Wednesday 27 August 2008
"The easy path of aging is to become a thick-skinned, unbudging curmudgeon, a battle-axe. To grow soft and sweet is the harder way."
from The Force of Character and the Lasting Life
via Whiskey River - apposite as ever.
Yesterday I saw some old friends I hadn't seen for years. They no longer live in England. I'm always pleased by the thought of seeing them, pleased but also apprehensive. They are deep, complex people, not superficial, and once we knew each other rather well. Supposing one of them asked: So how are you these days? How are you, really? They probably wouldn't ask. Our contact now, after all, is scanty, more an honouring of memories than anything. But supposing they asked?
I might make light of the question: Ah, as I get older I'm less and less able to answer that. Don't you find the same? Or I might find myself saying: Not so good. It's so hard. Why does it not get easier? Although I still feel I keep growing, getting stronger, it only gets harder.
I might say: You know, I think what it is, however fucked up and stunted you are, if you stick at life, keep trying not to turn away, not to harden your heart, not to hate and blame everyone but yourself, you slowly get stronger and more sorted. You take more and more pleasure in music, literature, nature. The colours of the world get sharper, even as your eyes grow dimmer. What's more, though, your defences keep falling away and your loneliness and failure, entrenched since you were young - my loneliness and failure - hurt more and more. Would I put the defences back? I don't think so. But it hurts.
They didn't quite ask. Or rather, they sort of asked. And I sort of gave a 'what... doing' , not a 'how... being' answer. And then we talked of other things. But if they were interested, they'll have seen the answer in my face, I suppose, as I saw in their faces much more than we spoke of.