It seems I’m in good company – recent celebrities to hit the big 4.0. include Heidi Klum, Gwen Stefani, and Jennifer Aniston; and what a fine stable of fillies they are too. Back in the real world, I know I need to put some effort into getting into shape; my excuse of post-baby muffin top some two and half years after giving birth is stretching it a bit.
Of course, keeping fit and healthy isn’t driven by vanity alone. (Although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about my appearance. Then again, life’s too short to spend time worrying about the circumference of your thighs). It’s more that I’m daunted by the fact that as an older mother I’ve got a heck of a lot of running around ahead of me in my 50s and, eek, 60s.
But what are my long term health prospects (assuming I don’t get run over by a bus, or more likely a tractor, here in rural France)? Well, the UK average life expectancy for women is 82 years, but of course old age is likely to bring with it a variety of ailments, typically osteoporosis, arthritis or heaven forbid, dementia. That’s assuming one of the five big killers: heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung and liver disease (which account for more than 150,000 deaths a year among under-75s in England) don’t get me first. As such, a healthy living regime of a sensible (preferably Mediterranean) diet, regular exercise and daily flossing is a must – it’s not exactly rocket science. As long as I can still indulge in a cheeky vino a few times a week and the occasional devilish dessert, I think it’s a reasonable ask.
But my physical decrepitude is not the only thing worrying me about entering the dreaded mid-life phase. What do the next 40 years hold? How can I live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life knowing what I know now: that ‘the best laid plans [of mice and men] go oft astray’?
Financially, I’m neither destitute nor financially buoyant, but with no mortgage and little savings, a ‘secure’ future seems like an abstract concept. Currently living with my mother and venturing into the world of self-employment, I am undoubtedly at an interesting crossroad in life – but which direction it will ultimately take, I just don’t know. A full time job may well be necessary (and practically, more possible) when my daughter begins statutory education, but the astronomical cost of paying somebody to look after my child whilst I work full time seems nonsensical when there’s an alternative to be explored. And with 1.52 million people claiming job seekers allowance in the UK currently, setting myself up as a sole trader until the economy improves is probably not a bad option. In addition, the process is sure to be a valuable, if not personally fulfilling, learning curve.
On a more philosophical level: What’s it all about Alfie? Really, what should I be doing to ensure that my middle years make for a ‘good life’. How do I ensure that I meet my own need for friendship and love, while retaining my re-established sense of self? When I’ve provided a roof over my head and food on the table, how do I go about meeting that burning desire to see more of the world and feel I am making my mark (remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from school?). I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that money isn’t necessarily the route to achieving these simple goals (although boy, can it help!).
Although I’m far from being a wise old crone yet, the most valuable lessons about life, I’ve learnt thus far are:
don’t sweat the small stuff;
be kind to yourself;
true love is a ‘doing’ word;
and laugh, sing and dance at every opportunity
So, I’ll try my best to eat my five a day, while working towards a secure future and looking after those I love. I’ll also be celebrating entering my 5th decade by doing some unashamed ‘mum’ dancing with a few friends, and looking forward to another 40 years filled with meeting new people, seeing the world and creating more happy memories, because, although it’s a cliché : life really isn’t a dress rehearsal.