Life begins to look precious again

There’s a quote by author Martin Amis that’s appeared a few times on HouseGoesHome over the years. It’s about ageing and goes like this ..,

“As the 50th birthday approaches, you get the sense that your life is thinning out, and will continue to thin out, until it thins out into nothing. And you sometimes say to yourself: That went a bit quick. That went a bit quick. In certain moods, you may want to put it rather more forcefully. As in: OI!! THAT went a BIT FUCKING QUICK!!!… Then 50 comes and goes, and 51, and 52. And life thickens out again.”

It sums up the scary feeling pretty well, I think.

Confession: Martin Amis is one of my ex’s favourite authors, so I initially included the quote as a middle finger to him – when he was still (possibly) a blog follower – to prove that I wasn’t a cultural philistine … back when I measured my worth by his approval.

He stopped reading the blog years ago, but the Amis quote has hung around.

As time has passed, I’ve become increasingly fond of it, especially as my 50th birthday has come and gone.

Amis was quite brutal about getting old when he was in his 50s, but he’s softened in his 60s.

He once told The Smithsonian magazine: “Your youth evaporates in your early 40s when you look in the mirror. And then it becomes a full-time job pretending you’re not going to die, and then you accept that you’ll die. Then in your 50s everything is very thin. And then suddenly you’ve got this huge new territory inside you, which is the past, which wasn’t there before. A new source of strength. Then that may not be so gratifying to you as the 60s begin, but then I find that in your 60s, everything begins to look sort of slightly magical again. And it’s imbued with a kind of leave-taking resonance, that it’s not going to be around very long, this world, so it begins to look poignant and fascinating.”

For me life began looking fascinating again a little earlier, at age 46, when my marriage ended. Now I eagerly devour most weeks. I won’t say most days, because some are a little harder to digest than others.

I often wish that I hadn’t spent my youth so lacking in self confidence.

Amis once told a writer’s festival: “You do look back with wonder at your youth, and you know all youth is automatically beautiful in a way. It’s said that youth is wasted on the young, and that’s perhaps true because you don’t feel your beauty until its gone.”

I never thought I was beautiful. But I look back at old photos and think I was quite hard on myself. I was attractive enough. However, like Amis, I didn’t feel that beauty until it was gone.

If I tilt my head at a certain angle or laugh or tell a favourite story, I steal some of the beauty back. And sometimes I even capture it in a photo, which I eagerly post on social media to prove I’ve still got “it” … or something approximating “it”,

I think that’s because beauty is more than how much collagen you have left. It’s about what’s inside.

I love looking at 55-year-old DD’s face, especially when he’s happy and relaxed. I catch a glimpse of the young, carefree man he once was. And I feel giddy to get that window into his past.

I’m on a mission to bring that look to his face more often.

And I have some advice for anyone stuck in the trenches of their 50s: be brave enough to climb out and savour life. As Amis said, it’s not going to be around very long, this world. Make the most of it – fill it with laughter and joy. Don’t waste all your time on the negative emotions. Spend your days with people who brings out the best in you, rather than the worst.

Like a meme I once saw said: Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here we should dance.

Song of the day: Kenny Loggins “Footloose”


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