Today, the 28th October 2015, is the 45th anniversary of my birth.
To be perfectly honest, I never actually imagined I would ever reach the age of 45 years. Looking back, I think I’d imagined that the mid-thirties would be about as much as I could reasonably expect. And now, I’m not all that convinced it’s been worth it.
Sometimes, over the years, I’d used my birthday to take stock of what I’d achieved (very little), what I hoped would happen till the next birthday (usually, quite a lot) and what would more realistically happen (again, very little). This whole exercise has got so repetitive that I abandoned it some time ago. The choice seemed to lie between disappointment, no matter how much effort one put in, and expectations so low that there was little to no point in putting in any effort at all.
In these pages I’ve mentioned, once in a while, the fact that I have a history of depression, which has led to episodes of major self-harm. One of the things I’ve realised is that this is something I will never get rid of; that, no matter how far it lurks, it is never quite gone for good.
For oh I have heard the leather wingsBeat through the aftermidnightsLying awake; I have seenThe red-eyed shades of the raveningClawed beasts reaching to snatch awayThe shred of me I could call my own.The night is all, the shadows hold sway
Tell me not of the coming of some other day.
|If I could put a face on it, this would be it. [Image source]|
Over the last two years, I have gone through the kind of fire-searing mental agony I would not wish on anyone, when – after nearly thirty years – I seriously considered self-harm again. Today, I’ve reached a stage of almost Zen levels of depression, when unhappiness has become such a grey constant that I have grown to be acutely suspicious, almost fearful of happiness. A flash of happiness, after all, it seems to me, only presages the crash to come. It will go away; the depression, however, will not.
So. Looking at these 45 years, it strikes me that I have, very probably, spent over half my time on earth. Yes, lifespans have increased out of all proportion to what they were in my grandparents’ time – when “May you live sixty years” was a blessing – but the golden age is well and truly over, with war and famine and disaster not just on the horizon, but already here. Who the hell wants to live to be ninety anyway? Not I. Not that I feel old or even middle aged; I just don’t feel like anything.
There are memories of past birthdays I hold close and examine once in a while. Some are good; most only fill me with regrets at the memory of what has gone and will never come again.
Friends we have now, good friends we've lost
Along the way
~BoneyM, No Woman No Cry
Well, on to more cheerful thoughts!
The first birthday gift I recall clearly was something I must have got when I was either six or seven years old. It was a book on the cover of which two large and improbably colourful lizards disported themselves among the branches of a brass-tinted tree. I think it was a book of fairy stories; at this point in time I have no memory of the contents except that the pages were printed in sky-blue ink and had illustrations here and there. It was in Bengali, too, a language which is officially my native tongue, but which I have never been particularly comfortable with and which I never read or write in any longer. The next year I got a Hardy Boys book, I think it was called The Mystery of the Desert Giant, and that was a lot better.
Yes, and this probably will not be a surprise to anyone who reads this, books are the gift I always treasured above all others back when I was a boy. Clothes? Oh, OK, um, thanks. Toys? What do you think I am, a kid? But books? Oh my. Booksbooksbooks. I could have spent a lifetime in solitary confinement if only I had a supply of books.
Then I discovered that some books were actually utter pure undiluted bilge, and that I could write better stuff. And from there it was a short step to writing that stuff. And from there, it was another step to discovering that it was almost impossible to get the stuff I wrote published.
But then that’s another story, and one you’ve heard before.
So, yeah, 45. I wonder what the next year will bring. Or, rather, I already know.
Incidentally, I share my birthday with Bill Gates and Julia Roberts. Couldn’t it at least have been someone I can actually admire? What the hell?
Bring on the apocalypse.