So it pays to be friends with cool people on Facebook like the most excellent and badass Grace Davis (who alas doesn't blog anymore).
I was born in 1955 and this year I will turn 55. Is it my Symmetrical Birthday or is it called something else? Are diamonds involved? Or, am I just a geezer whose year of birth is matchy-matchy with her age? Discuss.
And some guy named Alan Fleishman, who I don't even know said:
Stop counting chronological years and start counting phases of your life. I think I'm on #11.
Which, it should be admitted, is somewhat brilliant.
There are some wrinkles. How do we differentiate periods? It's all very arbitrary. With Elvis, it was easier. There were the films. The Blue Hawaii period. Vegas White Pantsuit Elvis. Fat Elvis.
I loved Elvis as a child. Oh, how I loved Elvis. The day Elvis died was one of the most shocking days of my life. I suddenly came face to face with my own mortality. I was 7 years old.
My parents were young parents--more Creme and Rolling Stones than Elvis. But my best friend and next- door-neighbor's mother was older, and a devoted Elvis fan. She was like a second mother to me. I grew up at her house, listening to Elvis records, watching every Elvis movie that came on their TV, hearing from her about how Elvis would buy Cadillacs for his fans.
And holy shit. Was Elvis young when he died! Only 42. I am almost the age Elvis was when he died. It did not occur to me, of course, that Elvis had died young. It only seemed that Elvis should be immortal. Elvis was the first person I'd known who had died.
Somehow I even ended up with an Elvis shirt, with the date of his birth and death underneath a picture of him. I slept in it every night.
There was a period where this neighbor and I clung to the brief hope that Elvis was alive, breathlessly discussing every reported Elvis sighting.
I didn't have a romantic crush on Elvis. Rather, I had a fantasy that Elvis was my father. Elvis had shot one movie in my state, in the town where I was born. Close (but not nearly close enough) to the time I would have been conceived. For me, this was enough evidence to prove Elvis was my father. To this day, I see Elvis-like traits in my face. I do a passable Elvis impersonation as well.
Even when I suspected Elvis wasn't my father, the smallness and obscurity of the town and Elvis's brief proximity to it sealed in my mind forever the idea that Elvis and I had some star-crossed destiny, some cosmic connection.
42. Shit, mortality. Life is fleeting, etc., etc. Even now, if I want to get in touch with the transient nature of human existence and so forth, it helps to think of Elvis.
The Elvis periods were probably not apparent to Elvis. He probably didn't think 'this is my in-the-army period' or 'this is my dating-Ann-Margaret period.'
We see Elvis's life as having some trajectory: A peak, and a decline. Most of us can't see our own lives that way. Are they that way? Was Elvis's life even that way or is this all imposed from the outside?
It seems worth a try to see our lives this way, at least once in a while, just for the hell of it. Maybe it will make us attend to where we are, to what we are doing, to what we have done--to name what we usually don't even notice.
I suggest we go for more descriptive and less disparaging names for phases than 'Fat [Your Name Here]' though.
Some advantages to a 'Name Your Phases' approach to life
(1) One terrible problem we face is that we tend to assume we will live forever. We don't seize life, we don't direct it, we don't revel in our experiences in the knowledge that they are each unreproducable. We let each moment pass us by. And we are often waiting for things to happen, anticipating something we want in the future in a way that makes us wish the time would pass quicker. Which is NUTS, if you really think about it. Our life in time is a finite resource. And we squander. But humans always do that to finite resources.
And then we glance back at the past wistfully, a past we did not always live fully, we sometimes have to admit.
(I'm not the first to notice this. Schopenhauer--who was kind of an Elvis of 19th Century German Philosophy--said all this, and said it better.)
So, what if we added a little narrative? What if we reliably attended to the 'this shall not come again' aspect parallel to Elvis's peak, sometime around the filming of the movie 'Jailhouse Rock.'
When would that be or have been, for you?
Let us not mourn what has passed. Rather, let's acknowledge it. And the next phase. The trajectory. Otherwise, we risk not attending to the narrative, and failing to revel in it.
(2) Perhaps by naming the phases, we'll be able to write the story ourselves. Right now I'm in some crazy post-tenure unexpected nervous breakdown phase.'
But I'm also in this 'my kid is endlessly fascinating and freaking awesome and a moment-by-moment miracle so I must soak up every moment phase.'
While inexplicably losing my shit on the one hand, I am simultaneously taking little mental snapshots of these moments of painfully fleeting beauty. My kid, who wants nothing more than to sit on my lap sometimes and bug the heck out of me. The forced time at the park, where I have to--I have no choice--be in the moment. The very boring moment, the beautiful boring moment. A day that won't come again. With someone so alive, so utterly absurdly alive to everything.
And of course, there's the never knowing when you're on the cusp of the Fat Elvis arc headed to the Dead Elvis end of story. So that's (3) Maybe we'll be more ready for what's to come.