Friday, April 17, 2009

Laughter and Life

Sleep deprivation teaches you lots of things. It gives you a sense of what it must like being old, really old.

Today, following a night up with Ruby, who has chicken-pox, my mind is full of headachey fog. I keep dropping things. It takes me ages to get anything done. Thinking is hard. Every movement feels like an effort and all I want to do is just...sit down.

The best book I have ever read about ageing is by Diane Athill who last year wrote `Somewhere Towards the End' at the age of 91. While old people formed an important part of my life until quite recently, I never quite grasped what it was like to be encased in an old body until I read her book.

A successful old age, it transpires is about being able to successfully manage ones decline and to take delight in the small things. After a while, the absence of ailment feels, in itself, a blessing. The touch of air on skin. A child's smile. A tasty tomato. All of these become bigger pleasures as death nears - if you're someone whose pot is half-full.

As someone in `the prime of life' who is also often anxious and disconsolate, despite all the good things I have going for me, I fair-dread the onset of old age. I struggle, at times, to take pleasure in the big things, never mind the small ones.

And I worry too much. Far too much. I zap one worry only for another to come along, like an unending game of Pac Man. In fact, I think I probably need to be hypnotized or something. There's a Paul McKenna book in there somewhere... `I Can Make You Chill'.

I am not alone though. This inability to really enjoy the good things in life seems
to intensify in middle-age. I was reading today that Richard Curtis, that scion of comedy, said that he hasn't laughed, really laughed, since about 1982.

Although I laugh a lot (not least at my daughter's night-time interpretation of her angrychicken-pox as `A MOUSE IN MY BED DADDY!!!') something registered here. Even when I was a teenager, and, believe me, I was your typical depressive Smith-fan teen (what would be today termed an `EMO'), I recall collapsing in uncontollable laughter at something or other on a near-daily basis.

I don't remember when I last did that and indeed wonder if I will ever again. In fact, the nearest I came to this was last year when my terrier-dog ran up and nipped the arse of a particular reviled neighbour when she was putting out her bin.

What that says about me I would prefer not explore.

Anyway, the sun is out and I am about to go out to see if anyone will vote for me in June. Happy days!

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