On the weak side of 40

Confucius has written that ‘men are established at 30, free from illusion at 40, learned of the Fate at 50, easy of people’s sayings at 60 and able to do as his heart desires at 70.’ During my latest travel which straddled my 40th birthday, I was asking what freedom from illusion meant and what it meant to me. My beloved song title Don’t Dream It’s Over and book title Lost Illusions sprang up. What are the illusions that have beset me and that have lost or are quickly losing their spell upon me? There are many indeed. To love and be loved. To make friends. To fulfill my parents' hopes. To be free without fearing freedom. To be alone without loneliness. To pride myself on boredom. To go against the current unapologetically. Growing up is no longer good to me. Growing down, if there can be such a phrase, is the going-on. Like the Happy Prince letting go his ornamental gem stones, the passage of my time is marked by shedding dreams. Then quickly, like the exponential decay curve, dreams gravitated to become ambitions, to become famous, to become rich, to become respected in a creative and norm-defying manner. By mid-30s ambitions gave way to realistic aspirations: a home, a love life, a successful career, a family. How would I know even these should be out of my reach? Like sand in my hands slipping through the gaps and I try to close the gaps but my fingers defy my will as if they were someone else’s fingers. The horror is growing with time. If it had been a nightmare, at some point the fear itself would wake me up. But when the torment is the wake up to reality, it has no end. It is my misfortune and while I am in this quicksand I by chance picked up Saul Bellow’s Homboldt’s Gift, a story about the fall from grace and decency of a man of letters. Self-pity eats me up. The dirty old man seems to be the surging in me fast and furious. All of a sudden everything I had been clinging to snapped. For every reason to fight and survive, there are three reasons to let go. I have never thought I would get this low. And I have never imagined that I would happily concede that I am getting lower, faster and faster.