Age, As a Delimiter

Age is a funny thing. It is something that many people don’t think about until they begin to feel it, either physically or metaphysically. Getting ready for bed a few nights ago, I said to my husband, “I’m writing a blog.” He says, “Oh yeah?” I say “Yeah, and it’ll be posted to the magazine’s website. Do you want to hear my working title?” “Sure,” he says, and I’m not sure how to take him. So I say to him, “My working title is ‘Age,’ comma, ‘As a Delimiter’…. Get it? Because a comma is a delimiter.” He snickered. “No, I get it,” he says. “Is it cute, or too much?” I ask. Then his voice does this thing where it rises an octave or so and, while he fails to conceal a smile, he says “Yeah, I like it, it’s cute. It works!” And then, because I know he heard it too, there’s this half minute or so where we just stare at each other before we both start laughing. I say, “I never know how to take you, I never know if you’re being serious or making fun?!” After he pokes a little fun at his own telltale by repeating what he said in his best Mickey Mouse, he gets serious. “I like it, it’s just that that’s where you always seem to go with things like this, since you went back to college.” I said, “Yeah, but they don’t know that, and it’s just because I think about it so much. I’ll mine this one more thing from it and then I’ll hang it up, I promise!” But I don’t know if I can keep that promise when I always feel like the elephant in the room is trying to hide in my pocket. My thinking is that if I point out right away that there is clearly an elephant in my pocket, things will be way less awkward.

I am many things to many people; to some, one of the things I may be is old (-er, -ish…whatever). I am also a wife and mother, but still a daughter, and yes, a student in college. I spent my mid-twenties earning an associate degree in accounting, partly because, with my given industry and connections, sliding into an accounting career was going to be super easy, barely an inconvenience. But also because the finite details and definitive answers that are the nature of accounting were, and still are, very comfortable to me. But if accounting was the comfortable old chair on a stormy night, the world of reading and writing have always represented, for me, the exotic, veil-lifting, boat-rocking antonym of calm. It is a world wherein both the calls out and the answers back were my own, where the only definitives are definitively in me. In my youth, I was okay with just being the avid reader, voyeuristically listening to echoes of someone else’s answers to their own calls out. But somewhere in the process of aging a shift occurred, where that voyeurism sparked a desire, and all at once I began spilling over that dividing line between the two worlds. Talking with a friend recently about guitar chords, he unknowingly gave forth a perfect analogy; he said that whenever possible, he only uses “sus” chords, or suspended chords, which have to do with using perfect fourths over major or minor thirds, because open chords (or triads) are too stable. “Sus” chords have a kind of dissonance that creates tension and the sound innately wants to go somewhere. I started craving the kind of dissonance that creates tension.

I still remember the day the levy broke. Two years and the birth of my second and third children, twins, had passed since becoming a stay-at-home mom. I am enamored with my children but when children are infants, there is a kind of physical aspect to the work of raising them that, coupled with the fact that I was alone with them (for intents and purpose of adult mental stimulation) for two-thirds of almost every day, led to a loneliness I had never known. Suddenly, my stable world felt like a prison. On this particular day, those feelings breached something inside of me. I grabbed the household laptop and started spilling forth a story completely unlike the one that had lived inside of me for years, the one I thought I might write one day. This catharsis went on full force for a year or so. After that it came in spurts, and soon I realized that I was in unbidden territory, that what I needed was personal growth before being allowed to progress beyond where I had come. I knew that I would have to reposition my orientation to be somewhere beyond the dividing line rather than just reaching across it.

If the broken levy is the climax in my own very personal story, then the process of reorientation is definitely part of the falling action, wrought with release of emotional tension. Finding myself to be a writer, not just a reader, in this subsequent region of my life has been one of my most rewarding experiences to date. In this way aging is like reading or writing. It is analyzing and finding the different parts that make up the plot as you move along with the text. When it comes to perspective, knowing how to recognize the delimiter and put it in the right place makes all the difference in understanding the piece.


-Shyanne Totoraitis




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