Recently I experienced a birthday. Now I’ve never been a big one for arbitrary celebrations of orbits around the sun. I remember thinking early on that it was a lot of fuss for not much emotional enlightenment. Of course I didn’t realise I had ASD at that point and that all that noise, fuss and adherence to bizarre ritual that the experience entailed was supposed to be enjoyable. And then I did, and that made it worse. I derived no enjoyment from it at all, simply a feeling of bemusement that I was obviously not like other people. If it had turned into a contempt for others would that have been worse than the self doubt and fear I developed about myself not being ‘normal’ and not knowing why? Contempt may have given me a better shield to deal with the weirdness of the world until I was diagnosed and understood why it was all so confusing, and I could stop worrying about it.
Back to the recent birthday. It was quiet. I spent it with my family and I enjoyed it immensely. It wasn’t a significant birthday if such an animal exists. There were no zeros involved, it was not a number celebrated or venerated in any system of cultural approbation I am aware of. But as circumnavigations of the centre of our solar system tend to do, it made me think.
I am probably of an age where fear and abandonment of dreams should be going hand in hand. Fear of my own demise; one would confidently calculate that I am nearer the end than the beginning of my journey on the face of the earth. And abandonment of those hopes and plans one has in the first part of life, however unlikely and unattainable they may be under the microscope of a realistic appreciation of one’s abilities and starting position in that race of life.
Taking the dreams; well even I have to admit the chances of me playing flank forward for Wales in the Six Nations have slipped way down the probability tree at this point. As for being Prime Minister or a doctor, time has also eroded the shifting sands those hopes were erected upon.
Of course there were other factors than time – size, speed, skill and ability in the flank forward case, schmoozability in the greasy pole climbing aspects of political advancement, and, well I probably could have been a doctor, but for self belief and application.
The latter two points deserve more attention, but another time perhaps.
That appreciation of my tumbling dreams suggests my statement about having a good time this birthday was either a big fib or that mood was swept away by my contemplations. Not so.
I may not have the time left to become many things but I retain the essential spark of self belief and interest in the world to redefine existing dreams and to find and develop new ones, realistic or not. And I find that encouraging.
Maybe that is why the fear is absent. Or if not absent then at such a low level I have not yet found myself reaching for the crutch of those contemplating the end of life, religion.
I don’t look down on anyone who does believe in a god, or God. I think I probably used to myself when I was young but I was taught to and you tend to soak up the values and beliefs around you don’t you? My problem, or release depending how you look at it, came when I was introduced to, and encouraged to exercise, critical thought. Sure they were looking at calculus and political direction in the long nineteenth century when they did so, but there was also divinity on the curriculum and that history module on the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries didn’t help blind faith.
Belief in God, any god, falls away as critical thought is applied. There are too many inconsistencies and obvious flaws in the idea and that’s before we address the concept of competing claims to be ‘the one true God’.
So I have no consolation of eternal life to sustain me against the looming exit doors. On the bright side, there is no threat of eternal life to terrify me on the other side of those looming exit doors.
Not looking over my shoulder at divine judgement or the dreams lying in the dust is a difficult thing for me. I don’t know whether it is part of the ASD or simply part of my own make up, but I have a horribly retentive memory. This can be pleasant if a little poignant if remembering past joys but generally the unbidden memories that pop into my head at inopportune moments have tended to be of gaffs and missed opportunities. So the knowledge I do not have to worry about all the times in the past I may have pissed off various deities is a huge relief. Similarly the knowledge that there are new opportunities to miss and dreams to trample in the future, of whatever length, is a source of great comfort.
Now where is that tackle bag? Justin Tipuric is out for a few months and Wales need a flank forward.