It dawned on me a few days ago that I am middle aged. It shouldn't have come as a surprise but I think it's something that creeps up on you only to be realised once it's been there for a while.
As a kid, 40, 50, 60 were a world away, middle aged people were "old" and the idea of having a life expectancy didn't even enter the equation. The concept of middle age just didn't compute even though it is obvious what, or when, it is.
They saying goes that life begins at 40, probably because, in time gone by, children would have grown up, possibly left home or, at least, been old enough to not rely on their parents for everything and look after themselves. You could be "you" again instead of just mum or dad.
We've since had the "60 is the new 40” movement in recognition of people living longer, having children later and them subsequently leaving home much later - often because it's harder to get on the property ladder now. We have to wait longer for that stage in life where we get to be ourselves again.
It all makes you think about your own mortality, not in a melancholy way but it makes you realise that we have only so much time on this planet and really should be doing things with it.
Life is too short to worry about a lot of the nonsense that goes on; it is too short to get hung up on so many things. It's there to enjoy, it's there to live.
Seneca wrote that it's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste much of it. Yet, it is in the following that he truly captures the idea:
"I cannot doubt the truth of that oracular remark of the greatest of poets: 'It is a small part of life we really live." Indeed, all the rest is not life but merely time."
That's such a scary thought: much of our "life" is just time that passes us by because we don't grasp it; time that ticks on regardless of our actions whether we choose to take advantage of it or not.
Time seems to pass quicker as we get older and the thinking behind it is that we gauge time by our experiences. When we are young everything is new, we have more unique experiences and this fleshes out our perception of time. As we age we have fewer original experiences, maybe even get into a comfortable routine.
Life can become tedious, predictable and the months fly by without us even noticing. We waste the time we get and then complain that it's gone too fast.
I am painfully aware that this can become exponentially exacerbated by the depression with apathy the overriding state. The challenge is breaking free of that mindset and allowing yourself to enjoy the things around you, to create new experiences.
There's a scene in Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic where Death comes for a baby who asks if that's all he gets. Death replies:
"You get what anybody gets - you get a lifetime."
And that's so powerful!
No matter how long or short, we get a lifetime and must (as much as we are able) make the most of it.