Every week I get together with a couple of friends and we sing..... well, I say we sing; sometimes we get around to singing, and a lot of the time we natter for three hours. The singing gives us the excuse for a meet up. Last week as we were sitting around nattering and not singing we stumbled on the subject of our age (we are all 45). Apparently - according to a number of studies (here's a link to info about the Andrew Oswald study) 45 is the age at which people are most likely to become depressed. None of the three of us is depressed, rather we are surprised and amazed at the passage of time.
- How can it be that it is 30 years since I met my best friend?
- Is it possible that it is over 25 years since we started University?
- Are we really viewed as old by people at University now? (the answer I fear is a resounding Yes)
- How can we be middle aged when we still feel young? (I refuse to be middle-aged)
Amongst these thoughts are some less incredulous and more ponderous ponderings:
- Are there actually things that we are too old and wise to do now? Are we wiser than we once were?
- Is it possible to suspend the wisdom of experience to understand and empathise with people much younger?
- Are we giving up on some of the hopes of our youth?
My answer to the last question is, "most definitely not!". Actually I would say that my hopes have become more grandiose over time and I still believe I'll achieve them. On Pause for Thought on Chris Evans this morning Sarah Joseph cited a study which says:
"the worst age to be is 45, because you are stuck between the high hopes and
aspirations of youth and the peace brought on by finally accepting the reality of old age."
She goes on to say that this is brought on by reality not meeting our expectations and that we should look harder for joy and beauty in our reality while not giving up these hopes and aspirations.
So my top tips for not succumbing to the mid-life blues are:
- Learn from you past and live in the here an now; be present in the moment and believe that Now counts more than any other time.
- Focus on who you are, how you are and what you are; make sure your thoughts and actions are in line with your beliefs about yourself.
- Make your thoughts and actions count.
- Keep hold of your wild dreams and hopes. Dreams are fabulous and they give you something to strive for. Believe/know that they are possible.
- Don't weigh yourself too often.
- Have young friends - they make you feel younger and even if they don't, other people will believe you to be younger by association ;-)
Perhaps I've managed to stave off the malaise of middle-age by being deluded for longer and I'll hit the wall at 50 or 55; I like to think not, there are plenty of people who don't live their dreams until much later in life - my dad found a job he actually liked only in his retirement (he was a dentist for 45 years and then became a Citizens Advice Bureau Advisor), Mary Wesley didn't become successful with her writing until she was 71, and there are numerous other examples. After all, if you do not have dreams, if you do not believe they are possible, you can be absolutely certain they will never happen - and this dear reader, is true at any point in life.
Here is the full text of the Pause for Thought:
Pause for Thought From Sarah Joseph, Editor of a Muslim lifestyle magazine, broadcast on Chris Evan's Breakfast Show June 9th 2011:
"Psychiatrists have highlighted a disorder which they're calling "Paris Syndrome". The illness, which affects mainly Japanese tourists, has been blamed for the repatriation -on health grounds- of at least 20 tourists per year. Affecting mainly women the condition comes when the polite Japanese tourists, filled with hopes and romantic notions of Paris, who sadly only meet with rude waiters and shop staff who rebuff the enthusiastic visitors. The gap between the tourists' idealised visions of Paris in their minds, and how it turns out, are so great that they suffer a breakdown and have to be sent home in the care of medical staff.
This all may sound a little ludicrous and extreme, but it exemplifies quite starkly the pain and anguish that can be suffered when there is a gap between expectations and reality. We all face this reality gap at some point or another. A holiday, a party, time with a loved one, a new job, a new relationship... Anything which we put our hopes into, that doesn't quite turn out as we hope.
In fact, life in general can be like that, which is why another group of psychologists last month said the worst age to be is 45, because you are stuck between the high hopes and aspirations of youth and the peace brought on by finally accepting the reality of old age.
All of this sounds very depressing. And yet it doesn't have to be.
Paris Syndrome and the crisis of middle age are both states of mind. They are a result of how we think about ourselves and our lives. Yes, they are brought on because reality does not live up to our hopes and expectations, but this does not mean we should drop our hopes or high expectations. It simply means we have to look harder for the beauty and joy in our reality.
Life is a giant adventure filled with pot-holes and storms for sure, but also capable of taking our breath away with its roller coaster of highs and lows. And even if we can't all climb the heady heights of the mountain range they do make for an extraordinary view."
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