Ah. The quest to find meaning and purpose in later life. At 52.
Firstly, that number. It bears no relevance to me at all – at least in my mind it doesn’t. It is an age other people are at.
And yet. And yet.
I look in the mirror and the tell-tale signs are there. A little more jowly, the hair adopting a frizzier attitude.
I hide the grey.
My hearing is caput and my eyesight strangely improving. I joke with my optician that by the time I reach my death bed, my vision will be 20/20.
This is all top secret because nobody these days is allowed to age too loudly.
Oh, you can be a fashion guru like nonagenarian Iris Apfel and take the streets of New York in mismatched geometric prints.
You can out-sass all the Millennials with their grim determination and glossy hair by wearing an improbable hat in a fast food restaurant.
The elephant in the room, though, is large, greyer than you are and trumpeting very quietly.
We have to keep our brain alert. We have to eat oily fish. We have to fight dementia.
We have to deny our bodies and, in equal measure, pretend the poor treatment and all-out grief we’ve given them over the years didn’t happen.
My dentist gently said to me, as I moaned about my twanging gums, that “you have the teeth of a woman of your age‘.
The truth is that staving of ageing is exhausting. Weight-bearing exercise, power-walking, greeting the dawn like Maria Von Trapp on acid.
Frankly, I am the human incarnation of grumpy cat before 10 am.
And then there’s the menopause. Or at least I think there is.
You never really know do you?
It lurks around like a suspect in a poorly produced amateur crime drama, threatening to reveal itself and then fluffing its lines.
I recently had a blood test and when doctor’s receptionist phoned through the result she said “You’re menopausal” and then “welcome to the club”.
What did Woody Allen say? Oh yes. “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to be a member”.
The thing is, we’re all living longer and longer. So, 52 isn’t that old any more.
And we’re expected to be bloody grateful because we’re alive – and so, I admit, we should be.
Life is what happens when you’re making other plans as the saying goes.
I feel I am at a half way mark and need to plan the second half of my life.
I had my kids at 43 and 45 so they will form a large part of that. I’m hoping I’m around long enough to be a grandmother.
So while most of the time I take strength from the bevy of older celebrities whose names are part of the warp and weft of the longevity tapestry (Mirren Dench, Moore, Thurman, Brinkley…), being 52 does mean you have moments of thinking –
Bloody hell I’m getting on a bit.
We all need an occasional moment to admit that.
We all need some time to embrace the fear.
You know, I think you can trace quite a bit of anxiety and depression to our denial of this fear of the end.
Our ancestors just ‘got on with it’ though, didn’t they? Our lonely worrying sessions pale into insignificance by simply watching the nightly news.
The problems of the many far outweigh our individual existence on this ball of dust hurtling through space.
This is probably why so many of the self-help gurus promote the concept of ‘contribution’, of giving something back.
It’s another way of trying to find meaning and purpose in later life.
I wish I could be more religious. Those who have faith truly have a gift.
But something created the world, didn’t it? Something was there first and, I like to think, something intelligent.
I guess we’ll all do what we usually do. Sigh, drink more coffee, open another packet of biscuits and reflect that whilst perhaps life hasn’t always dealt us the best hand, with a little hope, medicine and belief, the forthcoming years might be full of adventures.
The answer to our midlife malaise may simply be to embrace the power of gratitude.
Because after 52 years, I certainly have a lot to be grateful for.