Have you ever felt like not doing anything at all and just let the world pass you by? I do, quite often, and at those times it feels like being in a haze. I know I have these three hundred thousand chores to do, many other ambitious plans of writing, singing, going places, connecting with people, taking care of my well being, blah, blah! And, those voices seem to come calling for me from a distant land … I can hear but can’t respond, as I am dazed; like being in a limbo with no movement. Have you ever experienced this?
I do, quite often in fact, and I often wonder whether this is what getting old mean? On one hand you “know” you have these dreams, wishes, desires and on the other hand, you “feel” so content with what there is … well, may be not “content” in the exact sense of the word but a sense of being “ok” and feeling no tearing sense of urgency.
I wonder whether it has anything to do with ageing at all? My discussions with people usually bring up comments like “Oh, age is only in the mind”, “you can do whatever you wish to do; age has nothing to do with it” and yet I wonder, doesn’t it?
Ageing is such a less talked about phenomena in my known world – the few contexts in which it is talked about is either religiosity or health related. Of course there would be counter arguments about the average age of our politicians, but in my opinion that is about our collective clannish orientation where “the elderly knows the best”.
My question is are we really afraid to age and become old? I know I am; I often tell my friends that my emotional age has stopped somewhere in my thirties although chronologically I am in my fifties!
My fears of getting old is leaving a known world – a world where I could achieve anything, dream of future so bright and shiny, relationships seemed romantic and passionate and where anything was possible!
As I am writing this post, I am also in touch with the fact that most of my dread around ageing is shaped by the way society responds to it; how we have collectively made this into a dreary, grey and slightly hopeless land where people can look back at their past glory, hand over their future to their children and/or desperately want to stay at the same place and claim that “50” is the “new 30” …. and how it has become our consensual truth, i.e. everyone says so, hence it must be so. That old age is lonely, not very stable, dependent and diseased. I am of course over generalizing here to make a point.
The other depiction of old age that I have seen is in movies where romance, grit and passion are also part of the ageing process. Where people find each other and start afresh, and of course in Indian context that if often depicted with its share of shame and guilt. As though romance is a big no no for people over a certain age. But even this little bit of difference is scarce. How much of this is real in our day-to-day living process in our upper middle class, middle class and other sections of the society in India today?
Without aping the “youthfulness frenzy” and without falling into a “hopeless abyss”, are there different ways of enjoying our life space when we are stepping into the older part of our lives, be it after 40 or 50 or 60? This is a phase of life for most people where togetherness with partners has been lived for a while, children if any, are either in their teens or in early youth, career has taken a certain shape and we are standing at the peak from where we can both sides of the slope. We can hurtle down, we can slowly walk, we can stride, but we can neither stop nor go back.
What choices do we make? Are there any models available? What new models do we wish to create? Traditionally in India there is a concept of “Vanprastha” where people can make new choices after their basic commitment and duties of being a householder is over. However, in popular parlance, this is often viewed at from a particularised point of view, i.e. people are expected to get into spirituality, into social work and philanthropy, etc, as though after a certain age, making other choices for oneself is a matter of shame.
While I certainly do not run down social work, spirituality, philanthropy etc, the point I am trying to make here is what other choices are possible for us to look at? How would we look at contentment that comes from having finished a phase of our lives to the best or worst of our abilities?
However, I believe making choices is a second step. Perhaps the first step is to articulate how we feel about getting older. Perhaps only then, can we envision our future and not resign to the way we are supposed to be!!
Looking forward to hearing from you. What do you think?