… in infamy. April 13, 19 hundred and 67.
The pages on the calendar turn, as they are wont to do, and it appears that I’m back around to yet another birthday. I could almost swear we just did this.
In fact, it was two years ago when I wrote about a birthday at some length. That entry was almost certainly better than this one will be. It was one of those deals where I knew exactly what I was feeling, knew how to say it, all I had to do was sit down and let it flow. Sort of wrote itself really.
And then there’s today.
I’ve been in this mood, whatever it is, for close to a couple of weeks now. So far it has defied description, or at least avoided any description that felt accurate enough to satisfy me. I’m pretty sure it’s birthday related but there’s no shortage of other influences too.
It could be the recent loss of three men from my hometown in less than 72 hours, all pretty much my age, all unexpectedly. I hadn’t seen any of them in person in years, only two of the three did I really even know all that well, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve thought about each of them for one reason or another just about every day since then. Little stuff mostly, something or another that brings the situations & circumstances to mind. I almost blogged on that subject but never felt like I had anywhere near the words sufficient to address them in the manner they or their loved ones deserved.
It could be an even more recent funeral I attended, for the wife of a relatively new friend. A heartbreaking situation, totally out of the blue, one of those where you say “there but for the Grace of God” and you wish you knew what you could possibly say that might help even just a little bit. Of course those words are nearly impossible to find because hardly any exist. I actually came away from that with a strong urge to write something that I mostly never got around to, partly never figured out how to do it without sounding almost flippant. You see, my thoughts strayed over to contemplating my own funeral someday, a hypothetical situation in which I found more than a little bit of what might almost pass for humor. Sorry, I guess I’m wired a little funny like that sometimes. Best way to explain it might be that, no matter how genuinely & sincerely I felt horrible for my friend, I couldn’t help but privately laugh at myself a little bit. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism, maybe it’s just the years of practice I’ve had.
The mood might even be influenced, or at least perpetuated, by the death of a celebrity just a few days ago. I was certainly already in mental semi-funk but when news of the sudden passing of pro wrestling legend Jim Hellwig (a.k.a. The Ultimate Warrior) broke I definitely felt some sort of odd connection. Having just watched him on live television less than 24 hours before, the news of his sudden death gave his final public words an eerie quality, many have described it as a man giving his own eulogy. For those unfamiliar with the background to the story this article sums it up pretty well, but in particular it was this part of his Monday night speech that stopped so many fans short on Tuesday.
“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, it makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized.”
Maybe the upcoming 16th birthday of my son is adding to this somehow. While he isn’t a totally finished product yet — despite what teenagers tend to believe — he’s actually pretty close, enough so that momentum alone would likely take him on down his eventual path quite a ways. He is, without question, the most important thing I’ve ever done/been a part of/associated with … and that job is a lot closer to finished than not.
This all brings me to the part of my funk that gave me such pause about writing anything at all right now. Along with the strangers & acquaintances who are kind enough to visit this space, it’s also kindly frequented by family & close friends. I hesitated to touch on any of this for fear that what I’m trying to say would be misinterpreted, that more would be read into it than I intend. The origin of this blog was largely to get me back to writing occasionally, it definitely wasn’t meant to become a source of concern or stress … for anybody.
So, for the record, I am not suggesting I have any sort of pre-death premonition or sense of imminently impending doom or anything nearly so dramatic. But …
For whatever reason(s) I can’t quite shake the feeling that there’s just not a whole lot left for me, or even in me maybe. That’s about as good a phrase for it as I can come up it, and Lord knows I’ve been trying to find some way to describe it adequately in my own head for a lot of hours now. Two years ago at this time I described middle age as “that point where you realize there’s probably as much behind you as in front of you”. The difference between now and then is that I’m fairly well convinced that there’s a LOT more behind me than in front of me.
That’s not exactly breaking news, simple statistics — average lifespans & such — would indicate that’s probably the case. Somehow though it feels more real than it ever has before. It’s not “realizing your own mortality”, I did that bit about three decades ago and have long been disabused of the notion that I’m ten feet tall, much less bulletproof. This is .. something else.
Now right about here I can almost hear those of you who have already been through this stage of life, I figure I might as well address some of the things you’d be kind enough to try to tell me. Like “Life Begins At 50” (or some other number bigger than 47) for example. I totally appreciate the sentiment, I’ve certainly seen people who blossomed in some of those higher age elevations, I’ve seen magnificently realized and fulfilling lives well into eras far beyond my own … I just don’t believe — deep down at my very core — that’s going to be the path my life takes.
I already hear the encouragement of positive phrases like “Life Is What You Make It” … except these 47 years have led me to the conclusion that isn’t exactly accurate. We may have some influence over it but a considerable amount of it seems to be what life makes of you instead. Right or wrong, I’m pretty well convinced about that aspect of things. I’ve pondered the role of “free will” versus “predestination” more than a little bit too, even before this current funk began. I see a good bit more of the latter in play than the former, just to be honest.
What pushed me over the edge into writing today — into needing to write today, if that makes sense — was, of all things, an incredibly random seeming conversation with a cashier at Wal-Mart. Yes, that’s what I said: at Wal-Mart. Look, I figure if people have been solving the world’s problems in Waffle Houses at 3am for this long then some sort of profound discussion could at least possibly happen at a Wal-Mart so I’m going to accept it for what is was.
It’s not unusual for me to chit-chat during checkout. I get that from my Dad I think, he’s kind of known in our family for the uncanny gift of being able to suddenly have a long conversation pretty much any place and any time. This conversation started out benign enough really, something about the self-checkout lines working better now than they did when first installed there. From there we went through how the employee had only been there a year or so & wasn’t around for the first attempt here with those confounding devices. From there it was something about how long I’d lived in Athens, did I like it, etc and so forth. You know, just chit-chat stuff.
In response to her casual question about how I liked Athens, I may have inadvertently summed up a whole lot of things when I answered, equally casually “Eh, there’s good & bad. I don’t think I really fit in here exactly. Then again, I really don’t feel like I’ve ever belonged anywhere I’ve lived, don’t figure I ever will at this point”. I wasn’t really expecting the stunned look that comment got in return. I mean, it wasn’t supposed to be any sort of deep insight or powerful observation or anything like that. It was just a simple honest answer. She recovered after a couple moments and said something to the effect of “don’t say that, it’s never too late”. I just shrugged, and said what I say quite a bit “It is what it is”, adding “if I haven’t found it by now then I’m probably not going to, but I’m okay with that”.
Once again, I feel like I have to stop and make something clear here, to avoid any misunderstandings. That specific comment has little to nothing to do with people, other than me than me anyhow. I’m an odd bird in a lot of ways, so finding a place where I “fit in” or “belong” was going to be a helluva challenge no matter where you’re talking about. It’s not really any sort of big deal really.
Instead, what felt like a revelation of sorts was how I felt about that, what my comment highlighted to me: a sense of resignation. That’s really what I seem to have left in me mostly right now: resignation. I’m not incredibly depressed, I’m not especially angry, I’m not particularly wishing for something or anything else. I think maybe I’m just reaching the point of accepting things as they are. That doesn’t even suggest things are necessarily all that bad or anything, it’s just that, well … they are what they are. I am what I am, the world is what it is, both for better or worse but there you go: It is what it is.
What seems to be twisting my head around right now might be nothing more than trying to adjust to that reality, to that mindset. For much of 47 years I’ve tilted at windmills, I’ve tried to improve (to my way of thinking anyhow) things large & small, I’ve hoped/wished/prayed for one thing or another, I’ve pondered alternatives both realistic and fantastical.
I just don’t seem to have that in me very much any more, hence this sense of resignation. The world, from macro to micro, is going to move down the path as it will whether I’m fighting it tooth & nail or absent from it entirely likely matters very little.
Apparently I’m not handling that reality quite as well as I could be.