Friday, June 13, 2014

Boring and Self-indulgent

I awoke, early this morning, from a dream that left such an emotional thumb print that I was unable to fall back to sleep. And now, here I sit, a little after 5am, sipping coffee and typing a blog entry. So, while there is nothing more self-indulgent and boring than relating a dream to someone else, bear with me, because that is what I am going to do.

In this dream, my dad and I were exploring an antic space above my parents' house. While their house has an actual attic space, it is nothing like the one I envisioned in my head: A large, slightly maze-like series of partially finished rooms, cast in a pale blue light with small drifts of fine white insulation piled in the corners. As we made our way to the back corner, we came across a peculiar and touching site: Some of my brother and mine's toys, arrayed out on the floor. The way they were positioned indicated that -at one point- my brother and I had been up in the attic playing with them, only to be called away mid-game; leaving the toys forgotten for twenty to thirty years. Looking down at them, and seeing a childhood event frozen in amber, such as they seemed to be, struck me with an immense sense of nostalgia and melancholy. The immediacy of it. A snapshot of a childhood event, seemingly forgotten. Looking at it, I was filled with a sense of connection to my younger self, but also with a sense of sadness as I contemplated how many countless events from my life have been lost from my own memory. Distanced by the years that lie between them and the present.

As I type this, I am 38 years old, and I feel the distant rumblings of a mid-life crisis rolling in. There is dull sense that at some point -likely in the not-so-distant future- my list of "things that I have done and experienced" will begin to exceed my list of "things I will do and experience." Heck, maybe that point has even already passed. 76 years would still be a solid run. And, that inkling has lent a certain uneasiness to the way I have approached things recently. A certain frustration with the day-to-day hassles that I have experienced dozens of times, and know I will spend solid chunks of my future dealing with again; a nagging discontentment with another evening spent watching TV. It manifests itself in surprising ways, both predictable and not. Both as a sudden, inexplicable interest in cars and professional sports, but also in a desire to re-embrace things I enjoyed in my youth, like role-playing games; and beneath all that, the expected existential ponders of the meaning of it all. What does it all mean? What happens after you die?

I am not a particularly religious person, but I do sometimes wonder if we build our own afterlife. If, after our physical bodies are gone, we are just left with our memories and an infinite access to them. That by revisiting our past events, and our reactions to them, we construct our own heavens. Heavens built from the recalled embrace of our parents or our children, days spent playing with siblings and friends, falling in love with your partner again and again, experiencing the thrill of experiencing something for the first time, or the joy of creation. And that even the bad memories have value; that the pain, fear and loss somehow casts the good memories in higher contrast.

But, all that said, I also have to admit that there is something decadent about the idea of a mid-life crisis. I imagine that people who scramble to get by day-to-day aren't allowed the luxury of taking stock of their life so far, and musing "what does it all mean?" So, with that in mind, perhaps I should just appreciate it, maybe even lean into it a little. Because, like the toys in my dream, these moments too will someday be the past. Forgotten and preserved only in my mind.

OK. Hitting "post" now. Stella and Otto are awake, and I have new memories to make.


Karin said...

Wonderful writing! But I'm sorry; you don't get to be "midlife" just yet! Even if you only live to 76, I think you need to get to at least 50 before you have a crisis. Before that? Just consider it a little kick in the pants.

ambika said...

As I mentioned this weekend, this made me think really strongly of my trip to Prague this spring, and how poignant it felt to recall memories so vividly that I hadn't recalled in a long time - and to think how long ago it was, and what a different person I am now.

The other thing I thought of, that I didn't mention, is your description of heaven made me think of a quote that Google tells me is from Banksy of all things. You die twice, once when you stop breathing, and a second time when someone says your name for the last time. Memories are a powerful thing, I think.

A lovely post that gives some food for thought.