Outside Looking In

“Fine lines radiate out from the outer edges of the eyes that had long lost its gleam. His skin seemed dull and lifeless. Permanent creases line the forehead. What once was a full head of hair is thinning out with obvious hints of grey. He tried hard to bring to mind another face he was very familiar with that had such worn features. It has been slightly more than one year. The impression of that face he had seen a million times before has become vague. The mirror began to reflect back some of those blurred features as he gazed into it.”

How I have aged. It felt like only a while ago when my face was bursting with youthful vibrancy. What the visage does not divulge, the body confirms – aching joints, failing eyesight, decreased stamina and the list goes on. My right knee can tell when rain is imminent more accurately than the weatherman. This is the perk of suffering from osteoarthritis. I will never be caught dead in a rainstorm again. That knee was injured in my early teens and again after the paralysis when I underwent intense physical therapy.

What I miss most is the ability to read minuscule texts without a pair of glasses. Reading the Reader?s Digest from cover to cover in one sitting is one feat I can no longer perform. My eyes now struggle to focus on each blurred line with great effort. This could also be caused by the long hours I spent looking at the monitor since the time when processor speed was a measly 4.7Mhz. I do not read as much as I used to or like to anymore. The John Grisham and Ernest Hemingway that Wuan gave me are stacked up nicely and gathering dust.

Youth came and went without my realising it. When I was young, those formative years felt like they would last forever. At twenty, thirty sounded like it was still so far away in the future. When it arrived and wheezed past, I did not give it much thought. Life began at thirty, so they said. My fortieth milestone is coming up. Life truly begins at forty, I was told. Then I read that life begins at fifty, sixty seventy and every decade thereafter until life decides to give up on us.

Thinking back about the age-worn face that looked back at me from inside the mirror, I am given the realisation that life begins the moment I wake up and try to live another day. Life begins anew everyday. This finite cycle is one we cannot evade. Why wait for thirty? Why expect that something exciting will begin at forty? Much time had been wasted waiting. When I was in my early twenties, I waited for the day that I could walk again. In my early thirties, when the hopes of ever walking again vanished, I waited to have a family to call my own. That did not work out either.

Unfortunately, looking at the big picture, I still do not know what I want to do at forty. While I attempt to fully utilize my daily waking hours in the best ways possible, it will be nice to be able to do my part in contributing to the greater good of humanity. All my life, I have been at the receiving end of acts of kindness. It is about time I pass on that generosity to those who are in need.

Mirrors do tell a story indeed. I gazed into one and it unwittingly triggered my subconscious to unleash untold stories of my past. Perhaps if I look into one long enough I can steal a peek into the future too and discover my true calling. I have wasted enough time waiting for that to come.

“God, I do not want to be doing at forty what I had been doing when I was twenty and thirty. Please do not let me grow old and rot away without You making use of me as an instrument to spread Your goodness. I pray that You will grant me the insight to recognise the calling that You have designed for me. Give me the perception to comprehend Your purpose for me and the courage and resolve to carry them out to completion. Amen.”

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

9 thoughts on “Outside Looking In”

  1. What I can do at 30, I could not at 20.

    What I did at 10, I no longer want to do at 20.

    What I did at 40, I look back and smile at 50.

    The seasons of my life determine when I do something best. They are all precious to me.

    By the way, age is a relative thing to me. I don’t care about the years in my life, but the life in my years.

    Have a wonderful day, Peter.

  2. Heh heh, Funny Marita and I were just discussing this last night….. I had said to her that I had always assume that by now I would have achieved some of the ‘milestones’ most people accumulate in life (for example getting married, having a super career…. etc) But none of it has happened or worked accoring to ‘the Plan’. Before I would fret and feel anxious over this. But now, I have reached a point where I no longer care anymore and that being happy is more important. Sometimes things happen or DON’T happen for a reason…… Hard to be philosophical I know when you are paralysed in a wheel chair; but I hope you understand what I mean. I hope you arrive at your moment of clarity you have been praying for! I’ve been praying for you too! Have a good day!

  3. Hi Peter
    Your already doing good deeds,mostly to you they come naturaly.
    Its your kindness and understanding and listening to others ” just you being there” makes a difference 🙂

    cheerz and take carez

  4. Marita,
    There were many things that I had wanted to do when I reached each decade of my life but was unable to. For this impending decade, for once, with God’s grace, I want to do something that I can be proud of.

    Thank you for your prayers. Different people define happiness in different ways. For me, now, happiness is being able to give and share what I have with the people I love, friends and those who need what little I can afford.

    I certainly hope that my “just being there” can make a difference because that is the only thing I can do.

  5. Hi Peter
    Well it’s not just being there.It’s the nights i couldn’t sleep ,when i was stressed you were there to listen and take my mind of court.It was you who was there when i came home from court,and cared enough to ask how things were going 🙂 it was you who made me laugh .It is you who makes a difference be they good days or bad days ,you show ya care 🙂 and hey you have pretty good taste in music .

    cheers n enjoy ya day, i’ll mail later this week
    if i don’t catch ya online.

  6. Hi Peter

    Have you ever thought of writing a book?

    How about publishing a book on the compilations of thoughts provided by your yourself & readers.

  7. Sweetspirit,
    I am glad that my just being there made a difference. We are from almost the same era. Naturally the songs that I listen to are those that you have heard of before too. I guess we both have good taste in music, huh?

    A long time ago I had the grand plan of penning my own biography. It was too grand a project than I could cope with then. Just recently, I have thought about compiling the poems that I wrote. Hopefully I will have enough poems by the time I decide to get started with it.

  8. Hey, let me join in the long list of ppl who are urging U 2 write……..wanna B my ghost-writer?? I’ve got (as I am almost SURE as hve LOTS of OTHERS)simply TONS of stories 2 share…unfortunately unlike U, I don’t hve the ability 2 express myself well in language. :o(

  9. Pauline,
    We have had this conversation before. My Engrish not as powderful as yours, how to ghostwrite for you? If you write with all your sincerity, I am sure you will be able to express yourself excellently. Give it a try. I know for certain that you can write better than me anytime.

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