Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many’
Fandango has asked us to reflect on something that brings us joy, and considering I’ve struggled so much with ongoing depression over the years, even off the top of my head the list is surprisingly long. Family, friends, music, creativity, hobbies, homemaking, learning, loving… and it made me realise that there is so much in life to bring me joy that the longer I live, the happier I seem to feel.
So for me, the thing that brings me most joy is probably the gift of growing older. I have a fridge magnet that says ‘Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many’. It is a sobering thought, and every time I see it I am reminded of my best friend’s husband, who died in his early fifties of kidney cancer. Only six months after diagnosis he was gone, but he will never be forgotten…
Hmmm… The trick, of course, is becoming a real legend in the first place. And in my opinion Donald Trump, despite his overblown narcissistic self-belief and blatant best efforts to distort the truth, will definitely go down in history as more of a bell-end than a legend… 🙂
‘The one charm of the past is that it is the past’
Recently I’ve been looking through my old journal-style diaries from the past 20 years, and to be completely honest apart from the occasional important memory of note I’m absolutely mortified at the repetitive patterns of self-absorbed thoughts and feelings skimming the surface that seem to have carried me through life thus far.
Shockingly there is little textual content of any real consequence to remark on, or to recall with even a modicum of pride. Instead I’m like a broken record regurgitating a continuous litany of woes, producing page after page of lamenting in longhand, a multiplicity of myopic miseries droning on and on ad infinitum.
It’s embarrassing to read back over such singular insularity. I mean, I know they’re all my diaries, written exclusively for my eyes only, but even so… I always remember them as being my precious personal space for writing unhindered and unregulated whatever matter of vital importance was on my mind at that moment. Words to guard well for posterity, or so I thought.
So where are all those wise pronouncements and reflective insights I was expecting to see? More to the point where has all this constant wittering on about vacuous bullshit come from? Was I really always so momentously preoccupied with my hairstyle, my clothes, my weight above all else? Was I always so unhappy in my work, wherever I happened to be working at any given time?
I can’t help but cringe at the reality of reading back over such revealing records. It seems that overall on the whole my daily life was neither as good nor as bad as I remember it. And there is a recurring irrelevance to the regular topics I seemed to find so important to focus on time and time again, leaving my everyday normality registering nothing of note on any scale of social significance.
Distressingly it seems in retrospect I’m not actually the kind of deep-and-meaningful person I thought I was at my core, and have in fact in essentials proved myself to be just as shallow and narcissistic as much of the rest of humanity… how depressing! However I suppose there is no point in shedding tears of dismay over the disappointing internal world my historical diaries have divulged.
So the time has come for me to move on from all these embarrassing old wordy memories once and for all. I finally need to lay my past to rest and look ahead to the unwritten future, unencumbered by the rotting entrails of emotional baggage that follow me around like a fomenting feast of frustration and futility, eating away at me. Because ultimately what’s done is done, and thankfully the one charm of the past is that it is the past… 🙂
I don’t really think of myself as someone with fortitude, showing courage in adversity, and yet…
Having so much time on my hands just now, I’m doing something I’ve been thinking about for ages, since long before we moved from London to Inverness at the end of last summer. I’m reading through my old diaries, life journals from the last 20 years. They were still stored neatly in the cardboard box I’ve kept them in forever, because when we were packing to move I couldn’t decide whether or not to keep them for posterity, so they simply came with me as they were.
And here I am, re-reading my thoughts and feelings from two decades ago going forwards, and looking back to the words my younger self wrote so long ago I’m truly surprised at how well I’ve coped with some really stressful situations in my life, considering the particular circumstances I was faced with. I’m always so quick to criticise my past actions, focusing so detrimentally on those things I got wrong, or could have done better. And yet…
I’ve survived. I’m still here. I still have my family. I have two full-to-bursting A4 lever arch files plus 18 individual A4 wire-bound lined notebooks stuffed with words that mattered enough to me at the time to write them down and keep them safe. Reflective words, rambling words, ranting words – happy words, sad words, good words, bad words. So I’m taking my time in looking back, letting the memories awaken, letting them sink in, and then letting them go again with thanks.
Yes I’ve definitely made mistakes, and have definitely made some bad calls over the years, but I’ve also coped far better with other difficult situations than I could ever have imagined. Even the really bad stuff. I’ve achieved a lot more than I remembered, succeeded in the stuff of life way more than I’ve failed. So perhaps I do have more fortitude than I’d thought, perhaps I’m far more resilient than I ever give myself credit for?
On 1st September 2000, I wrote about a quote I’d seen written somewhere a few days previously that had resonated deeply with me – ‘Life is a journey, travel it well’. And although in the intervening years I’d inevitably forgotten all about it, I find it’s an idea that still resonates with me today so have recreated it with the little magnetic letters my grandchildren like playing with whenever they come to visit.
It’s been such a long time since I saw them, and it no doubt will be a while yet before lockdown is lifted and we can all see each other again. So I suppose right now we are all displaying fortitude in truly difficult circumstances, all finding our own way through this pandemic as best we can. Hopefully in the future I can look back on this painful time and think, yes, overall I feel I’ve travelled my life well… 🙂