It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it’s been quoted so many times that I don’t think anyone really pays any attention to the words anymore. But listen again… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It’s still true after one hundred and fifty years or so.
People have wonky memories when it comes to good times and bad times. In truth, the good times were probably fairly good but the veneer of time and distance puts a special happy filter on the good times. And the bad times are probably worse than you remember. Yes, some things are truly awful—losing loved ones, illnesses, divorces, wars, destruction and just feeling that life will never improve. Feeling isolated and alone. You’re in the black hole and you’re never going to see the light again.
People complain about getting older, especially in North America. Here, we are obsessed with youth, dismissing anyone older than thirty as ‘old.’ “I’m old,” someone says in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and then in their eighties. So, I’m just going to say it. YOU ARE NOT OLD. There. Got that off my chest. It felt so good to say that I’m going to say it again. YOU. ARE. NOT. OLD. With one exception—if you give up and insist you are old. Then, yeah, you are. And you may as well die right now. Give up. Go back to the dust from whence you came.
We are all aging. We are on the road to death the instant we are conceived. No, I’m not being morbid. Just very honest. But if you use your chronological age to justify acting like an old fuddy-duddy, then you are doing yourself a great injustice. You cheat those you love of your life. You’re cheating yourself out of your life. What kind of existence is that?
Life is not easy. It never is. It never was. It never will be. There will always be tragedy, heartbreak, illness and disability. Bad things will always happen. That is the nature of life. But beside those bad things are good things. The good things that are made that much better because of the bad things. I think we all forget this when we are frustrated or unhappy or having a shit day at work.
Nothing is going your way, it seems, for years. And it may very well be years. You or someone you love may be sick for years. Not just a case of the sniffles, but something that is chronic. Painful. Debilitating. Financially devastating. You may be unemployed and wondering what the hell you’re going to do when the money runs out. Will you ever work again? And after a while, doubt seeps in and you think no one in their right mind would hire you: you know nothing. To what could you possibly contribute? You’re an idiot.
And you hit rock bottom.
You have a choice.
You can stay at rock bottom, wallowing in misery and the illusion of agedness. It’s your choice. Or you can kick off from the bottom of that ocean of self-doubt and swim to the surface. Not to be trite, or Pollyanna about that whole thing, but things really do work themselves out, one way or another. Something that you thought was the worst thing to ever happen opens a door to a new way of being. That journey is a tough one. No one said it was easy. “Good” is not a destination. “Life” is not a destination. “Bad” is not a destination. Life is a journey encompassing the good, the bad and the not-so-bad. Because when you arrive at where you’ve been heading for your entire life, you’re dead as a doornail.
So all this talk about “arriving” at your life is crap. What you’re experiencing now? Right now? This is your life. The only one you’re going to get on this earth. You can walk around bemoaning your age, railing against your "fate" (another piece of garbage people use to support their misery) or you can live your life to the max.
I have/had a great-Uncle, whom I never met and I believe is no longer in the land of the living, who went trekking down the Amazon when he was in his eighties. His eighties. That is one man who was never old. My parents are not old even though most of the people I meet their age are old. My parents are busy people, despite being retired for a couple of decades. They go places, do things (don’t ask me what but they’re always busy) and it keeps them young. People regularly think mum is anywhere from 15-20 years younger than she is. She looks great. I won’t tell you her age but, while a majority of people my age are mostly grey, she isn’t.
It annoys the hell out of me, this “I’m old and ancient” crap. One would swear by what some of these people say that they should get walkers and support hose by the time they’re forty. Start lawn-bowling any day. Feed the pigeons in the park. People younger than me are claiming that they’re old. I’m not old, so if they’re old it’s because they’ve chosen to be so.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is always going to be true for someone somewhere every single day. I’ve lived that saying for my whole life. Nothing is ever perfect. There will always be a fly in your chardonnay. But it’s up to you whether you let that fly swim the backstroke or fish it out and enjoy your wine.