The Wonder Years (or why ageing maybe isn’t so terrible after all-maybe)

Today I was listening to Radio 1 Xtra (I know what you’re thinking – isn’t she a bit old to be listening to that?) when the dj, an enthusiastic chap with a penchant for substituting every other word with “cuz” (yup, definitely too old) began bemoaning the speeding up of time as people get older. “I mean cuz,” he said, “I’m only twenty six and already it feels like a week goes by in a day. Imagine being, like, fifty! How bad would it be then?” How bad indeed.

When it comes to whining about ageing I’m hardly one to talk. Until I reached my current age of *coughs* thirty two I’d always enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, but as my thirty third hurtles towards me at alarming speed (that dj was right, dagnamit) I must confess I’m feeling hugely (and that’s an understatement) underwhelmed (I am also aware, at this point in proceedings, that older readers may well be gnashing their teeth and branding metaphorical claw hammers positioned directly above my skull). The logical part of my brain is constantly telling me that there’s nothing I can do to stop the process so I may as well accept it, yet I can’t stop fixating on my frown lines long enough to listen to it.

If it’s true that you’re only as old as the man you feel then I’m twenty seven all over again. Though, in all seriousness and as great as it is, being a woman who is five years older than her partner is not without its challenges. Fortunately I’ve always been young for my years in both spirit and looks (an old soul I most certainly am not) and so, for the time being at least, it suits me to be living a youthful and relatively unencumbered lifestyle. But that’s not to say I don’t continually worry whether what I do is age appropriate, or draw constant comparisons with my peer group, many of whom are now playing out the traditional marriage and 2.4 children scenario with aplomb. Don’t get me wrong, I want that myself desperately, and not in the TOO distant future either (cover your ears darling), but right now the thought of sleepless nights, snotty noses and nappies is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. I want to go on more adventures before I settle down, to live a bit more and eke out just a bit more time for being selfish. But what about convention and my biological clock? Wahhhh!

Then, in the midst of all these brain-churning thoughts, I stop. And a realisation dawns on me. No matter how old we get, those of us who do keep ageing are the lucky ones. So many people’s lives are tragically cut short before they have a chance to worry about worry lines, or contemplate the future of their relationship or career. As the Buddhist way of thinking goes, when all is said, done and worried about (I made that last bit up), all we have is this very moment – so what’s the point of worrying about a future that we cannot guarantee?

And so, in light of the above (and ignoring the current agony I’m in with no doubt age-related back issues) maybe it isn’t quite my time to switch over to Radio 2 after all. Isn’t that right, Cuz?


What Grown-ups don’t tell you about Growing Up…

Earlier today I was washing my hands in front of the bathroom mirror when I noticed something horrifying – what looked suspiciously like a grey hair. Now I know we all go grey eventually, and I’m also aware as a result of my peers’ experiences that it’s not uncommon for the odd grey to sprout in your early thirties. But, naively it now seems, I thought that just applied to people with dark hair (the recent media furore surrounding Kate Middleton’s apparently greying locks not having escaped my attention), not blondes. And I certainly never thought it would apply to me.

I’ll never forget the day my mum came into my bedroom when I was at home one weekend several years ago. She looked into the mirror and announced in a pained voice: “You know darling, when I look at myself now I can’t believe it’s really me – inside I still feel the same as I did when I was in my twenties. It’s horrible getting old.”

That moment was a turning point for my twenty-something self, as hitherto I’d always laboured under the misapprehension that one day – most likely when I hit my thirties, which at that time still felt like aeons away – I would magically feel grown up and more than able to assume the responsibilities befitting such a status. Realising this would not, in fact, be the case, was like receiving an unwanted and aggressive slap in the face.

No matter how much you sugar coat it, the truth is that there is no magic age when you become a grown-up – indeed many people (and I fear I may fall into this category) go through their whole lives never quite feeling like one (conversely, some people – who are in the minority, I might add – seem to have come out of the womb responsible adults, though for the purpose of this post I shan’t get into talking about them). When our bodies begin to show signs of ageing, therefore, it feels like a betrayal. How can we have grey hairs – surely a sign of our imminent demise? – when we still feel (and often act) like teenagers? It’s not fair! (I am stamping my feet as I type this – very mature).

Having re-examined the rogue hair in the mirror this afternoon I think I may, in fact, have been mistaken about it being grey. But, whether it was a trick of the light or not, something tells me that moment might have been quite pivotal in the next stages of my development. Each decade brings with it new learnings, and today I’ve discovered that grey doesn’t equal grave. A cheery thought to leave you with on a Friday!

Paving paradise

When you’re young – and, for the purpose of this post let’s qualify that as being under twenty five – it’s easy to forget your mortality. Most people in this category (in the western world at least) are blessed with good health and supple joints, and find it relatively easy to exercise if they actually put their minds to it.

I was a late bloomer when it came to discovering the joy of regular exercise. It wasn’t until I reached the grand old age of 26 that I started to go to the gym frequently and took up running and triathlons. Fast forward five years and I like to think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. Or at least I would think that if it hadn’t been for my recent spate of injuries.

First I put my back out two days before Glastonbury-an affliction that was fortunately managed with the help of slow release Ibuprofen, heat patches and an osteopath treatment in the healing fields on the second day.

Then today came the one I’ve been dreading: my first running injury. I was six kilometres into an eight kilometre run when it happened-a sudden acute pain in the muscle at the back of my knee. I carried on running for a while, but when it became apparent the pain was not going away I was forced to walk the remaining two kilometres.

This was displeasing, and has completely burst my bubble of invincibility when it came to running. I am suddenly both physically and mentally pained by the realisation that my body isn’t as strong as it once was. I may be looking after it now, but when it was in prime condition I was systematically abusing it with crap food, fags and litres of Bacardi Breezer and Jagerbombs in the student union.

Wasn’t it Joni Mitchell who sang about not knowing what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, apparently. Now I know how she feels.