I have been pretty worried about turning 50 for about three years now. When I turned 47, the voice in my head was saying sure, sure, 47 WHICH IS ALMOST 50 I'M GOING TO DIE!
Of course, at that time, I was living in Los Angeles, or Land O' the Youth Obsessed. In LA, when you turn 50, you are either put out to pasture in your Malibu Mansion of Quiet Regrets or, more often, taken out behind the Hollywood sign and shot.
When I heard people, friends maybe, bemoaning turning 40, I wanted to scream OH, PLEASE, but then I didn't because that's rude and immature.
A few years ago, maybe four or five, I don't know, my memory is going, I had lunch with Shane Black, the gifted screenwriter of movies like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and he said to me, about turning 50, "I feel my mortality unfurling beneath me." I thought it so beautifully put, his poetic declaration of his new, near-death status. Touching, really, from where I stood, a good half decade away from the Gates of Death.
But now it's coming this summer, ironically, the freaking autumn of my life. 50. Which is probably, oh, say, the early September of the autumn of one's life. Or so. But then, we never really know, do we?
Yes, my mortality is unfurling beneath me. But so is yours so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I choose, instead of living "The Death of Ivan Illych," in which death draws me inevitably closer to its bony chest, to allow this unfurling to lift me to greater heights. Like some kind of reverse gravity boot type of thing. I don't know. I'm not a scientist.
Interestingly, the inevitability, the unstoppability of growing older has made no inroads on my deep dislike ("outright hostility, let's explore that," my therapist says) of pictures of kitties on Facebook with captions under them about cherishing life and whatever.
But an acceptance of stuff I can't help has led me to a greater wisdom, a patience, call it whatever you want - maybe resignation - which gives me license to scoff haughtily at things like high heels and huge, stupid, fashionable purses.
(Full disclosure: I never wore high heels or carried big, stupid, fashionable purses, so honestly the scoffing is come by pretty easily. But because 50 has a certain gravitas, I can say that to someone much younger and they believe me because I'm older.)
Do you see where I am going with this?!
Why let them down, I say? Unfurl that mortality and pass the opinion sauce!
Remember when you were younger and your parents and various "old people" would say stuff like "you aren't experienced enough" or "you'll find out one day"? Well, we have! We found out! We ARE experienced enough! And I intend to lord this over as many people as possible.
Recently, someone 25 years younger than me suggested that I hadn't gotten a particular opportunity because I was "like, too old maybe?" I gave her quite a scolding by way of freaking out internally and crying later. I made a mental note to come right back in HER face in 25 years but then I'll probably be dead or incapacitated by then so it won't really have the same impact.
But youth, as everybody but the young know, is way overrated. Besides, I've been to Burning Man, I've seen the Smiths live TWICE, I know what Twitter is and who Miley is and what doing really dubious things is like. I've been around the block. And I don't want to go back.
Some say that it takes losing those you love to really cherish your life. Or seeing third world suffering. I can't say either of those experiences has shifted my point of view toward cute-kitty-gratitude about life. In fact, I have a theory that those who favor Facebook status updates featuring kitties, ponies and beaches with captions like "Dance the dance of life! Today! Because life is so special and stuff! are honestly deluded. Newflash: Life is like a carton of eggs, some have poop on them. Dance on that.
Despite my best efforts to stay firmly rooted in my Scottish, inherited death-be-not-soon gloom, something shifted within me recently. Perhaps it's the inevitable date of June 9th; it keeps getting closer no matter what I do (HINT: please send gifts), but in any event, my attitude, my coping mechanism, some might say, is to feel a great wave of not gratitude, exactly, and not fear, either, but of motivation to do the things that I've not done yet.
I've done a lot of things, mind you, I did my bucket list a long time ago, stuff like going to Cairo or seeing the Smiths --TWICE -- no, I'm talking about the ordinary things that I never used to make time to do. Things like swimming more, trying out a dance class and reading the books I never got around to. To chill out more, call people back when I damn well feel like it and take more walks before I'm in a Mobility Scooter. ™
I want to do more of these things now not because I have the fear of impending old age and death but because now seems like a good time; I'm 25 years older than OMG-he-didn't-call-me-back and 25 years younger than I-wonder-if-this-is-my-last-birthday. So I'm right where I want to be. Right in appreciation and enthusiasm but, at long last, secure enough and smart enough to enjoy it.
And that's a pretty nice place to be.