Monday, October 12, 2009

On being unprepared.

‘People don’t realise how quickly they’re going to get old’ - Doris Lessing.

I thought this looking round a room at an opening in Auckland. There was a friend whose daughter had died - there a friend fighting cancer. Both people’s faces, in a crowded room, looked harrowed. Newly defined by a battle off screen. Of course you live with your own face. Only in photographs, which sometimes show you in a sort of 360 degree way, do you receive the unwelcome news that you too are trapped in the undertow.

It’s like from late twenties to late forties, there is a slow change happening - a thickening, a furrowing, a whitening - a calcifying - as well as a sort of sediment happening in your ideas. 

But strangely the opposite force of this is a clarifying - in the rest of the glass. Things which once appeared perplexing suddenly change into startlingly ordinary and matter of fact. (Love, sex, the great mysteries - tend become very straight forward, less shrouded in a mist of unknowing.) 

But from late forties onwards the changes become swift. As swift as at the other end of life, with children growing into teenagers and then adults. It surprises me that I’m so unprepared. I never thought of my generation growing old. (I wonder if the Stones, as young men, ever thought they’d be dragging their sorry arses onto the stage at their advanced age? But maybe even as young men in revolt they would have commuted the dollars and that hard glint in their eye would have accepted the exchange - loss of dignity for the security which billions of dollars must illusory protection maybe.....but still welcome.) 

But it’s happening, all around me. And I’m caught in the undertow like everyone else.

And it’s as wise old Doris said - you never expect it to happen to you. But then it starts happening fast. And the strange thing is you see it first in the faces and bodies of your friends and acquaintances. It’s like you’re all going down in the ship together. Or rather - we’re all going down in the ship together. This is when it suddenly does appear that you belong to a generation. And you can’t escape. 

Alternatively, as a human animal, I am much happier now than I was in my twenties. I am more at home, for better or worse, in my own skin. If one looks at a glass and sees it as either half full or half empty, I’m more tempted to see it as less cloudy, more clear. 

Of course, as for what one is being clear about...


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