Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Acting my age

What does it mean when someone says 'act your age'? Is it a criticism implying that you are behaving badly? Possibly. But then, what is actually acting your age - fitting into a stereotype that was set by others, at another time, in another context?

Blow that for a game of soldiers.  This year I am rapidly approaching the grand old age of 53 and I have felt no urge whatsoever to wear floral print, thick stockings and beige cardigans. Oh, hang on, I do wear beige, but more along the lines of 'wannabe safari explorer' than zippered cardigan or sensible waterproof jacket.

So how do I act my age? I'm not sure. Take my week so far...

Monday night - The Full Moon Party.
  • Drive an hour or more after work into the Suffolk countryside
  • Get lost - find a pub and find local who knows exactly where I am supposed to be
  • Meet with a childhood pal, a number of interesting artists, sculptors and a neurological psychologist (who used to live in Totteridge Lane, across the road from where I also lived in a past life)
  • Make pizza using host-prepared dough and own toppings
  • Cook pizza in dragon-shaped outdoor oven
  • Have in-depth conversations on dementia (unsurprisingly), the speed of the universe, psychology and probably a few other things I can't remember
  • Tickle one of two six year old blond twin boys who are fascinated by the open fire
  • Lose half my pizza to a Staffordshire bull terrier
  • Sleep for an hour and a half in the back of my car
  • Drive back home between 2 and 3am and watch the most spectacular lightning storms all the way from Thetford to Cambridge
Tuesday evening - bowls match against Great Shelford
  • Finish work and change into a white polo shirt and trainers
  • Walk  two hundred yards from office door to hidden bowling green (at work)
  • Help set up for the match
  • Get placed as number one in fourth team (playing first means your bowls are most likely to get thunked out the way during the rest of the end)
  • Play average bowls (good for me) in winning rink team
  • Sandwiches, drink and raffle with opposing team and team-mates in bar (also at work)
So what age am I acting - as if I were 30 years younger by staying out so late on a work night? As if I were 20 years older by playing bowls?

I don't care. I don't want to fit a stereotype, I want to enjoy life and carry on learning new things and meeting new people. But, I have to say, the 3am bed time is not something I want to do too often - especially not with work the next morning. Well, I won't - not until the next Full Moon Party, or gig, or ...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Courage and confidence, pizza and beer

On a hot, sultry Wednesday evening, I left work on time (amazing!) and met a friend at the Haymakers pub in Chesterton. Rumour had it that their pizzas were pretty good – and what better way to break up the week than a pizza and a glass of something cold with a good friend?

Arriving first I ordered a half of cider called something like ‘Pickled Piglet’. If I had drunk more than a half, I would have indeed been such! A very nice cider, dry and fruity, but not burn your throat like some scrumpies. My friend arrived and she had a Malko... something Czech. Not Malkovitch or Maldova, something in between. I could go look it up, but that’s not so much fun.

We ordered our pizzas (no mushrooms for me!) and they duly arrived folded and oiled, looking glorious as we sat in the shade of the old ash tree. A very pleasant supper. I moved on to diet coke – had to drive home and it was a ‘school night’ after all.

The conversations I have with this friend are always interesting. She is a very intelligent person and a highly talented musician. We talked about science fiction films and writing (we both know Dragon’s Egg, a superb book by Robert L Forward from 1980. I mistakenly thought it was by Theodore Sturgeon until I looked it up – but I also love Theodore's book More Than Human.) We talked about the parasitic or symbiotic nature of humanity on planet earth and whether it should – or should not – be eliminated (by nature or other means, we weren't bent on genocide ourselves, you understand).

We also talked about courage:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

"Put 'em up..."
And then she put it in the context of confidence. Is confidence not similar? The person who is totally confident, who believes everything they say and do is right, is often perceived as arrogant (bordering on psychopathic perhaps?). 
Is confidence an act? That’s how I thought of it – that I may seem confident and outgoing, yet inside there are very different feelings and self-perceptions. So are the self-perceptions right, or is the act the reality? The conclusion from the conversation was that confidence is more like courage.
“Confidence is not the absence of doubt, but the triumph over it. The brave person is not the one who is always confident, but one who goes ahead and follows what they believe, despite their doubts".
Well, that’s kind of what we came up – though I didn't have Nelson’s quote to crib from.

The outcome is that I am feeling more confident as a result of one conversation. Because I can be what I appear to be, and I understand that – as my training colleagues often used to say – showing some vulnerability is not a bad thing, it actually reveals humanity. Being me maybe isn't so bad.

You don’t have to be superman/woman/child - not unless you really want to wear your pants outside your trousers.

Acknowledgements: Cowardly Lion from MGMs 'The Wizard of Oz'