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17th May

A soothing illusion

Growing older has brought me a certain equanimity; I have learned to take things as they are. Because I know myself and the world a little better, I’m able to navigate through life in a calm and pleasant way. This has given me a sense of contentment. At the same time, though, I have become more vulnerable.


The other day a friend took me for a walk through Gracia, a bustling part of Barcelona where I hadn’t been for a while, even though I live not far from there. He showed me new restaurants and bars, recently opened bookstores, bakeries, and coffee shops.

I thoroughly enjoyed the liveliness of the place and regretted not going there more often and instead spending so much time at home behind the computer.


From one moment to the other I was overcome by the same feeling of exclusion I had when, as a boy, I heard children playing on the street before our house.  As a child, I wanted so badly to be with them, but something held me back and I stood transfixed behind the window of my bedroom until their voices faded away.


I was pained by the idea that life is elsewhere and that I’m left out. It has nothing to do with my actual existence, in which I’m surrounded by friends and constantly forging new connections with people all over the world.


As so often, facts and feelings operate on different tracks that don’t overlap. The feeling of being isolated might have been appropriate more than sixty years ago, but it is now out of place. Still, there it was, and it kept me awake that night.


Are these feelings so sudden and forceful because my body is wearing out a bit, just as my eyes become more easily irritated and my skin more blotched and wrinkled?  I can put drops in my eyes and cream on my skin, but what do I do with a nervous system that every now and then overstrains?


I can’t control thoughts coming up, just as I can't control the beating of my heart and the functioning of my kidneys. What I can do is not pay them much attention, treat them like unwanted dinner guests who will disappear as long as I don't give them anything to eat.


Ignoring these unwanted guests gives me a sense of control. That may be an illusion, but it certainly is soothing.

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