The View From Up Here
I feel like I’ve turned a corner from which there is no turning back. I am starting to feel old. Not in any truly bad way, but I nevertheless seem to be losing my edge, or I’m helplessly watching it retreat like a Greenland glacier, with my penguins all running amok.
This usually shows up when I realize I’ve forgotten yet another thing that I should have done. I drop out details I used to be able to proudly juggle like an 8-armed Krishna. Add to this my inability to sometimes see what’s right in front of me when I’m looking for something. The other day I went to meet Shelley in front of the Beacon, and anxiously scanned the crowd, finally noticing her only because she was waving at me (as if to say, hello?) right there in front of my face.
Eventually I expect these senior moments to become senior months.
Moreover, when winter approaches I freeze into a stiff statue from about early December through mid March. I somehow manage to act normal on the outside, but inside I’m shivering and sitting in a constant shiva for my once-warm body.
Worse, I’m far more prone to irritability, especially when I’m running late. I sometimes snap at Shelley like a mad dog. She, bless her soul, is used to it, but I don’t like feeling and acting like a crabby old man. I fear that 20 or 25 years from now I’ll be the one they stick in the back of the Home and warn the new help about. “Oh, that’s ole Charley. He can be a pain in the ass, but if you starve him for a few days he calms down.”
I don’t want to become one of those grays without grace.
I’m also losing my balance –- hey, I mean physically – just a little, and only at times. I’m not falling over, yet. It’s probably true that when old people start to fall, it’s gravity’s way of pointing them to the grave.
On the other hand, ageing’s kinda cool. No, really. Without all the testosterone and other chemical cocktails that drove this vehicle up the mountain all these years, I can sit back and watch the scenery more serenely. Appreciate things a little more; live each day a little deeper. The slowing down, or the need to, makes for a more mindful perspective on everything that passes by.
It’s like Joni Mitchell said, “There’s something lost and something gained in living every day.” So at the rate I’m going, in ten years I’ll be enlightened but also a blithering idiot.
The other thing this week that’s knocking me out is gratitude. We were at one of our community parties this past Saturday night. It was actually called Gratitude. I love the hours it ran: 9 to 5, like work in reverse. Half the people there were in costumes, and the place was full of wild abandon – half naked aerialist performances, video art, a “Silent Disco” (a quiet tent with everyone dancing their heads off…with wireless headphones attuned to a choice between two DJs); a crafts tent; a healing tent with free massages, a chill space with a sprawling, pillowed “cuddle puddle” that got more, um, interesting as the night went on; another tent with live dance music. And all for 20 bucks.
Imagine discovering a whole subculture that thrives underground and a whole tribe out there that loves to celebrate being alive by having unbridled (and I do mean unbridled!) fun together.
I had gathered a posse beforehand, as I always have, because when you’re in your sixties and you’re partying with mostly 20 and 30 somethings, it’s best to have a few friends around. This time 15 people showed up at our place beforehand and we took several cars there together. We ranged in age from 23 to 65. What felt so good later on was when some of them expressed gratitude to me for arranging a “magical night”. One of my friends told me “I’ve never experienced anything like that before! Thank you!” I just do what I do, but when people take notice and express appreciation I feel affirmed for just being me.
But this wasn’t the highlight of my night. I ran into a couple of patients there. One was actually an ex-patient, and he liked talking to me but seemed to be wondering what on earth I was doing there. The other was a current patient, and one of my favorites. For the past few years we’ve done terrific work together. At one point during the night, she sat me down and took pains to express the deepest kind of gratefulness and appreciation for what I have done for her, or, more accurately, what she has been able to accomplish with my help. I was all verklempt. (It’s actually harder to take gratitude than to give it. Have you noticed?) It was difficult to take in all this love, but I could see she meant every word and all I can say here is – this is why I work. This is why I did a 180 some 20 years ago and quit being an executive recruiter and placed my ass in therapy and shrink school and struggled like crazy to build a practice. I did it to make a difference and change the course of lives. Or of just one life. So fuckin’ dayeinu, man!
Finally, there’s Shelley, who the next day said, “I love sharing this life with you! I didn’t like my life, back in my first marriage. Ever since I met you, I’ve loved living!” What’s that worth?
Then, later at night, she peeks into my office – “I just caught the first 5 minutes of an old movie I DVR’d and had to stop because this movie is for us. Come watch!”
Ever see Capra’s “You Can’t Take It With You”?
This very relevant movie from the Depression era is a classic about classism, and addresses the 99% vs. the 1%. This along with paranoid cops investigating a suspected terrorist cell; and an eccentric “grandpa” (Lionel Barrymore) who dropped out of the corporate world 35 years before to create an exuberant, sometimes chaotic household of dreamers, inventors and artists, a little bohemian paradise of young and old under one roof.
There’s such generosity of spirit in this movie, it made me wonder what kind of future household stirs inside of me. What could I create, should I dare to let it all go myself?
I could start with the household I’ve already got right here with Wonder Woman and Krazy Kat.
So this getting old is yet to…get old. I lose something and gain something with every passing day. (Like, you think I could have appreciated that flick so much even 10 years ago? Hah!)
I may be losing strength with which to keep climbing the mountain, but I’m gaining a growing capacity to enjoy the view.