Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lenior et melior fis, accedente senecta

Not too long ago, I reconceived my life so that it no longer had only two ages (young and old), but four. There was to be a prelude, which was my childhood and adolescence. Then Act 1, the first half of adulthood (18-48), the era of striving. Act 2 would be the era of wisdom (48-78). The postlude will be whatever time is left, assuming I make it that far in the first place.

It's hardly a coincidence that this decision came in my 48th year. For some time I'd been feeling better and better about being older and older. Yet I couldn't get my mind around the concept of all the wisdom and serenity being packed into such a tiny portion of my life. At some point I must have realized that I should no longer say that my entire life is well over half gone, but that my adult life has just entered into its second half. This presupposes that I'll live to be as old as my father, who recently died at 80. It's as good a number as any to plan with. That gives Act 1 thirty years, and Act 2 the same. It's as if I'm starting a new life in these very days, and the metaphor pleases me.

For a few years, I'd been realizing I was caring less or not at all about any number of things that used to motivate or interest me (for example: sports, movies, politics, pay raises, what other people thought about me). Books, Italian, writing, and my dog have supplanted them. It took a while, but my divorce transformed me into a profoundly happy man, and these four things make me happiest. I hope to pursue them in an atmosphere of serenity and joy. I'm making a good start, and beginning to feel certain of something I've long haltingly believed: it's not despite my living alone, it's because I live alone.

I had terrible "luck" dating after my divorce. I finally realized it wasn't luck, but my sabotaging the process by looking for the wrong person. This wrong person was very likely any person. It's not that I'm opposed to being around the same woman a lot. It's simply that the odds of her being someone I could stand and who could stand me are so long, and the trouble in finding her immense. It's much more peaceful and joyful to enjoy my freedom as it is rather than look for a way to change it dramatically. If it comes yet, fine. If not, finer.

Then there's also the matter of my bad hearing, which is combining with my introversion in a particularly powerful way to lead me to avoid any gatherings where more than one person speaks at a time. If you're going to do that, then you're going to be by yourself a lot. I went to two weddings last weekend, strained to hear at the receptions, and felt so bad about it that I left as early as I politely could. My specific kind of introversion isn't about shyness. On social occasions it has much more to do with being largely silent while trying with intense concentration to figure out second-by-second the person or people I'm with, a process which absorbs almost all my energy and attention. If I can't hear, it messes everything up. I leave feeling exhausted and defeated, at least until I reach the sanctuary of my car and drive off. Then everything's better, instantly. It's as if the quiet and solitude are themselves a source of energy.

Horace wrote, "You become milder and better as old age advances." While this is true for me, I'd add this: "And milder and better still if you can align your inner and outer lives harmoniously."

I've been very, very fortunate.

3 comments:

Amelie said...

I hope you had a great birthday. Did you and Dr. Coleman throw a party this year? My brother told me that he ran into you at the Rec Center. Hope all is going well. Let me know if you are ever in the DC area and want to meet up!

Dan Rogers said...

Monica, I presume? The party and the birthdays aren't until December. We'll have another bowling competition, no doubt.

I did run into your brother and asked him to pass along my greetings. I'll be back in D.C. before too long, so I'll be seeing you sometime soon.

Paige Vitulli Baggett said...

Intriguing post Dan. I like the thought of being in the “era of wisdom” for sure, although I don’t often feel so wise at the age of 48. I also envy the peace you’ve found…I’m still searching. I’ll just continue to enthusiastically “strive” or wander through Act 1 until serenity finds me. I hope your “eras” allow for late bloomers.