Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Searching for the latest Book of Secrets

Yesterday evening my older daughter was fidgeting at the dinner table. "What's up?" asked my wife.

"No! I don't want to talk about it!" was our daughter's uncharacteristic response.

We asked a few friendly questions, and she quickly revealed that while she was visiting a friend they'd spent some time exploring one of those "Oh, The Changes You're About To Go Through" books. I was grateful for my wife's presence; I've handled some of those questions in the past, but the girls take greater comfort from her answers than they do mine. And so they should.

My daughter was duly freaked out by the spectre of the menstrual cycle and the various apparatuses associated with its accommodation. She was less than thrilled to be facing this change from little girl to young woman. And after she and her friend had looked at the book, she said, "We wrapped it in a blanket and threw it in a corner of the room!"

I can certainly sympathize. Hell, I can empathize: I'm reluctant to see her change, too. I remember holding her just a few days after her birth, staring at this new creature and thinking, "She's already changed! This is all happening too fast!!"

This is all happening too fast. Even the changes occurring in my own body are taking place at a faster rate than I care to acknowledge. And where can we turn for a little perspective? People my age don't get reading material that's as revolutionary as what our children are reading; we get pre-digested bulletins. You're body is changing, but you can slow it down a bit if you go for a daily walk and maintain a high-fibre diet, buttressed by fish-oil and green tea. Hardly the sort of clarion call my daughter is hearing: Get Ready For Puberty!

I can remember reading those books at roughly her age. I felt some of that same mixture of fear and anticipation, but mostly I remained confused. Forewarned is forearmed, but information is a far cry from actual experience and the latter eventually brings some degree of ability if not actual comfort.

But when it comes to adulthood, can experience alone generate this familiarity and comfort? I'm not so sure. This year, aside from receiving the usual updates about the Disappearing Generation (now almost gone) I experienced the loss of two friends. I've watched my daughters grow silent as they grow up, cultivating their inner life and acquiring the necessary secrets. I want to believe I'm not growing strange myself, but of course I am changing, too. As I've hobbled around this house and yard, occasionally putting a hand to my bowing gut or disappearing chin, I've been forced to admit that acquiring a sense of humour about this particular phase in life is proving to be more elusive than I'd anticipated. You'd think spending my birthday ingesting antibiotics while sick in bed might help me get some perspective. Indeed I'd say I received, to quote David St. Hubbins, "Too much!! Too much @*%#ing perspective!"

So what's my next Book of Secrets — the book I don't just push away, but actually try to hide from myself? Does it even exist, or is it up to me to write it?

Do I even want to write such a thing? Or is that even a choice that any of us faces? Our lives are bracketed by circumstances and events. We write what we can in the spaces between. We write with fear and laughter ... or we don't write at all.

Is that it? Or is there some element lurking here that I'm deliberately avoiding because I've already wrapped it up in a blanket and stowed it away?


Peter said...

I had one of those distressing life-is-changing moments just last night while watching Cal Ripken giving his Hall of Fame induction speech. We're about the same age, and of course he's one of the greatest athletes of all time, yet all I noticed is how old and grossly out-of-shape he looked :((

Yahmdallah said...

Aging is a mild pain in the ass, but it's a relentless one. Your knees complain. Your hearing diminishes, which the wife usually assumes is your ignoring her. Things that thrilled are now trifles, and sometimes have morphed into annoyances. You have experience and wisdom, and since everyone else insists they gather their own, it only serves you, which seems, sometimes, like a waste. Joni Mitchell was right, "It won't be long now 'til you drag your feet to slow the circles down."

Trent Reimer said...

In these matters I almost envy the animals who do not dread, only discover.

DarkoV said...

I'm not sure how old Yahmdallah is but, from his comment, I'll ventre that he's a younger "old" guy. While I'd agree with his litany of body parts falling/failing, I'm at a point where I'm trying to be positive about the events each sun's setting passes judgment on.
So, just fill my glass half-full as I jabber on.

I'm looking at my life as a tree trunk. Each year being a circle. Each year having a longer circumference. Each year being fresher, moister than the year before. As each year passes, I look back on the previous, smaller circles and (try to anyway) see how their age and size positively, in general, affect the current breadth of wisdom I think I have.
I agree with his point about wisdom sometimes feeling like a waste, but I sign that off to the general lack of respect older (whatever age range that connotes these days) folks get these days.

So, WP, I'm hoping you're studiously looking at your life's ever-expanding circles and that you put your own particular take on the gazing and write the novel you've been dropping hints about.