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I have no desire to put myself to the test these days because I have no need to find myself wanting in a whole new range of ways, but life… ah life… it has a different agenda.  The very best (just possibly the only) good thing about being the age at which I now find myself (other, of course, than not finding myself at the age at which I now find myself) is that I have, in almost all scenarios, lost the impulsive need to ‘test myself’.  By and large, I don’t need to; I know what the outcome will be.  I have never been forced into conflict, but I can quite easily imagine myself as a reluctant, conscripted soldier facing the tests associated with being dropped into a theatre of war: would I become a) a hero, b) a coward or c) one of the vast majority who does whatever it takes to survive?  I can be pretty certain it would not be a): I am not the stuff of which heroes are made.  I am the stuff of which ‘scared’ is made.  Nor am I brave enough to be a wartime coward, because wartime cowards get shot.  I do not have to actually test myself to know that I am c) one of the silent, disposable, majority: far too scared to be a coward, far too frightened to be a hero.  I know this; I do not have to test it.

By the time you reach your sixties, you know yourself pretty well.  I know, for instance, that I can handle any form of mental examination until boredom kicks in – which it does, of course, far more quickly when I am not equal to the challenge.  Having been recently given the GCHQ Puzzle Book, I am aware that I become instantly bored the moment I do not know the answer.  I know that my mind deals far better with the head-on than the oblique.  I am a disciple of the Times Cryptic Crossword, which I will stare at happily for hours.  I don’t mind not knowing the answers – I have long-since given up on trying to kid myself – but as soon as the realisation kicks in that I don’t even understand what the clue is pointing towards, mentally I down tools.  Once my brain has started to consider the ingredients on the Rice Crispies packet, there is no way back to 1 Across.  I know that I cannot solve the Rubik Cube because it is unsolveable: it is a conjuring trick, like those little linked pieces of metal wire you get in Christmas Crackers that most of us solve with pliers.

The days of the Grand Test may be long gone, but life continues to plonk little hurdles in my path, keen to see whether I am still up to the contest, or whether it needs to start ordering in the hormones that will, in the fullness of time, encourage me to walk towards the light.  Physically, such ‘tests’ to which I now succumb are significantly less strenuous than those of yore, but no less challenging: I know that I will never climb a Himalayan peak; I will not swim an ocean, run a marathon, eat my own weight in chocolate, but I do begin every day by attempting to put my socks on without holding the wall, brushing my hair without poking myself in the eye, putting my pants on without finding the labels at the front…

Getting old is life’s last great test and, sadly, the way in which we approach each of the little hurdles it throws in our path is not always ours to choose.  Age makes me ever-more conscious of all the things that I cannot control, but it does also teach me that although I might not be able to fix the holes in the roof, I don’t have to sit under them when it rains.  And I can see the sun so much better when it shines…


6 thoughts on “Testing

  1. I poked myself in the eye with the dropper last night, but then I am older than you by quite a bit. When I reach the stage of putting eye drops up my nose and vice versa, perhaps I’ll start to worry. I have this insane fear that I might put krazy glue in my eye. Unlikely though, as I can never get it to come out of that little dropper. Over here we have to be told how to do everything. Like be careful of drinking hot coffee because it could burn. And you can sue everyone for everything. But you’ll only win if you are already rich. Not that I am cynical. Leak in the roof…get a brolly and a couple of buckets. Keep smiling:)

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