What's Middle Age?
According to the Irish Humorist John D. Sheridan, ‘No one is old at 39 and life begins again at 41, but at 40 a man feels as old as Methuselah.’ He lies awake at night listening to the gurgling of the water cistern and thinking of his hardening arteries.
Then clearly, at 50 there's no way back! The thirties have gone forever. The forties passed you by so fast your head spun. And now you might feel like asking for a recount but there is no point, for somehow the 50th birthday is presented as a day of judgement.
Although there's nothing special about one birthday any more than another, there remains the implication that if the idealism of youth has not become a reality, or at least a probability by the age of 50, then somehow or other, we have failed to make much of life.
Middle age, like middle class, comes as a stigma - a sentence of 25 years or so with remissions for good behaviour: sensible diet, lots of fibre, and more ordered exercise, but a sentence none the less, and one that reminds us of the half measures of our lives. Lives which are neither too good or too bad, compromising vision with reality, but somehow acknowledging that in the end it is an unequal struggle and that a rising generation will now have to compensate for our deficiencies. God help them!
One of the advantages of this stage of life however is the ability to look both backwards and forwards, with a fair amount of sympathy and understanding. I certainly understand the challenges my own children face in today’s society. And my senses are deeply damaged and enraged, as I witness the daily carnage of human life so joyfully thrust upon us on television. Thirty years ago, I might have turned my head away and focused on other things.
Yes, being ‘middle aged’ provides the chance for one of those rare moments of total honesty when we place our values and lives in the balance, when we can choose to discard some of the excess baggage we have carried, and move on with greater freedom and a greater sense of purpose into another age.
Would I like to be able to correct the mistakes I made in my youth? I’m not certain that I would, because without having made them I would not be who I am today. Would I like to have my youth back? Well, only if I could retain all the battle scars I carry today with pride: because without the maturity of mind and soul I might only be reckless energy. Heaven knows we already have plenty of that to go around.
In other words, thank You Lord, no. Leave me with the tools I carry today, as they are the ones that are preparing me for my new life to come.