Surfing the television the other night, I came across a quite entertaining program — one of those behind-the-scenes pieces on the making of a hit movie. I snuggled in my over-sized chair and listened as cast and crew glowed about the setting, the camaraderie, and the overwhelming feeling of family that pervaded the movie set for those two years. Envy tinted with wanderlust began to fill my mind. After it was over, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t that be great? Escape the drudgery of my everyday, boring office job and go off with wildly artistic people to exotic locations and be a part of something big and exciting and creative — like making a movie.” Flashes of famous people danced in my head: cast parties, flights to locations I’ve never seen, working in thunderstorms and desert heat side by side with fellow creative spirits…
I was eventually knocked back into reality through a number of obnoxious commercials, and came to the realization that my exotic movie set was right there before me. Middle Magic. Middle Age.
Middle Age. What does it mean? It used to mean one’s half-life — half way between the cradle and the grave. Near the turn of the century middle age was 30; decades earlier it was as young as 20. My parents’ generation viewed middle age somewhere in their 40s; my own personal interpretation pushes it to at least the mid-60s.
As I dreamt about life as an actress or a jet-setting hotel heiress, it became obvious to me that we are all a result of our choices. I could have chosen a different path. If I had truly wanted to be a part of the acting community I could have gone the way of high school plays, summer theater, or politics. But my choices took me along a different path: family, children, a place to call home. I came to understand that we all hear the call of destiny, but it’s up to us what we do with that calling.
But magic? At this point in my life, how could my life cycle resonate with the energy of Merlin or Gandalf? Middle Age Magic (as I like to call it) goes beyond all of that. This sort of magic is a whirlwind of the past and the present, the switching of life’s gears, so to speak. It is a tugging of our soul, asking to finally be set free to wander and explore the world in its own way. Living the “stepping out of the box” cliché way of life. This sort of magic is an empowerment that breaks us from the monotony of routine and propels us into the world of extraordinary. Middle Magic is experience tinted with awe, reality mingled with fantasy. It is part who knows, part who cares.
It starts with an acknowledgement of where we are in this moment, and allows us to open doors to future moments we can only now reach. Only at this point do the gates of the palace open before us. And the great thing is that there is magic behind every door within that palace.
Perhaps Middle Magic is nothing more than coming to grips with our own mortality. The Reaper has no discretion with its scythe; it strikes down the young and old, dashing dreams and breaking hearts without discretion. But it is precisely because of the Reaper’s indiscretion that we understand how important it is to live life to its fullest day to day. How important it is to open doors to new worlds, new friends, new opinions, encouraging others to do so as well.
As I turned off the television, there was still a part of me that wished I had been a part of making that movie: the friendship, the excitement, the stress and the secrets. But I realized I have all the above with me every day — friendship, stress, and secrets. With a flick of the pen I can live in 1880 or 2050, on a space station near Jupiter or in an apartment in Manhattan. Pick up a book and I can walk with hobbits or Sioux Indians or Japanese Shoguns. It’s all up to me. I have music and movies and my own imagination to take me wherever I want to go.
And you do, too.
True magic is the magic of the moment; the feeling that you are making a difference, a riff, in the routine of reality. Magic is realizing that you can be a creator and a dreamer, along with doing dishes and working nine to five or taking care of kids or grand-kids. Everywhere there is a story to be told, every story a bit of a smile to be put into it. All you have to do is stop and share it. That is what midlife is about. Smiling at the absurdity of the world around us, taking what we have learned through the years with a grain of salt and a cup of schmaltz and sharing it with everyone.
Middle age is merely a threshold…let’s not be afraid to cross it. We’ve got nothing to lose except our inhibitions. Who needs those, anyway? We can only go one way on this road of life; we should make a point to share a smile or two or a thousand with as many souls as we can. Don’t you know ― we are all magicians. We are all whimsical, swirling motes of dust in the sunshine of life.
Gandalf would be proud.