Death Maths

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” Mark Twain

I read an article back in the summer called My middle-age dread. The article pissed me off, to be honest, the writer being more concerned with lamenting how cool she used to be rather than sharing anything particularly insightful about life in your forties. What did amuse me was the concept of death maths and reaching the point in life where the law of averages means you become closer to the end than the beginning. Statistically speaking my life expectancy is 83. I read that article one week before I turned 41.5. ‘Wow!’ I thought, ‘I am exactly halfway through.’

But why start the countdown so soon?

Next Wednesday I will be at a funeral. A friend’s mother. We will travel to the funeral in a converted Routemaster bus, the coffin in the bottom and us on the top deck. After the service we will party in a village hall decorated with palm trees, drink champagne and eat paella. My friend’s Mum died of a very rare cancer. She could expect about a year from diagnosis. That was six years ago. Since then she’s travelled in Burma and India. In July she and my friend were in Spain, swimming in the sea and feasting on paella.

Elsewhere, the mother in law of one of my dearest and oldest friends has just gone into a hospice. They are in the most dreadful countdown of all. But amidst it all my friend’s husband is still considering running two back to back marathons in the Sahara next weekend. He’s running for a charity his Mum is a trustee for. She wants him to stick to the plan.

When this woman first got sick last year my friend and I had one of those reality check conversations about what the next ten years are likely to have in store for many of our peer group. And it will be hard. Aging parents come at a time when you’re at what can be the toughest stage of your own life. Families are young and demanding, careers are changing gears to senior management, businesses are being nurtured, mortgages are in full throttle.

Life in your forties is tiring, but it’s also brilliant. You know yourself. You are building foundations for your future. For a time when someone might run a marathon for you, or decorate a church hall with palm trees. So you have the money and freedom to backpack round Burma in your seventies, even if you’re sick. For the time you inspire someone to think that they’re not halfway to the end but that they’ve still got all that life to live again.

Of course, I would be lying if I said I never had ‘fucking hell, I’m halfway through’ moments. I’m not a total Pollyanna! My confidence with my business, my friendships, my home, is as robust as it can get without being complacent. But I am not the same with relationships or sex.

I’m happy with the relationship status I bestow on my partnerships and don’t want any greater commitment than I have, but I sometimes fret that ‘what if I suddenly decide one day that I do want true love again, not just fondness, and I am too old’. I worry that I have left it too late in life to be exploring new sides of myself and often feel silly asking for what I really want when it comes to sex. I police what I say out of fear of fallout, then get cross that a situation is making me unhappy. I sit with partners and play out in my head things I will say, do or ask for, not always fully listening to the conversation we’re having but also not letting the words out. I put up with patterns that make me sad or chip away at the confidence I try to nurture.

I know I need to change this about myself. Only I can drive that process. And if I look at what I have achieved in other areas of my life, I know I have the spirit to. I just need to grasp the nettle. But that’s just something to work through. A big thing, but not an insurmountable thing. What I have absolutely no truck whatsoever with is the point that ran through the article I mentioned at the top of this piece about no longer being cool in your forties. Fuck that!

Life changes, it doesn’t become less cool.  Cool is seeing my friends juggle all of the challenges of parenthood, raising brilliant little people who make me laugh constantly. Cool is the kitchen disco we have after they’ve gone to bed because why waste money on a babysitter when you could spend it on wine and cheese? Cool is sitting in a beer garden with a friend, talking out the challenges of self-employment. Cool is the smell of a new country when I step off a plane on a new job. Cool is running two marathons for your Mum. Cool is the party my friend is throwing for her Mum’s funeral.

Cool is situation appropriate, not age appropriate. Don’t do death maths, do life maths.

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15 thoughts on “Death Maths

  1. “Cool is situation appropriate, not age appropriate. Don’t do death maths, do life maths.”

    Yes, yes, yes to this!

    I have always been late with the ‘thinking about life stuff’ thing and it took me until only a year or two, maybe three ago to really have the confidence I have now. It took me up to two or three weeks ago to finally be able to say that I don’t care that some people don’t like me, that it leaves me cold… to say it and really feel it too. I have been very early with getting kids and marrying for the first time, but with really thinking and understanding my wants, my need, my personality… that I have been late with. I turn 50 next year and I can tell you, the rest of my life is going to be SO cool, whether it’s short or long, because finally I have gotten rid of the burden of trying to be what others want me to be.

    Celebrate life, live for today… be cool! I think you are 🙂

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Don’t count down. Be too busy living to measure the days gone and the days to come. Life has a way of working best when we live it instead of worrying about it and trying to prepare for an unknown future. Live fiercely for every now that you have. I would say more but that is enough for now.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, great attitude. Live long and prosper!

    When I retired from my translation business in 2010 I went through all sorts of panic attacks about having nothing to do, nothing to look forward to, no lover, few friends (most couples don’t invite single people to dinner parties or to eat out). Then my neighbour started being horrible to me and I got into a right state.

    Sixty, childless, sexless, worthless, jobless and twenty or thirty years of loneliness to look forward to.

    However, you never know what is just around the corner and in the depths of depression, with my neighbour going out and leaving rock music blasting against our communal wall, the most marvellous thing occurred.

    My teenage lover, with whom I’d shared loss of virginity, and I hadn’t seen since 1964 found me on facebook. My parents had deliberately stopped us communicating after we moved that December and we both thought the other had wanted a clean break. We had been conned by well-meaning parents.

    Full of trepidation we met up at a hotel in Bristol and rekindled our love for each other.

    The last six years have been the most wonderful of my life, so much so that I blog about them.

    I was 66 in August and he’s 68. It is frightening how many people seem to die in their late sixties and seventies and we intend to make the best possible use of the rest of our lives. Sex is a major part, plus great friends and his family have adopted me as their step mum.

    I don’t know how long it will last. I could develop a life-threatening cancer tomorrow or Peter could have a disabling stroke. You have to live for today, every day.

    Keep living for now, for as long as you are able.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What an inspiring story! I have read a few of your posts about meeting again but it’s nice to read it here in the comments of this post. I wondered whether you’d write a comment on this post when I wrote it! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this so much! I often have similar concerns to yours when thinking about love and dating and am I doing the right thing even though it feels pretty right. But i was listening to a podcast the other day (a cooking one 🙂 ) And the interviewee mentioned decorating a cake for a client’s wedding. The client was 91. It was her third marriage, she’d been widowed twice, but this, this one, was the true love of her life. He was 78. Isn’t that beautiful?

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have found my 40’s a deeply conflicting time. I love my life now and yet I feel the passage of time so keenly. Living in the moment is so important but sometimes I wish the moments could all slow down just a little bit


    Liked by 2 people

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