March 18, 2013

Dear Clusterflock

At what point in your life did you realize that you’re probably never going to be as healthy/attractive/happy/etc. as you once were? Did you have the presence of mind to realize it at the time? Or have you somehow avoided this altogether (i.e. you’re under 30)?

I had my doubts at 30, but now I’m pretty sure I’m officially on the decline. Nothing drastic, but it’s like when you realize your new car isn’t a new car anymore. Except you can’t save up for a new one, or even take out a foolish auto loan.


  1. Michael Grant Smith on March 18th, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    It’s been more than a few years since I still had that new-person smell, but I’ll say this:

    Youth tends to believe in itself completely, love itself to the exclusion of all else, and think of mortality as a silly abstract (if it thinks about such matters at all).

    Old gits generally experience habitual self-doubt, self-loathing, and the opinion that mortality lurks around every corner. Time is running out, what have I accomplished, where are my glasses, etc.

    Neither view is correct; however, if you make it to the end, balance is achieved.

  2. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Why, I could write a book. Maybe even every day.

    I came to the realization you describe at ages nineteen, thirty-one, thirty-five, and forty-one. Those are the times that stand out. I just turned fifty-nine and am wrestling with it yet again. This time it feels for real. Sometimes, anyway.

    Still. Resurrection up and surprised me at ages twenty-four, twenty-seven, thirty, thirty-six, thirty-nine, and fifty-four.

    I know my life is way more than halfway behind me. And: Regrets, I’ve had a few. Cue: Sid Vicious singing “My Way”. Or, better, Gary Oldman playing Sid Vicious singing “My Way”. That’s a recognition I’d have to be a fool to disregard.

    But my life continues to surprise me, and sometimes in good and even amazing ways.

    So there’s that.

  3. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Also, what MGS said.

  4. Casey Cichowicz on March 18th, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Thanks, guys. Gary/Sid cheered me up a little. Here’s to trying to make it to the end!

  5. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    The very end of the film “Sid and Nancy” is one of my all-time cheer-up scenes.

    I’m funny that way.

    Feel better, Casey.

  6. Michael Smith on March 18th, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I’m 31. I’ll be 32. Last year I was in the best shape of my life. This year, I’ll probably be even more fit (Alicia told me I looked like I was losing weight, which, for those of you who have met me, is somewhat terrifying as I average about 145 at 5’11”). I also feel like I’m better looking than I ever was in my (even younger) youth (the fact that acne is, finally, in retreat probably helps).

    That having been said, I notice little things. Mysterious back aches and an overall inability to stay up past 11, but I attribute part of that to having small children as much as getting older. Perhaps I’m in denial, I don’t know.

    What I do know is that I’m a whole lot more confident than I was 5 or 10 years ago.

  7. SC on March 18th, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    . . . write a book. Maybe even every day . . .

    Just thinking of a 45 single with Everyday I Write the Book on one side and Read a Book on the flip side. Or maybe the other way around.

    Oh, right getting old was the question. What? Did you say something? I’m almost certain that I’m in better shape, smarter, and more optimistic than when I was 20 but . . . one advantage of being old is that I’m much better at forgetting.

  8. Daryl Scroggins on March 18th, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    A fine question, Casey, and much wisdom here in response to it. I find myself thinking of specific ways and general ways to respond. For instance, I was a martial arts instructor in my twenties and early thirties, and I remember very clearly a moment when the instant message went to my leg to kick–and for the first time there was a fraction of a second delay between signal and result. I can’t describe how subtle the difference was, but I knew.

    On the general side–I am aware of reaching a point at which I seemed to be looking back at ambition. It was an oddly freeing feeling, since it clearly didn’t mean that I would no longer try things. It was recognition that looking too constantly at what might be achieved can get in the way of feeling good about what is.

    Okay here’s a scary turn for you. I noticed in my thirties that experiencing a degraded condition after, say, pulling an all-nighter when you are too old for it, can find you staying that way forever. Like when your mother told you that crossing your eyes on purpose could cause them to get stuck like that.

  9. Erica Braverman on March 18th, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I honestly think it all started in my twenties. I had a bad knee (thanks, ballet!) and a poor mental health status. Probably it began earlier than that as I have a great fear of death. I have been having trouble sleeping at night as I lay in my bed thinking of things I haven’t accomplished in my life yet. Somedays, I just focus on the A I currently have in my French class, the sweet dog that snuggles with me every night, and the hope that it gets better.

  10. Casey Cichowicz on March 18th, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    SC, I think I really do need to write something. I will try.

    Daryl, I think I know exactly what you mean about getting stuck that way forever!

    It’s with a mixture of feelings that I posted this question — sure, there’s some self-pity, but I’m also curious. I feel like I’ve crossed over. Now if I can just get rid of that youth-envy.

  11. SC on March 18th, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I used to think: “No way can I do that.” but then I’d end up doing just that.
    Now I think: “I’ve done that before. Piece of cake.” and I end up not quite doing that.

    I used to think: “I can see where this is going.” and when I got there I’d think “Told me so.”
    Now I think: “I can see where this is going.” and I start walking sideways.

    …staying that way forever…
    I’m not sure that’s happened to me, yet. (However, physical fitness wasn’t exactly my thing when I was 20 so maybe it’s happened and I haven’t noticed.) However, when I think of dead friends, I do think of them as fixed in time/space/thought. It’s not true, of course, memories change even if they just fade. . .

  12. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I confess that I do wonder how much longer I’ll be able to keep up the self-delusion about really obvious things.

    How (to quote my lifelong friend Melanie) “my hands resemble the talons of a raptor.” Actually, she said that of her own hands, but I can see that it’s true of mine as well.

    Still, I remark on the prevalence of “all these middle-aged people” in the community where I live. As though they’re grown-ups and I’m still a kid.

    I think what this means if that I am hopelessly feckless.

  13. Cindy Scroggins on March 18th, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    The most surprising thing to me about aging is that it isn’t linear. Neither is beauty. I get older, then I get younger. I was beautiful when I was young, then I was ugly for a time, and now I think It possible to be beautiful again.

  14. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Cindy, that is so damn true. I’ve been beautiful (in a quirky kind of way), then got so ugly I didn’t know myself. Then grew into my own face and then back out of it again.

    Same with the sense of aging, which in its negative sense I associate with fear and despair and paralysis. It washes over me, and then it recedes, leaving me all clean and tingly, radiating energy.

  15. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Erica, I’ve lain awake many a night for over fifty years. I know the toll it can exact. You may have tried what I do. If not, give it a try. Or try it again.

    I shut out words and just see things in my mind. I conjure them up as fully as I can. Sometimes I start by remembering a thing I’ve seen with waking eyes; more often I seize hold of something that comes to me and follow it.

    Like: puddle of mercury quivering on a red linoleum floor. Or: cut-glass candy dish on a stack of magazines.

    I don’t always lull myself to sleep, but it beats fretting over dying alone and impoverished.

  16. Michael Grant Smith on March 18th, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    I haven’t had a bowel movement in three years and can’t walk to the post office unless I wear my brown shoes that have the inserts in them.

  17. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Knock it off, MGS. You can’t possibly be one of those middle-aged people I’m forever contrasting myself with.

  18. Michael Grant Smith on March 18th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    I’m transitioning from leading man to character actor in the story of my life.

  19. Sheila Ryan on March 18th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Me: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

  20. SC on March 19th, 2013 at 12:10 am

    …aging is that it isn’t linear. Neither is beauty…

    From my perspective age and beauty are inversely related. Sure, young people can jump higher, recover from broken bones faster, and are less likely to vote Republican but are they more beautiful? I can’t remember ever being biased toward youth. I’m not only okay with talon hands and wrinkles and lumpiness and bad hair, most of the time I think “So and so is so much more beautiful now that they are older.” There are some ifs, ands, and buts to this general rule but a group of people I find beautiful at 30 are likely to seem even more beautiful, to me, at 50. I find very few 20 year olds beautiful but a high percentage of people in their 70s look gorgeous.

  21. rick neece on March 19th, 2013 at 2:21 am

    Y’all made me cry. Casey, I entered my thirties freshly out-of-the-closet, crazy to try-on my newly admitted life-style. I burned the candle at both-ends and it worked for a little while. I met Danny and he slowed me down (in a good way).

    I think you’re experiencing what I have come to deem “the Thirties Heebie-Jeebies.” Essentially, it feels like you’re starting to fall apart. I could go on, but why. What SC and Erica said. What Sheila said, what MGS said, and what Daryl and Cindy said. (Hi, y’all, I’ve missed you, you know?)

  22. SC on March 21st, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    One last thing . . . I think my comments about aging mean that as I’ve gotten older I’ve shifted from punk to goth. Sigh.

  23. Sheila Ryan on March 22nd, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Goth is okay, SC. I mean, it’s not like you’re emo.