Monday, August 31, 2009

Ageing, the Passage of Time and Mortality

"...but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes."
Benjamin Franklin

I don't think/ feel/ see/ judge that thinking about death is morbid. I read/ heard/ saw somewhere that it's our attitude to death that shapes our attitude to life. I've had three things happen to me recently that have brought this on...

First, I went out for dinner with an old university friend
She's lived out of the country pretty much since we graduated...TEN years ago. It's kinda hard to believe it's been that long...but it has. Whenever she's in the country it's usually a time when a lot of us will get together. I think the last time we saw her was around the time we got married.

Anyway, dinner was with two of her old friends. But seeing her was a chance for old memories to come back of university and being young and innocent. One of her old friends remembered me talking animatedly (and at length) about my first girlfriend. She also said that I looked the same...despite the passage of time, I had not aged.

Or perhaps I've just aged gracefully.

As well as getting all nostalgic, I realised the topics of conversation moved on. Putting the world to rights as a teen-aged student was one thing. Putting it to rights as someone in their thirties is a different thing. The differences in the conversation struck me as an indication of just how much we had 'grown up'. Here we were talking about the price of houses and weddings not alcohol and relationships.

It made me reflective - have I done everything I expected to do by the time I was this age? Is this how I wanted/ planned/ hoped my life would be? Old friends, friends we meet during formative periods or friends we don't see very often, seem to have this kind of effect on me. I do comparisons in my head. I see the past and look into the future.

I notice my ageing and the passage of time.

Second, I helped my Grandad
He's ninety years old now. He lives on his own and takes care of himself (mostly). The thing is, I've helped him out when I can (taking my cue from more senior members of my family) but it's in getting things done that I've witnessed how much he's aged. I mean there's no avoiding the fact of his age but I've seen him change through my life. When he turned eighty (when I was 22) most people who met him for the first time thought he was twenty years younger.

Helping him at the doctor's, get his glasses fitted, and then taking him to lunch made me wonder what it's like for him. What goes through his head? What's it like being that old? Is it just memories and feelings? What brought it home for me were the memories I have from when I was young: he treated us to a lunch at Wimpey's (whatever we wanted); he joked with the waiters about wanting a G+T and he drove us there (in a car without seat belts in the back seats - not required by law in those days!)

Now it was our turn: we drove him around, and we treated him to lunch. It made me think: what will I be like with my grandchildren? What will I be like when (if) I'm that old?

He still joked with people about wanting a G+T though...

Seeing how much he has changed over the past decade; how much he is not the man he was - it's a sobering thought. It reminded me of my own mortality.

We are on this earth for a limited time.

Third, I went out to an alternative/ metal night at a club last Thursday
It's Monday today right? Well only today do I feel that my neck and shoulders have recovered sufficiently...

I went out to a club night I'd heard about a while ago, but never to got to experience. The last time we turned up, it was a special one of 'fetish' we never got in. Not this time! I checked the website and found it's a 'members only' club. We'd need photo id on the night to join. So we dutifully turned up with id...and had our photos taken, id scanned and fingerprints electronically recorded! Wow...what's happening to clubs nowadays?

My neck taking ages to recover used to be a sign of me having a good night. Anyone who knows me understands my love of music and of dancing. But only a limited number of people have seen me really enjoy myself to music that I really love. Dancing to heavier music is a skill and art form all its own - as well as a brilliant workout. Knee, ankle supports and sweat band are all necessary!

I wasn't disappointed by the musical selection...and spent almost every minute dancing. Metallica, System of a Down, Pantera, Machine Head, Slipknot, Faith No More, Korn, Prodigy, Pendulum, Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fear Factory, NIN, Marilyn Manson, Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Guns'n'Roses...and so it went on...

Despite the fact we were amongst the older people in the club, I was complimented a few times on my dancing. I like to think I was showing the younger people how it SHOULD be done. Yeah I was showing off, but I know I have the moves and I can pull it off...but it really is an expression of the exuberance I feel when I hear the music. Even in a hot sweaty club, I get goose-pimples when I hear particular songs (e.g. For Whom The Bell Tolls by Metallica).

It felt so good to let loose.

As I've got older and my social circles have changed, so my social life has changed. So the places I've been the music I hear changes. But I don't always feel it completely in my heart. I don't think I've ever been to a place that plays the eclectic mix I want to hear. I want to hear metal and disco and hip-hop and pop and hardcore and dance and soul and industrial all on one night.

Perhaps that's asking too much.

The night reminded me of being young, but I knew I was older. I carried myself completely differently to most of the people around me.

And they thought we were probably around their age...

By the time I woke up the next day, I knew what to expect. My ears rang, my lower back was aching slightly, and found it hard to turn my head. As I said - that's how I measured a good night when I was younger.

But - it's now thirteen years on. Like I said, it's Monday now, and I've only really just recovered. When I was nineteen I would be up the next day with the aching neck and back...but be pretty much ready to go again 48 hours later.

This time it's different. The first thought I'm left with is: I don't remember it taking this long for me to recover from a night out.

Then the next thought: I'm getting old. I'm ageing. Time is passing.

I can't be having nights like that regularly, but when I do I'm going to fucking enjoy them.

The nicest thing to realise is that I'm probably in better health and in better shape now than I was when I was nineteen. It's just that at thirty-two it takes a lot more maintenance...and longer to recover...

I suppose all this has made me feel just that little bit closer to death. Not that mine or anyone's death is going to be predictable - it could happen at any time - but I like to think that it will be of natural causes, and when I'm really old, having led a fulfilling life.

I'm not ready to go just yet...

...but if my number's up...