Late Life Crises.
I used to crack jokes about it being my turn for a nervous breakdown. Then, when I saw one approaching, in its aged form, I decided to get through it fast. Or die. Dying seemed preferable at times but that’s really not my style, although my style had taken a short holiday and left me in Departures.
Late life crises are more productive than the midlife variety. The legacy of the midlife crisis is a sense of guilt, inadequacy and failure. Late life crises are built on such demons but have the advantage over the earlier variety of being more productive and time limited: you recognise the script and you’ve bullet pointed the key points in advance, but they are a hell of a lot less fun; no fast cars, late bars, illicit dares or neighbours’ stares; more hoping you might just have a stroke.
The late-life crisis is a relentless bastard. It throws up everything you thought you’d cast in the Biffa Bin decades before and it festers, now decayed, multiplying in your kitchen as the evening light fades and it’s worse at noon when full summer sun makes mockery of misery.
You think it’s you. Friends say it’s not. You think that’s proof that you are so corrupt you manage to blind nice people who cannot see they are drinking coffee with that which clings to the sides of the bin. They speak kindly to that viral infection sipping through a mask.
But once the nonsense is over and you forgive your friends for their indulgence (and yourself for doing your best in impossible circumstances/across four decades/which you know you should have avoided in the first place as you have always known) again, the future’s yours.
The storm, when it came, as if from nowhere, a grief, a thunderous hurricane that cut the power supply suddenly and without warning, was, this time, this late when the body also puts up a fight, relentless. Every organ removed, wrung through and replaced without aneasthetic. Every function examined; every purpose interrogated, value and worth relaunched, blue and bruised, stitched and scarred.
In mid-life, it was different when it waned. The dull throb of ordinary retained, excitement drained away slowly down a greased drain. The future was yet to come but it was mapped. There was recompense, apology and dining to be done. Visits to the Science Museum. Others to be appeased. Dinner with friends. Confused friends. Envious friends. Hours on trains and barbecues. Growing fatter. Entertaining Mother. Going to the races, even. Willing a drama. Chatty friends and silenced friends, all calling for explanation, justification and a rationale, for running from institutionally justified limitation. Not daring to ask what it’s like. Not seeing how horrid it is. And to re-enlist, you sign up, don’t you? You explain yourself in simple terms, call yourself silly and get back on the game. Life moves on. A decade or two or some more.
The late life crisis is a solitary affair. People have been here before. The silences multiply, and a core group forms. Five people you’d phone if you shot someone/yourself. You think being shot might be preferable to carrying on. And then you get it. A crack appears in your argument. You write a list – look over a decade or two or three, examine what you did, how you did it and why you did and friends start seeming less gullible, deluded, insane. They tell you to future proof.
Late life doesn’t last very long if you’re gloomy This time you recognise the offence was against yourself. It is you that you must repair. You’ve done more than enough for others, some of it pretty good and some of it you got terribly wrong. But your wrong doings and mistakes, (theirs, your boss’, his, hers, your parents’, their parents’, the voters’, the State’s) and perhaps even every single one of your exes’ wrongs, don’t mean you are no good, and it must follow that even they are ok.
So when the light begins to appear at the end of the tunnel, and it will, then you’ll look forward to now. And now will return. It feels like it’s been once and gone forever but it will return.
Now it’s time to find out just how very far your potential might stretch. Because you’ll be dead soon – and love really is all there is left to live for.
In the eye of the storm, right now – pulled on a jet stream quite possibly straight back round and back into the epicentre of oblivious gloom – but going with it for now.
The dawn chorus happens every day