Friday, 27 April 2007

More Than Halfway Part 2

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post with your wise and often flattering remarks!

It's strange to be mulling over thoughts of ageing and mortality when everything in the world around me is bursting with new life and growth. This continues to be an unusually warm and sunny spring (the news tonight is saying it's the warmest April in 300 years). The martens have arrived as predicted a few days after the swallows and the air is filled with their joyful cries. The trees are covered in brilliantly green, tender new leaves; the hedgerows are crowded with foamy Queen Anne's lace, starry ramsons, delicate stitchwort, and bright splashes of red campion, bluebells, primroses and dandelions.

But isn't this one of the messages of Paganism? The wonderful, mysterious wheel of life that goes cycling on, no matter what.

I have decided I will make a good old lady (I'm aiming for a cross between Maude from the film 'Harold & Maude' and the old lady with the goats in 'Cold Mountain' - with perhaps a touch of Miss Marple primness for good measure). I'm not sure I share the current enthusiasm for 'growing old disgracefully' - that seems to infer trying to kid everyone you're still a spring chicken when you're actually an old crow - dressing too young, trying to be trendy when you clearly have no clue and attempting to convince yourself you're immortal by taking up ridiculous pastimes like 'extreme' sports. Growing old gracefully actually sounds like a much better option to me.

In the meantime I'll enjoy the gifts that the passage of time has brought me so far - increased self confidence, trust in my own intuition, and a healthy disregard for whether my bum looks big or not. Actually, that last bit's not quite true - I know it looks big, I just don't care very much any more. And I'll be grateful that halfway through or not, I still have a strong, healthy body, an inquiring mind and wonderful friends and family to share the big adventure of this life with. Hey, more gratitude! Just proves the point of my earlier post - once you stop trying to force it, it just bubbles up on it's own!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

More Than Halfway

I see my folks are getting old,
And I watch their bodies change.
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange;
No matter how you tell yourself
It's what we all go through -
Those lines get pretty hard to take
When they're staring back at you.

- 'In the Nick of Time' by Bonnie Raitt

I've been thinking about my age recently. It all started I suppose at the local Pagan Moot (a monthly social meeting) where the youngest member (17) enquired about my age. When I told him he expressed surprise that I'm younger than his mum. He wasn't intending to be rude, but the implication was that I'm looking a bit rough round the edges!

Then last week I went to the station to pick up my 19 year old Goddess-daughter, Rachel, who was returning to the local University after the Easter break. Catching sight of the two of us reflected in a window made me realise how old and mumsy I actually look. To be honest most of the time my inner self feels like a 12 year old faking it through the adult world. Sadly the outer reality is increasingly at odds with this! My former size 10 figure has expanded to a 16, my hair has white streaks, my wrinkles are digging in for the long haul and - horrors! - I am beginning to detect saggy skin under my eyes!!! It can only be a matter of time before the jowls develop and it is clearly all down hill from there.

My brother had his 40th birthday in February and my Dad recently celebrated his 70th. Time is moving inexorably on, though it doesn't seem possible to me that any of us can be this old. Am I in denial? The funny thing is that until now ageing has never particularly worried me - when all my friends were moaning about turning 40 (and before that 30) I just wondered what all the fuss was about. I've never been tempted to lie about my age, dye my hair or resort to more serious measures like plastic surgery. I hope I never will, although I have to admit I've been seriously considering henna as an option lately!

I'm 43, making me very likely more than halfway through my life. Is this all just anxiety about mortality? Or mere vanity? I'm not sure. Probably a bit of both.

What I am sure about is that (to quote Bonnie Raitt again) 'Life gets mighty precious/When there's less of it to waste'. Intimations of your own mortality are a great incentive to take stock, concentrate on what's really important and get your act together! As a disorganised procrastinator extraordinaire I should probably start making to do lists and planning straightaway.

Or is this how all the best midlife crises start? Somebody please tell me to get a grip if you catch me talking liposuction, trying to dress like Kate Moss or selling off the ancient Ford Escort for a Harley Davidson.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Gratitude and Joy

I've tried in the past to keep one of those 'gratitude' journals, in which you list the things you're grateful for each day. It has always seemed false and forced to me, and my gratitude journals have never lasted long (in fairness it's supposed to get easier with practice - perhaps I just wimp out too easily).

For me, enforced gratitude has an off-putting whiff of piety and duty about it. The clich├ęd exclamation 'Eat your cabbage! There are starving children in Africa who would be grateful for that!' spoken by generations of parents is a prime example. It instantly brings up feelings of guilt due to deficient gratitude. And although it may lead to a grudging intake of cabbage, this seems a pretty poor pay-off.

Gratitude freely and spontaneously given is another fish entirely, born of joy and connection to the world. Right now I could happily fill volumes of gratitude journals! Why? Well...

I have just spent a gorgeous weekend with my family, celebrating Dad's 70th birthday party. Everyone had a great time, between us we laid on a sumptuous feast, the sun shone, and we laughed and loved and enjoyed each others company. I am so grateful to come from such a close, loving family!

This morning - I'm now back at home in Wales - it's a beautiful day, the veggie patch is coming along beautifully, the cats, chickens, geese & bees are enjoying the mild sunny weather, and everywhere the tight buds of early spring are unloosening their buttons and wantonly spilling an abundance of leaves and blossoms in celebration of summer being just around the corner. I am so grateful to be enjoying another beautiful spring!

And this morning - the icing on the cake: the swallows have returned. Swallows, woo-hoo!!! A sure sign of summer. Each year the swallows arrive and nest in one of our outbuildings, and the martens soon follow to nest under the eaves of the house. They swoop and dive in gracefully reckless manoeuvres around the hillside, chattering to each other all the while. One swallow may not make a summer, but a whole flock of them really does, heralding in long sunny days and mild balmy nights, strawberries and homegrown tomatoes, long warm grass under the toes and the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine in the evening. I am so grateful the world contains such beauty and joy!

A daily gratitude journal? Not for me. But infrequent bursts of exuberantly joyful celebration of this life? Count me in. There will be more - you have been warned.