I'm hurtling towards my 42nd birthday.
It's not even around the corner, it's standing right in front of me with a mean look on it's face and it's punching one fist into the palm of it's other hand. It looks like trouble, it looks like it means trouble and for all intents and purposes, it most probably is trouble.
My descent toward my 42nd birthday has sent me into the kind of panic only a teenage virgin in a slasher movie could feel. 40 was a blast and 41 was a breeze so I'm trying to work out why the number 42 has caused a spiral of mood swings, irresponsible behaviour, tears, tantrums and bouts of insecurity so severe that I recognise them from the same mixed up emotions I thought I had left behind a bolted bedroom door as an 18 year old.
42 feels like a whole shed load of worry to me. I'm not young anymore and I'm starting to feel the all consuming cloak of my own mortality. I'm worrying about things that would normally be excused as 'teenage angst' except now what should I call them? 'The moping of the middle aged'? I'm questioning myself. Where I am, what I have, what I don't have, what I want and what I need, and like all sane people in their early 40's, I've taken to talking to myself .
Every day I have to give to myself a good talking to. I have to look in the mirror every morning and tell myself that today will be OK. That I'm going to get through it, that good things will come and that I'll be fine.
And where exactly does all that 'affirming behaviour' get me?
From the bathroom to the kitchen and with just enough 'get up and go' left to put the kettle on the stove. The last little flame of positivity lights the gas and by the time the kettle is whistling, my last little bit of get up and go has got up, waved goodbye and gone. (Sometimes it even gives me the finger as it leaves).
I don't think there are enough positive affirmations in the world that can then help me get dressed, out of the door and on the way to the tube station.
I don't know exactly what happened to me the past few months to have filled me with such dread and fear. It's nothing tangible that I can point to and say 'ahh, that's the thing that made me feel that it was time to start unravelling like a Primark sweater'. It's been more like osmosis. The steady, slow drip of insecurity and apathy that now seems to have reached chin height and has left me flailing around in what feels like a world made of marshmallow.
Can you 'flail around in a world made of marshmallow'?
I guess if I took enough Valium I definitely could.
I don't even know if that's the answer. Do I go to the Dr and tell him how I feel? Do I self medicate? Or do I call in sick to work?
I'm trying to imagine the conversation:
"I'm not coming to work today"
"Oh, really? What's wrong? Are you sick?"
"Yes, very sick. I'm feeling very 42".
Maybe that is the answer?
I should just phone in 42 and get it over and done with, or maybe that's the question? At the age of 42 I need to stop 'phoning in' when it comes to life and get back out there and live it up a bit more? I used to have a friend the same age as me (who suddenly decided to become an over achiever and a career woman so she left me behind in the dust of her spike heels) who said to me "Dan, you're just like a chameleon, you shed your skin and you adapt". She used to say that I lived my life in three year cycles. The thing is, I'm confused as to when my next cycle is due? I don't know if I've skipped one, missed one or if my creative tubes are now tied and I'm just barren and dried up.
I'm less Chameleon and more Komodo Dragon lately. No more bright colours, just a vile temper and a snapping mouth.
42 is an age when I feel I should have achieved my goals career wise. That I should be financially secure and in the depths of a loving relationship with a man / woman / dog / significant other / Komodo Dragon.
But I'm not.
I'm loveless and I'm pet less and my current frame of mind denotes that if a dog tried to lick me I'd probably bite it. I'm looking back at past decisions and thinking that maybe my better days are behind me. It's an awful thing when you come to the realisation that you really don't belong in your own reality. It's not nice when the most exotic thing you've seen all week is a banana and it's disheartening when the last of your 'expensive things' have just sold for a pittance on eBay. I went through a stage of selling all of my possessions so I could be free of them and feel 'cleansed'.
Well now I want them all back and I want to feel dirty again.
I feel like the grand old Duke of Dichotomy. I have no idea where I'm going and yet I think I know where I want to be. I feel like I'm ready to be in love and yet I'm terrified of being held back or told what to do. I love the freedom of working freelance and yet I need the security of the 9-5. I'd really like to go and lay in the sun and yet I'd wear head to toe sunblock and sit under an umbrella. I want to go out and get roaring drunk and yet I really cannot be bothered with the hangover. I've decided I want to be lean and toned again but in my heart of hearts I'm big and juicy. I'd love to sell everything I own and go travelling, and yet I'd only want to fly first class.
This whole 42 business has got me confused and bitching like a spoiled socialite stranded in a convenience store. It's like I'm suddenly lost, confused and I need my parents to send me some more money. Life didn't begin at 40. It revved up a gear, coasted along for a year, sputtered and then the engine dropped out, the brakes went and now I find I'm heading for a full on collision with a truck full of 42 chickens, a vat load of tar and a paintbrush.
I'm hoping that maybe these pre 42 nerves are the sign that things are going to change and I'm on the cusp of something great. Maybe I'm just about to fly over the handle bars of my three year cycle and find that I'm refreshed, rejuvenated and reinvented rather than being another year older and feeling unfulfilled.
Or maybe this is the beginning of my mid-life crisis?
Whatever happens I guess I'll just have to grab 42 by the (metaphorical) reins and ride it like I own it. Either that or I'll just start lying about my age.