Aging overnight, hey, don’t I get any warning at all?

Remember playing Statues as a kid? You crept up on the person who was it but couldn’t move if they glanced at you. Ah, the games of children, first introduction to stress.

Age can be a bit like that. Glance away for a second and kapow, another chunk added into the mix. I still remember the nasty moment I glanced in the mirror and realized I’d inherited my father’s jowls.  I was barely forty at the time, and I’d turned into Deputy Dawg overnight.

Anyway a couple weeks ago I went on holiday and caught a chill on the beach – as only I can – and for a couple of weeks I’ve been resentfully thinking damnit, one long weekend, and the switch flipped and I got OLD. A bit stiff in the mornings, aching in numerous joints, even a little bit deaf after that hellish double flight back.  I finally went sighing to the doctor after a fortnight to see if anything could be done at least about the ears, because I’m now missing out on half the office gossip, and tell you what, I’m nominating that woman for sainthood. She’s a fresh-cheeked thirty-something, she could have glanced at my chart, recoiled, said yes you’re old, what do you expect at your age? And I’d have crawled out of there and ordered a zimmer.

Nonsense, she said instead. You have eustachian tubes dysfunction. You flew with a head-cold, you’re paying the price, and you should be as good as new in a couple more weeks. It will take as long as it takes.

So then I mentioned the stiffness and aching and she pushed and pulled at my legs and tied them into some pretty fancy knots and said nope, no problems whatsoever, you’re very fit and flexible, you just overdid things. Do a bit more exercise and the aches and stiffness will go away.

More? I hadn’t done any since getting back because I was feeling so ollllllllllllllllllllllllllld. So I started again and let me tell you, if you really want to feel ancient and decrepit, do your usual full exercise routine after a few weeks break. But I do feel better, already. Well, stiff and aching in different places, but I remember those places, they do stop whinging if you keep going.

I hope I’ve learned a lesson from this and won’t automatically hit the pause button when the next symptom, real or false, pokes its head up. I could kick myself. I blether on and on about the benefits of exercise and (fairly) healthy diet and forget everything the minute I feel briefly under the weather.

What are you doing, reading this? Get out there and dance!

Why do we turn our wonderful Indian summer into the age of fears?

I write light-hearted whodunits featuring four characters in late middle age, their autumn years, semi-retired, no longer young but not yet old: I haven’t yet found a description that instantly sums up their age, and if you know one, I wish you would tell me!

Edge, Vivian, William and Donald are in their late fifties, early sixties.  For women, it is definitely the age when the menopause has finally stopped shaking us like a rat between its teeth, and we get a surge of vitality and a sudden renewed interest in life. For both men and women there may have been health glitches, and we are consciously improving our general condition with a little judicious exercise, slightly more cautious diet.

So here we are, feeling better than in years, the offspring are for the most part now independent, the fierce competition of the workplace is less urgent: we’ve risen as far up the corporate ladder as we are likely to go.  Time to ease back a little, and enjoy this unexpected gift, right?

For some reason, no. Things are too good, we can’t get used to that, so we turn this wonderful golden time, this Indian summer, into fears. We could get sick, so every symptom plunges us into gloom. We could lose our jobs, so we stress ourselves into getting sick (whoops. Double whammy). We could lose friends, even people we love, and we start distancing ourselves in preparation. We’ve seen our parents get very elderly, or we have lost them already, and old age is suddenly terrifying.stress

It’s worst when we are alone, but hey, lots of people are alone. The Grasshopper Lawns books are set in a residential village where it’s a condition of acceptance that residents are over fifty-five, and have no family. There are hundreds, thousands, of people who would jump at the chance of meeting others in the same boat. It’s a given that life leaves lumps, bumps, scars, and baggage and no-one you are going to meet will be free of those, any more than you are. It also brings resilience, humour, and experience and people you meet will have those too. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet? Well, maybe not quite that glib. But by reaching out, you will make friends: do it. Have realistic expectations, and have fun. Don’t sit at home and get old before your time. At the very least, look up for your area, you’ll be astonished at how much is going on around you.

Quite a few of my blogs are about single life, second time round, and the idea of meeting someone romantically can be alarming.  I won’t kid you. It is. If you go that route, you will meet some very odd people, have some alarming encounters, you will feel your blood fizz and your heart creak, but you will definitely feel alive and stimulated. For some bizarre reason, Society looks askance at older people dating, flirting, having affairs. Goodness me, why? Don’t we all want affection, shared laughter, even passion, for the rest of our lives?

I didn’t set out to write a series of books that celebrate this stage of our lives, but it did turn out that way. In the first book, Edge could be any age between fifty-five and seventy-five, her life is so sedate. By the seventh book, the four friends are fully enjoying their Indian summer, and there is nothing I have written that contemporaries, friends, or I, have not done. Okay, apart from solve actual murders!  I get slightly peeved when I’m told that when I get to that age, I will see things differently. I am that age. I have younger friends who are already starting to fret and worry, and think themselves old. My older friends, on the other hand, are confidently leading the way into what is, despite our gloomy expectations, a totally unexpected gift from life.

Take hold today.  Carpe diem, and step into the sunshine. Enjoy it! And enjoy every day from now on, to the end of your life. Make it a life to remember with pride. Maybe with a breathless laugh or two … wrinklie love