In his diary Sixty, Ian Brown reflects on turning what he calls, “the hideous fucking age of sixty.”

As you might guess, Brown is not entirely thrilled with the transition which places him he says, “on the brink of the unknowable nightmare.”

Aging it seems for Brown is something to be avoided, denied, or at least covered up at all costs if you can find enough moisturizer:

Sometimes, with enough moisturizer, I can shave a year or two off my face, but I can’t hide the backs of my hands, where new age spots show up like lost cousins, suddenly and in their entirety and with no warning at all. 196

What is so bad about growing old? Just about everything it seems.

To reach the dreadful summit of 60 is to confront the unavoidable diminishment of one’s cherished faculties.

I don’t think I will be able to stand the loss of detail. Even thinking about this makes me want to shoot myself now, before it happens, if it happens, when it happens, because it will happen, it always happens. 249 (Brown, Ian. Sixty: The Beginning Of The End Or The End Of The Beginning: A Diary Of My Sixty-First Year. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2015.)

I dread that oncoming step-by-step-by-step-by-step progression, the ever-approaching deceleration, like a record play-e-r d-y-y-y-i-i-i-n-g, to use an outdated simile. 252

Loss is the enemy against which Mr. Brown fights with all the ingenuity and ability that his waning energy allows. But sadly the battle does not invigorate, it simply makes him afraid.

The random apprehension of danger has become a new companion in my life. 83

It amazes me how afraid I am these days of stuff I never used to give a second thought to. 169

How has he arrived, Mr. Brown wonders, at this fearful place.

what changed to erode my confidence at the foundational level? What stole my nerve? I never used to worry about consequences because there so seldom were any, until I turned fifty or so. 85

It is a curious statement; apparently until he “turned fifty or so,” there were seldom “any” consequences for Mr. Brown’s actions and choices. But, is it not possible that some of the fear Brown struggles to navigate as he passes 60 is a “consequence” of those earlier years in which he apparently believed he was living without consequences.

There are no actions without consequences. Every choice moves us towards a deeper, richer, more expansive experience of life, or causes us to become more protective, tight, superficial, and fearful. The only control we have is over the responses we choose in the face of the realities we confront. Everything else, as Mr. Brown apparently has only recently begun to discover, is beyond our control.

Life after sixty may be so nervous-making because something is always ticking away in the background, threatening to take over the story. 185

We do not have to wait until “life after sixty” to discover that “something is always ticking away in the background, threatening to take over the story.” No matter what age we may be “something is always ticking away in the background.” Youth, good health, material success, and the encouragement and affirmation of people we value in our lives, may insulate us for a time from hearing the “ticking;” but it is always there. No matter our age, we all live an inch away from our lives imploding. The illusion of control has never been anything more than an illusion.

The journey to maturity lies along the path of acknowledging our lack of control and learning to live graciously in the midst of uncertainty. Accepting our lack of control may gradually ease our fears and enable us to live more peacefully in the midst of the unpredictable realities of life.

 

 

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