Maeve Binchy in truth in the Irish Times

The Irish Times – Tuesday, July 31, 2012
‘ I don’t have any regrets about any roads I didn’t take . . .’

Maeve Binchy reflected on lessons of a lifetime in conversation with
JOANNE HUNT for an Irish Times Healthy Age supplement this month

THE GREAT thing about getting older is that you become more mellow.
Things aren’t as black and white and you become much more tolerant.
You can see the good in things much more easily, rather than getting
enraged as you used to do when you were young.

I am much more understanding of people than I used to be when I was
young – people were either villainous or wonderful. They were painted
in very bright colours. The bad side of it, and there is a corollary
to everything, is that when we get older, we fuss more. I used to
despise people who fussed.

If I was going on a holiday, I’d just fling a few things into a
suitcase and race out to the airport and not talk about it. Nowadays,
if I’m going anywhere, the smallest journey, it has to be planned like
the Normandy landing.

The relaxing bit is that you don’t get as het up and annoyed and take
offence as much as you used to.

Another good thing is that you value your friends more as you get
older: you’re not in any kind of competitive relationship with them
any more, wishing to succeed or show off, or impress others.

You value people just for themselves. Unfortunately, as you get older,
your friends die. It’s that cliché of being afraid to look at the
Christmas card list each year because of the people that have gone
from it – that is a very sad and depressing thing.

I’m almost afraid to look at photos of my wedding now because so many
people have died who were at it. You can’t believe they are not all
there in some part of the forest, still enjoying themselves.

I have more time certainly . . . and I’m more interested in
everything. I’m interested in what other people are interested in,
much more. However, you don’t have enough energy to do things. It
would be lovely to have the energy to do all the things I’m interested
in now.

I think it’s a balance: nobody has everything at the same time. When
you are young, you have time and energy but you don’t have any money.

When you get a job, you have energy and money but you don’t have time.

And when you are older, you have time and you have money but you don’t
have enough energy. Nobody has all three together.

I think, as you get older, you do fewer unexpected things. You
wouldn’t head off somewhere not knowing how you were going to come
back again. It’s like going out to the middle of a frozen lake: you’re
always plotting your journey home before you set out somewhere.

I’ve found growing older most extraordinary. I thought inside you’d
change and you’d start thinking like an old person, but I don’t think
inside I’ve changed at all. I’ve just become slightly more tolerant of
everybody, which has to be good.

The best is Brenda Fricker’s remark that when people of her age meet
now they have something called “the organ recital” where they go
through all the organs that are not working. I think that’s so funny.

So health is a nuisance and I was talking to a friend of mine and she
said: “Do you remember when we used to have conversations that didn’t
begin ‘When I was at the doctor . . .?’”

What did we do with our time when we weren’t at the doctor? It does
take up a disproportionate amount of your time, just the business of
maintenance and keeping yourself together.

There are lots of things I wish I had done more of – studied harder,
read more and been nicer and all those things – but I don’t have any
regrets about any roads I didn’t take. Everything went well and I
think that’s been a help because I can look back, and I do get great
pleasure out of looking back.

I get just as much of a laugh out of thinking of funny things from the
old days as if they were last week.

I’ve been very lucky and I have a happy old age with good family and
friends still around.