Nearing Eighty

cat on porch, under birds' nest in hanging basket
cat on porch, under birds' nest in hanging basket

I love this, from Philip Callow in The Oldie Annual 2009, writing about his experience of old age:

“To be nearly eighty is to run out of choices, to stop asking the way. I thought at first I wanted to be a painter, but I was afraid of failure. … The truth is that the very idea of failure loses its meaning when you are approaching eighty. Time rushes along, faster than ever, and yet there is endless time to please yourself, the moment you abolish the need to accomplish something. If you have not achieved your ambition, whatever it is, there is no point in starting now. The burdens fall away, and you can spend time on the most useless occupations without guilt, such as watching the big black insouciant cat from next door as it saunters up the path. You are happy to see it, to welcome it, and at the same time you are concerned for the young robin that had just alighted on your bird table and is fixing bright new eyes on you with the astonishing intimacy robins have.

“In other words, you are shedding what is left of your ego and coming close to the one sure joy you can be certain of in old age. You are close to forgetting about yourself. Who knows, you might be free of yourself entirely one fine day.”

I don’t feel I’m anywhere near shedding my ego, sadly, but this is the best description of the way I live that I’ve ever read. I’ve often thought I was a late-bloomer; now I think it’s more likely that I am an early-oldie.

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