Just got back from dropping Paul off at the airport. Driving home in the still-excellent traffic, I felt pretty chipper and considered starting my day early. But by the time I got home, the wisdom of getting back in my pajamas had asserted itself, and I have a feeling that by the end of this post I’ll be ready to go back to sleep.
We’re getting older. That’s the headline news, the reality that overshadows and colors other life events. Paul has, this year, added a number of white hairs to his curly mop. I’m stiff and sore in places that I never considered could be the source of pain. I make involuntary noises when I change positions sometimes, and he falls asleep watching TV.
Remember that first year or so after a certain person was elected, you’d wake up in the morning and it would hit you, oh fuck, that guy’s president, and there was nothing you could really do about it, so you’d just go about your day, doing all the things you do, but with this added awareness that would sometimes fade into the background and sometimes not? The knowledge of getting old bears some similarities.
I had a writing teacher who would talk about the acute thread of the narrative—like the two friends going on a road trip, and then the chronic part of the narrative, which is that element from the past that exerts pressure on the proceedings. Like you realize the road trip is a final hurrah before one friend ships off to war and the other friend is secretly in love but has never confessed it. I think in film school we would have called the chronic element backstory that added emotional stakes.
Backstory can be revealed in various ways—the more sophisticated way is series of small revelations deployed throughout a story, like Tar. The more efficient but heavy-handed way is thrown on the plate right at the top, like Star Wars, or more recently, Renfield.
The “has gotten old” story element can have an elegant, gradual reveal to the extent that one can hide it at the beginning — from others or oneself — so it can emerge organically alongside the acute plot points, like a character starting a new job, going on a date, or waking up in the wee hours to take a spouse to the airport and then choosing whether to chase one’s youthful ambitions or go back to sleep.
At a certain age, being old becomes not-at-all hide-able and can only work as a top-of-show element – something the audience knows about the character before learning anything else.
Anywhooo — when I wake up in the wee hours these days, this is apparently what I think about. Mortality.
When I wake up after the sun, I am less philosophical and instead think about all my little obligations and goals and how best to prioritize and juggle them.
My 3-month-long production gig ended this past week, so I’ve been reaching out to friends, adding back in some workout routines, and trying to transition my brain into writer-mode instead of producer-mode. I can feel it happening, which is a relief, but, sadly, my time away from the pen hasn’t miraculously turned me into a speed writer.
I have several writing projects on the pile and am feeling the shortness of time — not just due mortality — ha ha— but because this same job is slated to start back up the last week of June. I’m very glad to be booked ahead as it removes some uncertainty, but it also creates a ticking clock. Two months seems like a lot of time until I see how the days between now and then fill up with non-writing things:
I have another short production job next weekend / week, after which an ex-employer has asked if I can to come back to support them during the first couple weeks of May prior to a large event.
In mid-May, I’m on the wait list for a 10-day Vipassana silent retreat, so it might or might not happen.
In May or June a trip to Texas might be needed to help with some family stuff.
Add in high school graduations, birthdays, dinners, doctors’ appointments…
And then it will be the last week of June.
Two months as a fractal of life – flying by.
The sun is up and it’s not 5 a.m. anymore.