The internet scares me. I mean we all know “they” track us, follow our movements, listen to us 24/7, and basically know exactly who we are. Even better than we know ourselves sometimes. They know everything about us, EVERYTHING. Even the dark scary stuff we would like to keep hidden. Have you ever Googled how to off yourself but still get insurance money for your family? They know. Do you like to watch weird 70s eastern block pornography? It's public information now. Have you obsessively Googled someone like a certified stalker? The internet has your number. So it's a scary thing. These phones, these computers, the internet. This world wide web of strangers monitoring me and trying to sell me shit I may have looked up once on a lark. Items that I never seriously intended to buy...until that is, my inbox starts to get flooded with the very same thing I just looked up…or even mentioned casually in passing to a friend. Big Brother is busy. Busy watching, listening, and then showing me useless over-priced crap to purchase 24/7.
The part that scares me is that not only do “they” know all my habits but they also seem to know what I look like. How this is possible I don't know. But they do. The other day I was at work when an ad popped up on my laptop. I didn't know what it was for but I was immediately struck by how much the woman looked like me. Same coloring, body shape, body size and approximate age. And she was doing yoga, which I love and which I believe has been an important part of my recovery. With yoga I can work my way through almost any sort of craving and I have used it as a tool since day one. So there she was, my doppelgänger, looking just like me, practicing yoga in a gorgeous studio. "I wish that was me right now" I thought, realizing that it had been several days since my last class. So I fell into this advertisement, it spoke to me, it was me! It was a video of where I thought I would rather be at that exact moment. "They" sucked me right in. Targeting me so perfectly it was very freaky and quite unsettling. I watched the ad a few times, amazed at the similarities. The woman in the ad was even wearing one of the white cotton headbands that I often wear in yoga class. Wow, I marveled, they really have me down.
After watching the video a few times, horrified but riveted (people do love to watch themselves and that was what I was doing essentially, watching myself do yoga) I snapped out of it. I swore that I would get rid of my phone and all computers (I have not) and went to log off when I realized that I didn't even know what the ad starring moi was for. So I watched the video again and read the fine print.
And that's when the things got very uncomfortable. This advertisement, this lovely piece of softly lit soothing filmmaking was an ad for... adult diapers! "So smooth and thin that you can even do yoga in them."
WTAF (which is shorthand for What The Actual Fuck) is going on? What just happened? And more importantly, how old does the Google mothership think I am anyway?? I was horrified. I am nowhere near old enough to even consider adult diapers. I feel like I just got out of baby diapers a few years ago. And now this???
WTAF indeed. I was pissed and confused. Outraged actually. But then I thought...Jesus, am I getting older? Can that be? Recently I have started to get these items in the mail from AARP. I had no idea what all these cheap little AARP postcards were, so I looked them up. AARP stands for the American Association of Retired Persons. Retired? I'm just picking up steam. These missives start flooding Americans’ mailboxes the second they turn fifty…even before age fifty…and I've been told they never stop. So first AARP postcards telling me that if I join up for membership I can get a free tote bag, thermos, or organizer. And then the yoga diapers. This certainly feels like the beginning of the end.
If I wasn't so afraid of heights I'd throw myself off a bridge. Depressing. I don't feel old. I feel like a kid. But obviously I'm getting up there. I mean if I'm getting ads for diapers in my 50s God knows what I'll be offered in my 60s. A burial plot? A coffin? A ticket to Switzerland where I can have a legal assisted suicide? I have 2 teenagers and a kid in college so obviously I'm no spring chicken...but honestly, yoga diapers do seem a bit premature.
So like it or not, Big Brother knows my age and everything else about me. These ads were a rude awakening but also a reminder of something wonderful. I realized, contemplating my age, that I have arrived here with shockingly few regrets. That feels like a miracle. God willing I have years left. 25, 35, maybe even 45 years left on this planet. Apparently 100 is the new 80 and I've always thought I might make it to 80. But who knows? Life can be a fickle character. Quixotic. Cruel. Surprising. It certainly knows how to keep us on our toes. No one knows when it will be our time to retire our earthly vessels and go on to our next big adventure, free and unencumbered by the human form. No one.
The realization that at this age I have few regrets is a gift. By giving up booze at 32 I set myself up for a life free from real regret. I have enjoyed my life since I entered A.A. I see clearly that by remaining sober it’s likely that I will enjoy it more and more every day. I can't even imagine the train wreck my life would be if I had kept on drinking. What would my relationships look like? How would I feel about myself and the world around me? What health, legal, familial and financial problems would I be trying frantically to dig my way out of, all while suffering in a cloudy hungover alcoholic fog? It's not pretty to even consider.
So I guess I should be grateful for the yoga diaper commercial. It was a wake-up call. I AM over 50. Who woulda thunk it? Not me, that's for sure. But lo and behold, here I am, thrilled to be alive and sober. While active in addiction I could never have imagined feeling this way. This feeling of peace. This sense of equanimity. This appreciation for life and a new-found curiosity about spirituality and helping others. I feel pretty darn lucky.
Not so lucky that I will be able to avoid the aging process, however. As Bette Davis famously said "Old age ain't no place for sissies". I've seen the aging process and even death up close and it sure ain't pretty. But I also know that if I am able to hold on to the way I feel today, sober and grateful to be here, getting old, while surely difficult, will certainly be better than the alternative.