Cathartic ruminence; or, the lessons you learn from afar

I recently had the chance to discuss the demise of a relationship from 15 years ago . Something I had given no thought to for years and years.

Being able to talk through the confusing relationship issues which happened so long ago has been cathartic and useful. Understanding 21-year-old angst with a 35-year-old’s head is illuminating, and confirmed for me once more that I was and still am glad to see the back of my 20s. No other age group behaves with such autonomous I AM. I AM the only one. I AM in love. I AM in pain. I AM allowed to do anything I want because of all those things. Oh yeah, and YOU ARE wrong. YOU ARE hurting me. YOU ARE letting me down.

Everything is always in present tense when you are twentysomething.

Thirtysomething still has those urges, but with any luck, remembers what happened another time (probably in the twenties) and manages to turn it around so that the situation doesn’t get any worse; doesn’t keep going; doesn’t become an endless circle of pain and destruction (self- and otherwise). The past tense really can help.

Some of the things you do in your twenties are cringeworthy pain-fests, where there wasn’t any need, but you kept on doing it. As I cast my mind across the people that I know – then and now – I can see that wherever strong emotion takes place, what happens isn’t about intensity, it’s about control. Those who have control over their emotions don’t feel less than the others. But the upsetting scenes are fewer, and in some happy cases, even nonexistent.

However, there’s a flip-side to the coin of emotional control. My observation – right or wrong – is of the twentysomethings I have personally known: some of those that display emotional control also show how the feelings still have to come out. They manifest in bizarre behaviour, deviancy in lots of areas of life, secretive obsessions, or terrifying, unexpected, emotionally-charged outbursts. Not everyone, and I doubt it’s a majority – you couldn’t possibly generalise; but it does happen.

So now, this view of the ‘twenties’ gives you three types of people. Those who spend a lot of time angsting; those who spend most of their time holding it all in, and indulging in occasional nuclear-strength angst; and those who are well-adjusted (probably from an early age).

By the time everyone gets to their thirties, they’re either fixed in the patterns they established in their twenties, or on their way to well-adjustment. Or they’re already there.

I don’t think I’ll ever make it to well-adjustment, but I’m definitely not fixed in the same patterns, thank goodness.

A cathartic ruminent. Maybe.
A cathartic ruminent. Maybe.


Image c/o Paul Stevenson under Creative Commons.