One of my favourite songs ever is Joni Mitchell’s glorious ballad How Do You Stop. “How do you stop before it’s too late?’ she sings. The lyrics are all kinds of existential, poetic musings and, as Joni says, sometimes if you hesitate… it’s too late. She also poses the questions:
“How do you stop a runaway train?
How do you stop the driving rain?
How do you stop the ripening corn?
How do you stop a baby being born?”
All good queries, of course, with no adequate answer – except perhaps in the case of the runaway train, where hitting a fuel cut-off switch, employing track-signalling devices and using the emergency brakes have been known to be effective measures. But then again, I can’t imagine those instructions would make good song lyrics.
In my own life, I often ask the question, “How do you stop?” If I had the power, I’d like to stop my hair growing. There was a time (and I have pictorial evidence), where the hair on my head, at least, was perfect. It was 1994. I’ve since shown this photograph to a succession of hairdressers and they’ve never been able to quite reproduce the look. Is it that I’m grey now? That my jawline’s not what it used to be? Or is it that Jennifer Aniston called and wants her hairstyle back, thanks very much.
I’d like to stop the required daily devotions in front of the mirror. I was hoping to let myself go in my fifties, and personally, I blame Jane Fonda for what ails most women around my vintage.
At 79 she’s so impossibly perky and glamorous. I can’t ever imagine her embracing the elasticised waistband, whereas I think they’re God’s gift to women (with scrunchies coming a close second).
La Fonda says her beauty regimen these days is mostly about “getting plenty of shut-eye”. Forgive me if I don’t buy that. I could sleep for 20 years like Rip Van Winkle and not look as good as Jane.
And, of course, let’s not forget that Ms Fonda did have cosmetic surgery on her eyes, chin and neck, which she’s on record as saying she bought herself an extra decade. “I don’t want to have bags under my eyes that make me look tired,” she said. Ah-ha! So much for getting eight hours a night.
The other evening I said to my husband that I would’ve liked life to have stopped when our babies were tiny. There was so much joy in our house then. Soon enough they’ll be adults, leaving home forever. “But there will be more babies in our house one day,” he assured me. I hope he never stops growing old with me.
No, the lesson of Joni Mitchell’s song is never stop. Keep moving down the track. Don’t wish for what wasn’t then or isn’t now.
Don’t hesitate to love your life as it is, or the person you see reflected in the mirror… before it’s too late.
Sing it, Joni!
Follow Wendy on Twitter @wendy_harmer.