When I was younger, I thought all the older people had ‘given up’ if they didn’t seem to be as passionate about whatever cause, or particularly interested in what was going on in the world, or new discoveries. I also thought that it was selfish for them to be like this, kind of reverting back to childhood- in the way that babies and toddlers are mostly only interested in what their next need was and who would give it to them- and it did pay for babies to be like that, they might otherwise die if they didn’t whine and scream to remind people to feed and change them. I would bring up topics to people who were happy to talk at length about things they lived through in the past, whether that be war or protests or their childhood but they seemed less and less interested in the rest of the world and more and more interested in the smaller details that affected them directly.
“Are you following what is going on in Greece? Or that poor girl who got shot by the ferry building in the city for no reason by some random illegal alien guy? Do you care about the next presidential race?” I would ask them, thinking if they didn’t know, they would want to.
“No, not really.” or “That’s terrible.” they would say and then “Oh, are you going down to the shopping center at all today? Could you bring me a coffee? The tree trimmer guys have been here all week, the noise is annoying… Did you hear the Denny’s is closing? The neighbor has had to take off work because his wife has post-partum depression… I can’t believe how much our cable bill is…”
I was starting to think that feelings one’s mortality more and more as time goes on might be akin to living in Weimar Germany in the sense of bread being one price in the morning, another in the afternoon, and money losing value all the time. You wake up, having slept poorly more often than not knowing that something would start hurting at some point, and no matter how you tried to keep things in reasonably decent working order, little pieces here and there were going to keep falling apart and/or causing one pain/bread was going to cost more later in the day. It was harder and harder to worry about what would happen too far down the road, especially when you realized how far down the road you already were.
It wasn’t quite like the aforementioned ‘chicken coop mommy syndrome’ of previous posts. I wouldn’t say it was quite giving up either. I saw the beginnings of this tendency in myself as well, not because I no longer cared or was not interested, but because some of what I had done had begun to feel inefficient. How much more ‘good time’ did I have left and what did I want to spend it on?
I had never previously much understood all the self-help books or what I estimated to be sort of eastern-y religious stuff telling everyone to ‘let go’ or ‘not be attached to outcomes’ or as some guru proclaimed on the cover of one of my parent’s books ‘Be Here Now’, shoved in next to the Horizon journals, National Geographic and Gary Snyder. It sounded flaky and worse, undoable.
To me all this and the things I mentioned before, all the hippie crap sounded like an excuse to not give a shit, and worse it was telling other people not to give a shit. Maybe I felt this overall philosophy influenced them to not act like parents, but being like that was the popular thing at the time I suspect. Because you wouldn’t want to be like The Man and oppress your own children with any sense of normalcy. I suppose it was a rebellion against the other way taken to the extreme where they have 50 thousand kids and make them wear dirndl skirts and be super religious. Not that anyone was doing that out here.
Now I was starting to understand the older people- what they were doing, perhaps without even realizing it. It wasn’t disaffection, it wasn’t exactly disinvestment. It was a kind of detachment but not completely guru-on-the-mountain nor the kind that carries resentment. Or perhaps it was simply an ordering of their attachments and seeing the BS political phraseology that over time, ultimately rings hollow, though it does continue to ring- perhaps it sounds different to the trained ear. You also see people going though phases of accumulating and then getting rid of much they had accumulated, knowing that all this stuff was yet another distraction that began to feel like it was weighing them down to this material plane.
Perhaps this is where we all ended up, the ones having the ‘whole life’ maybe ended up there first, or perhaps they didn’t ever need to detach, because they had everything right to begin with.
I wasn’t sure if I envied them or not, but the fact that I questioned it, meant on some level- I did. The people who had a ‘whole life’ had all the pieces of their life mixed together. Or at least they were tied together. They were one person- and I don’t mean this as opposed to multiple personalities- I mean it as they were one person across all the different areas of their life. These people were not disaffected or apathetic. In fact, they volunteered more often and were usually more conscientious than people not in their ‘club’- they usually did more than what they were asked and did it happily. They had friends that cared about them, they seemed always to be getting together to celebrate something, they wouldn’t understand people blowing off birthdays or holidays. In their world, if people were shitty to someone, they probably deserved it- because that made sense, and most things in their world did make sense, so they used that filter and it worked, mostly. When it didn’t, they would think lousy things about people who didn’t deserve it, or who were not wholly bad.
These folk, they weren’t mincing, evasive and cheap with their personal information, they wanted to share and they wanted you to share back and if you didn’t they usually took it the wrong way, like you were being standoffish and rude purposefully, because why else would you not want want to blab about your life unless you just hated them? Why else would you not be signed up to everything they were, and why else could you not always participate? If you put up a good enough front, they simply would just dislike you. If you didn’t put up enough of a good front, they would then pity you and avoid you. They knew people at their children’s school. They socialized with these people on occasion. They would be hanging out at the pizza place after a kid’s little league game. The They weren’t afraid of having identifying stickers or symbols on their car.
They wanted people to know who they were-they had the little stick figure people on their minivans with the names of who was on-board- they were into hanging out in groups, either their immediate family and maybe also a couple of families or having other people’s kids over. They were not hiding. They liked meeting new people, because they were not afraid to explain their life- there was nothing to explain because they were what they seemed. They were not afraid to be seen with anyone across various parts of their life- and they were friends with others like themselves, people who had nothing to hide, past or present.
Sometimes it was easier to be friends with total narcissists because everything was about them. You didn’t have to share anything with them, they didn’t care and most of the time, they didn’t ask- and even if they did, it was still asking because the answer was about them, what you could do for them.
You could just let them talk and talk and that was good enough for them and at the time, a reasonable facsimile of a friendship, or whatever it was. They thought they were so clever when they lied and believed. Like I said previously, they almost have to lie, because everything is a lie to someone who has no core, everything is made-up, everything is borrowed, copied, re-arranged. It’s the equivalent of watching bad TV, or eating junk food, or hanging out with lousy ‘friends’. You knew on some level the food would make you gain weight, or the shitty friends would steal from you, be it your time, your bike, money, ideas or even some joke you told- but you were too depressed at the time to see this, or worse, you took it as flattering you had something worth stealing.
Whatever you revealed to them, they likely wouldn’t judge 1)because again, they didn’t give a shit and even if they did have an actual opinion-2) why risk making at best pissing you off and worst, an enemy out of you when you could still be useful, right? 3)they also don’t judge because they don’t see right and wrong the way the whole people do.
You could never really be ‘real’ with these people anyway, because as real as you were, they would never be able to understand what you meant no matter how articulate you were, they just didn’t have that sense. You didn’t want to talk about people who were assholes, because you would find out, in their little delusions-of-taking-over-the-world-but-really-feeling-in-reality-like-an-ineffectual-wuss-and-hero-worshipping-creeps, it would just be another creep for them to admire. Yay a tough guy, wish I were him! It was almost like these people were disabled on some level.
‘Why don’t you come back’ they cajoled, trying to get me to take part in some online thing I once was all gung-ho for, but that had lost its luster for many reasons. ‘No one will know it’s you, just make up a fake name.” As per usual, they missed the point: I knew it was me and that was reason enough. I resented the style of invitation for what it was pretending to be blind to, or maybe it wasn’t even pretending- and this blindness, real or pretend- made the whole thing so much worse. I couldn’t decide whether the blindness was real, part-real or feigned in order to be able to say something to the effect of ‘ Jeeze, I was only kidding’, or a dismissive ‘oh pssss that doesn’t/shouldn’t matter anymore.’ But it did. I could not now contribute in the way I once wanted to when it wasn’t for someone’s lulz or profit, a hustle. Here’s a little story for you, it’s kind of a math problem, like those ones in the tests they make you take when they think you might be smart, like if all zaggles are ziggles and all zigs…
You throw a unique ball out in a specific direction, a bunch of dogs run after it going one way and yet a little while later another dog brings it back from an entirely different direction, you can safely assume that the dog that brought it back somehow is connected to that other pack. What is interesting is, years ago you introduced a different dog to that pack, which means that dog and the pack and the one who brought it back are all maybe buddies or at least connected somehow even if all the arrows showing connection don’t go both ways. What is funny to think about is at one time you couldn’t imagine these dogs getting along and maybe they still growl at each other in public- but apparently they do get along- on some level.
The good, the salt-of-the-earth, the whole life people would never have a little story like that about the dogs. Or likely many stories like mine.
That said, I was almost like these people at one point in my life, though it didn’t last long. There was once a time where the stories that needed to be hidden weren’t so bad or so many, or I could tell a couple people a couple things. Now there is no way I could find my way back. I do have to recall it though, because I still see these whole life people almost every day in the way that a person recalls a dream and it reminds me of the fact that no matter how long I have been here- that I will always be a stranger. I have almost completely accepted it. Almost.