‘Life is short DO BIG THINGS!’ ‘When we stop taking risks we stop LIVING’. My latest gripe has been brought on by my over exposure to social media (my bad). It’s living LIFE TO THE MAX fatigue. Yes. I wince as I scroll down my newsfeed on facebook. If I am told, or shouted at (because that is what capitals are yea?) one more time to ‘Don’t just LIST it, TICK IT!…I’m liable to shut down my account. Yes really, it’s that serious. It’s the plethora of high octane urging aphorisms. Its just a constant barrage of get-up-get-out-there, make-IT-happen, scare the bejaysus out of yourself, make yourself feel ALIVE and LIVE EVERY SINGLE MOMENT! What ? Must I jump out of a plane without a parachute from space in order to feel ALIVE? Really? Plane? No parachute? Space? YES! TICK it before you KICK it!! Pass the oxygen please.
“I hope I die before I get old.” Pete Townshend ‘My Generation’
Perhaps it’s me from my, as society (in the Western World ) would like to call it, slightly ‘over the hill’ perspective.I do have a sneaking suspicion though that these bucket listing tickers are not all that thrilled as they don their uber-ecstatic smiles while one-handedly holding a water ski. I’m not convinced. I detect that behind that slightly forced grin is a hint of frustration. Well I haven’t tried it but I assume it’s not easy to hold a water ski in one hand, a cocktail in the other AND consider taking a selfie. I mean who else is going to capture it right? I can see that some are rushing from bucket ticker to bucket ticker with a facebook post already conceived in their minds eye and that in that release onto the newsfeed perhaps there is yet another release of endorphins. Is modernity a move away from the much exclaimed ‘carpe diem’ towards a more digitally virtualized ‘post the pic-iem’? (not an exact latin translation). Or is it that age old obsession with what it means to be happy and missing the mark ( for a whole other blog post)
Need I point out that this desperate need to capture a moment kind of takes away from truly enjoying it? Not all great moments need to be shared. Has mystique died a complete death? But again maybe that’s just me from my ‘over the hill’ selfie-post-the-pic-iem fatiqued point of view. I laugh to myself when I remember that I too once shared Pete Townshends’ sentiments from The Who’s ‘My Generation’. I, too, thought at 20 that 40 would be a nice age to kick the bucket because, well, you would be way too ancient to enjoy anything at that stage! I just hoped I’d die before I got old. Needless to say I changed my mind.
Don’t get me wrong I admire, to a degree, these ‘get up and doers’. And I guess I have been guilty of same (well how else would I have met these big grinning go -getters?) Achieving so much physically before heading to work in the morning is admirable and it most certainly will pay off dividends as they MAX their 24 hours. But do I detect a tone of neurosis? A sense of urgency? A kind of POST IT BEFORE YOU LOSE IT anxiety? I don’t need to be a psychologist to observe that this excessive LIVING LIFE TO THE MAX attitude is a symptom of a deeper issue, an existential angst that appears to peak in your thirties. Perhaps its a precursor to the mid -life crisis? Aren’t mid-lifers on the bottom of the U in the U curve of happiness? The U bend of life as the Economist calls it. Yes happiness it turns out is measurable, only quite recently mind did they start making surveys on it as the era of ‘positive psychology ‘came into vogue.
Could this neurosis be born of a of dawning realization? ‘Hey I’m still physically and mentally capable of pushing myself to my limits so I best do it now before I’m past it and not able’, mixed with the fact that life can be a hard slog with small windows of opportunity available to really enjoy oneself as one climbs the career ladder, responsibilities increase but you still feel young. Born of a need to connect with what it really feels like to be alive which is both human and spiritual and no doubt innate, I can totally relate, it’s universal. But let’s not take it overboard. Selfie-ing off the side of a cliff to capture a better view or forcing oneself to over-multi task while on water skis to get that ultimate pic of living life to the FULLEST just can’t be that much actual fun. Surely there are other, more pedestrian, home-grown ways of getting your life affirmation feels on.
I’m not talking about crochet either.
I got thrills they’re multiplying…
There are ample ways one can feel alive and its all down to personal choice. I’m not actually talking about how to make oneself happy. It’s been so well documented in the studies on positive psychology that process is predominantly behind feeling happy and it’s a separate more delicate matter. I’m talking more specifically about those life affirming moments, which of course intersect with happiness. Like a simple jog or cycle? No mileage pressure. Nothing beats free wheeling down a big hill yea? A swim in the ocean? No judgement here or scale of how much that constitutes as ‘living’ or ‘feeling alive’. A dance around the kitchen to a much loved song while cooking, hiking up the volume and losing yourself in that moment? Trying out a new restaurant, taking up a new sport/hobby/interest, making new connections, and the big one of course travel (a whole other blog). A good convo with a friend or family member. Long term family and friends are legacies in their own right and moments and milestones shared with them bring on the big feels. Or alternatively an easy conversation with a random stranger who you effortlessly click with and boom a new connection is born. The list is non-exhaustive. Some great moments are meticulously planned but most great moments just creep up on you and it’s that surprise element that makes them great.
Youth is wasted on the young.
Appreciation and gratitude for all you have around you is a wisdom you can have at any age. But essentially it’s the difference between my 20 something and 40 something self. A 20 something is still at the dreaming phase, is pregnant with ideas, full of desire, conniving game plans and has the drive, hunger and gumption o get out there and DO IT even if it turns out to be a mistake. The only lack is experience. At 40 much has been accomplished; many mountains climbed, rivers crossed, passports stamped, roads less taken (many times), half of career path trodden and perhaps marriage and/or kids achieved too. Phew! The chase lessens, desire softens and perspective changes. You get the feels but in a different context and in different ways. Making it to 40 and over, it turned out was not the terrifying curtains down finale I once imagined. It’s a gradual subtle shift. The best analogy I can think of for aging is how you once favoured a more raucous high energy radio station with little dj talk to one with a slower tempo music and an informative dj who tells a good story . Then one day you switch and wonder how you ever listened to the former. Radio stations change as does your taste and attraction to many things.
I understand youthful energy more now from a standpoint that I don’t have so much of it. How do we know something? By contrast. Envying youthful energy though is like wanting to wear your old teenage clothes again. It doesn’t fit and looks ridiculous. I also understand the term ‘youth is wasted on the young’ now, one I resented when I was the younger me. It is like giving a fantastic job to the inexperienced person. They are endowed with bountiful energy and a sense of fun and fickleness without any real clue how to direct it. And so they must discover that.
Am I just getting older? Indisputble. Is this the reason for my LIVING LIFE TO THE MAX gripe? Yes, in the way some people ignorantly and feverishly pursue it. Is that it then? Settled, boring cocoa and slippers complacency giving off about the foolishness of the young and being the crab in the bucket? No, not quite. More settled maybe yes but more knowing and content. I have acquired new ways of feeling I’m living life fully without the high octane, jumping-out-of-plane drama. I can admire the detail and the wonder of life from a new, more rooted, wizened and slow paced perspective and I don’t feel the need to SHOUT about it or run 400 marathons in 400 days to prove something. Its a more lower case script, sometimes its even between the lines. It would probably look out of place on the newsfeed but if it did appear it would probably look something like this. ‘Found a great book and had some really interesting incites while reading it’. ‘Made some wicked jam this morning’. ‘Caught up with a friend and had a great convo, came away energized’ ‘Watched the swallows swooping this evening, magical’ ‘Its 3 days before my impending sun holiday. Packing slowly. Relishing it. Anticipation is everything ” Felt really content and at peace today’.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it. Ferris Bueller
It’s amazing what you notice when you stand still, without cameras or posturing or rushing through it. I read about it, I acknowledged it but I never actually felt it until my 40’s that happiness primarily does come from within. I wouldn’t want to return to any previous time in my life but I would if I could take my present mindset with me. You can get great mileage out of past exploits for a very long time and good memories made are like a sweet treat to the ever hungry heart. But it doesn’t end with sweet nostalgia, the key is in changing things up when they become a bit stale. We all need variety , we will always seek out the new. New is fresh and inspiring and like beauty we will always be drawn to it.
But back to my ‘living life to the MAX’ fatigue. I could be told quite simply to move on. Why look at something/body that clearly doesn’t appeal or ring a bell? Why scroll down the newsfeed at all? I eventually feel my wisdom nudging me to, no not delete, but just remove from my newsfeed those who just don’t feed me, and the posts that irritate (besides I haven’t grown out of facebook just yet!). We gravitate to those who inspire or to those we resonate with. Perhaps for every age there are different ways of getting it on. Perhaps at different ages we do what we are capable of from an evolutionary point of view and that it’s inevitable that different generations can find each other irritating and nonsensical.
‘The best is yet to come, and babe won’t it be fine
You think you’ve seen the sun, but you ain’t seen it shine’
So I’m here now, and over 40 turned out to be not so bad at all. It turned out to be better in most ways in fact. But you don’t believe it until you are there. And everyone’s story is different and circumstantial. Bit crankier yea but I get over it just like I’ve mellowed by the end of this post, thanks to dipping into a bit of wisdom.
Pete Townshend I’m happy to announce has also mellowed and is happily writing a blog at 60 plus. Furthermore I’m glad to reveal that the stats from the U bend of life tell me that the age you really start enjoying life starts at 46! Is that the downhill part on the other side of the hill? Onwards, upwards while heading (apparently) downwards then…Happy days 🙂 I do want to tell the ‘maxers’ to slow down , take a breath and try to enjoy the ride a bit more and to let them know that ‘living’ doesn’t have to be packed into a year of their lives. But they need to discover that for themselves. And each to their own.
The beat goes on albeit a more slow jazzy rift and set to the sassy lyrics of Tony Bennett, ‘The best has yet to come, and won’t it be fine…jazz hands emoji!