Tag Archives: ageing

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂

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Going Yellow

Decided to try a blog post a night.

I worry (ludicrously) that I will zoom so quickly through all the books available to my Kindle that there will be nothing left in the world that I haven’t read. Maybe my mother had a similar sensation when she was young… she said she read everything that came her way, in no particular order. (I was asking if there was any reason why she picked Pickwick Papers as her first Dickens read).

For the Kindle I downloaded two free books today: The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit and Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I chose the first because I don’t think I’ve read it, and the second because I read it ages ago and enjoyed it.

I’m still slogging through Middlemarch. Still finding a lot to highlight, despite the heavy language. It’s interesting how she switches through different varieties of heaviness depending on the speaker.

We went to a neighbouring town today, and the Kindle came along in my trolley. I didn’t think I would get a chance to read it, but it was nice to know it was there. I was giving it a little polish just now with a microfibre cloth. They say you can’t get fond of ebooks the way you get fond of printed books, but I’m not sure I want to, any more… an e-reader is risky as it is; it becomes ‘all books’ to you, or at least ‘most books’; a kind of companion.

You begin to understand why some might try to cut themselves off from possessions in an effort to just ‘be’… to avoid negative emotions connected to desiring things or trying to keep what you have. Someone was saying in a Kindle discussion that you have to move on from your old books, even if they meant more to you than books you obtained more recently. He doesn’t think we should have our Wind in the Willows (or Narnia books or Rupert the Bear books or whatever) just sitting there because we’ve always had them and can’t imagine letting them go!

It did surprise me when I had a look inside some small Asterix paperbacks I’ve had since the 80s — I found those (despite my care of them) were going slightly yellow. Books (printed ones) get old. That’s how much time has passed since I was a student…. yellowing time!

But I wonder if it’s unreasonable to think we shouldn’t get attached to possessions… it’s part of who we are. You get used to things, especially the useful things that you handle every day. There are the objects that act as ‘landmarks’ in a sense…. “you are here… nowhere else.” What is unsettling is the sensation that things are lost as you go through life. Books come and go, as do other things…. people and animals come and go… homes and places change… some find that places they knew change out of all recognition, and they don’t want to go back because it will be just like any other place. And, right at the end, all that you are is lost as well, and seeps away into the cold and dark.

Perhaps books continue to hold a spark for us of people who have already gone, but we don’t need the old yellow copies in order to love and keep them.

Mellowing

The older I get, the mellower! It’s strange. Either that, or living with Mum is making me civilized again. There’s nothing like a little light banter every day to make you feel nothing’s that serious or annoying.

Well, I read some WordPress posts saying we should blog often, even if busy or tired, so I’m trying. I got busy doing five pictures at once (one for a small informal contest… nothing special or grand) and when I started posting them, it all turned into a bit of an anti-climax. I’m still working on Pictures 4 and 5, and have even added a Picture 6, but the pace has slackened noticeably.

Maybe it’s time to socialize a bit… all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Mum caught me looking abstracted the other day. I explained I was thinking how naive I was as a 20 year-old. My friend Honey and I didn’t know that the slang word ‘barf’ wasn’t a cute word for ‘bath’! But another 20 year-old… a boy… knew perfectly well what it meant.

I was wondering how both Honey and I got to the age of 20 not knowing that, and she said little boys always collect rude words to impress each other!

Perhaps. But I’m glad it was not just me! Possibly Honey and I realized we had exactly the same depth of ignorance, and so we were in the same boat… hence our friendship, which still goes on, though on different sides of the Pond.

In those days we didn’t have the internet. I’ve learned a lot from it since I got online, and I can’t imagine doing without it. I probably wouldn’t even be using software like Bryce… might not have heard of it. Might not know as much as I do about Photoshop etc. Won’t have heard of certain bloggers, and be wondering how they’re doing…

Thinking how nice it will be to get some sleep, though… that’s something that comes with age. I remember telling my favourite primary teacher that I never wanted to go to bed, but in the morning I never wanted to get up, and it seemed rather odd. She said when I got older, I’d be very glad to get to my bed, though not wanting to get up in the mornings remains about the same. Some things we can always count on. 🙂

The Pearls of Age

I’ve always liked the company of older people, and felt a little less at home with younger folks (who are more unpredictable in some ways).

Mum was talking about things from her childhood. She remembered buying dresses… they were taken ‘on approval’, and delivered in boxes and tissue paper. She kept missing trams and jumping on while they were on the move. The conductor would say “you’re not supposed to do that!”

I said I remembered double-decker buses with the door at the back with stairs — they had bus conductors with ticket machines. Mum said admiringly, “you’re quite old too!” and I said “thank you.”

I’m fascinated by any nuggets of wisdom older people decide to share… they are individual but have the ring of truth. Like from the rather worried old lady who said you know you can be perfect, but you must expect to make mistakes. Be kind to yourself. (I have a horrible habit of lying awake at night counting the very many mistakes I’ve made. Sometimes I think wistfully about Ally McBeal’s boss who said tactless things, then in the next breath he would mutter “bygones!”)

Liz Smith (elderly actress) had a lot to say that I was interested in. She said you can’t know why people react the way they do; it’s probably connected to things that happened to them. It’s rare to have true friends; people who know exactly who you are and what you’re about.

Liz wanted to talk with other passengers (while on her cruise) but couldn’t bring herself to make the first move — she was convinced they wouldn’t want her. I feel that more and more, even on the internet; I hesitate to comment, email or join in as much as I used to. I used to have an opinion on everything, but now I watch everybody else making mistakes and putting their foot in it, knowing that this time it isn’t me. More and more I decide it’s safer to pretend I’m not even here!

Perhaps it’s all part of getting older.

A friend and I were having a discussion recently — we were saying how we used to blithely do things that now make us curl up in horror and amazement. We were not mountaineers or explorers… but she used to ride rather nervy horses over jumps she wouldn’t even consider these days. Whereas I used to fill in those email letters that asked for your mother’s middle name!! Perhaps along with age we learn fear… but hopefully other, more positive things as well.

I wonder what pearls of wisdom might drop from my lips when I’m over 80 — everything I’m doing and thinking now takes me closer to those truths! It’s an interesting thought.

Tempus Fugit

Sitting with Mum the other day, I was talking about our future plans, and what we could do about this or that. Suddenly she stopped me short with: “Remember I’m getting old. You will have to do such and such if I pop off.”

It’s not the first time she’s said it, and she always seems to come up with it just as I’m getting enthusiastic about something. Nothing bursts your bubble quicker.

“WHY do you keep saying that?” I burst out. “I know you’re getting old! I don’t need to be reminded!”
“I have to remind everybody.”
“But why?”
“There are some ladies down at the Bridge Club who are younger than me, and they keep saying they’re too old to do stuff, and they sit and let me do all the work. They all think I’m younger than I am. So I’ve started telling them.”

I stamped off to the kitchen, returning with tea and biscuits.

Mum sat forwards eagerly. “Well, this is what we can do. We can do this, and that, and the other, and maybe we could…”
She went on like this for some time, and when she finally stopped, I said, “Tell me again, why do you have to remind people you’re getting old?”
“Now YOU’RE talking about it all the time!” she screamed. Then we both chuckled.

Rebel Without a Cause?

When I was in my mid-20s, someone said to me, “you’re a rebel without a cause.” I was surprised to be called a rebel at all (being a person of no consequence), but when I thought about it, I wondered why he considered – after most of the discussions we had shared – that I had no cause? Isn’t the phrase rather flippant and belittling, particularly coming from someone who knew some of my main hang-ups?

Is it a way of saying “you’re always annoyed about something, and it’s always the little things”?

Maybe (without his quite meaning to) it’s a way of saying “I’ve never experienced what you’ve experienced and so it’s of no importance to me. If I don’t know what you experience, then it’s probably something that doesn’t even exist.”

I was uncertain what he meant – but something about the look on his face gave me the impression he was feeling particularly pleased with himself that day – “look, I’m using a poetic turn of phrase while being perceptive and sceptical. I don’t need to listen – I’ve got you figured out.”

I wonder if he realized I would remember and worry about it long after the other, more thoughtful things he said had been forgotten.

Well, years have passed since then, so would he still think it applies? I’m older now and… well, I tried to say “more mellow” but I really don’t think that’s true. Many of the same things trouble me, even more than they did when I was younger. Some issues I understand more and have quietly ditched by the wayside. I’ve found other things to rebel against. There are things I used to be OK with but along the way the red mist started to descend.

The main difference with growing older is that I slide away from some battles or phrase myself more carefully – well a few of you may not believe it, but I do :-). I could be quite a confrontational rattlesnake when I was in my 20s, but a lot of the time it was misplaced wit, or an attempt to impress with my frank views – immature, yes. Other times I didn’t really believe anybody was paying attention. The more frustrated I got, the harder I complained. Sometimes all I needed was a soothing “quite right too” to make me shut up. Try telling that to my victims though. I haven’t necessarily changed my mind about whatever issues upset me before… I handle them more cautiously, making more effort to see all sides – and ending up more confused in the process.

Meanwhile, it’s still a world where some of the people you clash with don’t appreciate what you’re trying to say even if you spell it out fifty times. If they respond, it’s with a completely distorted reflection of what you said. They never get it straightened out, often because they don’t want to – that’s something you do realize with age! In mankind there’s a strong desire to believe in pure goodness and black evil – folk can be all too willing to file you under the ‘E’.

Getting back to this expression ‘rebel without a cause’, I suspect that it says as much about the person who uses it as the one it’s used about. Is the first person listening? REALLY listening? …Probably not.

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted on Blogigo:

ilovetchocky wrote at Jul 12, 2006 at 17:14:
I also feel at times that we are all walking around, making noise, only hearing ourselves.

Dilan wrote at Jul 11, 2007 at 07:10:
I think you’re right… if A tells B that B is opinionated, doesn’t that mean A is opinionated as well?

Know ye this: The world just doesn’t understand those who don’t conform with it. The world works off the basis that ‘society’ is *always* right… 😉

While I think that pure good and evil can exist, there are conflicting opinions on what this pure good/evil is… and a load of strife ‘cos of that….

Reckon you’re an anarchist/libertarian of sorts (no bad thing!)… and I guess that makes two of us…

D

Lost Dreams

Last night I found some notes jotted down with the intention of turning them into a blog post or six. Trouble is, I wrote them down some time ago and now they make no sense to me. I should lump them together and rename them ‘The cry of the disillusioned 40-something.’ See what you think:

No time or room for all souls to live forever
No time or room for all things
Cat understands what I say
That’s all

Too many thoughts in my head to track
Nothing will survive in its present form
World is too big – we need to go small
I wonder what’s the point?

“There are no perfect men; only perfect intentions”
From Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
Lara Croft Tomb Raider tired me…
What’s the point?

Whole world choosing its gym teams all the time
The cuckoo always gets the worm
Jobs, friends, marriage or trade
We compete from cradle to grave

Can’t do everything I want to do
No longer want what I did
My opinions change
Truths differ
Nothing’s the way I believed

Forty Summers

It’s not my birthday, but…

40 is an embarrassing age. It occurs to you that you shouldn’t still be wearing white ankle socks or the Disney sweatshirt with Pooh Bear on it. And you should discard the paperback of horse stories you’ve had since you were 10, even though you still haven’t read it all.

There’s so much clutter in the house you can’t keep track of anything, and when you stumble across your old address book, it’s full of names you don’t recognize. Worst of all, your sofa is about old enough to attend university.

40 is the sort of age when you are supposed to be too old to do things you used to do, and if you’re caught doing them, people say things like ‘mutton dressed like lamb’, ‘old slapper’, ‘heading for a mid-life crisis’ or ‘ought to know better at her age!’ Yet all you are doing is carrying on the way you always used to.

I’ve read a lot of blogs saying “it’s OK to be 40 – in fact it’s hip and cool” and then a little further down there’s that line – “people always tell me I look ten years younger than I am.”

It makes me wonder. Is it really OK to be 40 if there’s still a desire to not actually look 40? So many people are saying they don’t look their age that I wonder what the various age groups actually look like now? Maybe it’s true that 40 is the new 30; people are getting younger all the time.

I made up my mind when I was 15 that I wouldn’t start colouring my hair as soon as I found grey – because, when do you stop? I have my vanity too, and there’s the thought of ‘the other world’ lurking at some point behind. Yet we have to see this world for what it is – we are born, live our lives, then we die. It’s not how we look that matters, or whether we can maintain our youth longer than anybody else – it’s what we do in our lifetime.

I don’t know why I made that particular decision about my hair. Maybe I found a beauty book giving tips on how not to let your roots show, and felt bored at the thought. I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things since I was 15, but that thing about my hair wasn’t one of them. It helps that my mother has never tried to hide her grey. Perhaps that was the real influence.

Well, I had trouble writing that! It seemed fine to start with and then I lost the flow of what I was saying. Today I’m tired of words. You get into the rhythm and then realize it’s nothing new, and it’s all been said before. Nobody listens, and yet everybody knows. Maybe that’s a side-effect of being 40 – even by the time you’re 30, it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun.