"Middle age is when you have stopped growing up at both ends and have begun to grow in the middle".
I had just delivered a speech in a Toastmasters club in Saudi Arabia. During the break that followed, a young daughter of a Toastmaster who had attended the meeting as a guest came up to meet me. My face beamed. I was anxious to receive her comments. 'That was a very good speech, uncle'. She was all smiles in conveying her sincere appreciation. My full moon face shrunk like a wilted flower. It was the last word of her fond appreciation that came as a bolt from the blue and that was the first time I sank into my midlife blues. It was the beginning of the 'intimidating uncle calls'. My face invited widespread attention from mirror in the days that followed and I still continue my vigilant watch against those tiny lines that secretly invade my face. Now a days, whenever I smile at a good girl, she thinks that I am her father's friend.
Middle age is that time of life when each day passing makes you feel two days older. That is when you feel that Saturday night is the same as Monday morning. That is the time when you wish there was some other way of starting the day than by getting up. Even when you wake up in the spring you feel that you are not springy. You discover that your memory is shorter, your experience longer, your stamina lower and your hairline higher. You think that anyone going slower than you is an idiot and anyone going faster than you is a maniac. You suddenly realize that youth has gone to waist.
I recently celebrated my 40th birthday. I have now stopped looking forward to my next birthday. I think that the only time in our life we like to grow old is when we are kids. Kids are often introduced as 'He is only two and half years' or 'He is just one and half year old'. I don't know why we elders avoid that fractional element while mentioning our age. May be it is true that 'Life begins at forty'. Well, life not only begins at forty, it begins to show as well. But everything else begins to wear out, fall out or spread out.
I asked my friend Sunny Jacob ' 'What are the symptoms that indicates that you have reached this middle menopause? '. Well, Sunny coughed and said ' PGR, there are three signs that you are middle aged. The first is your failing memory. Well, the other two, um'I forgot! '. I then knew that he was not lying about his age.
Midlife is the period of economic and emotional crises. That is the time when your children leave one by one, only to return two by two. You are not bothered about where your spouse goes, as long as you don't have to go along. That is the time when you want to see how long your car will last than how fast it will go. It is then you start switching off bedroom light for economic reasons than romantic reasons. You start moaning that you get less for your money every time you go to the barber. You suddenly realize that money really matters and feel that every cent is a dollar in waiting. But when you try to save it, your children blame you that 'Papa is stingy'. If you don't chase it, your wife complains that you lack ambition. If you spend it, you are termed as a spendthrift. Your home becomes the setting for the daily rehearsal of 'war and peace' for one or other reason. Yesterday I shouted to my wife that the dinner served was half cold. She replied, 'You eat the half that is hot' and that broke our ceasefire. Finally, everyone blames it on his marriage and concludes that marriage is not a lottery; because in lottery, you have at least a chance.
This year on the 4th of September, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. As usual, I went to a gift shop in Jubail to buy an anniversary present for my wife. I met a smart Saudi there and told him that I wanted a nice anniversary present for my wife. He had a good look at me and asked, 'May I know how long you have been married'. I said proudly that I was celebrating my thirteenth anniversary. The Saudi pondered and said ' ' Siddique (meaning friend), our bargain counter is in the basement'. I saluted him for his understanding of middle age mentality.
Middle age is the time to ponder over the reciprocal relation between health and wealth. You have money to burn, but the fire has gone out. That is when you acquire some status symbols in your health profile. Your life has become too sugary and that is shown even in your blood. You have withstood all the pressures in your life but you are not happy to see it on Barometer. You surely now stay in shape and round is the shape .A heartache that was sweet in your youth, is now a bit painful. You finally seek peace with a pacemaker. You now feel that the hardest thing to raise in your garden is your knees. You start up with a spring in your feet and wind up with a fall on your arch. The aches and pains that your parents had now mean really something to you. And your daily dozen becomes weekly once and you are afraid of it becoming weakly once. You now realize that caution is the only thing you care to exercise. You are even cautioned to slow down by a doctor than a traffic policeman. You now attend many birthday parties and appreciate the wonderful butterscotch cake but lack the will to eat it.
Middle age is also the period when you are more concerned about your looks than your outlook. As cream of your life fades off, your face puffs up more and more creamy. Last week, when I was dressing up for a party I told my wife that if anyone asks me about my age I am going to say that I am only thirty five. My wife said, ' Don't create embarrassment to me'. I asked her why? 'Because, that way you will be going around telling that my younger son is illegitimate.'
Recently, when I was in India, I had a get together with my classmates. In my eagerness I asked my friend 'Don't you think I look younger now?' He said, ' Definitely, Last year you looked fifty. This time you look only forty.' I don't want to meet any of those classmates again; they now look like my parents.
Midlife is also the period of many 'metallic' jubilees. You have silver in your hair, gold in your teeth, lead in your bottom and silicon in some vital sites. Last week a colleague poked into my mouth while joking and said 'Hey PGR, You have very fine teethes! I said 'They are all mine, I have the receipt from Almana hospital.' When my friend Bajpai returned from Paris I asked him about Paris. As usual he said 'Wonderful", and added with a sigh ' 'PGR, I should have visited Paris at least twenty years back'. 'You mean when Paris was really Paris', I enquired. 'No, When Bajpai was really Bajpai', he replied. That shows that you don't have to worry about temptations because it will avoid you.
I do not want to disappoint my middle-aged readers with my words. I only wish to remind you that the art of life is to keep in rhythm with your age, whether middle age or old age. As Victor Hugo said, 'If forty is the old age of youth, fifty is the youth of old age.'
It is said that at twenty the will reigns, at thirty the wit and at forty the judgment.
Thus each season of life has its attributes, qualities and experience that are valued by the almighty. Believe that your age is no barrier. It is a limitation that you put on your mind. Age is a function of mind over matter, if you don't mind, it doesn't matter. It is your attitude to aging that acts as your mind's paintbrush. Your heart is your real fountain of youth. Believe that over the years you have grown sweet like a peach or a pear. There is nothing we can do about aging. The best way is to accept each dawn in the dusk of your life gracefully and march with a smile on your lips. Remember that we don't stop laughing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop laughing. Think that even a wrinkle was once a smile. We have to be mature in our mind when our age matures. Believe that you are like a scotch wine that is bound to improve with age.
Telling all this to you, you now know that fifty is the age of discovery'You just discovered that you are old. But to me, middle age is always fifteen years older than I am!