Sunday, February 05, 2012

The youth of old age

What follows has been sitting as a draft for a couple of years, and I titled it: sad self indulgent post. I've updated it though, and the end of it was written today.

I typed a post on my 47th birthday in 2009, and the following in red font is the bit I cut from that post before publishing it:

At the start of this post I said I didn't care about my age. When I subsequently typed the words "I will be fifty" I suddenly and completely unexpectedly burst into tears. I have no idea why, beyond the persistent nagging thought, or is it a certainty, that I have reached the age I am with little to show for it. It seems that most, if not all, of my contemporaries, and a hell of a lot of my friends who are a hell of a lot younger than me have what appear to be successful, happy lives, apparently earning lots of money, apparently able to afford nice things and holidays, and in apparently happy looking, stable relationships.

Why can't I be like that?

Time for some (hopefully cathartic) soul baring I think.

I have had a limited number of significant relationships in my life. I was in a relationship, including marriage, for about 12 years. I was in another relationship, including marriage, for about 8 years, and I've been in another couple of long'ish term relationships since then.  In each of those relationships I thought that things were going well, life was good and this was the way my life was meant to be, but in each of those relationships things went wrong and the rug was pulled from under my feet.  I should say though that thankfully I am still on good terms with all of those people.

My working life has been even more limited than that. I have never been ambitious, and I know that was a bone of contention at the time in one of my relationships and a contributing factor to its breakdown, but I climbed the greasy pole over a period of about 13 years in a previous life, rising from being a warehouse assistant via office manager then branch manager to eventually become the area commercial controller with responsibility for 13 branches in south Scotland and Northern Ireland, before redundancy struck completely out of the blue. This was at a particularly bad time for me and coincided with the breakdown of my first marriage, and the deaths of two very close family members (and my cat) within a very short space of time, both far too young to have had life cruelly snatched from them. OK, since you ask, the family members were 4 and 56 respectively.

A few days ago was the first anniversary of the death of my gran, and I visited her grave. She is buried, or at least her ashes are buried, with my grandfather. But I didn't know him. He was born in 1912 and died three years before I was born, in 1959, aged 46, eleven days before his 47th birthday. I knew this fact already, but this is written in big letters on their gravestone. I visited the grave last week and cried for my gran, but I also cried unexpectedly and even longer for my grandad who I never knew, and who never met me and was never even aware of the existence of his first grandchild (me) or indeed even of the marriage of my mum and dad a year after he died.

I think I cried for him because I am now older than he got to be.  And I am now only 9 years younger than my mum was when she died.

My own mortality is staring me in the face. No, make that slapping me in the face. And as I type this I can hardly see the keyboard through the tears. I think this is partially the root of how I feel right now.

I could have made so much more of my life. I could have gone to university but at the last minute decided not to. I've drifted into jobs and made a bit of a go at them. Well, to be honest, done pretty well in the couple of significant jobs I've had. But I could have done better if I'd actually tried and applied myself instead of just cruising through things relying on my natural ability, and I'm sorry if that sounds vainglorious, but as you'll have gathered I'm in the mood right now to be honest about what I feel and think, so in truth I am actually quite bright but haven't bothered using anything like my potential. I've always taken the easiest option. The path of least resistance. And that's why I feel bad about myself. Well one of the reasons anyway.

What I do hope is that along the way I've made, and kept, some good friends. And hopefully there are people in this world who actually like me. I try my best to be a good man, and to do what's right. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, but I am becoming increasingly aware that the good guys don't always get what they want, or perhaps even what they deserve. Maybe I should become a selfish bastard. Maybe that'd work.

No, that's not going to happen. I'm going to continue to be Mr Nice Guy who tries to do right, who occasionally makes an arse of things, who sometimes shoots himself in the foot, and who rarely gets to keep what he wants.

Yes, that's the future.

More than normally, this has been a random stream of consciousness post, but I'm glad I got it out of my system.

So now the update as of today, 5th February 2012.  I'm now 50, it happened yesterday and it wasn't painful at all.  At the stroke of midnight I had a large glass of Malt Whisky in my hand - Glenlossie, a present from Ruth - and I toasted myself and my mum & dad, giving thanks for my life and all the good things I have.

Last night I had a birthday party in a pub in Glasgow city centre.  To my relative surprise and delight there were a lot of people there, probably about 100, and corny as it seems I felt a lot of love from a lot of people.  I think I'm well regarded by my friends, and it seems like I have a lot of them.  There were some I've known since first days of primary school some 45 years ago; friends I've known since secondary school between 1974-1980; lots from St Mary's Cathedral, with which I've been associated since 1983; from Glasgow Chamber Choir, of which I was one of the original members in 1994; from RSCM Scottish Voices, of which again I am an original member; from work, and in fact even if they hadn't been invited as workmates I would have invited them as friends - it's that sort of place, which is great; and of course family - my dad was there for a while at the start of the evening, and my brother and my sister-in-law stayed pretty much the whole evening.  There were also friends who don't easily fall into one of the clumsily put together categories I've outlined above, and of course lots of people fall into more than one group (several who sing or have sung in the Cathedral and GCC and RSCM Scottish Voices, for example).  Lots of friends, old and new, and it was great to be amongst them. Laughing with them. Being with them.  All people I like.  And it seems, all people who like me.

I think everyone had a good time, I certainly did, and that was despite me having very little to drink!  I genuinely feel humbled by all the good wishes, and presents, that came my way last night.

So, how do I feel nowadays in comparison with my post in red above?  Quite different actually.  I'm in a much better place, and I'm pretty happy with my lot overall. My fitness has increased dramatically compared with what it was in 2009, and I suspect fitness (or lack thereof) and associated health (or lack thereof) had something to do with the way I was feeling at the time, and the "new" me, while still a way off from my goal, is largely due to the encouragement I've had from Ruth, for which I'm really thankful.  Of course there are some things in life I'd change, I'd be surprised if anyone could say otherwise about themselves, and there are things I still want which at the moment I don't have, but that's the nature of life, and if there's one thing that life's shown me in the last day or two, it's that I have a lot of great friends, and when you have friends then there's nothing you can't achieve.

So, this is a positive post.  I'm content, and in truth right now fairly up for taking on the next fifty years with a positive outlook.

One of the cards I received last night had an interesting message on the front which said:

Fifty is the youth of old age

I am again a youth, and I'm looking forward to it!


  1. Good on you mate.

    Just think not that many years to retirement!

  2. Good on you indeed. The big 5-0 is creeping up on me (or is it the other way round?) and we will coincide in early 2013.

    The Accidental Choirmaster