My Old Age
 a personal
narrative

With some pride and sense of accomplishment, I'd like to claim membership in "the three score and ten" fraternity.  I was born on February 22nd, 1935.  I'm healthy, comfortable, occasionally happy, married to a loving woman, have good friends.  Yet I long for some noble deed that would fulfill my life, and be a fitting climax to a life well lived.  Ultimately what interests me the most is this unmapped territory that I am currently traveling through: old age.

thepilgrim@look.ca





When did it happen?

It wasn't when my body began to feel like an old car that wouldn't start, that needed frequent tune-ups and a new paint job.  It was when I began to lose interest in life.  The usual stuff - going out to movies, parties, books, even the morning newspaper - began to pale.  Such things just didn't interest me anymore.  One day I realized that I was no longer in the game. 
       I needed to find a new game, something beyond the stuff I had spent my life doing.  The problem was what.  And one other thing that I was aware of: I wasn't sure I had enough gas in my tank. 
      One day sitting in the sun (it's a thing old men do),  I concluded that I had moved into a place that I had never been before, a place frightening and challenging.  I was old.  So what did that mean?             I decided I should get about redefining myself and see what was possible.  More than anything I realized I needed to bring forward every bit of creative energy and imaginative planning I could muster to make this part of life the pinnacle of my time on earth.  I found myself excited at the prospect.
 
 

My romp

I sit at the kitchen table, coffee mug warming my hands, the early morning sun burning the mist off of the garden.  I realize once again what my life is about.  It is not simply moving out of the world of work, stuff, day-to-day routine.  
      It is about entering another dimension that is larger than the human.  I can sense its reality in my longing for something more that will fulfill my life.  A deep and personal fervour that it is possible for me to step into this realm gives my life purpose.  Although I have intimations what form it will take, it has yet to be revealed. 

       If there is any clue to what comes next it will come from my “patron saint”,  that odd duck who heads off to joust at windmills, Don Quixote de la Mancha, the hero of Cervante’s masterpiece. 
      The old man bored with his weary life, living cocooned in the care of a scheming niece, runs away and declares himself a Knight Errant.  Forsaking the real world, our hero rides off into a fantasy world that is far larger and more wonderful than the dusty room he has been given by his niece’s  husband.  And so begins one of the most endearing romps in all of Western literature. 
     I want such a romp.  And if the price is to let go of reality, well then, no great loss.
 
 

Quixotic Realm

Whether it is real or imaginary does not matter.  This Quixotic realm is where I am taking myself.  It will not be the place where a Knight Errant rights wrongs and finds his true love, Dulcinea.
     It will be within a mystical realm that allows me to be a different kind of lover.  One who is able to love the world as it is.  One who can love everyone he meets and bless all whom he encounters.          This is what I wish for myself - to put myself in such a world. 
For me it would be as exotic and fantastical as anything that Don Quixote could conjure up.  To leave this weary, rational world  of day-to-day reality, this is my quest.  To enter this realm of impossible dreams, this is my way forward.

 

Night Truth

Two a.m. - I lie in bed looking up at the darkened ceiling.   The night truth is simple. The world is dark; my dreams are but  the fevered longings of an old man.  Icarus falls back to earth.  It is ever thus. 
        Search as I may, I find myself an old animal who has lost interest in the world.  The limits of my truth are simple.  I'm old, world weary and gripped by a reality that offers only the cold comfort of knowing that as of this moment I'm not yet dead.

        How I arrived at this hapless junction, it seems to me, has been the result of living too long, having seen too much, and having  been born with a critical  mind that cannot go beyond what it knows  to be reality.      
        Would that I had been content within the rich fabric of my old beliefs of god and heaven.  Would that the cruel eye of my questioning mind had kept from me the limits of my being.  Would that I had not teased myself  with expectations of what I imagined was possible.

Self Pity and other constructs

 Searching always for the truth, I ponder the value of my life, wonder what my life has been about.  I try to ascertain where I am at this moment, wonder what might yet come to pass.  I force myself to be more than I am capable of being.  For some this might be the great longing that makes us fully human.  For me it feels more like a curse.  At the same time, age, body, mind seem to be saying that I am much more frail than I like to admit. 
        I would dearly love to have my life sing with courage and inspiration and insight into the deep inner divinity of my being. However, one of the mysteries of my life is why after what I thought was a lifetime of spiritual honesty and searching, I am left with the humble truth that I am a frail being, plagued with longing and self delusion, unable to find contentment with what I have.
     God, how I revel in self  pity - all in the name of honesty and truth. Time to leave such limiting realities behind and once again take a leap into what lies beyond - the world of impossible dreams.  But how?
   

I apologize

I had expected this narrative to be a rich inspiring look into my life as I entered my seventh decade.  Instead I find myself going on and on about my uninteresting and mundane existence.  I apologize. 
        My latter years have put the lie to the optimism of my youth and young adulthood.  I see others around me who seem to be successful, happy people getting on with their lives.  I'm envious.  Could I awaken one morning to a difference sense of myself and the world?  This would be my most fervent wish.
         

Lazarus

Like Lazarus returned from the dead, I find myself back in life.  The savior who did the deed of returning me to life was a multitude of friends, who for reasons I cannot grasp, spoke of their love for me.   And so yesterday it came to pass.  In answer to an unspoken prayer, I found myself washed with affection and penetrated with love from friends.   It is like I have been returned to life.  I didn’t know such a thing would be so easy or so simple.

       Still don’t know what this thing called love is, but I sure know how it has changed things for me.  I have at least for this day experienced its mysterious power. 


Making love

I do "fall off the wagon" more times than I care to admit.  Times I seem to fall into despair and depression and weariness.  I think it is a part of the territory.  However, there have been occasions when I have experienced these forces of love which are larger than romantic love or friendship.  These interludes give me some hope that I too may be able to love this way.  I imagine myself in some impossible-dream moment a lover of the world.  And this does not seem totally delusional.
        My experience with this kind of love came about rather accidentally.  I found myself alone in the house for an extended period without phone, television or Internet.  What occurred  launched me into an exploration of what I refer to as a love dust, or as I like to think of it, a golden radiance that I see as filling the space around us. ***

        Very briefly, I found I could generate in my heart an energy that could be extended out to the world.  Perhaps it is the opening of the heart chakra, or some such esoteric event.  For me it seemed like this loving heart was simply an expansion of humanity's ever evolving capacity.  This experience I see now was but the next step in my life which by intent or DNA or design has been an underlying theme of my life.  I like to think of it as making love. 
        
I  now believe that the impossible dream I had for myself is possible.

*** All of this happened a year ago, and can be found at  http://webhome.idirect.com/~thepilgrim/Love-Dust.htm
 

Dollop of Love

And so I decided to explore this realm of Love.  What I required of myself was to once again leave behind all that is reasonable and rational as I go further into this enchanted land.  Why?
        Because my mind says that conjuring up love and pouring it out like a gusher of water onto an arid world is the stuff of fantasy.  The real world is one of cause and effect and proof and results. 
        And yet I find myself clinging to that wonderful image of my youth when I was cocooned in a religious faith.  The Catholic icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus pouring out love to the world still represents some mystical possibility that my adult cynicism finds so hard to accept.  And yet in some profound way I can't help but think that I might be able to do something similar. 
        But only if I am willing to become some sort of religious nut, some religious version of a Don Quixote?  I'm too long in the tooth for such nonsense.  And yet this is the stuff of my old age - to live  impossible dreams.
      Can I let myself walk the world seeing myself as some mystical being who pours out love to all whom he encounters?  I would like to play with this possibility. 
      I would like to live this dream.  I travel the buses, walk the streets of the city imagining myself like some cosmic millionaire who puts hundred dollar bills into unsuspecting people's pockets, blessing people I meet with a large dollop of love and watch as they pass from my vision, richer than they were before they met me. 
        At what point did Don Quixote's fantasy become real for him?  And have I passed that point?  For me it is no longer an illusion.

   

My Heartache

Sometimes my heart aches; often  my heart aches.  Is it for a life that in retrospect seems such a disappointment?  Is it for this fragile moment in human existence?  Is it for the mess we have made of the world, and the pain we inflict on so many?  Yes, for all of the above and probably other things as well.  At times awake in some middle-of-the-night hour, my heart aches to breaking, and yet I cannot cry.
      I wish that my heart was strong and able to pump out love to all I meet.  But it cannot.  Is it this pain that I must bear?   I ache for a world gone wrong.   Too often I turn  from this heartache, busy myself with the trivia of my life.  But if ever there was a challenge worthy of who I long to be this is it - to love this hurting world and all who are in it.


Buried gold 

There is a grinding inertia being a certain age.   I find it one of the most frightening aspects of growing into old age.  To fight off this life-sucking quicksand I have invented for myself the concept of a noble deed, some future event that I can look forward to.  For  me this is a necessity to keep me vital and alive.  However, while I wait for this moment to come upon me, I like most of my species, find my day taken up with the mundane and the ordinary. 
       At an earlier time in my  life I was driven by the urge to mate and procreate.  At the same time the need to succeed and gain position and place within the herd occupied most of my waking life.  All that has changed.

     Age has no such imperatives.  It offers no directives, no sense of purpose.  The terrain can be bleak, arid, dry.  It takes an intrepid traveler to explore this country.  For me, it is the knowing in some part of my being whether from a lifetime of experience or from some deep soul-place within that there is a treasure to be won that keeps me going.  I know if i can only be true to my quest, that the the end will be worth the travail.  Of this I am convinced.  

  

A dream of some import

Once several years ago, I had a dream that remains with me to this day.  A group of people are in this house.  As they turn out the lights in each room, everything falls into a dark void.  I’m shouting, “Stop turning off the lights!” But the lights keep going out until only the few of us who remain are gathered in one room.  Outside  there is a black nothingness.  For some reason, I seem to know that the way to bring back the light is with gold.  I ask everyone in the room who has any gold to hold it in their hand.  Everyone it seems has a bit: a gold neck chain, a gold ring, a gold filling.  It might be enough, I think.  Wondering how this gold is to be used, I wake up.
       Wide awake, i sense that this is a dream of great significance.   There is something the gold signifies that  pertains not just to my life, but to the all of us living at this moment in history. 
       Now years later, I have some sense of the dream's meaning.   I'm convinced that this is the inner gold of the awakening heart.
 

Golden Buddha

In a small town north of Sukota in what was once known as Sumatra, there once was an ancient clay Buddha.  Although it was not a particularly handsome or refined work of art, it had become revered more for its longevity than its beauty.  It had endured violent storms, bitter winters, invading armies.      
        At one point a monk noticed a crack in the weathered clay. Looking closely, he noticed a flash of gold light as the sun reached into the crack.  Breaking the clay shell revealed a beautiful golden Buddha that had been hidden for years beneath.

        This story reflects what I sense has come about in my own life.  More often these days, I realize that the clay and the dross of my life has cracked and fallen away, and I find myself left with my essence, a golden Buddha.  At such moments I feel blessed and joyful and able to celebrate this grace that has come into.my life. 

 

Letting Go

Finally I come to that point of just letting it all go: the exploration of this new territory, the Quixote dream of Lover, the golden age, the quest for a noble deed.  Enough already!  Let it go.  
      Just be who I am.  An old guy with aches and pains, who has had as full a life as was possible, who can acknowledge that he has done a  good job with what he has come into this world with. 

        I need to stop striving to claim some new territory or achieve some greater consciousness or special accomplishment to prove myself worthy.  I am that special human who has brought to fruition all that is best within him.  Let it be.  Can I do that?
        Not sure I want to. The dream, the longing are both part of who I am.   In truth, I seem to be possessed with some adamantine urge, best expressed in a few lines from Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses

“How dull it is to rest, not to shine in use 
As though to breathe were life
.
Ah no, some noble deed may yet be done

By those who old in body, gray in bead

have fought with gods.”
 

,

,

,

,

,


Visit the sequel to myoldage, a work in progress that explores what comes after my old age, which much to my own surprise is a new age. at http://webhome.idirect.com/~thepilgrim/Mynewage.html

 

 

 

 


 

 


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Highlights

My romp

Quixotic

Nighttruth 

Self pity

Apology

Lazarus

Makinglove

Dollop

Heartache

Buddha

Letting go

Sequel       to my old age