Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. ~Dylan Thomas
The greatest of these challenges is, for me, being without a partner. I am not suited to singlehood. I hate everything about it. I need someone to cook dinner for when she comes home each day; I need someone to nurture, talk to, explore with, bond with, hold hands with, cuddle with, to sexually please and be pleased by. I need to go to sleep next to that woman each night and wake up with her every morning. I need the security and comfort a life partner provides. As I get older, that’s even more important, and its absence even more stark.
One could say that being single at this age is just as difficult no matter what your orientation. But I would beg to differ. When you’re dealing with finding a mate amid a small percentage of the population, on top of all the usual fears of getting older and facing your own mortality and all that entails, along with being a minority in so many ways, the challenge is a formidable one.
Those of us without a big circle of friends, or a family, are even more likely to be depressed and frightened all the time. Friends in the same age group or only a few years older start losing their grandparents, and parents, and they themselves begin developing health issues, having surgeries and other scares, and you begin to see that trajectory, that you are in that same boat and wonder what it is that might cripple you, devastate you, take you down. You realize you are closer to your death than to your birth and your life isn’t exactly as you’d planned it to be. Is it enough? Did I succeed in building a life worth living?
About two years ago, I began to notice things about my body…skin changes, mostly. I would look in the mirror and see that my baby-face now had some wrinkles forming below my eyes, and my cheeks seemed to be sort of dripping slowly toward my jawline. I looked down at my hands and thought These are not my hands. These are my mother’s hands. And what’s that? An age-spot? I have a fucking age spot now? It did not compute. It made me feel ugly and old and despondent.
When I hear of someone entering their 50’s and saying these are the best years to come, or 50 is the new 40, I feel they are speaking a foreign language. I am facing the big 5-0 and it has nothing to do with Hawaii. In only 5 months, I will be dragged kicking and screaming into that awful room, my fingers clawing at the door jamb to stop the suction. I can’t wrap my head around turning 50. It makes no sense to me, it simply can’t be accurate. I don’t feel like I’m about to enter that decade of life. I have an overwhelming desire to lie to everyone about my age, because I feel the number is misleading. I’m not that old. I’m not. Each day now is to me a stark reminder of the hideous inevitability of all things dreadful. It’s a train I’m riding in at high speed and I can’t see the scenery anymore because it’s moving by too fast; a train locked onto tracks arrow-straight and unforgiving, stopping only to board more dark passengers–fear, loneliness, pain, illness, sadness, and death.
Just recently I watched as a friend of a friend was suddenly stricken by an aneurism and did not wake from her coma in the three weeks before she died. She was only 6 years older than me. Now, I could say her health status and lifestyle predisposed her to it, but then again, how do you ever really know that there is some weak blood vessel wall somewhere in your body, and its cause? You can do everything in your power to eat right, exercise and take the right supplements, and meditate and avoid stress, as I do, but ultimately, you still don’t know if it will matter. Maybe there’s just a fate with your name on it. Never mind the accidental or simply unfortunate methods of your demise. You could get hit by a bus or a bullet. Or a building could fall on your head.
The scary part is, health or accidental events like those I mentioned will always happen suddenly and there is little we can do to provide ourselves an early warning system. It’s like a vicious mugger waiting around some impending corner and no matter what route we take that mugger will know where we are and will be there, primed to take something precious from our pockets, our minds, our hearts or our bodies. Or I’m reminded of those scenes in movies and shows like The Tudors where innocent people are dragged toward the gallows to be hanged or beheaded and there is no escape, no last minute pardon from the King–and notably, no merciful God who saves his devout follower from an unjust death. There is nothing they can do about it other than choose the level of dignity with which they face their demise. And where does one find that dignity? That quiet acceptance? I am not one to ever go gentle into that good night. Someone has already tried to kill me and I didn’t die. Because to me that darkness is repugnant. It represents the tragedy and cruelty of limited time. There will never be enough time in my single lifespan to do and see and feel and explore and create and savor all that I wish to.
One of the greatest tragedies in life is the swiftness and certainty of death, and moreover, when you finally reach a level of wisdom and understanding that would allow you to do your best work, offer your best advise, experience your greatest love, your most harmonious and satisfying relationships–just when you finally evolve to that level of maturity–your clock ticks down to nothing and you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.<
It really pisses me off.
Bring me the magic elixir of life-extension, and I will drink it.