Just before we opened the bakery, while Alan and I were in the middle of set-up mayhem, we took a little side-trip to the beach with a friend of ours. We brought some wine and some cheese and crackers. We wiggled our toes in the sand. We dreamed dreams and schemed schemes. It was lovely. And as we were sitting there, watching the sun creep down toward the horizon, the thought floated through my head that, how cool is it that we still get to do this? Because not one of us will see 4o again. And, while it’s not unusual for a bunch of middle-aged types to sit on beaches, it is unusual for people to continue to dream and to risk making those dreams real.
See, we have this idea that there’s a time for that sort of thing and that after awhile you have to stop. You get to a certain age and whatever it is you’re doing, whatever your stage in life is, well, it just has to stay that way forever and everandever until you die. We all, I think, have a number in our heads after which we think we’re just supposed to quit dreaming.
But you know what? It’s an illusion. A lie we tell ourselves. An excuse, maybe, so we don’t have to keep on scaring ourselves with these outlandish hopes and risks. Or maybe we’re afraid of looking foolish and it’s one thing to look foolish when you’re young but something entirely different to look foolish AT YOUR AGE.
And so some of us stop. We settle down, we stay safe. We save for a secure retirement. We stop dreaming. We start to grow old.
We can continue to take chances. We can acknowledge that time, yes, is moving on and we are getting older. I’m turning 5o on Thursday. I just became a great aunt for the ninth time. Alan and I also just spent a helluva lot of money that we didn’t actually have to open a new business. Big risk. We may never retire. We don’t care. We feel more alive, excited and happy these days than we have in a really long time.
The risks are worth it.
Alan and I aren’t the only ones taking chances. A friend of mine got married for the first time at the age of 70. They had two happy years together and then her husband died of esophogeal cancer. She misses him terribly but she doesn’t regret a thing. And how cool is that?
When my siblings were young, my parents signed them (and eventually me) up for piano lessons. My Dad listened to us practising, day after day after day and one day asked the piano teacher if she ever taught adults. She was happy to take him on as a student. My sister and I were secretly horrified. The man was 4o, for heaven’s sake. In our childish view of things, 4o was practically dead and why on earth was he bothering to learn to play piano soooo late in life? Dad lived to be 81. Played his piano right up until he died and loved every minute of it.
When we moved in with her, we talked my mother into replacing her uncomfortable mattress with something more padded and cosy. We had a discussion in the furniture store. Mum felt that it was ridiculous to buy a new mattress at this stage in her life. It would be a waste of money. I said, “Look, if they deliver it and you get even one good night’s sleep on it, it will be totally worth it.” She had four months in the new bed before she had to move into a nursing home. Four months of comfy, restful sleeps. Totally worth it.
I’ve been trying to get my thoughts about this all nice and tight and coherent. It’s not going to work. I’m sleep-deprived and distracted by the many demands of a new business. I’ve left it so long that some of you lovelies have started to worry. Sorry about that, but thank you for your kind messages. You’ve warmed my heart. So I’ll just have to put this out there, a little random and rough around the edges and hope that you can get what I’m trying to say.
Dream big dreams. And never ever stop. Because it’s the cessation of dreaming that makes us old. It’s having nothing to look forward to that shortens our lives. Life is meant to be risky. It’s supposed to be scary and exciting and breathtaking. Even at your age.
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