Adventures in being old

I read that the best way to get over writer’s block is just to write the first thing that comes to mind, and eventually, if you keep writing, something will come out of it. So that’s what I am going to do.

I realise the reason I have neglected this blog is that I had a specific perception of it: that I was going to write articles that helped me explore some part of my life and potentially learn about myself along the way. The more I think about it, though a valid approach, it’s not something that is conducive to me actually writing things regularly.

One of the reasons why I think I started this blog in the first place was to give myself a place to put my thoughts so they aren’t rattling around in my brain. Of late, I have been forced to confront my own fragility and consider morbidity in a way that I never really had up until this point. So as I rapidly and inevitably approach my 40s here are some thoughts:

Change is the only constant

As time elapses, I become increasingly and painfully aware of the fact that (like my father) I am resistant to change. Routine, pattern and symmetry in all parts of life give me comfort, and I like nothing more than to put things neatly into their own little boxes. Whether that is something as mundane as a morning routine, or as complex and intricate as a personal relationship, I am always trying to identify pattern and establish predictability. Organised chaos? Sure, just drop the ‘chaos’.

Unfortunately, life is at least for me intrinsically unpredictable. The only identifiable repeating pattern is that of change itself. In fact sometimes it feels as though the more organised things are the more you are inviting something to happen. On a long enough timeline, everything’s going to change change and not necessarily in a pleasant way.

The simpler you make things, the less that can go wrong… right? To a certain degree I have tried to live this philosophy, and attempted where possible to simplify and distill my life into something that I find manageable. What that theory doesn’t take into account however is the entropy caused by actually living. Meaning, even if I take great pains to simplify, control, and organise, I can and (with increasing probability, will) meet with the chaos of change whether I like it or not.

It is therefore apparent to me that the only way to approach change is not to try to predict it, or be afraid of it when it occurs. But to simply expect it, and when it happens try to trust myself to have the knowledge, empathy and experience to deal with whatever has happened, and to accept the outcome as a natural conclusion of a process. Eventually, whatever has changed will become normality.

Everything is fin(it)e

A recent trip to the emergency room resulting in surgery and a rather traumatic recovery bore but one positive outcome (besides the resolution of the issue which caused the ordeal). I chose to view the incident as the universe offering me a chance to course-correct my life, and I began to give a lot of thought to the choices I had made that had led up to that point.

In fact, as traumatic as it was, the whole experience brought into sharp focus the fact that I am not in my invulnerable 20s anymore and that I therefore needed to approach my health and many other factors of life as finite resources rather than the inexhaustible pools that I had relied on when I was younger.

I’ve heard getting drunk described as ‘just borrowing happiness from tomorrow’, and I’ve come to realise that you can apply this principle to almost everything. The more you demand from your body, your finances, your relationships, basically anything, the more you need to repay later in kind. And if you choose not to consciously make this repayment it’s often made for you and at a time which may be incredibly inconvenient or disruptive.

The man who does not choose will eventually have that choice made for him.

Variable perceptions

The nearer you get to an object the clearer you can see it. As it comes more clearly into view the less you have to rely on your own experience to make inference, and eventually facts replace fiction.

People tend to make assumptions coloured by their particular worldview or experience. They make the mistake of believing that just because they chose to do something, then that something must be correct, lest they expose themselves to the eventuality that their choice must be wrong or at least not correct for anyone except themselves. Often times the people who proclaim loudly and at length that the opinions of others don’t matter to them are those to whom their external perceptions are most important.

This fact has become more and more painfully clear since the majority of people have started living their lives on social media platforms. Gone is the idea of just doing something because you want to. Choices are heavily influenced by whether or not that particular thing will get a good photo for Instagram or form the basis for a social media post that will make your friends jealous and prove your wealth or social status.

What’s concerning is that this behaviour has given rise to a malformed zeitgeist which dictates that if you don’t behave this way then you mustn’t be happy, or even to a certain extent normal. I’ve come up against this a few times, I’m met with raised eyebrows when I say I don’t use any form of social media, and a few times I’ve found myself the subject of unfair and unsolicited judgement from people who know little to nothing about me, and worse still don’t possess the courage to sit in front of me to ask me a question.

I don’t know where I am going with this, but I think if I had to take one lesson from it, it’s to be patient and try to be rational about what is causing someone to behave the way they are. Not everything someone else does (in fact much than we think) is motivated by anything except an insecurity or their own experience.

Arguing with someone else’s experience is a waste of time.