Can we Really Slow Down the Ticking Hands of Time?
This year sees both myself and my husband celebrate what in candles-on-the-cake terms the world would not so long ago have dubbed as our “over-the-hill” birthdays. I remember the hideous joke birthday cards that family and friends sent my parents when they reached their respective “milestones” of forty. They seemed so ridiculous, scary and downright cruel that I half expected a zimmer frame to pop out the middle of them to add further insult to injury.
Well, thank God things have changed, notwithstanding the card designed by one Pigment which claimed my husband, who at the exact moment in time he read said card was sporting his hockey hoodie, was:
“40: That Funny Age… Too Young For A Cardie,Too Old For A Hoodie”
Most of the rest of humanity now seems to have collectively decided “thou shalt re-coin forty as The New Thirty”.
But I still feel approximately twenty-seven anyway. Which was the precise age that I met my beloved.
For one thing: in my heart, spirit, body and mind, I have more zest, better perspective, health and clarity than ever before. Yes, even at this current timeline status of twenty-nineteen… or almost thirty-ten… or whatever else society (and oh, so especially the media) wants to pigeonhole these four decades.
For another: I believe there are quite a few of us Benjamin Buttons out there; like-minded souls who actually grow younger with time.
As of last September, I have watched voyeuristically, it has to be said, as old school friends (who used to be envied for reaching their new ages first in our academic year group!) have flooded Facebook sending one another “congratulatory” memes about making it to Old Biddy-hood.
Or some such similar words…
And I have to wonder if I’m living on another planet?
Because I just don’t get it.
My heart, spirit, body and mind just will not go there.
Not because I’m afraid and pathetically clutching at the cocktail straws of youth. But because it’s just not necessary to prematurely age ourselves! Forty is not old. It just isn’t! So why do we unhelpfully create all this stigma around the numbers four and zero? Science proves our cells re-generate on a daily basis, after all. It’s like we’re holding a loaded gun and pointing it at our foot.
So when IS Old O’Clock?
And why this perverse obsession with pinning it down and attaching it to those around us?
Old O’Clock is whenever you decide it is… or not.
Old O’Clock can be a thirty year old just as easily as Old O’Clock can be a one-hundred and five year old. Choose to talk yourself into being an antique and watch how others spit and polish your image… as well as how your body follows suit. And equally, Young O’Clock can be a ninety-eight year old, just as easily as Young O’Clock can be a sixteen year old. How many times have you heard the saying: “He’s…” (or she’s) “got an old head on young shoulders?”
As if that were something to aspire to…
Recently, I watched a fascinating documentary featuring celebrities Wayne Sleep, Miriam Margoyles, Bobby George and Rosemary Shrager: The Real Best Marigold Hotel on Tour. Formerly, this foursome of “retirees” had made another documentary, with another handful of stars of a similar age, loosely based on the film of the same name (The Best Marigold Hotel); the idea behind this being to shed light on a completely different way of spending one’s twilight years. Whilst the original documentary was wonderfully enlightening, this spin-off, with the four touring Florida and Kyoto, highlighted exactly where the majority of the world is going wrong! Particularly in Japan, where the gifts of those in their senior years are positively revered.
Seriously, if society doesn’t get its act together in the next thirty years, I will be taking a crash course in Japanese and emigrating (whether I’m a fan of sushi or not).
There simply is no retirement in Japan. It pretty much does not exist.
Why? Because once you pass sixty-five you are not deemed “past it”, much less so when you “hit forty” (oh, the shame!) Age is respected. People are “seen”. They do not become invisible simply because they have laughter lines and grey hair. Rather they are looked up to, as individuals who can offer the world their unique talents. They keep fit in parks en-masse with stereos bop-bopping out uplifting tunes, they turn their hand to running bed and breakfasts – and other new careers – so that they let their age propel them into an exciting new phase. Schemes are set up all over Japan to encourage this.
The very notion of any age being seen as “redundant”, “decrepit” or “past one’s best” is quite simply preposterous, and waku waku – the Japanese for “that which makes you feel most alive” – pervades all age groups.
Just as it should elsewhere.
Similarly, when the four visited the U.S, what they found were vibrant “retirement” communities, who, although they may not have been working and seeking out new careers a la Japanese, they were positively embracing their leisure time with activities ranging from aqua aerobics and golf through to running and face lifts (okay, the latter wouldn’t be for me either… but at least they aren’t writing themselves off as done with their great earthly adventure; whatever your views on going under the knife, you’ve got to grant them that much!)
But I think what struck me most about Wayne, Miriam and co was what a bloody good laugh they were (perhaps overlooking the frequency of Miriam’s trumping!) In actual fact, I’d rather have spent a dinner or cocktail party in their company than in that of any combination of my age group friends. These guys knew how to live life (minus the moans and groans which befall so many of us as we focus on the negative).
Wayne Sleep in particular was a goddamn revelation. An hour of anybody on the cusp of forty’s time with this man would rejuvenate better than any botox injection on the market.
Next time you find yourself starting to complain about the badger streaks, the crow’s feet, the creaking knees and the rest of it, ask yourself this:
“If I live until ninety-nine… am I prepared to sign myself up to a rest-of-my-life-sentence of limiting the possibilities in my world with every new birthday? Or is it about time I let my inner child have its way with me?”
I know which I will be doing!