20 Feb Restlessly Aging
I had trouble sleeping last night. I wasn’t lying in bed wide-awake but instead, despite my tiredness I found myself restless, falling in and out consciousness but not really falling asleep for a couple of hours. I eventually got up and took a long hot shower which helped me to finally fall asleep. From time to time I’ll have trouble falling asleep when I’m ruminating on some idea or stressing out about something that I have to deal with. This was not the case last night. Instead, there was clearly something bothering me but I was not connected with what it was. I tried to put my finger on exactly what it was so that I could let it go.
I had been reading a little bit of “The Color Purple” before going to bed but it didn’t seem connected to that. The previous day I had had a screening of our film “All the Rage”. Before the screening I had a headache. I wasn’t consciously anxious or nervous about the screening and I wondered if the headache was somehow related to anticipation of the event, but that didn’t seem to be what was bothering me. I realized that it had a lot more to do with having seen three documentaries that morning that all had a very strong emotional effect on me, especially in the last one, “In the Hills and Hollows“. That film focuses on injustices being heaped upon property owners in West Virginia who don’t own the mineral rights beneath their land. Gas companies can come in and build roads and drill pads on the property because they have the right to the minerals underneath the land. It was infuriating in a way that affected me physically. Once I was able to figure out but that was having the most impact I was able to be more present with those emotions and the headache went away.
Our screening went tremendously well and I had some great conversations about it that night. The following day I decided to go to a few less films. The ones that I saw were good but they had a little less emotional impact on me so when I had trouble sleeping I was pretty sure that my restlessness didn’t have to do with what I had seen. I tried to think about whether or not it had anything to do with emotions related to the struggle that we face and trying to release our new film because it’s been a difficult process. While I’m sure that It had something to do with what was a general sense of unease I have been experiencing, I was pretty sure it wasn’t what was keeping me awake.
When I’m at home I tend to work too much and this has been especially true over the last few weeks. When I travel and I’m disconnected from my computer I have a lot more space to think, and when that happens I can see quite clearly that sometimes my tendency to overwork is a distraction from what I’m feeling. So, when I travel I tend to be a bit more conscious of my emotions, and I feel them more. This doesn’t mean that I understand them any better but instead that I’m bit more buffeted about by them. As I lay in bed slowly waking up this morning I realized that the anxiety I was feeling last night probably had something to do with the fact that while I was brushing my teeth before bed I glanced up and saw myself in the mirror. The bags under my eyes reminded me of my father and I became very conscious of the fact that I am aging. The thought came and went so quickly I almost wasn’t conscious of it, but I saw that image as I woke up and realized it had left and impression.
I turned 48 a couple of weeks ago and while 48 isn’t old as far as I’m concerned, on some level it does feel like I’ve turned a corner and thoughts of my mortality are present in a way that they have not ever been. This is not to say that I dwell on dying or think a great deal about it, but is the first time in my life that I have been solidly conscious of the fact that it is a possibility.
I wouldn’t say that my father was very vain but as he aged he resisted the falling flesh under his chin and around his eyes. it bothered him in a visceral way. After I left home for college I only saw hime a few times a year, which made it possible to observe the changes in a more profound way. He hated the way his neck began to grown towards his chin and he would flick his fingers under on the flesh in the hopes that it would somehow firm the skin (it didn’t seem to work). In his mid 60s his eyelids started to sag over his eyes. He went in for a little eyelid tuck. He claimed it had something to do with his ability to see but I think it probably had a little bit more to do with his vanity. Over the past few months I haven’t gotten enough sleep and I started to see that I’m getting bags under my own eyes. The hotel bathroom light was not so flattering and these bags were quite pronounced at midnight last night. When my eyes locked with my reflection there was a spark of consciousness of the march of time.
I’ll try to keep on meditating on it in the hopes that awareness trumps anxiety.