Sunday, 22 January 2012

The next ten years

My sixtieth year. Time to look ahead, far ahead, and consider how to shape my life over the next ten years.

I don’t feel that life is pre-ordained. I do have choices. Efforts made now will make a difference.

All right, everything I might attempt is heavily influenced by the society in which I live; and I also think that my own character is a limitation. And overriding everything is the accidental and unpredictable nature of outside events. I am, besides this, highly conscious that whatever plans and predictions I might make, it could all be upset or brought to nothing by a devastating illness or injury. But I’m convinced that it’s worth making my ship seaworthy, consulting the chart, and setting a definite course. Not only worth it, but frankly unavoidable.

It’s no good drifting. It achieves nothing. I don’t want to waste the years ahead.

Nor should I count on an early death saving me the bother of living. There is no reason to anticipate an early release, nothing that I presently know of. Nor will I be seeking it. I can’t believe that my best years are in the past, that life can never get better, and that there is nothing to look forward to. What nonsense! There is everything to play for.

You simply can’t ignore the future. Life goes on. Tomorrow will come. If I gave up, gave in, ceased to plan, and embarked on a heedless and self-destructive spree, I would surely survive it. I’d wake up intact, nursing a splitting headache, and ruefully wondering how I could ever think that life is so easily cheated. It goes on and on, it knocks on one’s door every morning. One might as well accept that the proper effort must be made, and brace oneself for another day. To look forward ten years, in fact, and then ten years more. And be cheerful about it.

So what are my chief aims for the next decade? Let’s look at them.

To take my transition to a much higher level
My apprenticeship as a woman must be completed, and I must be indistinguishable from an ordinary woman at age 70. This means unremitting attention to appearance, voice, behaviour, socialisation and background knowledge of what a woman’s life consists of. I can’t of course become perfect at any of this. But I do think that this aim is achievable for all practical purposes.

To establish myself in the heart of a new community
I haven’t abandoned the notion of moving to some village or small resort in the West Country, where I want to earn my place in the regard of local people. Perhaps some public role that is social and cultural - though not political. A position at the local arts centre would do. I don’t want to stay forever suburban and anonymous, unknown, overlooked, forgotten, without purpose. Moving away would involve upheaval. And whatever the urge to stay in touch, I’d have to abandon my life in Sussex. And I must have regard to the health facilities I’ll need. Nor can I move until the money is there for it: getting enough together for a house deposit, and to pay the stamp duty, will require saving on a prodigious scale. But I can’t see myself still here in Sussex in ten years’ time.

To travel
I will surely still be caravanning on the UK mainland, but here I have in mind seeing more of the wider world. That will depend on having the money, and I may well have to choose between moving and travelling. I don’t think I can fund both. It would be so nice to feel part of a community into which I was completely integrated. But equally it would be so nice to personally visit the remarkable places of the world. This is where I will most miss the money lost forever on the Cottage. I can’t now afford to travel much. Never mind, something will be possible. And many of the places I’d most like to go to will remain accessible to me, despite the creeping effects of old age. One very special travel ambition would be to revisit New Zealand, and see my step-daughter A---. Having been to New Zealand once before (in 2007) I know what is involved. Certainly, it’s the effort and expense of a trip to the Moon compared to most other holidays! But of all long-haul trips, this is the one I’d like to do.

I don’t think there is anything totally unrealistic about these three broad aims. Nor about some lesser aims that hardly need mentioning, such as maintaining fitness, keeping up a good social life, developing personal talents, and making the house and garden look nice.

I haven’t mentioned two things that most would make a top priority: having a sex life, and finding a new relationship. In theory, both are possibilities. But I don’t feel driven towards either. Although now equipped to enjoy sex in a way I’d feel comfortable with, the hunger for it isn’t there. That might change, but nobody should hold their breath. As for a relationship, I’m just not looking. Basically I love my independence, and I don’t want to compromise it. I’m also convinced by experience that I have the wrong temperament for a shared life. I most certainly don’t want to stir up other people’s emotions and cause them pain. So it’s yes to friends, but a firm no to lovers.

I recognise that there are arguments that might be raised against my position here. Some might say that in a relationship, love, kindness, loyalty and companionship are the key elements. Can’t I deliver those? Didn’t I do so in the past? What has changed? And if I could make a fair attempt at being loving, kind, loyal and companionable to some other person who needs those things, shouldn’t I offer them? Wouldn’t it be selfish not to?

This is difficult territory. All I can say, based on my own experience and self-knowledge, is that my past record is against success. I can’t rationally ignore it. It’s evidence of poor judgement, emotional incapacity, and lack of total commitment. It’s discouraging, and I am discouraged. I feel that I would damage anyone who wanted to get close to me. As I have damaged M---. This is like not having children, and doing one’s bit for world over-population: I’m going to make society happier overall if I abstain from love, keep out of other people’s hearts, and confine myself to pleasant conversation. At least it would be an uncomplicated life.

3 comments:

  1. This is a difficult post to respond to in any constructive way I feel Lucy bevause it all hinges on what you yourself wants out of life. The likes of me can only ask why you choose certain things as opposed to others. Life, that is the living of it, is certainly not pre-ordained as you rightly point out so in that respect the world, as they say, is your oyster. Personally I wouldn't look too far into the future as i think it is best to live for today, although putting a little something aside for the future (at any age) is a good idea. You have mentioned a couple of things you'd like to do. If I were you I would make plans to fulfill those desires and go for it. I tend to agree with you regarding keeping yourself fit and healthy but this can only be done by eating properly and getting enough exercise. As for sexual encounters, I'd rather have friendship and companionship but I am not you am I? There is nothing wrong with drifting by the way, although that depends on what you mean by drifting, if you are happy doing so, as some are. If you don't want to waste whatever time you have left then you must get involved with or in something. As an outsider to your thoughts I am of the opinion that a life in a sleepy little village might suit you just fine as long as you think you'd fit in alright. No-one knows when their number is up so any amount of planning is irrelevant and that is why I say live for today, eat, drink and be merry notwithstanding. Whilst planning ahead don't lose sight of the present else you may look back and think, 'Where have all my days been spent'? I could say that you are already indistinguishable from a 70 year old woman now but that would be unforgivable of me, save to say I shouldn't worry if I were you. You look all the part a woman now. As for the way you act well I cannot comment having not met you in person but I'm sure I'd feel happy in your company as my female friend. I hope I live long enough to know how you are getting along anyhow!

    Shirley Anne xxx

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  2. It would be so easy to let life drift on.

    I worry about those who do not have easy access to services like shops and heath centres when they are no longer able to have use of a car, that is why I am content to live in a very small town where I can walk to these things easily or take a regular bus to the nearby large town. If I were nearer to seventy that would be part of my plan.

    Friendships and relationships happen without planning, I have just spent sunday lunch where there was one couple at seventy ( which is NOT old ) and one of them had never thought of a long term relationship before she met her partner six years ago. They maintain separate homes but move around and between them...

    Never say never... You would be a real catch for someone!

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  3. I concluded long ago that doing the conventional thing wouldn't work for me. I tried - a career; a marriage; a relationship like a marriage. Basically living up to other people's expectations, and trying to please them all. Even without the gender issue, this was impossible. And I got lost in the attempt, despite various kinds of success here and there.

    It seems to me now that each person needs to be honest about what matters to them, and that they should pursue those goals only, and not dissipate time and effort on other people's dreams. Is this utter selfishness? I don't know. Probably it is.

    And all goals must embrace reality. I'm probably two-thirds through my life - this means that much more than money, time is now THE valuable resource, not to be squandered or spent unwisely. Shortage of time transcends all other considerations. I can't now for instance use twenty years building a new career. When I could afford to sit back, I'd be too old to enjoy the prizes. Similarly for all long-term projects.

    I have become so doubtful about relationships. None have worked. Fresh opportunities will of course come my way, but every person who shows any sign of interest in me will have to get a standard warning that I am a poor prospect for lasting happiness. I'm best kept as a friend at arm's length. An interesting friend though, I hope!

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Lucy Melford