I’m a copycat. Not a thief, exactly. But always on the alert as to how I can adapt someone else’s good idea. One such “inspiration” has been the idea underlying the past 365 daily posts over at Catching Days, Cynthia Newberry Martin’s blog about reading and writing books. In January 2015, Cynthia decided she would devote a year of blogging to setting down “one true thing” about herself every day. As I understand it, she made this commitment because she was uncomfortable about revealing anything private (possibly even to herself), and thought this daily practice, as she called it, might address those feelings, or at least make her more comfortable with those uncomfortable feelings. Four days ago, she reached the 365th post, entitled “Hallelulah!”
I followed along faithfully — not only as a nosy reader but also, as the year progressed, as a fellow-blogger with mixed emotions about the endeavor. One emotion was increasing admiration for Cynthia’s disciplined stick-to-itiveness wherever she found herself (she travels a lot) and whatever else she might have been doing as the mother of four, grandmother of two, wife running a house, writer attending multiple writing conferences all over the country. The other was envy. She didn’t need to think up something new to write about periodically; she had her subject matter right there inside herself wherever she went. And one or two sentences every day would do it. (“I like red!” for instance.)
Why couldn’t I do something like that? Well, of course I could — but about what? I’m certainly not uncomfortable about revealing private aspects of my life and thoughts, as faithful followers of TGOB must surely realize. Yes, it has at times seemed wiser not to write about some subjects in a venue where the entire English-speaking world can read what I say. However, after twenty-four years of psychotherapy at various times in my life, I’m pretty sure I haven’t been concealing much from myself so far. So a simple monkey-see-monkey-do wouldn’t work for me, even with full credit to Cynthia.
And then I had it! A year of daily blogging, beginning six days from now, about how it will feel as getting older moves me, over the course of the coming year, into what is going to be the last phase of life. (Don’t say, “No, no!” Why mince words?) I was going to do it as a separate blog, in case all that doom and gloom might drive away followers of this one. I even had the title! But wouldn’t a separate blog be too complicated? Daily dedication to the new one would undoubtedly lead to neglect over here. Still, no need to decide that right away when I still had six days before starting.
So I drafted the first post:
THE YEAR OF CROSSING OVER
365 truths about how it feels to be moving towards the end
January 23, 2016: 1/365
If I’m still here on July 23, six months from today, I’ll be 85. That’s the age at which geriatricians and other persons professionally knowledgeable about the latter years of life consider that you stop being “young old” and enter the ranks of the “old old.”
I don’t believe I won’t be here six months from today. I don’t believe I won’t be here a year from today. If I really thought that, I wouldn’t be undertaking this year-long daily record of what I’m thinking and feeling as I pass out of that stage of life generally illustrated in brochures for the retired by photographs of handsome silver-haired couples swinging a golf club together or leaning happily over the railing of a cruise ship.
I’m not a golfer, never took a cruise, and don’t regret either of those things. But I do regret that my 86th year is coming up. I’m not ready. (Is anyone not in excruciating pain or misery ever ready for the end?) I’ve always wanted to have things my way, and my way doesn’t include slow but sure physical and emotional decline into loneliness, weakness, dependence, and palliative care – all those things my head, which does still work properly, knows very well lie ahead unless I am carried off in the night while sleeping, a thing even a betting man wouldn’t put money on. Yes, I am selfish. Yes, I am childish. Like everyone else, except that I’m closer to it, I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be dead.
So if I am honest — and I intend to be, or why would I be making this record? – this new one-year blog will probably not be “nice.” Nice and honest are a contradiction in terms. I have another blog where I do try to put my best foot forward. That means there’s a lot left unsaid over there about getting old. Not that all of Salome’s seven veils will necessarily drop in this one. But if I’m going to try to resign myself to what’s coming, I need to tell it like it is, including the hateful, the self-referential, the dehumanizing, the schadenfreude moments. Even if it turns out I’m writing only for myself.
Always best not to rush into something if you can possibly help it. What looks like a sensational project in the evening, doesn’t necessarily look so hot the next day. As many of you may remember, I had trouble hanging in there with only fifty daily blog posts last summer. True, almost all of them were 400 words rather than a single sentence, but after a week or so it was really hard going. How could I have believed I could possibly grind out a different post 365 days in a row? Even if I put down something as short and monosyllabic as “I like red” — that would be just the beginning. I would need to qualify it (when, where, what kinds of red), give illustrations (the living room chairs, the dining room chair upholstery, how Bill feels about it, whether orange — his favorite color — can sometimes qualify as “red”); before we all knew it I’d be launched on a lengthy dissertation about redness.
And then the subject matter! What was that “writing only for myself” business? Who writes only for himself? Actually, I wouldn’t want to read something every day about losing one’s contemporaries to terrible unjust diseases; about fears of running out of money, or of what the next ultrasound or cat scan will show; about gradual loss of mobility, breathlessness, easy fatigue, becoming increasingly stiff, not being able to keep up, feeling more and more left out of the currents and concerns of daily life, sensing oneself to be an afterthought, a burden. About the impotent rage and bitterness that accompanies such feelings. Or (God forbid) about finding one’s thoughts becoming fuzzy, one’s memory wobbly, one’s vocabulary beginning to disappear.
If I don’t want to read these horror stories, why would I be committing myself to writing them? I began this blog — this one right here, not the putative “new” one — slightly more than two years ago, when I was still a relative youngster of 82, with the intention to live as fully as I can until I die, blogging about it as I go. Was I whistling in the wind? “As fully as I can” should still be the operative words for me. I may indeed in time encounter some, or all, of the matters in the preceding paragraph, which means mention of them will undoubtedly creep in here from time to time. They are, after all, part of getting old.
But I’m afraid you’ve just seen as much as there’s ever going to be of “The Year of Crossing Over” (YOCO), the blog. It is that year, and I am on a moving walkway with no place to get off till it reaches the end. (As are we all.) But let’s hope that end is a long way off yet, for me as well as all of you.
Stillborn new blog: RIP.