The first time I heard the jazz classic "Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee, I was nine years old and the song had me thoroughly confused. I couldn't understand what the lyrics meant did the "Is That All There Is?" mean something is always missing, that things are always less than you expect, or did it mean, "Is that all? Geez, that's not so bad"?
I suppose it could mean either depending on your point of view, a.k.a. is the glass half empty or half full? Age does indeed give you perspective on the question this classic song poses. This brings to mind something movie producer David Brown said, "When you get older, there's not much they can do to you now they haven't done before." There are a hundred similar sayings. I'm partial to tennis player Jimmy Connors' tongue-in-cheek quote, "Once you've got experience, you're too old to do anything with it."
Of course, that depends on what you want to do. About the only thing that age or maturity excludes us from is magazine-perfect physical health and physical appearance. Many people, however, look and/or feel better at 40 than at 30. Women still have to deal with the physical repercussions of getting older more deeply than men do. Even though we like to think that we live in a society where everything is evenly divided between male and female, that's not really the case. Let's talk turkey. If an older, less than attractive man makes a mint or has creative talent; he can rake in the young girls. If an older, less than attractive women achieves the same, the number of 25-year-old studs knocking on her door will be minimal. (However, she may attract religious wackos or petty criminals if she seems too desperate or vulnerable.) About the only thing an over-40 woman can't do that she could do when she was younger is attract a superficial man. And if a woman feels bad about that, she really needs a self-esteem counselor. Wisdom comes from experience, and often from the "school of hard knocks." Once you've graduated from that institute of higher learning, you're prepared for anything.
If you survived problems and challenges in the past when you were younger and didn't know what to expect, you can certainly survive it now, after years of experience. Of course, there's a lot to be said for "ignorance is bliss" you don't know what to be scared of or the consequences, so you can't be scared. There are probably dozens of things that seemed impossible at some point in our lives that we now take for granted. It could include activities as diverse as learning to drive, getting through med school, raising children, winning a bowling trophy, or interviewing a celebrity. If we look at the past year or our entire lives objectively, even the most self-critical person has to admit that you can accomplish a lot by merely not giving up.
As we get older, we no longer have the luxury of procrastinating or indulging petty desires. On the surface, that has a terrible "time is running out!!" sound to it, but it fosters life-enchancing decisions. We live in a different world now, certainly since 9/11. If you were unable to separate the wheat from the chafe, it's impossible now not to look at life from a clearer angle.
One "epiphany" many people receive as they get older is the realization that our choice of friends, lovers and companions can make or break our life as much as our inner feelings. Accepting companions and friends who have a constantly invalidating effect on one's personal life can be very dangerous. Acquaintances and activities that are unhealthy or wasteful need to go. If you react negatively to someone and are unable or unwilling to deal with him or her, then you have to eliminate that person from your life. No one likes being alone, and sometimes we choose people who are bad for us to prevent ourselves from being lonely. Hard as it may be many times its better to wipe the slate clean and be alone until we find positive companions who are on our "wavelength."
How we interpret "Is That All There Is?" after we've experienced all the song's verses life, love, circus clowns and all is entirely up to us as individuals, not left in the invisible hands of the cosmos. Our choices, friends, attitudes and behavior determine whether the "cup of life" is half empty, half full or filled to the brim.
© 2002, All Rights Reserved
Marianne Moro is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Her writing has been featured in Manifest Way.com, Aquarius/Sign of the Times, Aribella.com and in many other publications and websites. She works part-time for a film trade magazine, and considers New Orleans her "home away from home."
You can email the author at: Vkjade@aol.com