55 plus 43: ‘they do things differently…’

Posted: 29 September 2019 in 55 plus, personal
Tags: , , , ,

This is being written on Sunday afternoon, and as soon as it’s done, I’ll post it.

I had no plans to write it, but I didn’t want to skip another day, and I’m not feeling that great, so you get this, a more personal thing than I’d usually write, and I may delete it afterwards.


The following has been quoted any number of times over the years, but there’s a certain fundamental truth to the opening to L P Hartley’s novel The Go Between:

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Not only for the obvious reason: different mores, different cultures, different conventions, hell, different laws, but there’s a more personal aspect to it.

There’s also an element of, if I may adapt the lines:

The past was a foreign country; we did things differently there.

Of course, the reason we did things differently back then is because we were different then. I’ve different tastes now, different experiences; I’ve different ways of looking at the world. In the intervening years, the passing decades, I’ve hopefully matured… without necessarily having ‘grown up’ too much.

I recall being both in general less confident in meeting strangers, but on occasion, in the specifics, more confident. I recall knowing so much less, but thinking I knew so much more.

I remember being struck dumb by some women in my life, utterly thunderstruck, and wholly ‘lost’ in their presence. It’s been a very long time since that’s happened, and I’m genuinely unsure whether that’s a bad thing. Or a good thing. Or whether it means any damn thing at all.

Yes, of course there are some women I know who blow me away with their strength, their personalities. I don’t mean ‘scare’ me with their personalities, although that’s occasionally happened. I mean women who so impress with their personality, their talent, their strength that I’m genuinely in awe of them.

But being ‘lost’ in them… much as I can get ‘lost’ in a gorgeous pair of eyes; no, it’s been a very long time.

Back in the past, I could handle some stuff, some substances, that I know I couldn’t now. (And yes, I know that for a fact; the last time I imbibed something that was, let us say, less than legal, yeah, it didn’t go well. I wasn’t in danger or anything, but yes, I had a bad reaction and there was no reason other than lack of experience, and surfeit of age. My time of smoking anything, let alone that, is now well in the past.)

I’ve mentioned before, well, alluded to anyway, that I’ve had some mental health issues the past few years. It’s impossible, obviously, to know not whether that’s had an effect on the less attractive, the less helpful, facets of how I am now… but how much an effect it’s had. In all honesty, I think it’s probably merely enhanced those facets, stripped away some of the social cover that’s necessary – I use the word advisedly – to operate in any social way.

I mean, a friend more than a decade ago said that I’m ‘dangerously content’ in my own company, and certainly, the past few years, I’d have to be a fool not to acknowledge the central truth of the observation. Most of the time, at least. Occasionally, one in a while, it’s untrue, and it bites, hard. But for most of the time, for almost all of the time, it’s accurate.

Mind you, he could have said it two decades’ ago and it would still have been mostly true, although of course, twenty years’ ago I was married with an infant child.

The marriage ended in fact in 2005, and in name in 2015, four years ago. Laura and I never had a reason to get divorced before then, and we never really had a reason to formalise it then but there was no reason not to, either, our son being over 18 by then.

But since then, I’m always been mostly comfortable in the company of a small group, a very small group, of friends, I’m more comfortable when in the company of no more than four or five people. Any more than that and I start to get itchy, edgy… uncomfortable.

And in a group of a dozen, a couple of dozen? No. I tolerate it about as much as they tolerate me.

(Oddly, and I’ve never figured out why, I’m more ok in a large crowd when I don’t know more than a very few people. In part, I guess, because I can keep myself to myself; I’m not obliged to be social in a way I kind of have to be when it’s two dozen people I know, friends or otherwise. But, hey, pop psychology is stupid at best and dangerous at worst, especially when applied to one’s self, so who the hell knows?)

What’s brought on this less than attractive self-reflection is one of those confluence of events, one of those sets of coincidences that occur every so often: I’ve watched a half dozen tv shows, dramas, this week where one character or another had been undergoing psychiatric care, or rehab, or some form of care anyway, where/because they feel useless or bad, or depressed.

Obviously, it’s television drama, so I’m not expecting there to be documentary levels of veracity and truth and accuracy any more than the movie The Accountant was documentary-like in the skills your average auditor possesses. But in every case, or nearly anyway, the ‘patient’ (for want of a better word) was told ‘you have a right to be happy’ or ‘you deserve to be happy’ or even ‘you should want to be happy’.

And I imagine me being told those, and me not understanding it. At all. And even more, somehow me being at fault for being the one who doesn’t understand.

A right to be happy? Deserve to be happy? I find it impossible to comprehend either as a concept. (Not quite true; I find it easy to imagine in fiction, and impossible in ‘real life’.)

The desire for it, I get, kind of. But not really. I understand the ‘desire’ bit, not the ‘desire to be happy‘ bit, as if it’s something that’s in your control, as if desire = effort = achievement. Or even desire must lead to effort… which must lead to achievement.

Did I understand any of them at some point, though? Back in the past, back when ‘I’ did things differently? I don’t know.

And that’s something I’m once again unsure whether it’d be a good thing to know.
Something else tomorrow, something hopefully less self-serving, less introspective, and substantially more fun.

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