I am not sure this is right. It is a new thought that has only recently crept into my consciousness. I reserve the right to disavow this observation should contradicting actions or evidence arise. But for now it is, at the very least, worth examining.
I experience frighteningly few original insights. Finding myself having one is like coming downstairs in the morning, to discover a new lamp sitting in your living room. No big deal in the grand scheme of things. But you cannot help being disoriented by its presence.
Here’s the thing.
Over the past week or so, I have been in the company of a number of men my age or older, all of whom are seriously engaged in various enterprises. Three writer-friends are involved in, respectively, a movie, the promotion of an e-book and the production of a new play.
A show biz-related sales whiz is fronting a device that, if successful, will revolutionize the audience’s access to First-Run feature films. And a man more than ten years my senior who finds investment capital for new businesses – he once labeled himself “The Lone Arranger” – lights up when discussing the work he clearly continues to enjoy.
Previously, by which I mean during the past ten-year period when I have not worked in television or virtually anywhere else, my response to my friends’ active involvement in paying projects would be two in number:
Envy and regret.
Envy: They’re doin’ stuff and I’m not.
And Regret: I regret being me. (Because they’re doin’ stuff, and I find myself inexorably beached on the sidelines.)
Only once did a third element pop up, the very rare and uncharacteristic
“If they can do, so can I.”
Once, during the last Writers’ Strike (in 2008), while perambulating the perimeter of some studio for two hours carrying an angrily-worded placard stapled to a stick, I caught the fever of my fellow picketers talking about availing themselves of their enforced joblessness to dive into various pet projects, the result of which led to this very blog you are currently enjoying. But, repeating the first word of this paragraph, that galvanizing impulse inflicted me only once.
My habitual response in these unfortunate circumstances would be to be inwardly resentful and self-flagellating while outwardly projecting a cheerful ruefulness.
“How’re you doin’,” I’d be asked. To which I would comprehensively respond,
“Well, if you exclude the no income, no status, nowhere to go every day and nobody to interact with, I’m doing pretty well.”
Honest, humorous and marginally depressing. That pretty much accurately summed it up.
I mean, what do I do?
What exactly is my daily regimen, and has been for some time?
I meditate every morning, so I can do the very little I do calmly. I exercise, so I will not die flabby. I write this blog, so my brain does not pass away before I do. And I practice the piano so that I can accompany myself when I sing, though I refuse to perform for anybody but myself.
And that, barring some household errands, the odd lunch date and a dauntingly frequent number of medical appointments, is it. Do I make one dollar? No. Do I contribute to the betterment of the earth of my fellow Earthlings? No. Do I accrete to the Wisdom of the Ages? No.
Paraphrasing Popeye, I just “do what I do and that’s all what I do.” I’m Earlo, the Self-indulgent Individual – “Toot-toot.”
The thing is, and as I said this occurred to me only recently, in contrast to the past, when hearing about others’ activities dredged up feelings of jealously and/or the punishing realization that though we were contemporaries they were still “going for it” and I wasn’t, I felt, instead – and for the first time – simultaneously pleased for them while surprisingly – and unburdeningly –
At ease with myself.
Not defensive. Not depressed. But instead…dare I say it…?
Thoroughly content with my current condition.
Is it possible, despite inhabiting a country where being alive is synonymous with proclaiming your presence and making your mark on the world (and being dead is equated with its absence), that, though I have continually railed against my situation, I am in truth – and in temperament –
Happy to be retired?
It seems shameful, this confession. But it also – if the depletion of venom is a significant indicator –
(Note: This is a seedling of an insight, which may easily blow away in a contra-indicating wind.)