Another birthday comes and goes
So, 38. Another year older. I can no longer reasonably claim to be in my mid-30s. That’s no bad thing (I have recently posted on why I like getting older). But there are moments where, like most of us (proverbial cliché alert), I wonder where on earth time is going.
For my birthday this year I went to the inconspicuous but truly magical Dar El Bacha in Marrakech. Better known to some as the Musee des Confluences, it showcases Asian, African, Judaeo and Pre-Columbian art. I even got to see an old 19th century chair where circumcisions were performed. I really know how to celebrate!
A final glance
Together with friends, a few days earlier, I visited the fast disappearing Kasbah in Telouet, a hundred or so kilometres from the Red City. Full of the finest and most intricate cedar work, plus Zellij mosaics, I felt at peace. But I also experienced one of those moments where, without necessarily feeling morbid, I certainly felt mortal, recognising in the final glance around that this would likely be my one and only visit to this exceptional place.
Counting up, counting down
I used to think getting older was reaching the age Premiership footballers no longer felt fit enough to play. When they hang up their boots. Which, except for goalkeepers, is usually around age 35. Reaching that age felt a peculiar milestone of sorts. I am around the same age as some of England’s ‘Golden Generation’, the Frank Lampards, Steven Gerrards, and John Terrys. When they retired – indeed when little Michael Owen retired, one of my first teenage crushes – I started to feel, erm, a little old.
But youth is wasted on the young, so they say.
TV, Pop and even now some of the sports stars us 1980s kids grew up with are starting to pass away. In December 2016, when my favourite artist, George Michael, suddenly died, I obviously felt sad. I also felt closer to middle age.
When Grotbags, the famed witch from children’s TV days of yore, died, my childhood felt very much in the distant past!
The eternal kid
But why must I insist on always living in the past? Why count all these anniversaries and milestones? The past can anchor me – any of us – but it can also claim too much control. I have been experiencing vivid childhood memories. Tasting, touching and seeing them, even.
I recall the pale brown bathtub we used to soak ourselves in. With Matey bubblebath. And the wind that howled through the crack in the window damaged in the great 1987 storm.
I recall how as a young boy I used to turn my head at an angle when I was resting on my pillow on the top bunk. I would look beyond my bedroom door, left ajar, and through to the toilet with its whirring fan and darkened panel windows.
I imagined out there, out into the dark, lay space. Infinite and intergalactic possibilities. I was an imaginative child and found it difficult to give expression to everything I was feeling. These days, there’s a label for it: ‘Highly Sensitive’.
Living in the present
Last year, I felt possibly the closest I ever have to my actual age, when I was sized up to see whether I was fit enough for a major operation. I donated a kidney. I was told I just made the grade, my kidney had been misbehaving at school, but recently had settled down. I was donating to my Dad, who was exactly double my age. I had turned 37, and he was 74.
I imagine myself at 74, whether I will be jogging, whether as the esteemed US author, Ken Druck, terms it, I will be ‘flourishing in the second half of life‘. He talks affirmatively about opting out of the ‘dread, decline and diminishment mind-set’, which I recognise from my time working at Age UK and Independent Age is key.
Dad had three of us, my two sisters and I, when he was 38. Mum was just 32 in fact, when I popped along. I don’t have nearly as much responsibility as them. Sometimes that is remarkably freeing. Sometimes, though, I feel responsibility is just what I thrive on and need.
A new start in 2020
I have started a new qualification course in Generative Coaching. It has stimulated me, not just intellectually, but helping me to also connect with the present. Neither to nostalgise the past, nor catastrophise or simply dream away the future. There’s many more days of coaching to go.