Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stuck in the Middle, Moving On

I'm twenty-something years older than my sons and twenty-something years younger than my mother. Like most women of my generation, I haven't ever found my mother a helpful trailblazer. I never wanted her life and I spent a lot of time inventing my own, a process that is becoming more difficult with time.

I still enjoy, in theory, what my sons like to do. I love hearing live music, the louder the better. I'm comfortable anywhere that will serve me a cold beer on tap. I like baseball, although I don't cheer the hometeam since they used up Ichiro Suzuki, and I'm fond of a good action movie. In practice? I go to bed earlier than I ever dreamed of doing ten years ago, I hate shivering on a bleacher in a stadium, and beer makes me fatter than I think is healthy. And movies? I hate paying a small fortune to see something I know I've seen before, often.

It's hard for me to admit that I'm getting old but every day of my life reminds me that I'm wearing out. Not my heart or my eyes or (thank goodness) my liver but things I never expected would dwindle--my nerve endings.

I first noticed it in New York, five years ago. That's a city that always caught me up in its energy and buoyed me through its streets. It exhilarated me so that I barely needed coffee--but not this last time. I didn't soar through Manhattan; I slogged along its streets and wondered why it had changed. Slowly I realized the alteration was in me.

Once I was tuned so tightly that I could pick up and run with any sensory impression that passed me by--sunlight on water, wind sweeping through high grass, a fluster of snowflakes. Beauty charged me with energy; the excitement of the world was more than I could hold.

It's much too easy to contain myself now. The messages that I receive are from my muscles; my nerves have become blunt. Without those sharpened messengers rushing excitement to every one of my cells, now the ache of my back, the heaviness of my legs, and worst of all, the feeling that I've seen it all before dominates the way I look at the world.

I do my best to fight this. I travel when I can. I write. I take every opportunity given to me to see friends. I read a lot.

But the fact is when I talk to my mother, I see where I'm going. I am going to lose more and more of my physical being over the next twenty years. I think of Marguerite Duras with her wrinkles and her short skirt and her smile, of Martha Gellhorn with her cigarette and her scotch and her salon full of "boys," of Dorothy Parker in a hotel room, always poor with uncashed checks stuffed in a drawer--and I realize what kept those women going, in their own ways, was work. And I cling to that, hoping it will stay with me, even as everything else succumbs to deterioration

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