This is the title of a book by Jane Miller. I plundered some ideas of what it was about from reviews earlier in the year, and used them for a blog in September. Now I have the book itself, and have just finished reading it. Subtitled ‘Thoughts on Being Old’ that’s just what it is – disconnected thoughts it often seems, but then they lead on to memories and reflections relevant to the main thrust of the book, which can be summarised as “we are old; let’s find out what that means”.
They are the thoughts of a fascinating woman with continual references from her wide reading, and to members of her much loved family and close friends. I have found the book an immense encouragement as she acknowledges an experience common to all of us as we enter the latter stages of our lives. To recognise what’s happening, she would say, is one way of coping with it. One can almost hear her speaking and here (and in the next blog) are some of her thoughts……
‘No doubt the old have delivered themselves of too much advice and opinion over the years and deserve to be asked to keep quiet now, but it does sometimes seem that we are hemmed in by unnecessary and even self-inflicted prohibitions.
It is nearly forbidden to talk about age. I am always being warned off it, as a subject unseemly in itself and one which, once broached, is bound to end in complaints and sorrow…..
….I should come clean. I’m not sure that I really believe that I will be dead one day, anymore that I entirely believe that I’m as old as I am. Somewhere, in some part of me, I am still young and possibly eternal. I wonder whether most of us feel that in essence we are still young, and that the problem with old age is precisely that it comes to define us, blotting out earlier versions of ourselves, standing in for them, taking over.…Writing about my own old age is a way of convincing myself that I really am old and that I really will die.
Old age has not meant that I have given up on either rage or anxiety, which suggests that I am by no means reconciled to endings or anything else’….
….There are days when the interval between drawing back the curtains in the morning and closing them in the evening is so short that it seems hardly worth acknowledging it as a day at all….Days and weeks and years rush by, flipped and skimmed and barely read, like the pages of a book you are hurrying through to find something you half remember seeing there, without letting yourself become seriously interested in the book itself…Just as you become slower at everything you do, take longer to do the simplest things, you find yourself hurtling downhill with no breaks.’
* Published by Virago at £14.
99 (though my copy is from our public library!)