If it weren’t for the Beatles, turning 64 wouldn’t be a significant event. Well, I’m needed, feeded, and loved so I’m in the black. But the song no longer has the ironic, rollicking feel as it used to.
Historically, I’ve felt happy on my birthdays, growing older and farther away from my childhood and adolescence made them a liberating experience. When I hit 60 though, everything changed. I scraped bottom with no idea why. Eventually it dope-slapped me–a Woody Allen moment. Woody, like most of us, believed that life basically revolves around sex and death. But for me at 60, death had subtly slipped into first place. Not the fear of it, but the heightened importance of life. Which has meant pulling my head out of my ass and, at least once a year taking a real hard look to assess what I see, where I’ve been, what I’ve done, haven’t done, what I still need to do. I guess my birthday has become an atheist’s Yom Kippur.
And in truth, despite some tough road bumps this past year (the death of my father, my and Sue’s injuries), I’ve also had the wonderful experience of one son’s marriage and the other’s serious commitment to becoming an electrician, though my thoughts didn’t end there.
Been both a difficult and uplifting year. Sue and my injuries affected our lives in significant ways for a long enough time, to make our home life strained and logistically problematic. We tried to help each other as much as possible, but for both of us “help each other” wasn’t enough to get past our incapacities and the lousy moods that rode along with them. This caused some tension since we were unable to get out of each other’s way. We work at home and neither could drive until very recently. To our gratitude and respect, Jake stepped up and relieved the tension though his acts and attitude. In and of itself, this made the past year memorable. (Better that than shoulder pain, no?) Another really important memory and lesson–in tough times, friends step up. Forever in their debt.
Gratifying and frustrating. Two false starts on a new website were pretty disappointing, but the people who created Sue’s new site (www.susangoodmanbooks.com) are super talented and I now look forward to getting mine finished. And talking about the kindness of friends–one has helped me with areas of creating a business that I not only didn’t know and understand, but would have hated to do by myself. I also appreciated the pinch hitters who came off the bench to post and keep my Mondays going after the operation when I could barely move, type, or think.
The other interesting work-related phenomena was proofing my three published books for eventual digital downloads and then skimming over Ties That Blind. Since I hadn’t read any of them in more than a decade, it was a huge relief that all four books stood the test of time. Despite enjoying the stories and writing, it was still a boring, mind numbing, ass-wiggling job proofing the same books at least three times. (Each book needed to be proofed after their original scanning, then reproofed after being formatted for different platforms.)
This year, other than the constant physical pain and my lost time, not many. But the older I become the more regular wistful shoulda’s, rear their birthday heads.
Shoulda learned a subject deeply enough to become expert in it. For example, understanding movies to the depth that Pauline Kael did. Of course, being able to publicly review them with brilliance would have been nice too.
Shoulda been a wildlife photographer. (The laughter you hear in the background is coming from everyone who knows me. I’m the guy who breaks out in a cold sweat driving beyond Boston’s beltway and who refuses to stay at any place that doesn’t have cable.)
Also, this year it has hit me even more strongly that the cultural divisions in this country are Red, Blue (or, in my mind, just a very pale Blue), and those who are flat out alienated. Worse, I don’t see a framework for any reconciliation. Progressives look down at the Reds, Reds see us as the devil. The alienated can’t figger out what politics does for them except fuck ’em.
But even politically, I see a candle burning. The 98/99% movement is banging on one of the two fundamental issues of our time. Class. Maybe something’s gonna give.
And so another year has passed and I expect to make it through the next. You all can look forward to a NOW I’M 65. Meanwhile, I take heart in the stages of life described by a philosopher whose name I forget: 0-15 = Infancy,15-30 = Adolescence, 30-45 = Maturation, 45-60 = Empowerment, 60 + = Wisdom.
“The human potential which at its best always allows for:
(1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment;
(2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and
(3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.”