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Posts Tagged ‘aging’

rock-in-water

After feeling cheerful and positive yesterday, back to reality. It is Monday morning and he is getting ready to leave again, his mind already elsewhere, a note of tension in his voice. To be fair, he is trying to make polite conversation in the kitchen – but it isn’t going well. Then he asks me a question which makes me cringe inside; it’s an apparently innocent question about the young friends I saw yesterday but I know there is no answer I can give which will not wind him up and set him ticking like the clock on a time bomb. If I don’t answer, he’ll be furious, so I do my best; I fail, the rant starts …

Eventually he notices that I have stopped trying to think of responses and so he turns the sharpness on me. How can we talk when I’m crashing around the kitchen? (I’m filling the dishwasher) How can he be expected to talk to me when I’ve been so rude this morning? His words bruise me like stones but I know better than to react or show my hurt.

Have I been rude? I’m no saint, but I’ve been trying so hard to stay calm and polite. I stop doing chores, turn around, make eye contact (which makes me realise how often I avoid that) and try- really try – to be soothing, gentle, positive. It’s just so demoralising knowing that his bitterness is crouching there, waiting for a tiny excuse to pounce, even an imagined excuse.

I think when we get to a certain point on our downward spiral we begin to see the world in such a dark way that no-one can make a situation happy for us. Insult lurks in every comment; the life experiences of the sweetest young people become a contemptible heap of errors. We lose perspective, humility, generosity and joy.

And so a dear, dear man, who was once a laughing, loving boy with a thrilling appetite for life becomes a bitter, angry, spiteful old man, hoarding his hurts like a miser’s gold. I say old, although he is the same age as me, because nothing seems to age a person like anger. Anger’s stern grey lines mark his face like time’s mapmaker, but none of the journeys have happy endings.

If you want to be happy and stay young, learn to let time wash away life’s scars; be a rock, steadfast in the river of your experiences, feeling life as a cool caress as it laps and tumbles against your gleaming skin.

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As a very old man who has lived a very long life, I would
like to impart my (perhaps dated) perspective on this matter for anyone
interested.

Now that I have lived a lifetime’s worth of days, I have finally
come to see the folly of my ways. So listen when I speak of the temptations of
this world: nice things, status, success and pretty women.

Since I’m nearing 80, I can confidently say that I’m standing on the precipice of
death, and I can tell you that my perspective is enormous. When I wake up
each morning and go outside, I can see the connected nature and wonder of every
leaf and every cloud and I marvel at the forces which have formed us.

However, ever since the passing of my wife, some days all I’ve
got is a lone nighttime walk. But then when I whistle some sweet melody, and it
sparks some very beautiful memories; and once you are my age those great
memories bring unspeakable contentment to you.

So young people, try your best to ignore what you think
matters, instead bring true joy to yourself and each other. Because when all is
said and done, when your youth is spent and burned, you’ll see that it’s all
about the simple things you take for granted: music, flowers, babies, sharing
the good times, traveling not just for business, accepting your mortality. This
is finally what I’ve learned.

And then in the end it’s family and friends! Loving yourself,
but not only yourself, it’s about the good walk, and the long hard walk and the
relationships and connections you’ve had. It’s about making a little music
everyday till you die; it’s a beautiful ride.

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by Nicole Krauss

“He went on for some time while I sat listening in silence because I knew he was right, and like two people who have loved each other however imperfectly, who have tried to make a life together, however imperfectly, who have lived side by side and watched the wrinkles slowly form at the corner of the other’s eyes, and watched a little drop of grey, as if poured from a jug, drop into the other’s skin and spread itself evenly, listening to the other’s coughs and sneezes and little collected mumblings, like two people who’d had one idea together and slowly allowed that idea to be replaced with two separate, less hopeful, less ambitious ideas, we spoke deep into the night, and the next day, and the next night. For forty days and forty nights, I want to say, but the fact of the matter is it only took three. One of us had loved the other more perfectly, had watched the other more closely, and one of us listened and the other hadn’t, and one of us held on to the ambition of the one idea far longer than was reasonable, whereas the other, passing a garbage can one night, had casually thrown it away.”

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I overheard a conversation about pheromones this afternoon…

What are pheromones? Some kind of hormone I think, that you can smell. Yeah, moths use them to get a mate and women have them. Did you know that fish can smell them and so women are better at catching fish than men? You’re joking, why would a woman want a fish? And so on.

But it reminded me, sadly of course, that in our early days he said that I had irresistible pheromones and they drove him mad whenever I was near him. It was probably just sex but it was nice at the time.

Anyway, I thought, what the heck, and sent him an email, wherever he might be, asking if I still have pheromones. I just got his reply.

‘Yes, I’m sure you probably do.’

That was like opening my shirt (which I would never do after that bathroom experience) and shouting ‘Go on, stab me there, for old time’s sake!’ Which he did.

I’m getting reckless. Maybe I’ll rename the blog.

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Today’s shame, fresh and sharp like the frost, is all the harsher when I meet it relaxed and unguarded from a hot bath.

‘Are you working this morning?’ I asked. ‘Yes’ (of course).

So I turn the empty time to that magazine favourite ‘me time’ and soak the misery out in the tub, put all the little things right, wash my hair, stretch and unwind. Then I pull on the essentials and my warm cashmere cardigan while I blow dry my hair, walk through to the bedroom and there he is.’ Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were downstairs,’ I mumble; he looks me up and down and turns away, ‘No problem.’ The bleak view of his back and an ugly, empty pause as cold as the day; I leave as quickly as possible.

When I look in the mirror I’m fairly sure I’m doing ok. I’m slim, fit, in reasonable shape for my age, well maintained as they say, and still quite pretty, if that’s the right word. Or am I? If I got so much wrong, maybe I got that wrong too? And if I got that wrong, what else? The frost of his indifference cracks my confidence. If I erode at this rate, there’ll soon be nothing left.

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When he comes back, he sleeps. And when he sleeps, he snores. Some nights it’s not a problem, other nights I am woken up over and over until I decide that to stay sane I must give up, get up and go elsewhere. Tonight I don’t want to go away so I lie awake and remind myself that he is at least here, that I am grateful for the noisy reminder of our shared lives, that – for now at least – it is better to be awake with my lovelessness than asleep alone.

To lie awake in the night and listen to the breathing of one’s beloved is the stuff of poetry and love songs; I think of Aerosmith’s ‘Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ and the music sets itself to the rhythmic snoring. Does Bruce Willis snore? I bet he does. I’m not sure if this is a comfort.

In the darkness I still feel alone and long to reach out and touch him, something I am too afraid or too proud to do. So I sit in the dark, full of this almost unbearably painful longing and an equally intolerable loathing for my own frail neediness.

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I’m horrified but not surprised to read that research by Japanese doctors in the 90s found that the hearts of people who had suffered an emotional crisis had changed shape, restricting blood flow; some people recover, some die. A Swedish team has even discovered the exact pathology of how you really can die of a broken heart. Older women are at most risk due to loss of oestrogen and testosterone.

But I can’t wallow in that for too long, as I also learned that middle aged men between 35 and 54 are now so much more prone to sinking into depression and despair that they are the highest risk group for suicide. The research by The Samaritans suggested that this is due to men finding it hard to live up to expectations, and lacking the emotional skills to deal with relationship problems which support women and younger people.

So older men account for 50% of the 6,000 deaths by suicide each year. That’s such a lot of death and unhappiness that I can feel my heart changing shape as I think about it; that, and my lonely, loveless husband in his faraway hotel room.

Although at the moment he’s at a Christmas party at Planet Hollywood …

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