There’s less of it than there used to be. In the past I have managed to conceal a basic lack of confidence by appearing to be sure about my opinions, which have often come across as cockiness. It’s no longer possible to do that with conviction, though it’s a habit that dies hard. In all sorts of ways one reveals that things aren’t what they used to be.
A friend said to me the other day that in the discussion group we are both part of, he is never quite sure whether he can find the words he wants to say. The thinking goes on but the gap between thought and articulation is such that to join the conversation can end up as an embarrassment to himself and everyone else. It’s my experience too.
Physical degeneration doesn’t help. At one time I could be reasonably confident at presenting myself to people. I had no illusions about being good looking but at least I had some idea of what people would see when I entered a room, joined a group or spoke in public. Not so these days.
I think all sorts of stupid things, like is my bald patch reasonably concealed, am I standing straight, do I look as tired as I feel; and practical things like shall I be able to follow what people are talking about? And when people say, as they often seem to, ‘you do look well’, I wonder if that means, ‘you don’t look as decrepit as I expected’? (Which I suppose should be some sort of comfort!).
And then of course there is the memory thing, which has often been referred to in these postings. There are huge blanks which one is reluctant to admit to or wary of exploring in case you come up with the wrong bit of history. I think it is one of the hardest things about ageing, that it’s not easy to remember key moments in your life and therefore not possible to celebrate them.
Driving the car is too delicate a matter for me to make many confessions here.
I maintain the sincere fiction of still being at 82 a reasonably good driver, but have to admit to myself (and now to the world!) that my concentration and judgement is not as good as it used to be. I was never that good at parking the car but it’s now more complicated matter than it used to be, for example.
‘Just get on with your life and stop wanting to be as it was’ is the sensible advice we should give to ourselves I suppose. But it’s not the same life, and accepting that is quite a discipline. We had a moving comment in the Spanish version of these blogs the other day.. ‘I look at my hands wrinkled, brown spots and veins clearly visible and feel strange. Is it sadness? Fear? Embarrassment? I’m not sure … It doesn’t make me sad – on the contrary I’m impressed. It connects me with my final years.
It’s natural, simple and it happens to us all.