The Sum of Our Days

I’ve always felt like an old soul since I was seven years old,
(coincidentally enough, the same age I started to write poems and endless diaries).

I like to think that’s why older guys  seemed to gravitate around me when I was just a young teenager (more than 18 was too old for my 14 year old self) and why I always refused to go out with them – even when most of them just wanted to be friends and ask for relationship advice – they made me feel even older. Thus, finding someone like my husband, someone who’s younger and has the energy of youth combined with the assertiveness of an older, experienced man (and I still don’t see where he got it as his life was always very straight forward), has been my lucky star since the long years we were just friends.

Isabel Allende, a writer born in Chile that is now an American citizen, wrote about this thing called ‘feeling old’ in her memoir “The Sum of Our Days.” I know I’m just 31 and she’s much older, but the deep feelings behind her words seem to be exactly how I always felt.

Here’s a passage from pages 24 and 25. She ends it with a very funny line.

Willie and I left the nursery holding each other up. We went down several identical corridors looking for the exit, until we came to an elevator. Its mirror returned our images. It seemed to me that Willie had aged a century. His shoulders, always so arrogant, now slumped in defeat. I noticed the wrinkles around his eyes, the line of his jaw, less bold than before, and how at some point his little remaining hair had turned white. How quickly the days go by. I hadn’t seen the changes in his body and I didn’t see him as he was but as I remembered him. To me he was still the man I had fallen in love with at first sight six years before: handsome, athletic, wearing a dark suit that fit him a little snugly, as if his shoulders were challenging the seams. I liked his spontaneous laughter, his confident attitude, his elegant hands. He inhaled all the air around him, occupied all the space. One could see that he had lived and suffered, but he seemed invulnerable. And me? What had he seen in me when we met? How much I had changed in those six years, especially these last months? I had also been seeing myself through the same charitable filter of habit, never noticing the inevitable physical decline, the less firm breasts, the thicker waist, the sadder eyes. The mirror in the elevator revealed to me how exhausted we both were, something more profound than weariness from my travel and his work. Buddhists say that life is a river, that we are carried on a raft to our final destination. The river has its current, rapids, sandbars, whirlpools, and other obstacles that we can’t control, but we are given a pair of oats to guide our craft. The quality of the voyage depends upon our skill, but we cannot alter the course because the river always empties into death. Sometimes we have no choice but to give ourselves to the current, but that wasn’t the case here. I took a deep breath, stretched to my full, albeit meager, height, and slapped my husband on the back.

“Stand up straight, Willie, we have to row.”

He looked at me with that confused expression he tends to have when he thinks my English is deserting me.”

in The Sum of Our Days, by Isabel Allende.


2 thoughts on “The Sum of Our Days

  1. “I had also been seeing myself through the same charitable filter of habit”
    What a great line.
    “we cannot alter the course because the river always empties into death”
    And another.
    You’re far too melancholy at the moment V. What is going on?

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