Saturday, April 23, 2005


I was going to write about something else. Two other things, actually:

Catherine left a comment which caused a few neurons in amongst my grey matter (the ones that are still active, that is) to fire and make some unexpected connections, all to do with that imperceptible but sometimes very real gap between self and surroundings, and I promised I’d say more when I’d put the thoughts together. I started that, found some interesting links, and left it all on my computer at work

Then, having been back from the hills for over a week, I find myself well and truly back in the daily routine – or what I called the cover-up known as normality. From this perspective, it’s hard to know which take on life is… is what? Right? Valid?

But another little thought is tugging at my sleeve, telling me it needs to be heard first. Like those two above, it follows on from my earlier “Belonging” post. I was both surprised and gratified to get such a response, but I fear that in both the post and the comments I allowed some different threads to get tangled up. Well, I suppose in the messy thing we call life, threads are inevitably tangled – in fact, to pretend there are even such things as individual threads at all is only our crude analytical way of making sense of experience. Nevertheless, I think the tangles allowed some muddles to creep in.

There’s belonging, and there’s ageing, and there’s doubts about identity. And they’re all tied up together, sometimes, and they’re distinct, sometimes.

Ageing is just a biological fact. But some of its inevitable symptoms gave rise to my feeling that I’d lost something of the sense of belonging in the hills. Loss is a powerful, elemental emotion. It’s not the absolute value of the thing lost that matters; it’s the strength of the attachment that drives the degree of the loss. And although I’d only lost a tiny part of that belonging-ness, the attachment is a very powerful one. So although I’m not blaming age, or its effects, that feeling of something lost still has to be dealt with.

Sometimes I wish we could communicate without using labels, but ultimately I suppose language is largely a collection of labels, and speech would be very long-winded without them. Take the label ‘mid-life crisis’. In three words, it attempts to sum up something that might easily be a crucially pivotal time in someone’s life. It’s a valuable abbreviation – how else could you express such an involved, convoluted phase of life so succinctly? – but it’s not a uniquely identifiable malady like influenza or a broken leg. Re-evaluations of who we think are, or who we want to be, can occur at any time of life, and are often triggered by change – a change in job, new parenthood, a change in relationship, or something more subtle such as life era.

I was talking of threads, and I’m in danger of losing this one. I think what I was trying to say, for my own benefit as much as anyone’s, is that there are no equivalences, no hard cause-and-effect links, between all these tangled aspects of living. Pull one strand of spaghetti hanging over the edge of the bowl and many others move – they touch and rub over each other, but they’re not necessarily connected.

Did any of that make any sense?

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