Writings

The 40's


I spent the evening with some of my friends, hosted a small pre christmas get together to invoke the holiday spirit with some of our expat friends that during this season miss snow and the regular holiday family disfunction. We're all in our forties or at that stage of the very late thirty's that feel like 40.
It was not the happiest gathering, the aches and pains of the accumulated years combined with the nagging suspiscion that it's not really gonna get any better than this, gave a very real touch to the evening. My friend A is having difficulties digesting the understanding that this life she created thinking that it was all going to be an algarvean style picket fence reality, is not living up to it's promise of happily ever after. My other friend B is in a moment of deep despair, where financial hardship coupled with a recent divorce is making him suffer deeply. Me and Igor although blessed with having found eachother also have our issues. Love conquers most, but doesn't take away the fact that we've not chosen the easiest life circumstance. The forties can be hard. They're an eye opener, it's that time when you take inventory and look at your history, at the choices you made to bring you here, and when you view the result it's pretty much the same blend of pleasure and pain in the ass as it's always been. The only difference is that now we don't have the same luxury of thinking that life is that which is ahead, and that having our dreams fullfilled are going to magically erase the monotony of the grind. The hope that the rose colored vision board you created in your late twenties, when you thought that the hardest part was over, will become reality, is shrinking by the day.

So we're sitting there, drinking wine, discussing surf, kids, love and what possibilities or pitfalls could occur next. The children, high on sugar, school holidays and christmas promise, are all over the place, and although we who have gathered this evening are all yogis and committed to the art of happiness we're all feeling the sobriety of our lives and choices. To end the evening on a more upbeat note, we bring out the guitar and sing. Some Stones, some Dylan, a bit of more or less succesfull harmonising. In the midst of Adele I close my eyes and remember the picture I painted of how my forties were going to be when I was young. I thought that by the time I reached forty I would be a grown up, wear quality clothes and be a successful something or other. I thought it would be more definite somehow. That I would have the feeling of having arrived. I thought that the midlife crisis scenario was reserved for people that didn't realise their dreams, that married the wrong spouse or hadn't found that spouse yet. Not so. It seems that reaching the mid leg of our journey is confusing for most of us. It's a sigh of relief mixed with the realisation that you still have the second leg yet to travel, that even though the scaffolding of your life is in place, there are still choices to be made, directions to decide on and another bunch of years of practicalities to you still have to manage...
The memory of who I thought was going to be leaves me nostalgic and my eyes a bit moist, so I open them and take in the reality that's playing out in front of me, the beautiful company I have, the wonderfully wild kids running amock, that at the same time both drive me crazy and make me laugh. I see my husband, my daughter and my best friend who's current hardship makes my heart bleed. I see that none of us have really arrived anywhere, we are all a bit wiser from our experiences, but we're mainly still just stumbling along. We're a bit like the aquarium fish at the end of 'Finding Nemo', remember? They manage the seemingly impossible task of getting out of both the aquarium and the dentist office, but when they finally reach the ocean they realise that they're trapped in their individual plastic bags, There is a moment of pause for that realization to sink in, then one of them says; 'And now what'? A bit like that.

The circumstance of my life at this stage and what I have in front of me on this pre-christmas occasion looks nothing like I thought, it's more uncertain, both more and less spectacular. Less spectacular, because it doesn't look like the forties do in the movies, and my accomplishments so far, don't change the fact that I am now at the peak of the pyramid of my lifespan, if I'm lucky. More so because it's so much sweeter than I thought, both in it's lessened expectation, and because I'm actually enjoying this smaller less spectacular picture.
Just singing a song from the good old days in the company of friends bruised by life, watching our kids enjoy theirs, while eating up the christams decoration, is not a bad halfway mark. If I had to roll the dice all over again and choose a different picture of what this evening could have been, however Hollywoodesque, I don't think I would change a thing.

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