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The Other Side of Everything

making all our lives easier, more fulfilling, lovelier journeys


Written on June 10, 2005, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Personal honesty is like an onion – there are many layers to it and it makes you cry sometimes, but even bitter tears are not bad, if they are tears of sincere regret, of learning, letting go and moving on. I have over the years applied my simple philosophy as often as I can bear it, like cold water on the morning face, shocking at first, but good for the skin tone. Speaking of which, I have been incredibly lucky that my superb looks lasted me well into what they refer to as middle age although quite what is middle about it I have never understood. Time being relative, I always assumed middle age was a misnomer, and looking about me at the comfortable, rotund Buddha bellies of my peers, that life after 35 was in fact, midriff age.

At 43, I looked into the mirror, and realised that for the first time in my life, I look my age. The man staring back at me with that gorgeous, devil-may-care scowl is me. I finally seem to be the age that I have actually reached.

I have waited all my life for this. These marks of decay are signs of survival, badges of honour. I honestly never expected to be here. And frankly, I don’t look too bad, on a good diet with enough sleep, but with the arrival of what I like to call my facial furniture, those fixtures and fittings which were once temporary minor creases, subtle discolourations and slightly stretched skin under the eyes are now large indestructible suitcase-sized Samsonite bags, lines on the forehead are there not just after a particularly debauched night, but now permanently etched, not deep but no hiding them. I also have the got-to-watch-that-pasta beginnings of a comfortable, sofa-sized double chin, grey emerging from the mid-brown remains of my hair, and after a week of avoiding the cuts, spots and scabs of shaving, a black, red, blond, brown and white beard. I just need a red bandana, ear-rings, a parrot, a cutlass, and a galleon. Haaaaarrrrr!

All good things must come to an end, as we say to each other to pacify our unquiet hearts, not believing a word of it.

I remember deciding not to lie one day when I had returned bored from an afternoon in the park when too little had happened. It was that phase after Nan’s death where Mum was ill, and so I traipsed up to the bedroom and spun a lengthy yarn about big boys with knives. I was so convincing (another reason I changed tactic) that Mum wearily said, “Well you had better call the police.” I drifted out of the darkened room, calculating the consequences. If I continued to lie, how would I keep track of all the lies so that I didn’t contradict myself? Shit! I rather embarassedly returned five minutes later and confessed I had made some of it, well all of it, up, and I was very mildly chastised. I think Mum knew I was bored and lonely.

As a far from bored and rarely lonely young adult, I was often fiercely insistent on what was “the truth” and what were “lies” until I worked out that truth is always seen from one angle but must be understood from many. Gradually, some wisdom emerged, I became less of a pain in the butt, and I began to see that the real issue about honesty is the personal kind. Don’t kid yourself, became my mantra.

I won’t say I have maintained my current healthy regime over the last 12 years because if I did I would start to laugh out loud and fail to hit the keyboard with sufficient accuracy to continue this strange, recursive story of my physical ageing. Despite my deep dedication to three things – my work, my loves, and my pleasures – I remained exercise-free, with the exception of bicycling and the odd kick-around, until I was 25-26 years old. At that point I worked out that I could no longer party five nights a week, and three of those on the trot, without feeling a little bit tired. I knew I didn’t want to burn out, so, action was required, if only for reasons of hedonism and vanity.

So, I got myself a half-brick, to build some arm muscle. Did pushups, sit ups. Started to swim regularly. Acted more sensibly more often when I partied. By the time I was 30 I was fit. Had muscles. Zero fat. 145 pounds of cavorting party animal. I was meditating twice a day, attending an Aikido dojo twice a week. Coffee free, rarely drank alchohol. Never smoked cannabis, not while training anyway. I was in balance. I was single.

I wanted immortality, as near as I could achieve it, so I started to study Taoist methods of living. This meant learning to maintain high degrees of sexual arousal without ejaculation, first on your own, then with a partner. I was doing some pretty serious meditation, socialising with hippies, and I sort of experimented on myself and without really expecting anything to come of it. But these techniques are ancient, esoteric, carried on for generations, not for defunct ritual purpose, but because they work. If you summon up huge amounts of self-control, you develop will-power. I already had quite a lot of that. I got more anyhow. I managed to cause some real problems before I understood how it worked.

If you follow Taoist teachings, they say, make sure you are balanced. You also have to develop the energy of your emotions, to grow self-love, acceptance and kindess to others. So, I calmed down and worked on being happier. In a Glastonbury courtyard, I took my painful little finger to a healer called Ash. He said, as he gently manipulated it, “You know, this finger is to do with communication. I think you need lots of loving sex.” He said it matter of factly, inoffensively, while I ummed and ahhed and tried to ignore my cynicism. When I left, my finger which had been annoying me for months, was pain free, and to my great surprise, two weeks later, I met a woman, and fell in deeply love.

“We are living like kings, these days will last forever,” said a man one Soho morning to Suggs. He was right, but his illusion was complete, his downfall imminent.

Our bodies do their best to contain our exhaustion and trauma, but eventually, it shows up in some physical form of one sort or another, in frown lines, fixed expressions, twisted ankles, cricked necks, eczema, bitten nails, black eyes. Likewise, the emotional body can take so much before rising levels and salinity and coastal drift make sea change inevitable. I guess I took quite a lot of changing, on the inner level. I was a steel sea-container, tough, strong, rebuilt twice over. I did the inner smile and iron shirt meditations, I circulated my energy, I stored my chi, I sang and danced, I partied and played, and my heart started to open. I mean, not in terms of it bursting out of my chest. I was totally unprepared for the death of my previous self, my priceless ego. I was shocked. My life was changed. All the love I had never expressed I released in an unstoppable torrent, and it took me with it.

Some people seem miraculously consistent, they are born, they become themselves, and like an apple on a branch, they develop smoothly to ripe fullness until they fall. These people are fated differently, they have a different trajectory. My apple had a worm in it, it blew down in a gale, I was turned into cider and sold in a gallon container, I coursed through the veins of a spinning drunk, he fell over his feet and hit his head on a log, where he lay pissing and bleeding, spilling out apple-alcohol onto the mud.

Even after the bliss, pain, tragedy, despair, confusion of this major relationship which spanned a decade, people would still guess my age 8 or 9 years younger than I was when it was over. I survived that one looking pretty good in fact. It was the five years that followed that did all the damage. Those adventures that my baby-faced, scowling features witnessed and provoked are tales I have yet to tell. When I see myself in the mirror now, I am viewing the price of success.

Still, I think I’ve worked something out. Even looking the age I am, and twice the age I feel, I am loved. It must be for some other reason.

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This thing has 10 Comments

  1. 2Vamp
    Posted 12 June, 2005 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    i personally never date a man without “facial furniture”. as my current partner would attest, he has PLENTY. and i love it.

  2. Diana Crabtree
    Posted 12 June, 2005 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful post, thanks

  3. bakerina
    Posted 12 June, 2005 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Damn you, Deek. You have just forced me to revoke my longstanding “no, I won’t set up a damn Blogger account just to post comments!” policy. But just look what you’ve given us here. Death, love, reconciliation with the physical self…all this and a nifty picture of Suggs, too! How could I resist?

    Hi, dear. I’m so sorry that I didn’t give you a heads-up when Lloyd and I were in London (for the princely total of two days!). Rest assured, I won’t be making that mistake again.

  4. Laurie
    Posted 13 June, 2005 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    These last two posts were amazing. Not that I’m surprised or anything. They’re all amazing.

  5. arthur decko
    Posted 13 June, 2005 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    the thing that shows most clearly is the wisdom you have. i found myself saying “yeah” and “uh-huh” and “oh yeah!” to a few of the things you mentioned, but you have learned where most others seem to have sat through the concert without hearing the music, so to speak. damn, i wish i had the balance you have. rock on….

  6. alix
    Posted 13 June, 2005 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    after this read, i’m coughing up soot and breathing in fresh sweet air. i’d swear i’ve aged more in the last two years than i did in the previous ten.

    i want to say it was a wonderful post, but that doesn’t quite seem to touch it. thanks. 🙂

  7. boabhan sith
    Posted 13 June, 2005 at 5:53 pm | Permalink


    More wisdom than I have.

  8. Ms. Charisma
    Posted 2 July, 2005 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    New to your blog, think it’s pretty cool.

  9. Indigobusiness
    Posted 5 April, 2007 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I’ve been studying the quasi-Taoist method of high levels of ejaculation without sexual arousal.

  10. Indigobusiness
    Posted 5 April, 2007 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Degrees, not levels…not that it matters, I sense I’m extremely mortal, and I live for coffee.

    But, I’m rooting for you. So to speak.

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