Do you have a burning ambition to climb Machu Picchu? Do you want to start a business from scratch or go to an all-night party? If the answer to all three is no, then like me you are experiencing midlife inertia.
Our mid-50s, according to a study, is when the link between our passion, positive mindset and grit weakens. According to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 54 is the specific age at which we struggle to motivate ourselves to try new things.
"As soon as you end up in your 50s, a shift happens," concludes Prof Hermunder Sigmundsson. "In theory, it takes a lot more for us to actually do something." In other words, we lose our get up and go. At the age of 56, mine has well and truly got up and gone.
The decline in my va-va-voom crept up on me like the lines now etched on my face. Yet the warning signs appeared a few years ago. My friend Marco had asked me to appear at his gallery opening in Sicily (I speak Italian, although any desire to learn more languages has naturally faded). It was to be a glittering spectacle, but all I could think about was the hassle of the flight and the constant glad-handing with people I had no interest in.
Ditto my love of festivals. In my 30s, spending two days clamped to the side of Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage was intoxicating. Now it fills me with dread.
It’s not easy to acknowledge that you are losing your zest for things you would previously have jumped at the chance to do. But I have come to accept my midlife torpor.
Age is like a comfort blanket that envelops the mind and body; the consequence is the drive for excellence – or even getting up off the sofa – is no longer important. Now, I can sit in my posh leisure wear, munching Doritos, and bingewatch Netflix. All without nagging feelings of guilt.
Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, agrees that as we age, we no longer feel the need to achieve great things. "We lose the desire to pack in exciting adventures and would rather replace it with the gentler pleasures of phoning a friend or spending time with the family or watching a good film," he says.
To me ageing is not so much about going downhill and decrepitude, more a desire to step away from the busyness. Marie Kondo the house before breakfast? Sorry, no. I’m too busy twiddling my thumbs. I have even grown tired of London (something I thought I would never say) and would much rather lead a quieter life in Surrey. My friend Amanda is on the same page. "Forget accomplishing anything before lunch," she says. "Often just picking up the towels off the bathroom floor feels like enough."
Sometimes I imagine myself achieving. It is then that I tentatively sign up for that cookery course, but I never get round to going. I buy seeds to plant in my very own herb garden, but they’re still on the shelf, unopened. Ditto the anti-ageing unguents and exercise paraphernalia gathering dust.
I am not the only one. My friend Tim, a photographer, has finally given up on the idea of running a marathon. "There was a time around 50 when I desperately wanted to go back to my 35-year-old self. I bought all the gear, went running a couple of times – and now I can’t be bothered," he admits.
Paradoxically, the general trend in society is that making progress is life-enhancing whether you are 15 or 55. We fill our days with a whirlwind of activities and achievements with the illusion that there is a pot of gold at the end of one’s life. There isn’t.
It’s a bit like the bucket list: that inventory of things we supposedly need to tick off before we are pushing up daisies. When, last year, a friend suggested going on a trekking adventure – "You’re a long time dead," she said – I hesitated. A not-so-tiny part of me is relieved that I can’t physically go now, thanks to Covid.
This year has been especially hard for us midlifers, especially those like me, who spent lockdown on our own. Being unable to see friends, my sisters and nephews was tough. But my anxieties only added to a sense of apathy, rather than spurring me on.
The truth is, I don’t need to recreate a new shiny me in my mid-50s, I am quite fond of the old me. The whole point about getting older is that we can do what we want, and not care what anyone thinks. And if that means sitting on the sofa, all the better.
The Daily Telegraph