Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
“Resume,” Dorothy Parker
Growing old sucks.
This thought intrudes into my consciousness right now because I have hurt my hip. I’m not sure exactly how, but I think it was related to me in a fit of spring fever mowing the lawn a couple of weeks ago, instead of nagging Railfan to do it. (Northern California seems to have skipped winter this year.) The hip hurts to the point of tears. I am breaking down and seeing the doctor, after minimizing medical appointments due to COVID-19.
I’m not old by many measures. And I feel as though I stopped getting older at the age forty. Due to mental illness, I never expected to live past then. I felt it was a pretty good bet that, if I didn’t die from outside forces (car accident, flu, etc.), in the depths of depression I would slit my wrists or take a bottle of Klonopin washed down with Cuban rum.
As some point when my children were young, suicide turned into an ethically insupportable choice. I had a social worker baldly state the grim statistics for suicide among children of maternal suicides. “Do you really want to do that to your children?” she demanded. All I could do was shake my head. “You need to find a reason to live for yourself, but in the meantime, I’ll take it,” she continued gently.
All during my children’s childhood, whenever I thought of self-harm, I would chant to myself, “Suicide is not an option.” When they grew up things were trickier, but by that time I had entered into a “Cooperative Care Contract” with my family. On page three, among other clauses about taking care of myself and seeking help, in 36-point bolded type is “If I am a danger to myself or others, I will contact my doctors or go to the emergency room.”
It helped that a) I have a sense of responsibility to others, and b) Railfan is, ahem, a rail fan. He explained to me that engineers who are driving trains that run over people suffer from severe PTSD. I to thought about the effect my death on other people: the bus driver who would run over me, the EMT that would have to resuscitate me, basically every person who might have to deal with my body after I killed myself. Not a pleasant thought. I would never want people – my family or anyone else – to suffer emotional pain on my behalf. Not to mention that I had signed a contract, right? I try not to think of the lack of enforcement mechanisms.
Oddly, I fear death now. Life has a lot of problems, and the world s a scary, scary, place, but most days I can find something good. So here I am, well past 40, dealing with all the issues resulting from aging. I even find myself grumbling about “kids today” occasionally. Growing older sucks.
But, as Maurice Chevalier said, it’s not so bad when you consider the alternative.