My experience of life has been that the good stuff, and the bad, come in clusters. Much of the time, we just chug along and, suddenly, everything starts happening simultaneously. We’re making decisions on the fly, dodging bullets and often just trying to cope. After a while, matters are resolved and everything slows down and returns to normal.
The sporting metaphor is from cricket or baseball, where outfielders pass long afternoons only nominally involved in the play. Out of nowhere, at high speed, in their direction, comes the ball that will decide the game. Tranquillity is replaced by manic focus and the dislocation of time: it speeds up or slows down, depending on the circumstances. These are the times that test men’s souls.
Any fool can live from day to day, without excitement or discord. It’s tempting to think of those as the good days, but in truth, the reverse is true.
The good days are when you’re fighting to pull a deal together on some real estate, against the heavy pressure of professional incompetence. You’re besieged by people wanting you to help them with their projects; the best of them are designed to help you as you help others. Your wheels come off and you’re out there in scary nowhere, making the biggest decisions of your life on a wing and a prayer.
You talk to people whose opinions you know in advance, just to hear the argument made, for or against. You — well, I — already know instinctively what you’re going to do because you’re you, and nobody does it better. You consider each piece of the puzzle with regard to all the other pieces of the puzzle, and all of them keep changing. You are thus, in heaven and hell simultaneously.
That uncomfortable ground is where the highlights of your life take place, you come to realise. All the days when nothing very exciting happened, from which you derived such comfort, now seem empty and characterless. Right now, you’ve got to make that phone call or send that e-mail that will forever change your life. The bigger the potential change, the bigger the charge of excitement that accompanies the fear. The more it matters, the more you feel it.
For those who live in the Olderhood, life is generally about feeling less. The tried and tested ways are the best. The certainty of normality is preferable to the insecurity of change. But proud pensioneers (William Shatner’s inadvertent modification of the infinitely more prosaic ‘pensioners’) boldly go when the opportunity provides itself. They surf the waves of fortune. It helps to know that there’s a comfortable chair and surroundings, a supportive spouse and offspring without tattoos and drug habits to come home to, but the further one lives from danger, the greater the distance home when peril is embodied.
You’ll have guessed from the preceding that my life has caught fire on several fronts, from the most basic (where I live) to the important (my work) to the frivolous (too frivolous to include). I initiated some of it, and some of it initiated me.
I’m doing the best I can. That’s all anyone can do. Wish me luck.