random thoughts: on passing time


A couple of weeks ago, I was having dinner with a friend of mine who had recently celebrated her 29th birthday.  She wasn't very happy about it:  it seemed her 30th birthday felt like a deadline, a looming reminder of everything she had yet to accomplish -- and she felt, I suppose, like time was running out.

I'm in my mid-forties, and I have to admit that I was a bit stunned that she was so keenly feeling the passage of time.  Good Lord, I remember thinking to myself.  At 30, I was only just beginning to feel like a grownup.  And in truth, my 30s were awesome.   It was a decade of all sorts of adventure:  international travel, international residence, relationships (marriage, motherhood), huge career shifts.  I feel like I did most of my growing up in my 30s.  "Oh, honey," I said to my friend, "the truth is you've only just begun.  You've finally approached adulthood -- and you've got so many more adulthoods ahead of you."

I admit that I felt a bit wistful as I said it:  after all, in my current state of mind, "mid-40s" means "middle aged."  And they don't call it "middle aged" because you're young and dewy anymore, a nagging voice in the back of my mind insisted.  She's young, but time is running out for you.

On a recent flight, I tucked into a new book, Dancing Fish and Ammonites, by Penelope Lively.  It's a memoir, written by the author at 80-years-old, and includes her considered thoughts on aging.  I'm about 3/4 of the way through (and it has been delicious all the way), but this particular passage, written at near the beginning of the book, turned me inside out:

Years ago, I heard Anthony Burgess speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  He was impressive in that he spoke for an hour without a single note, fluent and coherent.  But of the content of his talk, all I remember are his opening words:  'For me, death is already sounding its high C.'  This was around 1980, I think, so he was in his early sixties at the time, and died in 1993.  I was in my late forties, and he seemed to me -- not old, exactly, but getting on a bit.  Today, people in their sixties seem -- not young, just nicely mature.  Old age is in the eye of the beholder.  I am eighty, so I am old, no question.


And then later in the book, as she talks about her life in the 1990s, she says this:

We are into the 1990s here,  and I have hit sixty.  I don't remember feeling especially bothered about this -- full of energy still, writing, living.  The view from eighty says:  huh! a mere slip of a girl -- just you wait.


 I love that her view from 80 considers 60 to be "a mere slip of a girl."  I love that she considers 60 to be simply "nicely mature."

Age, it appears, ain't nothin' but perspective. 

And now, after reading this book, it seems I've only just begun, too.


Song:  Fly like an eagle, as performed by Seal