Daily Archives: August 26, 2013

Advancing age and creeping cowardice

Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

I’ve been noticing something in myself over the years that I suspect is fairly widespread, but doesn’t get discussed much.  I have an idea it’s a sensitive subject with older men.  I first noticed it in myself with an unexpected, irrational difficulty breathing and something akin to panic in situations I wouldn’t have been bothered by in the past.

I’ve done a little spelunking, gone into more abandoned mines than I could count and always got a thrill, a surge of enjoyment doing it.  But late in the 1990s Mel and I were looking over a couple of mine shafts from the 1800s, one at the ruins of Golden, New Mexico and another near Magdalena.  The first was the vertical shaft at Golden.

We carried all the right equipment up there, went prepared to go down the shaft 100 feet without any particular risk.  Mel was troubled by claustrophobia he’d acquired going into some tunnels in Vietnam, so I was elected to go down that shaft to collect some samples.

But as I lowered myself down that shaft I hadn’t descended thirty feet before all I wanted was to get the hell out of there.  I couldn’t breathe.  The prospect of going deeper into that hole quickly became a non-option.  I stayed on a ledge of rock trying to calm myself and get control enough to go deeper, but after a while it was obvious this was no longer a pleasure trip.

Mel taunted and heckled me about it the entire remainder of the jaunt, and I thought about it constantly, trying to understand what had happened.  Completely unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

There’s another vertical shaft near Magdalena we’d both fallen in love with and I definitely was determined to go down it.  I was sure I’d be able to if I worked and thought about what had happened at Golden enough.  But a couple of months later the attempt resulted in an identical failure.

It was easy not to think about it during the years afterward, and I didn’t.  But a while back I found I experienced something too similar to be much different when I was working on the Toyota RV, crawling around under it.  Same thing, near panic, difficulty breathing, an irrational need just to get the hell out from under there.

I’ve talked about this with some other old guys lately and have been surprised by their admissions they’ve experienced exactly the same thing, mainly in tight spaces.  When I described it they knew exactly what I was talking about, and they’d also never experienced anything akin to it when they were younger.

I don’t know what’s going on with all this, but seems to me if anyone has any guts anymore it ought to be old men.  This doesn’t bode well at all.

Old Jules