Is 45 the new 15? I only ask because I honestly haven’t felt so “in between”since I was a teenager. To start with, there’s all that moody existential questioning: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Can I make a difference? What is it all about? Does anyone even care?
Then there’s the image crisis as my grown-up body, which I’d become quite accustomed to, begins to make dramatic changes: wider waistline, grey hairs, surprise hair, wrinkles, spots, for crying out loud, sag and general loosening.
Suddenly I’m noticing handsome young men again as I lift my head above the parapet of family chaos, school run, career struggles and realise whoa, there’s all this life going on out here. What have I missed?
I genuinely do not feel old, but clearly I’m not young because one of my children is choosing his university course and cars I remember well are on display at the Transport Museum.
The causes of mid-life gloom, doom and depression are obvious.
When you’re young, you can’t wait for the future and the thrilling milestones ahead: first day at school, first day at college, first job, first car, first love, first baby and then baby’s first steps, first words, first day at school…
As you grow older, the future is a picture of complete dread and the milestones ahead become terrifying: first child to leave home, last child to leave home, first parent to die, first partner to die… help!! I’m even looking at our sweet little dog and thinking: ‘he’s NINE now… that’s 63 in dog years.’
And not least, me… growing older, less attractive, less vital and zesty.
But I’m determined to treat 45 as a wake up call.
It’s time to react, cheer up, move up a gear and start to tick off the remaining ambitions and add in some new ones.
Because it is NOT too late (well, maybe to get into Oxford, win Wimbledon, Olympic gold etc. but hey, just saddle your children with those unfulfilled ambitions.)
Here’s what I’ve found helps to keep the mid-life blues at bay.
- Value your friends and family, your tried and trusted loved ones, but for goodness sake meet some new people too.
- Find other children you can be a real help to, now that yours don’t need you so much. Babysit, giggle, have fun with these little people. Do not gaze into play parks from the side lines regretting the time that has gone, I’m warning you.
- Upgrade your wardrobe. Really. Mid-life requires better clothes, better shoes and some fashion savvy. You can’t just hang around in the worn out stuff that suited you five, even 10 years ago. Get yourself to All Saints or Jaegar or Harvey Nicks or maybe even Topshop. At least have a current haircut and a brand new scarf.
- Find interesting work to enjoy. I know it’s not easy, I know no one’s handing round fabulous jobs like cupcakes at a party. But think hard about what you’d love to do, then knock on doors, take a course… whatever it takes.
- Remain positive and optimistic: read encouraging, feel-good books, watch hilarious films; be with people who make you laugh out loud.
- Join a cause, commit to a charity and do good deeds.
- Keep making small changes, then maybe the big ones won’t be so scary.
- Find an exercise or a sport and do it often. It will hugely boost your mood and your droopy bits.
- Pluck the unruly eyebrows, care for your hands and your gnarly old feet.
- A smile is as good as a facelift.
- Glittery earrings are even better than a facelift.
- Face down your worst fears. If you’re terrified to fly, book a flight or one of those fear of flying courses. If you’ve never learned to swim, find an instructor. Nothing makes you stronger than slaying your dragons.
- Make peace with the past wounds, tragedies and disappointments. Lay them properly to rest. One door closing means another will open, if you let it.
- Be inspired by the people who have had much worse to deal with and went onto thrive and lead amazing lives.
- De-clutter. Keep your best souvenirs and let go of the rest. Let some space, light and calm into your life.
- Be creative: in the wardrobe, kitchen, bedroom… write, paint, splodge, bake, sew, sing… whatever. You are allowed to express yourself.
- Throw out the old love letters, bad memories, sad photos and those boxes in the attic. Make room for new people, experiences and the growing lessons ahead.
- Get out after dark: tango class, the theatre, tea-drinking in an all night café. Plan some fun or have an adventure.
- Dancing is good.
- Don’t let your sparkle fade years before it should.
Life will bring sadness, I’m not denying that, but then along comes a burst of wonderful joy. Sometimes it will be both at exactly the same time.
The day your child goes off to uni must be like that: an emotional cocktail of fiercely proud and heartbroken.
But if you can’t feel deeply sad, you will never feel blissfully happy. Remind yourself that ‘this too will pass’ – both the good and the bad. The relentless current of life sweeps us all onwards. Best to accept the flow of change.
We all get the mid-life blues, wondering where the grass might be greener and the cure is to count your blessings. It’s a privilege to be here, so no moaning, regretting or wishing your precious time away.
My aim is to grow older, yes, but also wiser, happier and hey, maybe even a little wilder too.