On the up side, I spent time with family and friends this weekend. On Friday night I had a meal with my sister and my parents (not to mention my brother-in-law and niece, well, I just did). I think that I realise, at my age, the importance of family, though the price of family is sensitivity to their needs. The advantage of family is a wider context in which to set your life. I think that's a fair appraisal.
The exact counterpart of this is relationships. The advantage of a relationship with a partner is a sense of company and a wider purpose than just pleasing yourself. Yet, the cost of a relationship can be a loss of autonomy on things which you need to feel control over. The cost of a relationship can be to make yourself vulnerable. I would always recommend doing that, the benefit of having strength through a relationship should surely outweigh the risks. Yet, a failed relationship is always going to hurt.
On Saturday I had a couple of objectives. I had my parents due to visit the house on Sunday, so I wanted to make sure it was at least vaguely habitable. The toilet was broken, so I set about fixing it. This ultimately resulted in two trips to B&Q and my discovery that it was totally broken and my attempts to "improve" it had ultimately resulted in making it slightly worse, and no longer able to be repaired. So, I decommissioned the cistern and installed the bucket-flushing mechanism. I realised that any more attempts to fix it would end up in "shaving a yak". So I stopped. I guess that was wise. A bit of a waste of time.
I swept up a bit, made the house a bit more presentable, then I got into a smart shirt and went to get a shower before going to Watford for a concert. This was my birthday treat to myself. I was going to see Bill Bailey doing his "Cosmic Shindig", a special event combining Bill and the BBC Concert Orchestra. I was excited at the idea of seeing Bill live, but combining him with the BBC Concert Orchestra seemed like a masterstroke.
Exciting then... except it was tinged with a bit of self-pity. I'd originally planned to go with someone else. My ex-girlfriend. This was planned when we were no longer together, so it wasn't like I expected her to go as my girlfriend. It was also planned when she hadn't started her job, so we didn't figure that her shift pattern would make her unavailable. So, I suddenly ended up with one ticket more than I needed, and on my birthday. You can't just ask any old person to join you on your birthday for a gig - it looks a bit needy. I toyed with various permutations of gaining company to, at least, avoid the seat. I decided not to ask around more than one close friend, who was busy (more on that later).
I didn't ask around the office - too weird.
I did put a couple of offers for the ticket online. I got a couple of potential takers via MySpace and I seriously considered offering the ticket to a student who MySpace contacted me after I did a gig at his uni. I had considered how weird it would be for a 33 year old man to take a 20 year old male student for a night out in Watford. I'd feel like a gay paedophile. But, then I'm neither and Bill Bailey would probably have eclipsed the event. I thought about my own sense of desperation at what I'd become - a man desperate enough for company that he'd court the company of strangers rather than be alone on his birthday. Then I realised that I wasn't that desperate and that I was perfectly capable of going on my own and probably too proud to invite a member of my family, thus clearly intending to be a loner on the matter. Then I thought again. Here's me with a ticket for a great gig and there's a poor student who loves Bill Bailey, unable to see the gig because of money and because it's a sell out. How could I deprive the lad?
In the end, I looked at the practicalities of the matter. I decided that it was simply too much of a faff to arrange to meet this student somewhere, get to the gig in time and then drop them somewhere suitable after getting back into London, where I had a party to get to. Such a shame that some gorgeous woman didn't get in touch for the ticket - she could have come to the party with me. Oh dear.
So, I put on my party shirt and went to the gig alone. I pleased myself. I didn't notice the empty seat next to me. Before the show started, I had a pleasant chat with some people who were waiting for the doors to open. When the doors opened, I left them behind and sat on my own and watched the show. It made me very happy. I didn't have time to contemplate whether it mattered being there alone.
After the gig I went to the party and ended up playing piano late into the night. I didn't get to bed until the small hours (about 3). I was up the following morning for my family's visit.
If I didn't have so much to do around the house I would probably have a long time available for contemplation and disappointment with things. As it is, I have occasional glimpses of things I wish were going better, but my self-preservation/entertainment instincts kick in and I get on with it. It's not easy being a third of the way to 100, but I think I can manage it.