In any given moment

On Sunday after church, a friend mentioned this blog and since he’s the kind of person one admits stuff to, I told him that lately I’ve been hesitant to get too vulnerable here. I wondered if it was something about the medium itself and being known by many of my readers versus a journal essay where I’m essentially anonymous. My friend (who blogs here) listened, then quoted Abraham Maslow:

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. 

Alright… since I’ve committed to speak of my aging, I’ll step forward with this. Currently I feel as if I’m wrestling with this business of older. It pushes into every role and unsettles it, most particularly the writer role, but really every aspect of life. It’s like all the good and bad of this stage — freedom, envy, discontentment, limitation, gratitude, belovedness, uncertainty — jostles in me simultaneously.

A few pictures: In an exercise inspired by Ignatian spirituality I found myself identifying as a woman in a crowd near Jesus, placing myself in the front to see, because I was too old to be noticed anyway! I was startled at what I’d thought. One night I dreamt I’d signed up for academic courses but panicked because I hadn’t attended classes and would have FAILURE on my record. In another dream I slipped into a deep icy hole by the path and clung to the icy ledge, which began to crack, though I managed to grab a fence and get out before it broke. In yet another dream I was ordained, of all things, without prior examination and by a circle of women!

All muddled and weird in the moment, but here’s to stepping forward… hopefully into growth.

On Drabble’s “The Dark Flood Rises”

We’re about to get a lot of this, I’m thinking as I read Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises (2016). Stories full of old people, that is, as a certain generation of authors gets old. Not that literature doesn’t have elderly characters — King Lear, The Stone Angel‘s Hagar, Gilead‘s John Ames come to mind — but I can’t recall reading a novel where aging is so relentlessly the theme.

51zpQxCwB2L._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_Fran, 70ish, is center of a cast of mostly older folk being older in their individual ways. She races about the country assessing care homes for the elderly on behalf of a charitable trust, another person luxuriates in bed, and so on. Not much happens, though that’s not quite true — there are two falls, one hip surgery, and two deaths, plenty of drama for those affected. But in terms of plot, these developments are inevitable and inevitability is no page turner. Flood threatens, as the title suggests, be it a migrant inundation, a potential earthquake beneath the Canary Islands, or the swell and fate of the elderly.

          Inevitability is no page turner.

I admire Drabble’s work; the book has good reviews. As sociology, it rings accurate, if rather pessimistic. (“The feeble…are outweighing the hale…. It’s a dystopian science fiction scenario, a disaster movie.”) But I find myself ambivalent. Maybe I’m too much like the novel’s Jo, who teaches a poetry class “On Old Age and the Concept of Late Style,” supposing it might be “ennobling or comforting or bracing,” only to find “it threatens to be lowering, this emphasis on age… depressing.”

As “old” in fiction begins to catch my eye, what am I hoping to see? What do I want from literature for this time? Is it realistic to hold out for nobility, comfort, a brace?

Writing about aging

A Sunday afternoon in December, and it’s grey, and it’s raining, and I’m afraid to begin, though I’ve been thinking for some months about doing this blog. I keep putting it off. I have my excuses. Some relate to the technicalities of blogging. Others concern readiness. Am I old enough to talk about Old? Do I really want to crawl into that niche, observe and report, write a blog about aging?

Well, I’m 67. I’m old enough. And I’m already in the niche. Looking around. Noticing.

Niche means nook or cranny, a place set into. A cavity. Or a specialized section of the population. It can also mean a suitable position, with implications of call or vocation. All seem true. So, I will begin.