itself, preferably before I’m 40.
Imagine if we didn’t know our birth years and no-one had any idea how old they were, all of us, so there were no expectations, limitations, or for that point advantages of being a certain age. Apart from the obvious physical changes in appearance we could be at whatever stage we fancy, and act accordingly. I have a friend who says she’s Ibiza ’98; when she looks in the mirror she sees the party girl she was at 25. We can joke about being 39 again when we are 65 but in all honesty we can feel the clock ticking and are reminded every year of the time speeding by celebrating our birthdays and none so much as the ‘big’ birthdays, 18, 21, miss a few 30, 40 and so on until the Queen sends you your telegram at 100.
At 39 you maybe started to reflect on where you could have taken a different turn, counting your blessings (you made it this far) and asking yourself what to do next to make your mark while you are still arguably young. Those of you who have children doubtless think you’re already doing the most important job and your best achievement will be raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted human beings and quite rightly so, good luck with that. I’m greedy, I also want a little bit more. A not so wise self-made millionaire once told me that he didn’t want people to just walk over his grave but to stop and say ‘ah that was the man who …’ His chain of electronic stores aren’t exactly awe inspiring on a cultural level but his name comes up a lot on a Google search.
So the question therefore has to be, what to do? Let’s start by looking at what we are good at. I used to think I was funny, so much so that at one point in the height of youthful folly and over confidence I considered being a stand up comedienne. In fact I went so far as to audition for Pontins and Butlins – an auspicious start to anyone’s stand up career. Unfortunately I wasn’t a terribly good singer so whether I was funny or not didn’t come into it, you had to be a talented all-rounder so the closest I got to a holiday camp was cleaning tents for Eurocamp. So comedy to make my mark? Maybe not. I can draw reasonably well but have no passion or real talent for art, I am no genius inventor or innovator, sport is certainly not my forte. Hmm, the biggest challenge as I see it is to recognise a talent or passion and harness it. That’s it, I am really good at watching TV, gossiping to friends, have been known to be over dramatic, I should work in the TV industry. Oh yes, that’s been my chosen profession for the last 17 years and as yet haven’t managed to make a particular impact. So does that mean we have to re-invent the wheel or just ourselves to become notable or should we bow out gracefully and concede that to our family and friends we are notable enough? For me the fire of youth and ambition are smouldering in me and as I creep towards my big 4-0 the flames are beginning to grow.
When I told my son I would get him a helicopter when I was a millionaire a friend who overheard told me I should keep my dreams more realistic. Balls, I’m sure JK Rowling didn’t expect to be the billionaire she is today. Today could be the start of realising my dreams, well, a girl can but dream…