Monday, 15 July 2013

Another Morning.





4.30 a.m. and dawn breaks outside my bedroom window. I am woken by the light, and then alerted by a cat stand-off in the road. Two of them contesting each other's right to be there. Vocal protest, postural threats, neither able to break eye-contact. Luckily, no traffic. Then a distant dog-bark gives them the excuse they need to turn simultaneously and run in opposite directions, dignity and social position more or less intact.

It is already warm, and I think of getting up and doing the ironing before the real heat of the day kicks in, for it does feel like a kick.
We are not used to this in England. The odd couple of days, yes, but not for any length of time. Not with temperatures over 30 degrees and the sky dotted with little clouds that barely move.
I think about the ironing, and then I think about not ironing.
My son is staying for a few days before heading off to distant lands again, so I think about food instead, and how I can prepare meals without cooking.
Then I go back to bed and try not to think of anything, but instead am unexpectedly swamped by sadness

I miss people.
I miss people who have moved away geographically, and those whom death has taken. I miss loves requited and unrequited and the complexities and richness they brought to my life. I even miss myself when young. I think I'd like another go at being young and try to do it better.
But then I see the complex web of cause and effect, and see that I could make very few changes without altering the essential pattern, and there is nothing I would want to change in the essential pattern.

I didn't expect it to happen, this getting old business. It crept up on me when I wasn't looking.
Like the cats, I was posturing, keeping eye-contact, maintaining my status and all the time age was creeping stealthily up behind me, so that when I turned to flee I couldn't.
I could walk with a certain dignity, but it had got me and I couldn't run anywhere.
So now I suppose I walk towards it, hoping that, like the dawn, it brings promise as well as threat.

On the whole, it would have been better to get up and do the ironing.





22 comments:

Joan said...

(o). Sigh.

Relatively Retiring said...

Joan: sorry - you too?

marigold jam said...

I think we can all identify with these thoughts. Getting old is not for wimps as they say but of course the alternative doesn't really bear thinking about and as you say all those paths not taken, all those deeds not done etc were probably for the best in the end or our lives would have been quite different and that's not to say necessarily better! I hope that the sunshine and blue skies soon chased away the sadness like the sun burning off a morning mist. Life is good on the whole.

Relatively Retiring said...

Marigold: thank you. It's rare for me to express melancholy, but I think it's something we need not fear. It's an essential part of life, and no doubt particularly relevant to the ageing process.

Zhoen said...

A few small tears sit on the edge, as I sit on the edge of this part of the journey.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: we all expect to be immune. I don't think you're anywhere near an edge!

mm said...

Oh yes. This growing old business.

I think occasional melancholy is part of the adjustment process - and I definitely need to believe in that promise.
xo

Jan said...

I think it's inevitable that we consider the choices we made - perhaps especially as we see our children making their own choices.

Still feel a dash of melancholy beats doing the ironing - my ironing mountain bears out that view.

Jee said...

I live with a perfect example of how not to deal with ageing and end one's life miserably. I strive every day not to go down that path, but like you I miss my younger self and would like to have done that stage rather better. The roads not taken are many and varied but if I've learn't anything it's not to live in an endless state of regret. I don't think it's a bad thing to spend some time in reflection if we then move forward early morning often breeds melancholy I find- the feeling of being alone in the world is quite intense.

Relatively Retiring said...

mm, Jan and Jee: thank you for your comments. We obviously share the occasional melancholy and find it a significant part of mature life.
Jee lives with a shining and constant example of how not to grow old!

pohanginapete said...

An awful lot of the best literature would never have been created without some degree of melancholy. Yes, getting older might deliver more melancholy, but it also delivers the wisdom to understand and deal with it, although whether that's accepted is up to the individual.

Also, the English language lacks some of the nuances of other languages for expressing these kinds of feelings. I think some of what I can only describe as 'melancholy' in English feels to me much more like the Japanese concept of mono no aware (although I don't claim to understand that well, and I'm not implying it reflects what you feel).

Here's to being human :^)

Relatively Retiring said...

P.Pete: thank you for your thought-filled comment. What you say of literature is so true, and I find the Japanese concept profoundly true as well. Yes, it does reflect what I feel - the essential transience of life. Becoming a grandmother has reinforced these feelings.

Peregrina said...

How I agree with you, R.R! Becoming a grandmother later than most of my friends (one has 12 great-grandchildren!) brings home the transience of life perhaps more than anything else I have experienced. Knowing that, like you, I'm unlikely to see the babies become mature adults - and how much I want to see that! - causes a deep sadness that underlies the joy.

There's also a Japanese term for that - this mixture of joy and sorrow. It's wabi-sabi which is exemplified by the cherry blossom: beautiful and bringing joy during the time it lasts, but quickly over. When I find it, I'll send you a beautifully written passage which defines it better than anything else I've read.

And as for old age creeping up behind then hitting with a wallop (also after thinking I was immune): I've experienced that in the last couple of years, too, putting a certain much-loved activity beyond my physical capabilities. The only thing to do is to squash the anger and to be glad of the many things that I can still do.

Peregrina said...

Whoops! I should have followed P'Pete's link to mono no aware before writing my comment. I nearly did halfway through, then realised that I'd risk losing everything that I'd already written if I went away from this page.

Relatively Retiring said...

Peregrina: thank you for your comment. The Japanese seem better able to express this confusion of emotions than some other cultures - although I think the Russians also recognise and handle conflicting emotion.
Melancholia seems an essential part of the human condition.

Isabelle said...

Yes indeed. My sadness consists mainly of missing my son and daughter who live elsewhere. I liked being a hands-on mum. Ah well. As you say, one does vaguely think one might not get old... but alas...

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: I am sorry that you feel the loss of your son and daughter so profoundly, and I hope the joy of the grandchildren is a balancing factor. So much of life seems to be some sort of balancing act.

Leslee said...

The heat does not help one's mood. Here in Boston we hit 100 F (37C) yesterday with extremely high humidity. (This afternoon's C reading is 34C with 52% humidity.) Even getting up early does not avoid it. And it's been like this for a week. A front is coming through later today, thankfully, and more reasonable temperatures are behind it.

I have a certain amount of age-related thoughts and regrets these days, particularly working with all younger colleagues at my new job, all with young children or some still single and footloose (that part I remember - the kids part passed me by entirely!). My only sibling is estranged from me, with only the rare co-coordination of things regarding our elderly father. It brought unexpected tears to my eyes on the way to work the other day. But we live now and find what joy and connection we can in the world around us.

By the way, I love your recent early morning garden posts. :-)

Relatively Retiring said...

Leslee: thank you. Have a look at P.Pete's link on sadness and melancholy. We all share so much.

Gillie said...

Thank you for the post, and for all the thoughtful comments, I keep harping on the fact of my age, the actual figure, which is ridiculous as there is nothing to be done. I have a lot to be thankful for, a loving husband and children, though the latter are more than a thousand miles away in each direction so unlike Isabelle I don't get a daily dose of W, D and L! No parents to worry over, our health is good, well so long as I remain upright and don't sprain my ankle which had me down for a month! Looking back I wish we hadn't had to move so many times for jobs, I am so tired of introducing myself but I've lived in some lovely places and met interesting people. I've had many chances to garden in all sorts of soil too, whilst muttering Bloom Where You Are Planted over and over!

Relatively Retiring said...

Gillie: thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. We are in a similar situation with far-flung family members, and I try to convince myself that it makes the time together even more valuable. It would be good to be nearer though.....
'Bloom where you are planted' has triggered some interesting thoughts, so thank you for that, too.

Molly said...

You are so right that each of us thinks we'll be immune...Until we look in the mirror one day, really look, and realize it's happening to us too. I am now older than my parents were when they died ---how can that be? And yes,sadness is part of it as you realize your act is almost over, the curtain will soon be falling. And life will just go on without you.