It was my 50th birthday about 10 days ago. In the run up to the big day I had been feeling pretty ambivalent about being 50. In the last ten years or so I’ve noticed physical changes. Fitness is not as easy, I get stiff after unaccustomed exercise and my recovery time is longer, I get tired more easily, it’s not as easy to keep my weight at a healthy level etc etc. I’ve also noticed a few grey hairs (actually more than a few) and some wrinkles.
Fear of Death
And perhaps most importantly I’ve been having what I’ve been “calling existential panics.” I will be engaged in doing something, not necessarily thinking deeply about anything in particular and I will find that somewhere in my thought process my mind has turned to the idea of dying. Then I experience a cold panic at the idea of no longer being here. A sense of what it might mean to no longer have a sense of my own consciousness, of there being no more me. Alongside this is a feel of the magnitude of history, the endless stretch of time flowing backwards and forwards. I feel completely insignificant. My time on this earth has been but a blink of an eye. It’s uncomfortable and unsettling and pretty scary.
So in the run up to being 50 I’d been thinking about this experience I’d been having. What it will mean to have lived 50 years of my life. That I’ve almost certainly got less years ahead of me than I’ve lived. I was worried how I might feel.
What a surprise. I woke up on my birthday and it felt like a good birthday. Friends and relatives coming to a party to celebrate. It was about lunchtime as I was sipping on a celebratory glass of champagne when I had a very reassuring insight. I was reflecting on my life and what I’d felt like at 40, and 30 and at 20, Then I thought that I’d probably got about another 30 years or so ahead of me. In that moment it felt like it might be enough. That another 30 years was a long time and that in that time I might very well be ok with the idea of not being here anymore. So, whilst I’m not ready yet and I love my life I also for the first time had a sense that it might be possible to make my peace with death, dying and leaving.
A serious subject and something that faces us all in end. Have you anything you would like to share about your experience of aging and living?