Monday, May 19, 2014

"Mine Enemy Grows Older"

It’s not often one gets to make reference to raconteur Alexander King, Walt Kelly’s Pogo, and Dorothy Parker in the same sentence, but I’ve managed. The title of this particular blog is taken from King’s 1958 book of his personal observations on aging. That I and so many others appear to look upon aging as continuing battle brings me, of course, to Walt Kelley’s marvelous comic strip character’s astute observation that “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Which, in turn, sparked the memory of a classic exchange in the long-running feud between the inimitable Dorothy Parker and socialite Clare Both Luce. At one point, a friend said to Dorothy, about Clare “But you know, Dorothy, Clare is her own worst enemy,” to which Dorothy replied, “Not as long as I’m alive, she’s not.” Scotch-tape the references together, and you have the story of my life.

I am and have always been my own worst enemy, my bitterness against aging and against myself easily rivaling the enmity between Parker and Luce. It stems from the fact that, all evidence to the contrary, I am a perfectionist. I can and do accept flaws in others that I cannot and will not tolerate in myself. Actually, it is a particularly perverse form of hubris. A great part of me has never matured beyond the child’s assumption that he is all-powerful, and that everything that happens in the world is somehow related to him.

As a result, I am incredibly easily frustrated when something—anything—does not go as I think it should. And when that something directly involves me, frustration often quickly spirals totally out of control, sending me into a self-directed rage.

Though I’m not a psychiatrist, I would suspect that masochism, the self-infliction of pain, has a mental component, and I fully if regrettably see that quality all too clearly in myself. I am constantly measuring myself against others and falling far short.

Regrets are a part of the human condition; we all have them, and they cause us a great deal of suppressed sadness and pain. But for the mental masochists among us, the emotional scabs which inevitably form over the incident are constantly being picked at and reopened.

I can clearly recall embarrassments and shames experienced from childhood and throughout life, and they often for no reason I can determine suddenly pop into my head. I can also recall too clearly the pains I have caused others; the things I should have done that I did not do; the careless and thoughtless things I would give anything to change. And, of course, these flaws build up over time like the individual snowflakes in a life-long snowstorm. The older I get, the more oppressive they seem.

So why, exactly, do I insist on dragging out all the skeletons in my closet and frantically waving my dirty laundry in front of you? Perhaps as a part of the mental masochism thing, but I would prefer (I am also very good at self-delusion) to believe it is because, once again, I do not think I am the only human to have this problem. There are many things in life which, though common-to-universal are, like certain bodily functions, considered too private and personal to talk about. So I like to think I do it to assure others who feel the same way that they aren’t alone. It may simply be yet another form of self delusion but, hey, I’ll take it.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

Regarding aging, I used to get chores done as a youth with a great deal of verbal complaining, but little physical exhaustion. Well, I stepped out last night and stained the deck outside, which required me to do all sorts of bending over, looking up, looking down, and getting into places I used to have no trouble doing. 5 hours of this.

I kid you not, D. I went to bed thinking I might really be dying. I woke feeling as if I'd climbed Mount Everest. I can't remember being in this much pain...from STAINING A DECK.

I believe I said it best last night when I muttered a hundred times "This is bullshit."