Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Standing on the Precipice

This week I have a milestone birthday.  I'm not saying this because I am hoping to elicit some "Happy Birthdays!" out of you.  I'm really not. I have been feeling out of sorts the last couple of days and I attribute it to this marked occasion of the day we are born.

I'm turning 41 you see.  There will be some cries of "41 is not a milestone birthday you cotton-headed-ninny-muggins!"  I beg to differ!

The turning of 41 plants both my feet firmly on the "middle-aged" side of things.  I'm going with the thought of the average life span being around 80ish. I am officially leaving the first half of my life behind and venturing into the next half.  It seems odd to me that I am entering my 40's already.  Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you this way. 

One day you are 18, graduating from high school and anticipating what your life will bring - travel, college, career, marriage, children. As a naive 18 year old I was under the impression life as an adult would so much easier than life as a child/teen, because I was now in control of my destiny and didn't have to be home in time for a curfew anymore.  Ha! Life soon teaches you with more control, freedom and power comes so much more responsibility.

The next day, you staring at yourself in the mirror looking for the tell-tale signs you are really turning the age the date on your birth certificate says you are.  How can it be over 23 years have passed since you graduated? How can it be you are no longer a 30-something? Where did the time go?  And why did it go by so damn fast!?

I'm not sad about entering my 40's. My intention is not to denigrate aging.  In fact, getting older is quite enjoyable.  I'm much more confident about certain areas of my life.  I certainly know what I don't want out of life.  I'm not afraid to ask for what I want anymore and the ability to say 'No I can't do that right now' is rooted deep in the knowledge I don't have to please people all the time.  I now know my limits of what I can offer people.  The other huge benefit is I am no longer a slave to the 'being cool' thing you ultimately feel when you are in your teens, 20's and even 30's. I am quite comfortable in my 'uncool, quirky, neurotic' self.  I have learned to laugh at myself.  Lastly, I have learned to be a lot more humble (always a work in progress), admit and take ownership of my mistakes and be comfortable in my faults.

The idea of the mid-life crisis used to seem to silly to me.  Why on earth would someone suddenly  leave their marriage, quit their long-term well paying career, or buy a fantastically expensive automobile to make themselves feel better? Remember this was me as an 18 year old girl thinking life would be grand and there would be rainbows and unicorns for all who asked.

Now, with years of experience and knowledge under my belt, ha, ha, I better understand why people might panic a bit (or a lot in some cases) when they enter their middle-age years.  You stand looking at the years ahead of you knowing how fast the years behind you have whizzed by. You wonder if you have enough time to accomplish the growing number of items on your 'wish list' - guitar lessons, yogic existentialism, crossfit greatness in the 60+ category (I'm giving myself lots of time to train), pen an international bestselling novel, travel to all 4 corners of the earth and everywhere in between, co-star with Christopher Walken in an Academy award winning movie written AND directed by Woody Allen, get my motorcycle licence finally and raise a well-adjusted, loving, caring, contributing human being, and spend quality time with your loving husband.  These are just a few items which might be on a person's list.

Reflection in life is always important. Looking back to see what you have accomplished, experiences you have had and knowledge you have gained is vital.  It can also be scary. Reliving past mistakes or opportunities not taken for whatever reason is hard.  I'm learning not to dwell on the past though.  What's done is done and can't be corrected.  However, moving forward I can set my sights on new goals or dreams. 

So instead of pining for the things I should have done, I'll look forward to the things I still can do.  I still wish I had taken the Communications course I had been accepted to because to this day photo journalism/reporting is still so intriguing to me.  I have made the decision to pick up my camera and start re-learning how to use it.  I won't let myself  get caught up in the technical aspects of it which I always tend to do and see the creative storytelling side of it instead.

I admit I have felt the tidal wave of panic rise and it is probably why I felt out of sorts this week.  There are times I most definitely think to myself "What have I done with my life?" Where do I see myself in 10 years?" "How have I contributed?" Have I done enough, been kind enough and loved enough?" Seems like a lot right? 

I get it now! The middle life crisis.  The sense of urgency to live your life to its fullest!  Because time is fleeting.  The years tick by at what seems like an incredible pace.  Maybe it's also because you start to understand the fragile state we all walk around in.  Life has unexpected twists and turns.  We might have another 40 years we might have another 40 minutes.  We never know. 

As I stand at the precipice of my middle years, I think I'll take a guitar lesson, keep pushing myself at crossfit,  take some more photos, travel to far away places, get back to the mat, take a motorcycle driving course and on my next trip to New York why not track down one Mr. Woody Allen and propose my idea. And if none of that happens, well then I'm sure something else worthwhile just happened to come along.  The beauty of this wild ride we are on is you just never know what will be around the next bend.

I think I'm going to embrace my 40's wholeheartedly and enjoy the opportunity to say "I'm living my middle-life crisis to the fullest!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

For the Love of Books, Just Read Already Why Don't You!

I read books.


If a book is good I will read it in a few hours. Density of course is a factor i.e. size of print and number of pages as well as depth of story. Case in point - "Anna Karenina" took me a a lot longer than a few hours.

This weekend I did what I haven't done in a long time. I purchased actual books. The kind you can hold in your hand and feel the texture of the pages. The kind that smell like words, letters, stories, imagination and escape.

The husband purchased an iPad for me as a gift a while back. I love it. I use it often. I swore I would never read books on it. I lied. I succumbed to the ease of downloading a book from iBooks and not having to leave my house or wait for to send me my next anticipated novel.

It just isn't the same though. There is absolutely nothing like the smell or feel of a new book. And yes, I am book snob who only likes to read new books. People talk often of going to the library and borrowing a book. What is this library thingy you speak of? Why would you ever want to hand over a book you have just read to someone else never to read it again?

I re-read my books. Often. Here' a photo of my copy of the "The Hobbit" by J.R. R. Tolkien.

It is lovingly falling apart. The cover has been taped on, the pages are falling apart and the rips and tears tell you how many times I have read this book. A lot! Too many to count. Each time I read it I am transported to a different place and always take something new away from the story.

My "Lord of the Rings" trilogy looks much the same as does my "The Chyrsalids" by John Wyndham. I still believe this book is as relevant today as the day it was written. If you haven't read it, you should!

What I am getting at here is that I hoard my books. I like them new and I like to read them until they look like the "Velveteen Rabbit" (which I also own and makes me cry just thinking about it). I love the feel of a new book. I like to hold it in my hands for a while before I open. If you are an avid book reader you will understand why. I stroke it and turn it over in my hands. I even smell it. (Aaaaaaah! There is nothing like the smell of a book except the smell of a bookstore. Seriously, bookstores have the best smell.) I like to be the first one to read a book and I like to preserve the spine for a while and then eventually, with much satisfaction, I like to break the spine for easier reading. I know some people will disagree with me on this and probably think I am breaking a cardinal rule - NEVER BREAK THE SPINE! I do it eventually.

I don't open the book right away because the anticipation of the story waiting inside for me is just too good. I savour it. Because eventually all the goodness inside the book will be revealed and I want to hang on to it a bit before I turn the last page ending my journey.

I'm a bit like Pavlov's dog with a good book. When I'm in the bookstore I will take my time finding a book. Maybe the cover art will catch my eye and encourage me to take it down off the shelf. If I know the author and have read some of their works before that may be my enticement.  A recommendation from a friend will do the trick too.  I love to read books that have "NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER" or "INTERNATIONAL BEST SELLER" printed ostentatiously across the top of the cover page. I don't know why...I guess I need to know others liked it too.

If you know me well, you know I LOVE Steve Martin - yes this one - and when he writes a new book I read it! I mean - who doesn't love a guy who is funny, cute and can play a mean banjo???!!

Eventually the right book ends up in my hands and how do I know it's the right book?  Well, I start to salivate!

There people who don't read books.  It's cool! Engulfing oneself in a 1000 page book can be intimidating and time consuming.  Definitely not for everyone.  I get it.  O.k. I really don't. I just smile and nod when someone tells me all the reasons why they "can't/won't" read. 

Here is what annoys me though.  People who don't read who like to ask a mountain of questions about the book you are reading.  Really people.  Do. Not. Ask. me to give you a synopsis of the book I am reading because I won't do it.  My stock answer will always be "You should read it and find out". 

Maybe it seems like I am being harsh but here's the thing:

In know way can I do the author or the story they are telling justice by explaining it to you, their words on the pages tell the story and this is how it is meant to be read (I'll give people an exemption for listening to audio books something I have never done but an exemption nonetheless). There is no possible way I can articulate in words or emotion what the story is about. Believe me I've tried. I fail miserably every time.

I don't give book recommendations lightly because I think selecting a good book to read is very intimate and personal. A connection is made between book and reader once it is in their hands. When I do insist someone reads a book, it's because I truly think the story is worthwile and needs to be shared with others.

I just finished reading this book

I read it in about 3 hours.  I was travelling while I was reading it and someone in the airport stopped me and said "I just read this book - great read!"  I love when someone validates your choice of book. 

I still can't get this book out of my head.  It's how I see our 2 dogs. 

I insist you read it!

What's it about?

You should read it and find out.