Six years ago, when I turned forty-seven, I wrote up something called "Taking inventory", and it was utterly depressing. Then again, at the time, I was utterly depressed, perhaps the worst I'd been since 1988, when putting myself out of my misery presented itself as an available option, and I wound up doing a couple of months in the Home for the Bewildered, which I tend to dismiss in casual conversation as "a stint in detox" despite the fact that there was no actual tox involved.

It occurs to me that it might be worthwhile, in a self-flagellating sort of way, to examine the conditions that contributed to that particular malaise, and to see what vestiges of them remain today.

  2000 2006
Age 47 53
Most recent catastrophe Burglary Auto accident
Cost of said catastrophe $3.25 $8000
Prescribed dose of tranqs 1 mg 1 mg
Belt hole (of 5) 4th 5th
Love life Nonexistent Nonexistent
Fame level (on American Bandstand scale) 36 39
Daily readership 40 640

Hmmm. Nothing here that would indicate any reason to be less despondent.

One factor is definitely different: almost exactly midway between these two dates, I bought a house. This had a slightly negative impact on my cash flow, which wasn't really offset by the usual tax advantages until the following spring. But you can't imagine how much I despised the crummy apartments I'd been renting. Then again, maybe you can.

And maybe that's a more significant factor then I might have thought, since it's led to some other changes, some of which might be construed by some as healthy. Even a small house on a quarter-acre lot demands a whole lot more work than a 900-square-foot flat, and inevitably some of that work will have to be done outside, possibly in the sunshine. (Think "Vitamin D" and possible health effects.)

But I think that the greatest change of all was the simple realization, somewhere in the midst of all of this, that turning fifty was some sort of watershed, as important as 10 or 18 or 21. At the time, I wrote this:

Something has changed. And perhaps that's my task for the next five years: to figure out exactly what that something may be.

So I have to clean yet another house, sort through the emotions, the neuroses, the random thoughts, find out what's worth keeping and what can be tossed. It's a scary proposition, to say the least. Yet somehow, I'm not particularly scared.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what's changed. Fear may do you some good when you're younger; at fifty, it's just one more thing that gets in the way.

Maybe at fifty-three, it's something that you might actually be starting to put behind you.

Or maybe not. I might be just as well off not thinking about it at all. Besides, it's my birthday. I think I'll spend the rest of it in my birthday suit.

Which is something I never would have done in 2000 or, for that matter, in 1988.

The Vent

  25 November 2006

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 Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill