All things rot. It's the nature of the beast, or the wretched animal that squeals in the early morning as the bones desperately attempt to justify their existence. It's a slow burn, a realization that gradually wraps its arm around you like a date pretending to stretch, only to flirt with the idea that you will no longer hold on to your youth - a greeting card to bid a fond farewell to the body you once had, once preserved and cared for.
This was hardly me. There was a time when I owned a somewhat decent shape but never once a frame that was carved from wood - maybe hard play dough at best. But as I've grown older, I've slowly come to terms with the reality of aging, the kind of twin shadow that accompanies each and every one of us, hiding in plain sight from everyone but the people around you - the ones who notice. You can see each other's, but not always your own. Then the day comes when you strain your back trying to put on a fucking shirt, or worse, sitting on the toilet.
It's a tough pill to swallow, and like a child, you embrace the lie that it's too big and foolishly try to spit it out. But it's forced upon you, the only other option being to wake up and occasionally oil the machine. Either you're at the controls yourself, or sitting in the green room while past lovers, a shitty job, and lost friendships influence the path you take. These experiences can write the story for you, or stand aside as you rise, watching as you take control and pierce them all with the very pen by which each chapter in your life is forged. Nevertheless, age is there. It never cowers. It comes for you every single day, until the day it no longer needs to. I've been thinking about this a lot recently. The one blinding realization that parenthood bestows upon you is that in all likelihood, and hopefully so, your children will outlive you.
Every day, I look at my two boys and wonder what they will grow up to be but more importantly, will I live to see it? This question lingers as I reach to grab a toy or a book to read to them and feel the bolts in my joints slightly begin to crack. When you're young, you seem to have an infinite amount of energy. Each passing year, as your focus shifts and priorities change, you start to see those years collect dust piles behind you, becoming a catalogue you occasionally glance through, old headlines that highlight the pride you once had in yourself, but almost now no longer exists. This may seem like a sad sap point of view but this is what it's come to. But this is not where it will end. There is a light in the distance, a reason to move. It's the two lives that grow before me every day, the descendants and dependents with whom I share my life. My family.
This is what I think about when I sit in a chair too long and my legs begin to hurt, or when I take my dog for long walks that tire me more easily than normal. It's gotten me to reevaluate my approach to life, my approach to discipline and the creative aspirations for which I aim. As my son Joseph braves his scans over the next few years, I ponder this. I don't see the difficult year during which he underwent his treatments as having belonged to my wife and I. The difficult year was his. He didn't have a choice. By some twisted fucking game of spin the bottle, he was selected to endure this. I have a choice, though. A choice to take care of myself, to alter my habits, to try harder.
I've befriended the excuses long enough. I write more than ever now but I don't exercise or eat well. And this needs to change. It's as if I'm brandishing some sort of universal mark, a badge of mortality that only becomes more apparent as I get older, like a tattoo of a face, a symbol or some quote written in a language I've never spoken that stretches as the years fall and the skin shouts of a battle that wages within us all, between the people we once were and the people we've become. Both versions will arrive at the end sooner or later. I suppose it's how gracefully we get there that matters.