Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not as young as yesterday

Tonight, I feel old. This "old" is relative, I should point out: it only concerns how old I felt BEFORE compared to how old I feel TONIGHT. Knowing me, it should chance again very soon, most likely returning to feeling "young" again.

We get distracted by the rhythmic repetitions of our own everyday lives. So much so that we don't notice the days passing unless we're paying attention. Some people pay attention like misers, balefully checking off each set of hours as they slip through the fingers. Others (like me) pay almost no attention until jolted back to a realization of the passage of time.

Such a jolt has been building for several weeks (or even longer) and it has finally crashed down on my shoulders. It makes me stoop just a little bit more. Makes my forehead frown just that much more. Makes my sighs just that much longer.

I feel old. This revelation brings me no pleasure. There is no wisdom gained, as is often the case when one reflects on the passage of time. No. In this case, the rubber band of the Past has simply sprung back to shape. And here I sit. Thinking.

Tonight I started the procedure for getting back into contact with an old friend from high school. I haven't talked with her for at least 10 years, so I was curious to see what had been happening. No pictures, so I have nothing to compare to my decade-old fading memory. Lots of people talking about engagement and weddings on her wall, so I bet she's getting married. Anyone I know? Nope.

Breast cancer.

What? There it is: going through breast cancer. And suddenly, I felt old. I'm not sure why, exactly: her cancer doesn't directly effect me. All the same, I let the air out of my lungs in a long push while I tried to call to mind all the memories I have of her. Was I hoping to make some sort of sense of it by collecting grossly outdated facts and remembrances? I can't say.

When I think about what happened to old friends from high school, cancer never comes to mind. She's almost exactly one month older than I am, and I don't consider myself "susceptible" to cancer. Realistically, I know it's possible. Even a specific type like breast cancer could strike people even younger than us. Hell, *I* could get breast cancer. In some ways, I'd be braced against a revelation that she had died in a car wreck. Or even that she had committed suicide. I've had people from my high school class die in those ways before, so I have a little bit of shifty ground to stand on. But cancer?

And despite her apparent successful management of the disease and preparations for the wedding, I'm the one who feels old and harried. All the smiling faces remind me of opportunities missed, of time wasted, of choices made for distance. The swirling memories lace together and form a heavy cloak that presses down on me. And as it chafes against my neck, it causes irritation: irritation that manifests as a bizarre sense of entitlement. "Why should they be happy when I'm not?"

And on and on I grumble through the night, until even I don't want to listen to me any more. For some reason, I'm confident this cloud won't last; this does not mark a change from the personality status quo. It's just a side-tour to wallow in self-pity.

Which makes it terrible and shameful, since it started out as concern for a friend with cancer.

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