Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Show for it...

Last night a friend came over for dinner and we chewed the fat as I rustled up some Thai food and helped Sproglet with his Samuel Pepys homework. He now could be my Mastermind subject - old Peeps (as it is pronounced). He was one of 11. 11 kids! My mind boggles. 6 of them died in the plague. Which was spread my fleas on rats - not dogs and cats as was thought ... and... Anyway, I digress, as usual.

We got onto the subject of various folks turning 40 and she mentioned someone who turned 40 last year and had a bit of a meltdown - thinking '40 and what do I have to show for it?' This person she was referring to lives a full and exciting life, albeit a single one - one without kids, or a mortgage or all that grown up stuff. It sounds like a pretty fun life to me. Mate that was round for dinner prickled a tad as she said this - it seemed to resonate with her. I remember a similar conversation we had recently had when she has asked the same question about herself.

So what SHOULD we have to 'show' for being 40? An odd idea isn't it? That by a certain number in our lives we should have achieved something, done whatever and be able to show it - like Sproglet in his show 'n' tell in class. It got me all a thinkin'. It isn't the first time someone has said the like to me... As if there is this secret checklist we all need to have done before we knock on the door of 40. Married - tick. House - tick. Giant mortgage - tick. Kids - tick. Bigger car - on the to do list etc. It made me feel kind of sad. I don't measure my life in what I have to show. I aint all about the show.

But maybe that's what everyone is thinking - that we should be married by now, should have kids, should be in a wildly successful job, should be getting that extension etc etc and everyone who hasn't done these things has nothing to show.

How utterly depressing a mindset. What about all the great adventures you have had? The hearts you broke? The towns you painted the red? The stories you can recall and the better ones you can't? The tables you danced on? The meals you ate? The seas you swam in? The kisses you'll never forget? The friends you made? The ones you lost? The moments - the great moments that made up the story of you - don't those all mean something? Doesn't all your memories make you? Who gives a fuck about the things that supposedly show who you are? They are not you... are they? I'm thinking Fight Club here... Are you the car you drive and the Ikea goods you have bought? Are we that shallow? Is that all that matters at the end of the day - that by 40 we say we have bought those things - because we have money and that is what is successful? That is the show???


Maybe because I never expected the Husband or the kids - maybe because I always followed my heart in all that I do - I just never thought about it. I just had this sense that things work out most of time - and if they don't - hell it aint the end.

What I have to show for 40 - well yes, my kids - but that is just luck. Many folk I know wanted kids and for one reason or a not it didn't happen - but is that a reason to have nothing to show? I can't show how great it is to have friends at almost 40 that I have known since I was 6. I can't show how great it was to be inspired by all the movies that I've seen - the books I have read, the countries I visited, the people I have known, the meals I have eaten, the jokes I have shared. I can't draw a diagram of the mass of stories I have acquired from my several careers, my heartbreaks, my bad dates, my once active social life and my volunteering. I can't show that. I just am so pleased I had it.

The older we get - what matters most? Time and how we spend it. Love and who we give it to and all those other Hallmark card cliches. Earning a hangover and wearing it like a badge of honour. Still getting excited by life - and all it throws at us.

I remember once watching a moving documentary about a single mum on benefits who was uber poor - she gave her kids a cupcake to share on xmas day. She wasn't ashamed. She said that it was the best she could do. That folk may judge that she chose to have these kids with no father around and no job etc - but she wanted to try and it was HER life and she was going to do her best. I was so in awe of her - because it was HER life and she owned it. She didn't feel she had to be anything other than what she was. It completely humbled me.

So as I knock on the door of 40 - still confused about career paths - wishing I had a bigger garden and could fix our dented car and all those cliches (lose half a stone - oh yes!) the one thing I don't feel is that I have to show something for this age. It is a number that doesn't define the 17 year old that mentally I still I am. It will never show all the lives I have lived and the joy that I have had. But I know it - and frankly, that is all that matters.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post. One of your best. Resonates so much with me. I turned 40 this year, and wasn't in the best place (my Mum had die4d unexpectedly 2 weeks prior and my sister had just had a mastectomy as a result of breast cancer), but Mum dying gave me the kick up the butt I needed, such a cliche but it reminded me to just LIVE IT, grab the moments when they come and suck them dry, stop worrying about the crap, the annoying day to day dramas that consume us, what other people think, what we have or haven't got. What I have is a head full of crazy, happy memories of wilder times, and the chance to make a whole host of new memories (more mellow but no less happy) - and who knows where else life is going to lead. You've got your head screwed on exactly right crummymummy, there are no boxes to be ticked - wish I knew you in person for a few drinks and a yarn.

Crummy Mummy said...

Thank you so much for posting. I am so sorry to hear of your Mum passing. How amazing that you are dwelling on all the good memories - that is really brave. We all need to be reminded to just LIVE it, when the grind and life envy get us down - but in moments like you have just had, well life clarity brings a whole new meaning. You should be proud of yourself and I wish you many many more new memories, each more vivid than the last.