Middle-age dread

Finding inspiration – and aspiration – in the strangest places

It’s been a dry couple of months – sorry about that. It’s been hard to raise a laugh recently and, what with her flabby muse fleeing to Thailand for a nip and tuck, Monetise This has had to content herself with reruns of Episodes on UK TV and the guilty pleasure of Offspring on Channel Ten – the former a dampener on aspirations of wit; the latter, a delicious mind-numb of twitchy acting, perfect skin and high boots. So it was with gratitude that I pounced upon a column by a writer who regularly affords me the opportunity for some hard-earned middle-aged spite.

She has discovered, as do many writers having to come up with weekly stuff, that there’s no better way to break a writing drought than with a list, the fallback for many a columnist, including myself back in the day, when trawling the bottom of the barrel for subject matter.

So, armed with Nikki Gemmell’s tooth-rotting droplets of wisdom, I now know what’s been missing from my autumn years – other than Chanel tennis balls, obviously.

Her 50 edifying pointers on reaching that ‘glorious, grounded milestone’ in Saturday’s Weekend Australian Magazine have inspired me to add my own, as I head into the business end of my own inglorious, grinding millstone.

1. George Orwell famously observed that at 50, everyone has the face they deserve. Or can afford.

2. The only true failure is in doing nothing. The only true success is in concealing it.

3. Perseverance is the key. But not when dealing with computers; in which case, teenagers are the key.

4. Change is a gift. It moves us forward. Unless it’s in five-cent pieces.

5. Courage isn’t needed so much for the shattering blows in life but for the long, lonely cliffs we need to climb to then haul ourselves back into peace. Courage is writing a sentence that doesn’t make readers want to throw themselves off a cliff halfway through.

6. Failure humbles us – no bad thing. Or makes us bitter and resentful – far more likely.

7. We eventually learn to laugh at our failures, to recognise the lessons of them. But remember it’s still always easier to laugh at the failure of others.

8. Life’s a vast process of distilling – hopefully into those twin balms of simplicity and serenity. Or a single malt and a splash.

9. Overlive, don’t underlive. Especially if you have a good credit rating.

10. Recognise the courage in living differently. But don’t forget to brush your teeth.

11. Cultivate your mates for what’s in their hearts, not for how they look or what they do – or what they can do for you. And if that’s not possible, their livers are another good option.

12. Arrive on time; it’s respectful. But leave before they start cleaning up.

13. Be an appreciator. Or stay out of the housing market.

14. If you have one true friend, you can forgive all the rest. But will they forgive you?

15. Don’t be sloppy with friendships – or eventually friends will become sloppy with you. Always watch When Harry Met Sally in the privacy of your own home.

16. A gentleman, and a lady, always does the kind thing. At least once a week and maybe twice on Sundays.

17. To be truly free, you have to forget what other people think of you. And after 55, forgetting is what you’ll be best at.

18. Attention’s a gift. Just make sure you keep the receipt.

19. Beware the piracy of indifference. Only download from sites that care.

20. Never underestimate the tonic of praise. Never underestimate the gin of derision.

21. Appreciate the courage in kindness. Especially if it involves a Labrador and a small hand-held treat.

22. A light heart is a wonderful armoury for living. But heavy make-up is cheaper.

23. Accomplishment makes us happy. Unless it’s someone else’s.

24. Don’t suppress a kind thought. After 50, it will give you reflux.

25. Secrets sap us, stunt our growth. But not as much as cigarettes.

26. Grasp the relief in exposure, the dignity in risk. Unless you’re Rolf Harris.

27. It’s amazing how much support you can get when telling the truth. And how much more you can get when telling lies, eh, Tony…

28. Surrender requires just as much strength as resistance. But it tends to cost more.

29. Kids watch us – and do as we do. So how does that explain Clive Palmer?

30. The question to always ask: is this the right thing to do? The answer to always respond with: I don’t comment on operational matters.

31. Goodness brings happiness. Unless it’s quinoa.

32. Doing something for someone else helps not only them but ourselves; it buoys us. Especially if they leave a tip.

33. Calm’s impossible if you want to control other people, for their will is like an eel, slipping from your grasp. So buy a bigger trawler.

34. Crack open your life to love by giving it. And always remember that Vaseline is your friend.

35. It’s impossible to seduce someone who’s content. Unless you’re under 30.

36.  Sharing vulnerability makes us realise how alike we all are. Unless we have a good builder.

37. Strong people have the courage to show their vulnerability. Stronger people have the courage to take advantage of yours.

38. The bad times dissolve, always. The good times are swallowed furtively with a margarita, mostly.

39. Beware that reducing little word, “dependent”, for it means letting ourselves be controlled by another. Be even more wary of those reducing little words, “Lite & Easy”, for it means letting ourselves be controlled by packaging.

40. Thoughtful action is always better than impulsive behaviour. But impulsive behaviour has more of a ring to it.

41.  A life lived in fear is not fully lived. Nor is a life lived commuting on the M5.

42. With sex, honesty’s the most shocking thing of all. And it doesn’t leave those unsightly stains.

43. Live with gratitude; it’s twinned with goodness. Better still, live in Griffith, NSW; it’s twinned with Treviso.

44. Listen to your inner voice – it’s always seeking happiness and peace for you. Unless it’s quoting chunks of Monty Python; then you must seek it out and destroy it.

45. Live with joy. There’s so much wonder and beauty in this world – seek it. Start at Homeworld in Kellyville; tell Joy I sent you.

46. When life is crushing, seek the solace of the land. And if the land isn’t in, go to the pub.

47. A life driven by love is preferable to a life driven by greed or ambition. As long as it’s driven in an Aston Martin.

48. There’s not a person alive who doesn’t want to be told they’re loved. And not a dead person who could hear you if you told them.

49. At the end of our lives the question should be not what we’ve done, but how well we’ve loved. And how much we spent, factoring in the cost of prophylactics.

50. Stop. Take a deep breath. Think of three things to be thankful for, let the gratitude flow through you and… smile. Because you’re now free to throw out all those nauseating aphoristic little self-help books displayed by the cash register in bookshops that you’ve been given every Christmas since the dawn of time, and that dog-eared pile of Yours magazines, and go get a life.