Just a few thoughts on age. I still get together with my friends, some of whom I knew in high school. We’re all thirtysomething (yeah like that TV show when I was a kid), but I could almost swear, at the core, we’re all still those kids. Surely, life experience causes us to collect memories, which good or bad, filter the way we interact with the world. And certainly, we all bear the marks of physical aging, whether it be gray hair, losing hair, wrinkles, or yes, even dental work. But still, these sparks we carry remain the same. Even the same as when we were little children. Way deep down for some, to be sure.
I feel like an old man when I look at my thirteen, eleven, and eight year old children. Wow! Were any of us really that energetic and bendy? It’s when I watch them play and run that I really feel what the years of labor have done to my back and knees. They fall down and bounce back up, just as if they had springy legs of some kind. They laugh the whole time, slipping and sliding in the dirt, grass or snow. Most of us would be in traction from an afternoon of tossing ourselves on the ground, victims of a horrible zombie attack.
Age is a funny thing. I used to think that my problems with self-esteem and depression would somehow evaporate with age alone. But, like physical injuries, psychological ones leave their scars. Scars that sometimes become quite raw from the newer and different events of adulthood. I remember thinking about those scars when my wife left me. I was more hurt than you could imagine. She was sick and tired of me and my depression. I’d withdrawn from nearly everyone in my life, unhealthily leaning on my woman as my only friend. It was a burden to her, I know. I still harbor some resentment from her leaving me. In some ways, that is rooted in the thought that I was left on a sickbed. But, damnit, I wouldn’t open up to anyone in those days. The things that bothered me didn’t fall away as I aged. Indeed, they seemed to have grown in strength from the darkness that I kept them in. As I have really thought about the whole thing, I realize that my many secret pains and worries destroyed my attitude and therefore my marriage. My ex knew that I struggled with depression and low self esteem. But my stubborn refusal to let my demons out into the light just made those things worse. In the end, thought, the pain really caused me to begin the healing of wounds that I’ve carried nearly my whole life.
One thing that I can say about aging is that to me, truly becoming old means letting the shit the world dishes out smother your spark. I am pagan and I think that the best way to honor the gods and our ancestors is to be grateful for the chance to live, to be hopeful about the future, no matter how dark the past and to count the many blessings we no doubt have accumulated over our lives.
I think that there are times of life that prompt very real and intense introspection in humankind. Times of loss are a perfect example. Over a long enough timeline, we all lose at least one thing that is very dear to us. At such a time, it’s easy to become stuck in a ‘woe-is-me’ attitude. Flipping that over, we see that such a time is great for taking stock of what we still have: not money or status, but the truly unique gifts within – music, art, compassion, humor, kindness. All of these and more are gifts that each of us have in some measure. Pain is often a very instructive teacher.
What I hoped time would heal was only first poulticed when I lost the woman I loved. Surely it was a painfully hard knock, and there have been many dark days, but I think that the pain off loss has facilitated my healing where age and time could not.