This photo is a close-up of an elephant’s hide that my partner snapped from a “blind” we were in, in East Africa. What you’re not seeing is the gargantuan animal, her impressive maneuvering trunk, those huge round feet, sexy long eyelashes, and tattered ears as big as a bike tire. What you are seeing; her wrinkles and the vulnerable yet tough surface of a magnificent and breathing creature. There is so much to see and feel in every living creature, this is what I have learned from my time on earth.
What I try to capture in my novels is how different we humans are from one another, and yet how similar we are, too. We have different ways of being, thinking, loving, honoring, expressing; but mostly, we grow from our newborn state into a child, a teen, an adult. And then in a span of usually 80 or 90 years, our breathing stops and we expire. When we’re young we think we have an infinite amount of time to live, when we’re old we worry that our time is nearly over. This is human nature.
It’s the way we use that time that is really the important thing. This is not just a cliché, this is a hard human fact of life on earth. We who keep on living, keep on living. We can change or not, but either way, life really will just keep moving forward. This aspect is what I have been observing in aging humans, it is what I have come to enjoy writing about.
We all make mistakes. This is another fact of human nature. A man who has a fight with his wife, for instance. They fight in the morning before they leave for work and they drive off angry with each other, and then she has a car crash on the freeway and she dies. He wishes, he aches, to bring back that morning and tell her how much he loves her, but he can’t because she’s gone forever.
What does a person do with that self-loathing and regret that they carry in their heart?
We all do different things. We all have different dramas. One person might justify it was an important thing they were fighting about, blocking out the pain, stifling it, for years and years. They drink too much gin, gain weight, become quietly bitter. Someone else might be inconsolable for a year, then hit bottom in some ugly way, go to therapy, learn how to forgive themselves, and eventually find a new wife whom they love and adore. Someone else might devote the rest of their life to séances with the hope of reaching their departed loved one.
As a middle-aged person who has struggled with an aging body, time gone by, mistakes and regrets, and the uncontrollable race of time, I know only one thing for sure: it is what we DO that matters. And this is what I try to relate to in my stories. No one way is right, it’s whatever we are capable of that makes the difference. And what are we capable of?
Most people are capable of being far greater than they realize. Some people prefer to let life slip through the cracks rather than confront what is holding them back from making change. Some people would rather spend their lives blaming their failures on other people or unfortunate circumstances. Some people gather up all the courage they have, and more, and they conquer their demons.
We are basically born in the same way, but we are none of us born with the same circumstances. But as long as we have the gift of breathing, we can move forward. We collect scars on our skin and wrinkles inevitably show up, but it’s what we have inside and what we do with what we have, that makes us beautiful.