This year I’m approaching a milestone birthday. I won’t say which, but it’s one that for me throws up a number of thoughts and feelings, primarily of abject horror and fear and the drowning feeling of lost hopes and dreams. I jest, of course, but there have been moments.
The act of ageing, although it’s not one that we have any control over whatsoever despite what any plastic surgeon tells you, is a natural part of life. We are born, we live, grow old (if we’re fortunate), and die. Yet it seems many of us are in a battle with time, constantly fighting back the forces of nature — and gravity — to feel and look younger. Why is it so difficult to accept the inevitable and embrace the reality of wrinkles and rotundness, I ask myself.
Yearning for lost youth
In recent years birthdays, once so exciting and joyous, a triumph of survival, have become groan-inducing reminders of lost youth, a youth that society yearns for.
These are the kinds of thoughts that are running through my mind as I attempt to come to terms with my own ageing, and no matter how many moisturising creams I use or foods I eat, or try to eat, nothing will stop the juggernaut of time.
At least we’re all in the same boat, hurtling along the same mortal trajectory. To think we’re all on the same pathway to perpetual obscurity, to the great unknown, the beyond or whatever you’d like to call it, eventually decomposing together; minuscule atoms drifting along space and time, brings me some comfort. To me, death seems like it’ll be a similar state to before birth, so we’re simply returning to a non-existence which, when you think about it, isn’t all that bad. At least I’ll save money on the moisturiser.
Striving to get by
Today I feel healthy and happy. My body is able and my mind is clear, and I’m making plans (ha ha laughs fate), for my birthday and that of my friends’, who are on the same ravaging route to middle age.
The celebrations will be the enjoyable part, it’s the moments of horror and doubt that creep in later. Tomorrow I could be a husk of a human, bathed in thoughts of what could have been and what could come in the future. This fear of ageing is tied in with a fear of not fulfilling many of the expectations I had for myself as I was growing up, expectations that also come from the society in which I was raised. These are normal feelings — I think — but ones that I also need to try and master, because life certainly is not about looking and feeling young or completing a list of achievements. For some, getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement. We’re all individuals striving to get by.
A triumph of survival
The way we look at our lives can make the world of difference. A birthday is indeed a triumph of survival, a celebration of a unique life; one that only you have and one that should be cherished each and every day. That you’ve made it another year is the most precious of gifts, one that is all the more precious the older we get. This should be my new mantra. How lucky I am not to be in the ground or in an urn on the mantlepiece. Thinking of all those people who came before me and who will come after me brings a comforting feeling of smallness and insignificance in the grand scheme. And this feeling eases the pressure to achieve more than what I am or to look like anything other than me, which, actually, isn’t so bad, laughter lines and all.
Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.