The Variety of Life
Our leather doyen scribbler ponders the ever evolving nature of life. One needs to learn to appreciate our downs, to try to feel lucky that we have them because without these lows we cannot possibly appreciate the highs of life
Column by Trevor Pickett
I should probably start by saying ‘saved by the skin of my teeth.’ That is in admission that I am behind deadline with a mental block whilst the proof reader and comprehension-grand dame of grammar, Claire, has to trawl through my dyslexia and is pulling her hair out. It is rare for me to not be late, to not be in a panic about content (lucky you have an understanding editor Trevor – Ed).
The construction and thread that links this column’s theme is to provoke the reader. The thought process may be up for debate and discussion so instead let us engage with this theme as if it were a dialogue. When it comes down to aging there are things that either make you dogmatic or things that make you enquiring and I think that it is the latter that keeps one young. It is a more reflective frame of mind and builds on experiences to shape one’s attitude for embracing the future. My writer’s block took me to the stages of a thought process. Looking back on the transcript I had with a friend on Facebook messenger, I realised that we were very open about all sorts of things. The exchange spoke with frankness and honesty of certain subjects which made me realise that we ultimately needed to man up. The conversation was with a friend who was having a bit of a mid-life crisis. Everything was going wrong for him; he was hitting a wall and thus started this thread in my mind.
It made me reflect on the recently released film ‘Call Me by your Name’ which is directed by Luca Guadagnino. Within this film, saying what you feel is recognised as extremely important. I know that there have been many occasions where I should have done just that and didn’t – where I had a genuine warmth for friends which was often left unacknowledged. Basically, the film is another dialogue on a similar theme I have explored regarding the relationship between older men and younger ones. In the past I have commented on the sense of security gained from young men by an older one just as in this film the love between the characters wasn’t limited to a sexual act and was about these mingled feelings of security, awe and protection. There were, of course, physical encounters between the characters which heightened the level of intimacy but their affection wasn’t necessarily consummated in the physical sense. Their relationship was about fragility, vulnerability and the subsequent sensitivity gained from this was revealed at the end of the film where their bond of closeness could be used to support one another at different stages of their subsequent lives. I believe men suffer from these feelings of fragility and vulnerability when they get to their mid-50s. Welcome to the era of the mid-life crisis.
I think when men get to this stage of their life they are lucky to have their close bonds and friendships to turn back to. These ties will never be broken. The crisis will even cement this relationship; add a further layer to it. The problem is usually that men tend to find themselves at a crossroads. You stop believing in yourself and ricochet through a whole multitude of ups, downs and avenues of depression. In this stage of life one needs to learn to celebrate the downs. It is because of these downs that we also have ups. This might read as macabre or perverse but we need to learn to appreciate our downs, to try to feel lucky that we have them because without these lows we cannot possibly appreciate the highs. The variety removes monotony from our lives. Of course the lows are in themselves a downside but we must look to the technicolour we experience when we are elevated from them. The highs become a bright palette of multicolour and whilst we may return to greys we know the wheel will turn once again to glorious technicolour. It is time to curl up and reflect on this journey, to be born again like the phoenix rising from the ashes.
I think this spring the aging process first hit me and I have to face up to that. I have to brave up to the lack of control over this part of our evolution. Vanity and our self-evolving changes, our layers of tissue, the emperor’s new clothes, the light weaves, even weeds in a garden – they all eventually win. Eventually one may consider having their hair dyed, plastic surgery and the rest of it – but we must celebrate the aging process. Whilst a mid-life crisis is not the place one might want to be at, it’s time for a positive change. One can make a radical change, try a revolutionary new start. In my case it was sell up, pare down, think uncomplicated and have a heavy edit of the things around you. Realistically evaluate what you like and what you need. So at 55 I decided it was time to move on, move out and find a new project. For me it was the country house. At first it seemed a little radical and was not received well by my friends but despite this initial barrier I forced myself to see it through. My mission was supported by my close French friend who is a wise (but not old) owl and who suggested that I stop looking for approval. I was advised to make this change entirely for myself as ultimately, I am the only one able to make it and so I did.
I had a couple of nights alone in Nice to ponder. The simplicity of a Fiat 500, a small two bedroom out-building style home became incredibly appealing. It was a slow process but over a year I sold my possessions and evaluated that of the nut bowls I could survive on ten or eight… maybe even six. So I put them all on the market and edited out more and more until I got down to the last 18, then eventually the last 10! It was cathartic to watch the home categories shrink.
Reflecting on life this summer has been interesting. Is it a mid-life crisis or an evolution that has been simmering below the surface for longer than I care to admit? Owning your own company can make one feel as though they’re sailing a little close to the wind sometimes, surviving by the skin of their teeth. Yet when the bumps and crashes hit one and you feel alone, one has to be honest about it and forget about losing face or failure. There are always those in place who understand and want to help. There are the quality things in life that one will forever have access to – memory and style, moving to a new home and referring to some of the cultural events in Suffolk such as Music at Snape, Suffolk craft society etc.