I’m not sure how this happened, but everything is upside down and it is the new norm I have to accept. I’m Alice in a world where the ceiling is now the floor, and that is just how reality will have to be. We are all mad here.
Let me explain this better: When you are young you are always counting up to experiences.
- When I am 16, I will learn to drive a car.
- When I am 18, I graduate and go to college.
- When I am 21, I can drink (well, I don’t like alcohol very much, so I watch my friends drink…. I just have never liked the taste or smell of beer or wine. Okay, I do admit I drink a little but the stuff I do enjoy, the mixes, usually involve chocolate or fruity flavors and they can come in glasses that some would find embarrassing. Well, just the color would be embarrassing for many to be near. So I keep to the soda when I am out in public, because I like to believe I have a certain swagger in my step and a coolness that I aim to keep, and the fruity drinks don’t help).
More counting! Then there is a wedding… and a house…the first baby… and a second… And suddenly, right there, when you have reached your limit on kids, and they begin to age out of diapers and clothes… everything turns.
It’s like in one of those cartoons from the 1940’s where the clocks have a face and the hands are attached to the nose and they spin in a strange fashion. Well, that is my internal clock, and now with 40 fast approaching, I feel the face’s confusion.
I have begun counting down to things… The outcome at the end, I don’t want to even imagine.
(I need a break, just a second. I have a soda around here someplace.)
As I write this, my son has one of his young friends over from school. My boy is five and I love watching his mind work. He is always making up games and is a wealth of knowledge that is not always accurate (but he will argue it even if he knows he is wrong). When he is talking and looking at you, I swear you can see his mind working behind his eyes. It’s like a great collection of clockwork to me, with the gears all turning, locking in and out of place.
Anyway, as I watched him and his friend play outside for a bit, they pulled out the lightsabers and debated who gets to be which character from Star Wars in this battle…. And at that moment, someone could have knocked me over with a feather.
I am old.
That is my son, right there, playing Star Wars like I did when I was a kid. And I am the old guy on the side, the parent, making sure everyone is safe. The role switched on me and I didn’t see it coming at all.
I began to wonder if this is a some kind of a chain I am part of. Not a Star Wars chain (Do they have those? Probably?), but something more philosophical, deeper. Will he be watching his own kids do this in twenty or thirty years?
- How many birthdays do I have left?
- How many books do I have left to write?
- How many days are left in my calendar before I have shuffled off this mortal coil (and, yes, I will shuffle when I do it, because that will be sweet).
- How many Christmases left?
Okay, bringing up Christmas may seem silly, but they mark my days each year.
It’s my mom’s fault that that holiday has such resonance with me. She has a magic when it comes to the holiday, and all of her skills go into creating an atmosphere that makes you believe there could be a Santa if you close your eyes just right. She is a living Christmas song, not one of those corny ones involving a red nose or a hippo, but one of the classics, played on a quiet piano with strings. The one you put on again and again, the one you want playing in the background during dinner, that adds that hint of magic to a candle.
And when I think back on family I have lost, I always think of them around that holiday first, captured in glass, forever in a sweater by a tree. My grandparents making me search through their house for my presents, my other grandmother and her lawn decorated with far too many plastic items with lights in front of them. (Seriously, she had entire scenes going on in that yard.)
These are the ghosts of my Christmas pasts, the markers of my first forty years, and what makes them standout is their finality. These people, these times will never come back again.
(Okay, I need to take a break, maybe grab some chips… no, wait I’m going to continue with this thought.)
Yes, this is all horribly dramatic, but I am haunted by these thoughts these days. It makes me understand why some go through mid-life crises at this point in their lives. It is easier to go mad and reinvent oneself, as compared to accepting the inevitable truth of existence. I’m about to flip to where I have less days than more, a possibly halfway mark is approaching. And once I’m on the other side, I can never return.
I don’t want to think about my life like that! I want to recapture my youth! Screw fate and death’s waiting scythe.
When I was in my early twenties I used to hang out every night at a coffee shop. It would close at 1 AM, and my friends and I would be there until the wee hours, even sometimes going on to another establishment afterwards. Yes, I spent twenty dollars a day on drinks while there, but it wasn’t the drinks. This was our place our moment.
That coffee shop closed years ago, the building now houses a hair dresser.
Anyway, last night I had a dream that I walked in there again, with its dark walls, pictures of customers adorning the side by the counter, loud music, stars on the ceiling, dirty couches along the walls. Everything is as it once was. People in hoodies, too-many earrings, clothes made of hemp.
Here’s the catch with the dream (because dreams always have a catch), I was the only one the right age. I looked out of place, could not look more out of place. And everyone stared at the old man in their midst.
When I got up this morning, I went on to Facebook and started searching, sending out requests to some of my friends from that period in my life I had lost touch with. Everyone seems to be well, happy, many with kids. For some reason, as I scrolled through pictures of my old friends’ lives, it was reassuring. Of what, I can’t say, but I felt better. We had made it through something…
Just a second. I’ll be back. I think the dog needs to go out.
The fact is I don’t need a mid-life crisis. I understand it, I just don’t need it.
I love my life. This is what I was aiming for and hoping for when I dreamed of growing up. (Granted, I would love to be a more successful author… or a somewhat successful author. But I totally dig the crazy books I have written and things seem to be on an upward swing.) And when it comes to my family, I could not be happier. Yes, my kids can drive me a little crazy sometimes, but I totally love their company 95 percent of the time. And I feel like I am doing a good job with this parenting gig.
Exhibit one: Just a few days ago my two-year old daughter got on the table, explaining she had to be on the table to sing her song.
What could my wife and I say?
We said okay.
Then my little girl began singing to my wife and I a song with only one lyric “I love you so much” repeated again and again and again. By the end of the song she was bent over, screaming that one lyric like the lead singer in a hair band from the 80’s. It was wicked awesome.
And yes, I got it on videotape. I seem to collect these moments like points. In a few decades I will look back on that video of my daughter belting it out on that table that she loves me so much with tears in my eyes.
Heck, the tears are almost there just thinking of the possibility of the other future tears.
Maybe I should take another break… no, I’m almost done.
Everything I grew up with is having anniversaries and I hate that.
- This CD or that CD is 20 to 25 years old.
- Let’s see what actors from a favorite movie look like today!
- This musician or actor or writer I like dies or gets very, very old. It doesn’t matter who. Each one surprises you because that is the point of the article.
Heck, most of the jazz artists I listen to are gone the way of the dodo. Making all of their songs that closer to a memorial to a lost time. Taking away a little of the freshness that was once there before. Yes, a song is changed when you realize the artists involved are all deceased. You can’t escape it.
One of the things I love is listening to old radio series, and while they can make me laugh and put me at ease like perfect comfort food for the mind, I can’t escape the fact that everyone involved in the making of each and every episode is long gone.
This is my revolution against clocks.
I’m not going to countdown, or allow myself to think that way anymore! I’m not going to allow myself to be controlled by the past, or memorials. After I finish this post, I’m picking up the extra lightsaber in this house and heading outside to find my son and his friend.
Those Jedis won’t have a chance.
If you liked reading my review, why not check out some of my published books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, the new A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or Doors and Megan as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!
I love reading this. I have counted in terms of another birthday that has come and gone and I am still sick with my mold issues, chemical sensitivities, and allergies. The anniversary of another event that I missed because it was impossible for me to physically be there. Recently I celebrated that it has been 10 years since my last sinus surgery (I had my first five in a period of 3 years followed by a sixth one two years later). I don’t think about how many Christmases I have left but wonder how many birthdays I will go through and still not be able to celebrate the way I would like. It is so natural as we all get older to remember the past and think about our mortality. I am trying very hard to live in the present and not focus on how much time is left or what I cannot do but rather on what I can do and to enjoy every minute that I am here.
I regained some of my lost youth a few weeks ago by just sitting on a slip and slide with my two granddaughters and letting the water spray my face and listen to their laughter as they poured water all over me. I hope the lightsaber gave you great joy.
Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it. What a great response. I haven’t been on a slip and slide in years.
Light sabers are always fun until someone loses a hand. LOL
Scott, you struck a chord with me today. I will be 44 on September 3, and I keep asking myself how the hell I got here. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was in second grade preparing to fight to the death a classmate who tried to tell me that Santa Claus didn’t exist? It seems like it all went by in a blink. This year the boy I met when I was 15, dated through high school and college, and married when I turned 26, nearly died during treatment for colo-rectal cancer. During his illness, I wondered how time could be so brutal, so fickle. My husband was 46…middle-aged…and yet way too young to be so close to leaving this world. Well, he’s fine now. But, boy, do I hear that friggin’ clock ticking louder than ever. It’s scary until I remember that, inside, I am still every age I ever was. And, as a writer, I am a human time machine, traveling backward and forward at will. Time is scary, but it’s powerful, too. The best thing, only thing, (the hardest thing!!!)we can do is use it well.
I’m so glad to hear your husband is okay! And here I am in my post just scared of growing old. Jeepers. That has got to put everything thing in perspective!
Fighting a kid for Santa could be an awesome Christmas story! LOL. You’ve got to, in the least, write a non-fiction post about it when the holidays come around again. People would eat that up.
Glad you liked the post!
I am 59, much closer to the finding Fate’s Fickle Finger pointing my way than you. At this point in my life, I watch my son and daughter watching their sons and daughters – playing, going to school, dating, growing up to be fine young men and women. And even though, after 42 years of marriage, Hubby’s health is not what it once was – and my own joints sometimes remind me of the abuse I put them through in my younger years – I don’t ‘feel’ old.
Maybe it’s because our kids grew and blossomed and turned out pretty much the way we’d hoped. Or maybe it’s the grandkids, and their never-ending antics…but so, far – I’m just a bit slower version of my younger self.
I think I like my life a this ‘bit slower’ pace. It give me more time to enjoy what ‘really’ matters.
Thanks again for your great post.
Thank you! And thanks so much for writing and sharing!
What I find now that I’m closer to 50 than 40 is a sense of urgency that wasn’t there in early life. It isn’t consuming or distracting, but it is always present. “Don’t waste today, you only have so many of them left,” whispers in my ear. I’m a lot less willing to do what is “expected” in favor of doing what is important. 🙂