The disconcerting thing about tomorrow's upcoming birthday is not so much its unspeakable (I mean it!) number, but the fact that I seem to have managed to go from childhood to senescence without an intervening adulthood.
It has only lately become apparent to me that young 'uns of whatever stripe and source are looking at me as parentoid, or even grandparentoid and not as pal material. Or, even worse, looking at me as usurper of the goodies that are rightfully theirs, would I mind terribly moving on ? And leave the keys on the table, please ?
A Big Birthday tends to jam the old retrospectoscope into one eye socket and the even-more-chilling prospectoscope into the other, creating a stereoscopic 3-D totentanz of Brueghelian proportions.
A Big Birthday tends to dredge up those old warnings that have lodged like a rusty nail in the hippocampus where even the components one's breakfast or one's cellphone number can no longer find reliable purchase. Take for example this titular nugget from the late psychoanalyst Erik Erickson's "Eight Ages Of Man," Stage Eight to be specific --
EGO INTEGRITY vs. DESPAIR --
preceded by seven other opportunities for "a man" to fail (stagnation, isolation, role confusion, inferiority, guilt, shame& doubt, and basic mistrust), leaving the rest of us to wonder what categories of psychological catastrophe apply to us.
Only in him, declaims Erickson, obviously describing himself and his pals, who in some way has taken care of things and people and has adapted himself to the triumphs and disappointments adherent to being, the originator of others or the generator of products and ideas -- only in him may gradually ripen the fruit of these seven stages.
And for the rest of us ? The eighth step, in the dark, avec banana peel ?
The past decade's thematic list, in no particular order, uncategorized: Camera. Weeds. Being churched. Some ugly deaths. An ill-chosen career. A well-chosen marriage. Friends. Family. And, as always: words, words, words. A Big Birthday, rather like New Year's Day, invites us to make resolutions and issue manifestos. So I review my messy, thematic list and consider. How's this for a start:
Minimize mauvais foi.
Now there's a ringing battle cry for endgame, or, if you prefer, le fin du temps.
If I had bolted up the correct version of Erikson's staircase --over the gleaming golden risers of trust, autonomy, initiative, identity, intimacy and generativity -- pumping my fists in the air to hymns of Rocky Balboan triumph, I'd be a considerably different person -- or, if you will, "man" -- today. More hale, more happy, more full of faith, more convivial, more satisfied, more apt to claim what I deserve. Well, Erik, it's not gonna happen. The stairs have rotted and fallen away, all except the eigthth, leaving me here, stuck as a stylite, teetering on "ego integrity vs. despair," and guess what side of that step has just fallen away --