I looked at the pile of work on the table and thought, sod it, it could wait till tomorrow. But then, really, can it? Reading the Yeats poem today it occurred to me that I am twelve years older than my father when he died. I am closer to my grandmother’s final age now than I am to his 42 years. My late partner was the same age as I am today when he passed on.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
― W.B. Yeats
My great-grandmother said into her nineties that she still felt 20 in her mind, even if her body would no longer play. I couldn’t understand that at the time, but of course, I can now. There are the inevitable creaks in the joints from years of dancing and walking, yet I feel as young as ever, just more confident in myself, more at ease than say 30 years ago. I kind of like growing older. It has possibilities I would never have imagined.
Vanity, of course, still tells me I’m glad I have kept a reasonable figure, glad that the wrinkles I have are mainly laughter lines and that my hair isn’t going grey yet. Or it wasn’t last time the scarlet dye let me see it. I’d never have dared dye my hair various shades of vivid years ago. And certainly wouldn’t have worn as much bright orange with it!
But inevitably, time is moving forward with that inexorable determination, and I know that my body will respond at some point by slowing down or seizing up. Gravity will one day start to win in places I do not wish to contemplate. Energy levels will fall and in all honesty, I can’t say whether I am around halfway through my life, like my great grandmother or almost done, like my late partner or my grandmother.
And this applies to all of us, no matter what our ages.
Yet the majority of us seem to suffer from inertia. When duty calls, for work or family, we roll our sleeves up and get stuck in. But so often the things we want to do with our lives are put on back burners for a ‘later’ that may not happen. The changes we wish to see in ourselves and in our lives are too often allowed to simply meander along towards ‘one day…’
We may have ten thousand tomorrows, or only one, and few of us know the extent of our mortality. We don’t know when age or illness will affect us, or when our bodies will cease to be able to climb to Macchu Picchu. We cannot foretell if our minds will wander into senility and lose the control so necessary to the things we are hoping to do. Will my hands shake too much to paint that one great picture I may have in me? Or my memory last long enough to pen the magnum opus ? And do I have the time to wait and see?
Age and Time are not the enemies. They are the natural rhythm of life and should be embraced. Age brings a comfort and assurance that the young seldom know. The very finiteness of time as it measures us makes life a precious gift. Inertia, however, is a conscious choice we make and perhaps the greatest enemy of all. If we don’t get round to taking the first step we don’t have a cat in Hades chance of taking the last.
We may not achieve all our dreams, and to be fair, I don’t think we should. What would life be without a star to follow or a will o’ the wisp to chase? Our hopes change and mutate, evolving much as we ourselves do. One thing is certain though, we won’t often find them landing on our lap for no reason.
More importantly tomorrow applies to people too. We cannot, do not, know what might get in the way of that one phone call, that letter or email, that apology or I love you that really matters. That hug someone is waiting for….So why wait?
I would hate to reach the ripe old age of my great grandmother and look back on all the adventures that never happened, simply because a tomorrow never came. One day that tomorrow will be too late. We are never too young to dream, never too old for the adventure of Living. As Charles Shultz said “Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.” And you can take that any way you like…..