I wouldn’t say that I obsess about it. But it is something that my mind keeps returning to.
Like right now, I sit down at the cafe and pull out my iPad. Moments before it starts up, I catch my reflection in the glossy black screen face. Of course, I recognise the visage but, strangely, I am surprised by how old I am. I shouldn’t be. I should be used to it. But it still gets me. I certainly don’t feel the age of my appearance. In my mind, I am mid thirties - something like that. (Just a few decades younger than in fact.)
I know this is not an original topic and even a little boring. I have read articles along similar lines and don’t find them all that interesting anymore. (Except for one today about Walt Whitman - and how his love of nature was his sanctuary in his latter years.)
But this is different. This is me. I am going to keep writing just to see what, if anything, of interest reveals itself. I like to take lines of self inquiry sometimes and extrapolate. Delve in, peel away layers, sort through the stacks, wander down the corridors and see where they lead.
It’s interesting to wonder - wherever I end up getting to, thought-wise; will it be somewhere that already exists - you know, in there, my mind - or will it be something that could only have been created by following a particular thought paths? Do we pull things from the ether, out of nowhere? What are we accessing - is it fresh stuff or a collage, reconfiguration of pre-existing notions/concepts?
I can’t answer that, obviously. How the fuck would I know! But then, why not me? Somebody has to be the first to answer any puzzle. Existence doesn’t care about qualifications, prior knowledge, who it is doing the speculation. Everything is accessible to everyone. The only limits (in this domain) are self imposed. And why impose limits on one’s self?
I try not to. But, of course, I do. We all do. Fear and doubt and lack of esteem and courage lurk within us all. We are a never ending whirlpool of shifting head spaces, emotions. It always amazes me at how unruly my interior life is. And how constantly demanding. There were times in my twenties and thirties - actually, all through my life - when I have felt on the brink of losing control. Perhaps this is not unusual. Perhaps it varies person to person. On the flip side, my wildly oscillating mind and unpredictable spirit, gift me with a constantly flowing access to creative expression. The tap always works, I just turn it on and the flow is always strong.
Please don’t think that I talk about myself because I think I am great or special. Cause I don’t. I am a soldier in the trenches. I am one of the many. I don’t mind what you think, actually, because I don’t know who you are and it would all be biased speculation (on your part and mine) anyway. But I do feel compelled to point out that, in these speculative essays, I cast myself as a subject of interest. I have access to myself - so that is who I talk about.
I have always been interested in introspection - since about eight or nine years of age, I would say. I like quiet times. I like low activity because it allows internal observation and extrapolation. Is is just something to do, is anything actually ever achieved? I can’t say. It’s just my nature. And you gotta go with what you’ve got.
From about the age of fourteen I began to write a few of my thoughts down for amusement. The added benefit, I have since come to realise is that others, readers, may identify thoughts and qualities in themselves that are similar. Just like reading a horoscope. We all like the - ‘yeah, that’s me’ feeling of identification.
We like it because if makes things feel less random. It helps us believe that we belong. That there is a purpose. Perhaps even a meaning behind it all.
In my humble opinion, however, as desirable as this is - it is unlikely.
But the feeling (and it’s accompanying temporary comfort) is no less valid whether it be true or not. We do all kinds of things - in fact, most of what we do - is in order to connect, feel worthwhile, valued, or consequence.
Like I have said before we are fragile, volatile entities. And the journey itself is constantly different. We want to pin things down, draw conclusions - it’s part of our nature - but the truth is that everything is transient. Even our concepts of reality. Then, as we slowly, or quickly, change form, feelings, opinions, as we drift through an ever-altering landscape there are a few things we tend to grasp on to. We require a feeling of belonging, security, connection to others, peace of mind. We want to function within a limited paradigm - one that we can keep a grip on, feel like we are progressing (in some way) within. (And for most of us, at least at varying stages - this is possible. Temporary, but achievable.)
But when something takes us out of the box, when there is a sudden shift, or when we allow ourselves to acknowledge the actual complete lack of borders and the fact that we are functioning in a completely fabricated construct - partly by reality, partly by society and the rest by our own minds - then things get a bit more funky.
There are times that letting go and floating free is enjoyable (as long as you know you can get back to your comfortable construct again), and there are times when it is decidedly uncomfortable - ie. when everything is thrown up in the air and some of your favourite elements are suddenly no longer. Times like when someone you love dies, you are involved in an accident, or a part of your physical well being is distressingly compromised. These kinds of things send you into a funk.
Nothing like being in sudden danger of losing your life - that of a loved one or your most valued possessions - for you to realise just how much you value your life after all; despite it’s incessant challenges and niggling demands.
Anything has to be better than nothing.
We are ‘programmed’ to believe that. Otherwise, people would be early exiting all over the place.
So we struggle on. Questioning, contemplating, trying things, urgently attempting to satisfy our urges and needs.
When you get older, like 57 older for example, you think back to all the ups and downs you have experienced, the ecstasies and torments you have lived through, the loves found and lost, the younger versions of self that you so fully experienced - you think about all that and then when you see a reflection of your current self by chance - it all comes flooding in.
That’s me. That’s fucking me! This is me. But who am I? Still here - I can see - but so what? Is it going to be more of the same?
No, look - it won’t be the same - it can’t be. You are older now. The wild times that began in your teens and carried on through to your forties - they have waned most substantially. The wild times well, has, in fact, it seems, gotten down to distressingly low levels.
Limits are imposed upon you. Physical limits, at least. This has to be accepted, worked around. Thankfully, though, mentally you are stronger and clearer than ever.
I can still think about things. Get all up there with the speculation about things, with the extrapolations. I can write about the me of the present, in these fleeting moments and maybe capture something, somethings - like fireflies, butterflies, buzzy bees - not capture them to keep or cage - maybe not even capture but just grab at them. Do it to further come to know their simple yet complex beauty.
And I can ride on the coat tails of my previous endeavours, extract the essence, formulate theories, fabricate exaggerated tales (not that I do).
I care what I look like, how old I am - to the extent that if effects my behaviour, my options. But on other levels - it doesn’t matter. I have been lucky to have lived this long, gotten this far - and look - here’s evidence - I may have learnt something - however ephemeral, tenuous, speculative - something worthwhile.
I feel good, for the moment, in the moment. I am glad I have spent this time recording this. There are plenty of other things I could have done - but I gone done this. These words, these ideas punched out it a mini frenzy of thoughtful expression.
I have carved them on the cave wall, if you will. Maybe they will illuminate some thoughts and feelings amongst my fellow cave dwellers. Maybe someone will feel a little less alone, a little less freaked out in their own ageing, their own inner conflicts, state of mind. Maybe getting old really does bring some wisdom. If that is the word. (Sounds a bit fuddy-duddy.)
Could I have written this ten years ago?
Well, I didn’t. So now is now and what is is what is supposed to be. (Now I am just sprouting platitudes.) It is so all just speculation. But we so want it to be more than that! That’s what life is. That dynamic of input, interpretation and conclusion. We settle on something that will serve us.
There is no pinning it down. All systems are go. All the time. And what have I learnt from this outburst? Hmmmm...
My feeling now is that I will finish this short piece - my second coffee has just been consumed - get up - pack away my iPad, go for a walk and a swim (how lucky am I!) and carry on with the rest of my day.
Continue living out the pattern of my individual construct, enjoying the good bits and enduring the difficult. I will always be me, whatever age. I am used to it by now. Sure, once in a while, I will be surprised by the gap between what is and what I believe or feel, but, fuck it, who cares. I’ll likely be back here tomorrow before my swim, having another black brew, spitting out a fresh take on the deliciously devious and delightfully bewildering continuance we exist within.
Tomorrow, though, I’ll try not to catch a glance of my visage.