This has been something of a year of milestones, as I shall no doubt mention when we write our annual Christmas newsletter at some point in the next few weeks. I celebrated my 50th birthday. We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. In between those two events, our older son became engaged, planning to be married next year.
Thirty years. It feels like a lifetime, but then I still feel about 26 on the inside. How can I possibly have been married that many years? How can my sons, who were children for such a short time, now be young men with their own lives, separate from ours ? And most of all, how can I be fifty years old?
I'm not particularly worried about advancing chronology. I'm not embarrassed about my age, or the lines on my face, or the grey hairs slowly creeping in. I don't hide any of them - I don't see the point in pretending to be younger than I am. I am still in good health, for which I am thankful. And as I sit here in my jeans and a tee-shirt, I can't quite reconcile it with the way that people in their fifties seemed so elderly when I was in my teens. Even when I was in my twenties. I vaguely assumed that one day I'd start wanting to wear tweedy skirts and tights ('panty-hose' in the USA), and court shoes. But I, and other people my age, still dress the way we did when we were 20. Perhaps younger people see us as old-fashioned in our styles, but I like to be comfortable.
The scary thing about being 50 is that, most likely, I am now more than half-way through my life. At 45, I could say cheerfully that I was half-way to ninety. My grandmother started to seem old when she passed 90; that seemed about right to me. I'm from a fairly long-lived family, on the whole. Barring accidents, I probably have a good chance of living into my nineties. But very few people make it to 100. Would I even want to? I don't know. My grandmother didn't.
Of course, it feels like a very long time since my childhood. Another 50 years - even another 40 years while I still feel energetic - is also a long time. I feel the years spreading out around me; my schooldays passed, my early married life gone by; the children, born, grown, and moved out. Our 'nest' became empty nearly two-and-a-half years ago and I found it very upsetting at first. But we've grown accustomed to it; we welcome our sons home when they come to stay, but it's not likely that either of them will live here again. So the future seems calmer, more settled. Unlike many people my age, I have no hankering to take university courses, or study further. Living abroad, there's no real chance of getting a job, even if I were looking for one. I like to look after the house, and cook, and spend time with friends, and write emails and blogs, and run my websites.
Still, my main question remains: what will I, primarily, do for the next forty or so years?
The subsidiary question is: do I need to know? Or do I continue living one day at a time, doing what needs to be done today, and letting tomorrow take care of itself? It sounds like a Biblical way of living; the problems are (1) I don't necessarily know what needs to be done today (2) even if I do, I don't necessarily do it (3) If I'm to do something significant, such as write a book, or build a new website, I need to have the ideas, and spend many months working on them.
I'm not unhappy. I'm basically a contented person, thankful that there is no urgent need for me to find paid employment. But I do sometimes wonder what the pattern of the future will hold.