Last night I dreamed I was driving fast in a small stick-shift car, and I didn’t have enough leg room. I have only driven a stick-shift car once, decades ago. I don’t remember where I was going or why, and it was dicey going. Well, there you go.
Dylan Thomas wrote the poem that begins “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It’s very easy to fade away into old age, to pretend all is OK, to try not to be a burden, to keep our pain and sadness to ourselves. I guess it’s one thing if you are old and terrifically healthy and still run marathons and such. It’s another if your bones acknowledge the wear of every year — and that is the situation with most of us.
Most younger folks have no idea what they might be in for because we often try to accommodate to their expectations of us. Well, I say that we need to own — and own up — to whatever fragilities we have earned. Let the rest of the world become more aware of what the realities of aging are for most of us. Maybe then they would be more patient when we drive more slowly, or take longer at the check-out lines, or struggle with hearing loss.
I refuse to pretend that I don’t need help getting up and down stairs or getting out of a chair, or opening a jar of pickles. For sure, getting in and out of a car.
My family, with whom I live, understands my struggles because I don’t hide them. My reality is not very gentle: my gait isn’t always steady, my fingers don’t always hold sure, my rest isn’t always enough. And I think that is the reality for most of us, and it is a reality that most of those who are still young will one day face. They might as well see it coming.
So I believe in complaining — in the sense of being honest about what it is like, for most of us, to be old. We should be brutally honest, rather than gentle, about admitting — as Bette Davis supposedly admitted — “Old age is not for sissies.”
This is what I think about as I lay, sleepless at 3 a.m.
But I think of other things too — the projects I would like to do if I could find the energy and focus, for example. I am realizing that most of my life has required a great deal of both, and I have always had to move fast, decide quickly, shift gears while still in full-speed mode. I never had much patience for long-term planning (not a good thing); I’ve never had expectations of perfection (a good thing). But I always had the energy and focus to get done what had to be done.
Now, I spend an awful lot of time sitting in my rocker/recliner, staring into space, not thinking, or planning, or hoping. I spend an awful lot of time awake when I shouldn’t be and sleeping when I should be living.
Life with Covid-19 sucks, and it sucks even more if you are physically feeling your old age, isolated from your peers, and disconnected from outside stimulation. Yes, that’s how I feel, and I have to believe that I am not alone.
There was a time in the history of this weblog that talking to myself, here on these pages, got me through some rough times because there were folks out there eavesdropping with whom I eventually connected in a reaction of mutual support and camaraderie. That connection was the whole purpose of personal blogs, back then.
But it’s a different virtual world, now, and if all I do is talk to myself in these pages, that’s fine. I learn a lot about myself that way, and, although what I learn is not always pleasant, it’s enlightening.
Or as my Polish grandmother used to say “starość nie radość”.