The Value of Denial

It’s hard to carry on the fantasy that everything’s still possible while looking at your grey-headed balding self in the mirror

animal houseA few weeks ago I flew back east with my daughter to get her settled into college. The experience was bittersweet as you might expect. Replete with several trips back and forth to Bed Bath and Beyond, a student/parent bag lunch, and a slightly teary farewell. One of the unexpected consequences of the trip was that I was nearly disabused of this nagging sense that I'm still 22 years old — in fact, I'm turning 51 this November.

It's hard to carry on the fantasy that everything's still possible and that youthful dreams are for fulfilling when you're looking at your grey-headed balding self hanging up your daughter's skirts in her dorm-room mirror. I'm not complaining at all, I promise. My sense of pride and love for her is nearly overwhelming. It's just that I'm dumbstruck with the powerful sensation of so much time having passed.  

It's not something you notice often. It's not as if there's a part of the body that works for sensing time passage — like the nose does for detecting odors or the ears do for detecting sound. Becoming suddenly cognizant of the disappearance of 25 or 30 years is an incredibly potent human experience that can only be brought on by accident it seems.

And what about putting youthful dreams into motion long past youth? Is it wise? Is it appropriate to try? Platitudes like "it's never too late" or "life begins at 50" might be better printed on refrigerator magnets than put into actual practice. And yet,there is something in me that keeps soldiering on, constantly trying out new shapes and ideas, and assiduously looking to connect. I respect that it could all well be just an irritating compulsion. Nonetheless, the impetus is there.

This week marks the second anniversary of my rock and roll internet variety show, "The Furious World," a youthful dream into which I've generously poured resources both spiritual and financial. I can't count the number of times I've decided to quit it and yet, something promising always comes along to rescue it from oblivion. A sponsor, an adoring letter from a fan, or an especially inspiring guest. My hope is to build it into something that keeps growing and continues to engage a larger audience.

My father passed away at 54 years old. When he was my age, he didn't appear to be thinking about pursuing his youthful dreams, he was simply fighting to survive. In the back of my mind, I'm always thinking about him. I'm always thinking about the blessing of being alive and the opportunity of being able to drag ideas from the ephemeral to the manifest makes almost every hardship bearable.

So for now anyway, I'm going to ignore that image of me in my daughter's dorm-room mirror. I'm going to allow denial to do its work and let me believe it's all still possible.

Peter Himmelman’s online live variety show "Furious World" showcases talent straight from the studio, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. PT (@furiousworld on Twitter)