Sunday, January 11, 2009

Middle aged 

It’s hard to muster the energy to write any more, hard even to find the will to think. The building-with-words machine may never have run freely, but at least the wheels used to turn, with a bit of coaxing. But now the cogs have become rusted together; put my weight against the lever and all I feel is the implacable resistance of a thousand seized wheels locked in immobility.

What’s changed?

A couple of things. One, which ought to have no bearing on this, but feels as though it might, is that I’ve become more conscious of age. I used to be puzzled by my own age – the calendar may have said I was fifty something years old, but I didn’t relate to that number; I could feel a direct line stretching back to my boyhood, and in many ways still felt I was that youngster yet to find his place in the world. Yet now I find that in whatever group I find myself, I’m often the oldest. I can’t quite make sense of it, perhaps because I haven’t found the position of some authority which so often goes with age. I’m the oldest in the office at work, yet one of the most junior; the oldest in the group of musicians with whom I play, yet the least experienced. A case of cognitive dissonance?

Anyway, how is the age thing significant in terms of motivation to write?

I look in the mirror, and I’m not sure I recognise myself. The face looking back at me has aged; sometimes I see my father’s face, as he was when I was growing up, when he was the age I am now. I always thought of him as old – am I really that same age now? I’ve left behind the person I used to be, the person who used to think and write and engage in some kind of meaningful dialogue, the person who wanted to make a difference; he was part of the self that grew – or was growing - out of that youngster. The very self that inspired the original name of this blog – ‘Older and growing’. This middle-aged person I’ve become; he doesn’t seem to have the same drive, for him it’s enough to survive one day to the next.

It’s odd, being between two people and ‘being’ neither. Do you remember the scene in 2001 where the astronaut, Dave Bowman, has gone through the stargate and finds himself apparently in a hotel room? Still dressed in his spacesuit, he sees an old man lying in a bed – and realises that the old man is himself, and in that moment of realisation we move along with his consciousness into the body of that old man.

It feels a bit like that. Not such a dramatic contrast in terms of years and incapacity, perhaps, but I suppose you could call it an identity crisis, except that crisis implies something sudden, an impending catastrophe that must be resolved one way or another. This isn’t quite like that; identity has become uncertain, for sure – youth is far behind and old age is still a long way off (although there are occasional flashbacks of the one and premonitions of the other), and here I sit in a no-man’s-land between them.

Perhaps that’s why the thinking and writing have become so hard – I don’t have a place from which to do it. No perspective, no place to stand and observe and show you the world from my viewpoint. Adrift between youth and age and out of sight of both.

“Thou hast neither youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.”

~ Shakespeare, in Measure for Measure, quoted by T S Eliot at the opening of his poem Gerontion

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