I had a birthday this week and it seems to have come around far too quickly. I probably wrote this very sentence last year but I can’t find the energy to go back and check.
Since last year I’ve had a back problem (which autocorrected to “ball problem” before I luckily spotted it with my one currently working eye), and a heart scare. When I told an old friend, who is quite a bit older, about my heart worries some months ago he said, “It’s all downhill from here anyway” and I wondered if I needed to reappraise the people I go to for comfort and encouragement.
Both of my children are on holiday this week. This is the first time I’ve experienced their absence on my birthday but it was a strangely unexpected gift to have given me because there is nothing quite as powerful as watching your kids live their lives happily knowing that you played some part in helping them reach that stage of independence.
I began to take stock of my life on the anniversary of the windy bank holiday in which I lumbered into the world, all twelve pounds of me. My mother used to tell a story of how my great aunt, on meeting me for the first time, thought I was two years old, presumably imagining my mother and father had stolen me from the local children’s home.
My reflections coincided with a cryptic message received by Sam from a friend who wrote, “I’ve decided I need to make more effort to stay in touch with the people I value, of which you are one. I’ve done fuck all with my life”
“What did she expect to have been doing with it?” I asked as we walked the dog through the woods with the sunshine dappling the dusty floor, leaves already strewn with its promise of autumn approaching.
“Daisy does “fuck all” with her life but she seems happy enough” I suggest pointing to the dog with her nose pressed to the floor looking for clues.
It was a serious point. Isn’t our satisfaction with our lives and therefore our willingness to get old linked to the realism of our expectations?
Daisy doesn’t like shopping (even for dog biscuits), loud noises made by roasting tins or baking trays, or indeed any large object of which she doesn’t know the provenance. What she does like is walking, swimming, eating, sleeping and my friend Martin.
In a sense, she has a low bar and almost never fails to leap over it. Don’t we have something important to learn from our dogs about satisfaction with the joy we already have rather than something elusive we often can’t even identify?
At the coast, Daisy is literally straining at the leash to get to the sea. She can’t see it yet but I think she can taste it. Nothing else matters as she rushes over the pebbles and throws herself into the surf. Time and time again she does it, oblivious to everything else, focused solely on the simplicity of this one pleasure.
Heading back to the car I think about something I read recently. “I wonder if my life is too small for my spirit”. I don’t think this is the answer to dissatisfaction. As I get older I see more and more that the spirit just needs to be free, and then it will find its own wide-open spaces, and no amount of aging can change that.