Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Middle Aged Thoughts

I was reflecting on how I look at people and situations differently now. And I noticed how much more I am... well, not short-tempered or irascible. I had a much worse temper when I was younger. But I'd say that now, I'm much more likely to walk away from a relationship, just let it wither, or tell the person (calmly) to get lost, than I was a young man. Back then, I'd put up with ANYTHING to get a girl, or a job, or a mentor, or a friend. ANY amount of crap. ANY amount of demands. ANYTHING to please the other person. Now, if someone (okay, other than my kids - I still put up with WAY too much crap from them) asks me for something, even if it's a fairly minor request - I'm very likely to say "No." I'm very UNlikely to go out of my way for someone (again, except for the kids, and even with them, I'm beginning to tell them "Do it yourself"). I just don't feel like making the effort. And it's not to say that the way I am now is worse (or better) than the way I was then, but just that I see how it's unfolding. Back when I had no girl or job or mentor or friends (not childhood playmates, but friends, in the sense of peers or partners - those who help you and whom you help in their lives) and when I was younger and all the juices of libido and ambition were at flood tide - it makes sense the lengths I'd go to in order to get those things. Now, I have some of those things, and my hunger for more of them is considerably abated, and I just look at the acquisition of more and say, "No thanks." It's a tired, melancholy kind of feeling, in a way. I'm sorta hoping it settles into something more like satisfaction or calm, but right now I'm not liking it so much.

Plus, it's hot as shit again today.


Blogger Matt Cardin said...

This is fairly striking stuff, Kim. I'm younger than you but you're still describing some things I myself have sensed coming on with increasing frequency and intensity in my own life.

Are you familiar with Stephen Dobyns? I was very nearly undone -- really, honestly -- by his poetry collection CEMETERY NIGHTS when I read it in my early 20s. The following poem marked me more than any other. It's not really, exactly about what you describe in your post, but for some reason I flashed on it pretty heavily.

* * * * *


These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let's pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let's dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn't been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let's go down to the diner and sniff
people's legs. Let's stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man's mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let's go to sleep. Let's lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he'll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he'll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let's just go back inside.
Let's not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let's go make a sandwich.
Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen.
And that's what they do and that's where the man's
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

2:02 PM  

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