There is this notion that if you live long enough, you will eventually enter a sort of depressed and demented second youth. The final babyhood of humans who attain their nonagenarian Brownie or Boy Scout badges seems to include, but is not limited to: toothlessness and the associated pleasures of tasteless, pre-masticated pablum; the need to wear diapers; perhaps, also, the inability to hear or give two shits about what the functioning “adults” are saying. Let’s hope it also encompasses joy in simple things, hope, innocence, 24-hour reruns of The Price is Right (starring Bob Barker), and a complete set of Smurf figurines.
I’ll tell you what second babyhood doesn’t, won’t, and can’t include: good naps. This is especially cruel of the deity who I doubt exists, since being old will mean both a) more time for naps and b) more need for same. In the geriatric retelling of The Princess and the Pea, the pea is your own hipbone. I am 40 years old–I may not even be at my own halfway point yet–but I know this to be true. My hip seems to think I’m too posh and need to learn to sleep rough.
Naps are, simply, one of those beautiful childhood dreams that must be let go of if one is to survive. It is a dream that must be abandoned along with other cosmic misunderstandings, such as thinking of Jello as a delicious and nutritious lunch choice, the existence of Santa Claus, the notion that one’s toys possess complicated pasts and fiery intelligence, or that it’s perfectly sensible to go back to jumping on that trampoline immediately after projectile vomiting.
Napping was good and right as a child. It was still so when I was a teen; dammit, I could sleep under any circumstances: on the cots at my first daycare, which had gaping, almost child-sized, holes in the middle of them; during loud parties playing out in all their broken-bottled glory in the next room; during hour-long fire alarms; on couches that were too short for me and with no blankets in sight.
Well, it’s over; the dream is well and truly dead. So now what? Definitely an afternoon tea to further trample and smother the part of me that is sure I actually belong in a warm siesta culture and not on this chilly outpost of a dead empire. Also books with the tea. A little turn around the block.
See, it’s not only that the napping dream is receding like a hairline in a jacked up time tunnel; it’s that there’s this thing that happens between our two childhoods: a person, by way of just ambling around or sometimes watching the news, tends to discover that we’re not actually immortal.
And on top of this, time appears to accelerate along the way. I don’t want to spend any more of my remaining 40 or so years on Earth than necessary with my eyes closed and my mind floundering in a recurring dullmare about not being able to leave work until I’ve sold every pair of pantyhose in stock (from 20+ years ago, when I was shilling for Reitmans).
This is not a segue into a pithy conclusion about wakefulness on the allegorical plane; no, dammit, I’m all about being here, now, with our crumbling bodies and seething brains and their inability always to get along. I went to a free meditation class last weekend and it was as far removed from the Christian tradition as one can get without ending up in either Satanism or on an office cubicle; but it still insisted on that whole “our bodies are temporary so fuck em’ and our souls will abide” mush. Maybe the soul, like the Dude, does abide; but this here hip bone is telling me something rather more immediately useful, so I think I’ll walk it around the block and have a listen.