Monday, March 16, 2009

Old age agenda

Julie at Everything is Interesting asked her readers for post ideas, and I suggested that she could do a post about her vision of her old age. I think I phrased it as “hopes” for her old age, because I tend to see the issue in pretty positive terms. Becoming old seems like a gift to me--something to look forward to, in the same way that a child dreams about what her grown-up life will be like. I’m curious to know what sort of fantasies people carry around for their superannuated selves. I don’t know if Julie will devote one of her excellent posts to the subject, but since nothing else of interest crossed my blogging radar today, I’ve decided to take my own advice and make a few wishes out loud for my own old age (assuming, of course, that I keep kicking that long.)

1) I want to own next to nothing. I don’t want to be hungry or destitute, of course, but I’d like to be free of lust for material things. In my solitary fantasy, I live in a small room or a tiny house with nothing but books, a bed and the means to write. Maybe I’ll have a violin, although I have a sneaking suspicion that my aging fingers are going to rebel against the strain of playing long before I am entirely decrepit. If Dave has stuck it out with me, he’ll have his own corner full of books and music, but he’ll want little else, having joined me in renouncing the burden of stuff. (Hey, I said this was a fantasy.)

2) I hope to be outdoors even more than I am now. I may move more slowly, but I’ll make up for it with the tenacity of a cantankerous crone as I wander through any wild place I can get to. I like to imagine myself as an old woman of the woods, drinking whiskey with Dave around a campfire.

3) Since ambition and self-consciousness are absurdities once you reach a certain age, I hope to be freed from all the self-created obstacles to writing. I’ll just say whatever the fuck I have to say and move on, without agony. Some people might appreciate this. Maybe I will get some attention, but I won’t care whether I do.

4) I want to find more ways to be useful in the world, to be less selfish and self-involved. That’s a ridiculously tall order for a lifelong navel-gazer like me, but I have seen this pattern in other people, where an intense self-centeredness in middle age gives way to a practical concern for others that dominates the end of life. I would love to be like that.

There’s more, but I’ll stop for now. Feel free to share your own daydreams for the future.

Old Woman at the Mirror, Bernardo Strozzi. c.1615. Image from Web Gallery of Art. (I wish I'd found this in time for the "Ferocious Crone" post. This seems like a perfect depiction of what I don't want to become.)


jmcleod76 said...

I love that your future self (still?) drinks whiskey! This must be a southern thing. Mine drinks wine, like now, if at all.

I would like to have less stuff, too. In fact, right this very minute I'd be perfectly happy in a (very well insulated ... this is Maine, after all) shack in the woods with my books, my dogs, and my zafu. Like you, this fantasy would require cooperation from the spouse ... something I don't see happening any time soon. Good thing I've got time (I hope).

BitterGrace said...

I do drink whiskey now, but I expect I'll drink more when I'm old and have no reason to worry about preserving my liver. That spousal cooperation thing is always a hurdle. Dave is not naturally inclined toward a minimalist environment.

chayaruchama said...

Aw, Gracie- she doesn't look so bad...
Does she like what she sees, I wonder ?

Anyhow, I like your fantasy; mine is similar.
I'd also like a loom, or a vineyard.
Or a perfume organ, with which to work.

Many dogs, books, animals.
Perfume, not much else.

I'll be happy to be mobile, continent, cheerful.

BitterGrace said...

Oh, I don't think she looks bad, just frustrated at the futility of her endeavor. It's a sad image to me.

I can't decide whether I want my old self to jettison perfume. It is hard to imagine life without it.

Olfacta said...

I'd like to keep my own schedule. This is my fondest wish. My husband works long hours a corporate job, and must sleep and eat on a regular schedule. Someday, I hope we'll both be able to work based on our own rythmns, eat when hungry, sleep when tired.

I hope to have lots of like-minded friends.

I hope to continue to exercise and stretch and maintain a flexible and strong body.

To continue to learn every day.

BitterGrace said...

Hi, Olfacta--You've reminded me that I left friends off my list. They're essential, and necessary for continued learning, too.

Julie H. Rose said...

Ah, I miss single malt Scotch. My body can no longer tolerate alcohol.

I wonder why so many of us plan for the future why we'd like to do in the present.

And, why would you jettison perfume?

BitterGrace said...

Good questions, Julie. Everything on my list is something I could do now--except for knocking back more Scotch, for the reason I gave Jaime. (I'm sorry you can't enjoy it anymore. Not that it's doing any of the rest of us any good--it's a pretty poison, really.)

As for jettisoning perfume, that's a dilemma. On the one hand, it's a pleasure, and I want a life full of pleasure. On the other hand, perfume is a something of a compulsion for me. I want fewer of those. If I thought I could whittle it down to a handful of beloved scents that would satisfy me, I would. But I fear cold turkey may be the only way...