Aug 5 2011

Face half-unwrinkled and the dubious pleasures of pessimism


After 50, it’s just loose change.

This is Jason talking, a character in Miranda (Me and You and Everyone We Know) July’s new film, The Future.

 

According to Globe and Mail film reviewer, Rick Groen, Jason has reached “the no longer tender age of 35″, which I guess is supposed to account for the depression he’s anticipating at the prospect of his approaching demise.

I’ve been thinking a lot about optimism and pessimism lately, and the difference the orientations make to our daily experiences of the world.

The day I turned 50 I spent driving to and from the funeral of a former colleague of my husband’s. Under the circumstances, it was hard not to contemplate my own eventual end. But it was a beautiful spring day, and I was — and am — lucky to have my health, a wonderful marriage and work that I love. So I spent most of the car ride  a) recording all the things I was happy to have done in the past 30 years (including jobs worked, trips made, books written), and then b) making a list of what I might like to accomplish in the next 30.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that I’ll live to 80, but the genetic, economic and lifestyle odds are in my favour. And if I am so lucky, three decades of productive life is a very long time, during which I might live out all sorts of dreams I haven’t quite gotten around to yet.

“Loose change” doesn’t begin to describe the way I feel about life “after 50″. And in conceiving of, contributing to and editing I Feel Great About My Hands, I realized that I really am a “face half-unwrinkled kind of a woman”.

Of course, maybe it’s merely that I rarely wear my glasses when I’m looking in the mirror, which relieves me of witnessing evidence that might challenge such optimism.

But I don’t think so; I think it’s a wiring thing, and my circuits are set up to look for things to celebrate, not criticize or condemn.

And maybe dwelling on the negative, and anticipating the worst, makes life feel a whole lot longer for those who view the world through grey-tinted glasses. And so they can’t help but feel old, and tired…