FOXHOLES

SHELL 2Middle age is hard. We are in the world of the young, now more than ever and it is easy to keep pretending we are all still young (I am sure I am not more than seven years old) until we look in the mirror and see the coarsening skin or our the bulging of our middles. Even if we avoid mirrors we can’t help but notice that our hands now look like our mothers hands and police men look like children. The physical aspects of middle age are bad enough-and we haven’t even mentioned the greying, thinning hair, the fading eyesight, the aching joints, the migraines, the hot sweats, the erratic memory and on and on and on-but then comes the letting go of dreams no longer possible and the realisation of our mortality that introduces depression to the previously happy and the deepening of depression for the more melancholy among us.

The young laugh at us and it is no real consolation to know they will be in our shoes one day for by then we will be out of our shoes and in our graves and unable to enjoy it. Besides, even if we could laugh at the thought of the youngs inevitable descent into decrepitude it would make our jowls wobble and depress us all over again. In the midst of this decline many of us feel isolated and without support of friends who have either burrowed into their families or whom we have left behind as we did the burrowing. We are left groping our way across new territory lit only by the occasional rat-a-tat-tat of a text or call from a friend like a burst of verbal gunfire on a battlefield.

The battlefield metaphor was nailed by a friend of mine after I had fired out another frantic message, like a grenade lobbed out of a foxhole, seeking advice on yet another situation in which I could no longer count completely on my own judgement, besieged as I am by hormonal tides and mood swings. This friend, Julie, told me then that every time we messaged each other she always got the impression we were hunkered in foxholes as shells exploded all around us and our hurried misspelled texts were like frantic SOSs from the terrified and confused stragglers of an increasingly wretched regiment. The metaphor is quite apt. My sister-in-law calls the decade between 40 and 50 ‘Snipers Alley’ in relation to cancer but we also battle against weight gain, we struggle to maintain health, to remember peoples names, to sleep, to stay awake. Whatever fight we put up it always seems like a losing battle as we are all sliding down the same muddy slope into the same dark trench. It is an image that makes me laugh and lifts my heart the way a Christmas ceasefire or news from home might cheer a war weary soldier. It’s not only a metaphor for the middle-aged either, it is for any of us who feel as if life has us under siege.WAR 2
I can picture us now, all of us huddled in our individual foxholes spattered in mud and gore, our faces gaunt or maybe puffy or both, our hair frizzy under dented helmets, our eyes dark circled, being shelled by grief, loss, illness, feelings of failure and emptiness. But sometimes there is a break in the onslaught, the shelling halts and, after a bit, we might crawl painfully to the lip of our dug outs to whisper into the wasteland….

“You alright?”

….just to hear the strangled affirmation that eventually comes back.

“Yeh. You?”

“Yeh. Still ‘ere anyway. Some laugh this eh?”

And we lie back in our muddy depressions in the ground and looking up at the stars and laugh and laugh and laugh.TRENCH 2

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12 responses to “FOXHOLES

  1. A brilliantly expressed post…to the point where I found myself getting a lump in my throat and teary-eyed while reading, nodding in agreement with pretty much every single sentence.

    I’d like a friend like Julie in my life, helping me muddle through the trenches in our dug outs and fox holes, together. Until then, though, there’s this post, and this blog. Thanks for sharing this. It has helped and soothed me through a recent bout of rumination.and session of ‘da blues.’

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    • JD you may not feel there’s a foxhole near by you can call out to but believe me there’s a lot of us out here in the dark. Hang in there…and thank you for taking the time to read and comment, that helps me feel a lot better too. A lot.

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  2. As someone who is now beyond middle age, there seems to be a path opening up that allows me to view my angst with more detachment. Research has shown that older people are happier than middle-aged folks, so maybe there is a kind of letting go, into the flow. When you realize you are on the final slide into oblivion, the stuff that used to seem important loses significance. I am not trying to minimize the challenges of aging, but for me, there seems to be less clinging to some idealized future state where everything will be perfect. I am old enough to know it ain’t gonna happen. Love your blog!

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    • Thanks Rachel…yes another older friend said something similar…I guess its the transition phase which is hard, the letting go as you say and like anything it won’t last and we move on. loving your blog too….and thanks for taking the time to visit me…

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  3. What a post, Clare!
    It was the abandonment of dreams that got me. I’m here nursing an abscess of all things and woke out of a very strange afternoon sleep thinking that I needed to check out the Guinness Book of records for the oldest people who had done amazing things – I had tightrope walker of 97 in mind!
    Foxholes will never look the same again after reading this and having married a Fox I can’t but smile through in a delirious kind of way. Talk soon, I hope!

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  4. To quote JD…it is a brilliantly expressed post! I am far beyond middle age (my children are middle age!!) but I remember what it was like. The metaphors were perfect. You are fortunate to have good friends to count on in that foxhole. Older years have their challenges too but as long as you keep your sense of humor one can get through it and thrive! Truly liked – loved! – your post. Thanks for your recent visit to my blog.

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    • That’s lovely to hear CC, delighted and thank you. And may I say you no way look old enough to have middle aged children so you got through it very well indeed. Thanks for visiting back…I always like reading your blog and love to see a new post arriving in my inbox, its always a pleasure.

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  5. God, this moved me. I’m at an age where I don’t want to think about my age, and it seriously does add weight to a depression that I’ve already had to contend with since my youth. You make growing older sound so sad, final, profound, and funny all at the same time. And your art here is amazing. From one artist to another… you inspire me. Long may you keep creating! 🙂

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    • Well wow…what a wonderful comment to log on to. thanks you so much Tony…I had tried to convey all those things but wasn’t sure if I had managed. So many of US run from ageing, including myself, often unconsciously and the culture is so youth orientated its hard to stop and look at it for what it is, inevitable! And then laugh.Thanks for your wonderful words,I t means a lot and inspires me right back…now I am off to visit your site…

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    • …and wow, I am loving your work Tony. I had a different comment here but decided to remove it on looking at your site as it seemed redundant somehow. Looking forward to exploring your work. Clare.

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