Island Blog – To Break through Sunder

There can be times in a life when torpor sets in. Or so I am discovering. Perhaps it begins with a yawn one morning when noticing a floor needs sweeping or when what to eat for supper is of little interest. Noticing such a fledgling state of mind at this stage might bring on an internal slap, a ‘get up and get on with it’ admonition spoken out loud or in silence, the voice sharp, matronly, critical, judgmental even. But if, as in macrame, this torpor is permitted daily freedom to build one knot into a pattern, it soon becomes an accepted, if not acceptable, un-presence of mind. And before I know it, I am its obedient servant. Perhaps such times are allowed now and again. Too many of us (and too much) are driven by expectations, our own of ourselves or those of others or worse the ones we think others demand of us, most of which are imagined and therefore not real. However I am not one to just allow torpor nor stupor to dupe my mind, at least not once I notice what’s going on up there inside my skull. I sense the danger of ‘can’t be bothered’. It smells of metal and lemon pith. ‘What’s the point?’ is another one. This one smells of sleet and cold porridge and comes with a shivering wind. I can turn from both, berate this inner crazy and perform a task of beauty which may well be the preparation of a delicious but simple meal or the sweep of my mindful brush across the kitchen floor. It might be a gentle wander through the woods or just the opening of my ears to birdsong, my eyes to the brave tulips about to bloom, or perhaps my ears to the miraculous sound of my own breath, in and out, in and out.

I can’t always manage it of course. Who on earth can? Life is not always a daring, bold adventure but sometimes a battle to just get through the long hours of a single day. One day can awaken fresh and happy in an unexplainable way. The next doesn’t really want to wake at all, again for no obvious reason. I am learning to accept this conundrum knowing that the happy and unexplainable day, within which I felt light on my feet, full of energy and laughter at pretty much everything, is a gift and the other is a reminder to love myself no matter what, to be kind as I would to anyone else. To love oneself is, of course, is the hardest thing to do and not just for me. So much about loving self sounds like arrogance, self-importance, narcissism. And therein lies the problem, the reason a person might never even try to love the broken adult self, let alone accept the possibility, no, probability, that loving oneself can heal every wound, eventually.

And it is simple. Not easy, not at all, but simple. How simple it is to someone else, after all, without judgement, wanting only that they are warm, safe, secure, free and unconditionally loved. Yet we seem inept at best in gifting all of these to our own selves. My way of rising from the sunder of my past is to actively silence the inner judges, all perceived, imagined, long dead and of no use to me at all, not in my present life. I doubt they were ever of much use to me. To be reprimanded for a ‘crime’ at any point in my life came, after all, from outside of me, loudly, angrily, thence some punishment or other would ensue and I would survive it. It was done, over, behind me. Why on earth would I continue the punishment within and for years, perhaps? What lunacy! What lunacy indeed. Knowing this, seeing it now, I can laugh at the addles in my brain, the old wiring, the macrame knot pattern and with loving fingers, unpick the whole thing, bit by bit. I can notice the triggers that tug, no, yank, at the ties that bind me to my long ago and then I do something for myself. I might listen for the birdsong, step out barefoot onto night grass or even sweep the floor. Something, anything, that tells me I am here, I am important, a part of a very long and beautiful story, one that I can add to any time I like. I make mistakes, poor judgements and many failures and I know that I can wither at the perceived enormity of the mountain they make in my path, or I can laugh at the mountain, turn away and head in a whole new direction where the sky is wide open and the fragrant wildflowers tickle my bare legs as I walk.

Island Blog – Enough for me

I’ve been thinking. Thinking can be quite a full time job I find, have found. Sometimes it can be destructive, sometimes instructive, sometimes pointless, sometimes pointful. Because a gazillion thoughts crowd our minds from the minute we wake up and all the way up to whenever we manage to fall asleep, we must learn how to handle them. It’s like all your children, plus their friends and their friends friends and cousins are all around you shouting demands at the same moment. Their little fingers pluck at your clothes, their voices screech like jays and you, only you can sort out this mess. You rear back, try to find some place of quiet in which to find a solution, or many solutions, often without success. But you can actively get away from all those children by leaving the room and closing the door, running upstairs to lock yourself in the loo whilst you unwind the mental tangle, calming it into a good idea, a distraction, where with thoughts you cannot. You have to manage them internally and there is no upstairs loo available.

In times of long moments which can feel like hours, thoughts cluster, conjoin, form fat shapes like dumplings, weighing heavy and so amalgamated that it is nigh on impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. They dumple in my head, that’s what they do. What was it, that last fleeting thought? I don’t know, don’t recognise it, not as it is in this state of dumple. Who would? So what to do? I am pulling on my mental boots as I acknowledge the complete irreverence and lack of respect from these thoughts. How dare they assault me this way, tell me, or infer, that I am less than I might be, have failed too many times in the past and HaHa you can do nothing about that now you fool! I swipe them away like bluebottles. I’m going out, I tell them. Without you. I slam the door, truss the dog and begin to walk.

Immediately I am aware of stepping into the real world, my spiralling thoughts silenced. Now I am looking with my eyes facing out and not in. Left behind is the familiar, the four stone walls, the paintings, the photographs, the dust on the floor and the to-do list. I am alone but not alone, a body moving into a world not under my control, the random chaos of pure Nature. It isn’t random at all, nor chaotic but to me with my stays tightened in a back-home mode, my memories contorted into a twist of nonsense and untruth, this outside world seems just that. Birds flitter back and forth, butterflies butterfly and windshift troubles early greening limbs. Bumble bees claim the soundbite, hesitate me beneath willow catkins and I stand to watch their fat little bodies claim the sweet. Yellow, white, with round arses and pointy ones, tiny miner bees, even bluebottles tap the nectar. Percussion, timpani, glorious. Two paces beyond the willow and I hear nothing at all. Their sound is just for them and not for me but I hear it and it fills my head with hope. Life will always want to live.

Further, and I stop to welcome wee wind battered primroses, their butter faces reaching for a sun they will not meet this day. Star moss leaps out from stand-water, even from the crook of a tree where limbs have split for their own reasons and who have now offered a place of safety for some other leap for life. The wind today is kinder. The iceslice punch softened. I duck beneath a larch bough, heavy now with spindle green and with the hope that no unthinking walker will cut it back as I have seen before, as if this limb didn’t own its space and as if folk have forgotten how to duck. The latter I decide. Humans are so very arrogant and so very mistaken in their arrogance. Just saying.

I return soaked and thankful to my outer clothing and my boots. But more, I return changed. As I tentatively open the door to my four stone walls, I hear nothing. No thoughts loud my thinking. I am zinging on what I have just walked through and which welcomed me. Life will always want to live.

And that is more than enough for me.

Island Blog – Nothing Else Matters

My life is golden, a flower, one that has lain dormant (but plotting) for many soggy months, one that is now above ground, looking up and out towards summer. I have seen oh so many summers but this one is new to me and I can feel the fizz of excitement in anticipation. As I sit on the stoep, feeling the warmth of Father Sun on my bare skin and watching seabirds wheel and cant, hear the chase-off when a buzzard comes in to their air space, or a sea-eagle, I smile and whisper a thank you. As I hear a distant woodpecker nattering at deadwood in a call for a mate or see siskin and goldfinch on the nijer seed, I feel the free space around my body for I am a part of this burgeoning Spring day. I listen to my neighbours enjoying a barbecue with friends, a just over the hedge spiral of shared talk and laughter as their little ones demand another rib or a water pistol and I smile through my happy solitude. I see the sea-loch calm and soft beneath a wide sky and wonder about the life beneath the surface. I think about ‘surface’, the way I can see something that appears to be the truth only to discover that it is anything but, like the way I might think a person is until I get to hear their story. So much depth, so much history, so much about experiences I have never had nor ever will. I hear the words, Be Careful, in my head and I will. Be Care Full. I want everyone to know the peace I feel, the acceptance of a life golden because for those of us who do not face danger every single minute, nor abuse, we who have a home, a place in space, enough food in the fridge and our health and strength, our memories and our family do indeed live a golden life. A daffodil life. We can rise through the sog and bog of winter into a new timeline, a new day every day. We can walk in freedom and, if we have eyes to see, we can watch it all in awe and gratitude. We cannot change the lives of all those millions of others who have not even one of our life gifts but we can spend time appreciating our own, noticing them, naming them, listing them.

My children and theirs are well and happy. My siblings ditto. I have friends, moon rises, sunsets, tasks to complete, people to encourage, letters to write that will be received with a smile, frogspawn to move before it dries out a thousand tadpoles, supper to choose, music to listen to, a beloved dog to walk with and to cuddle. In this world right now, all of those are privileged gifts. To whom much is given, much is expected. I get it. I really do. To be thankful, mindfully thankful despite loss and a mucky past, despite the inner demons that have no power unless I give it to them, is key. Key to what? The door to the next big adventure, that’s what, and we all have one of those just around the corner. Life is golden for any of us who are not running from war, from abuse, from ethnic cleansing, from a painful past, but even they, one day, will find the golden. Let us who have it now rise into the sunshine because the truth is this:-

Nothing else matters.

Island Blog – Wave the White Flag

When I write about me I don’t. I write with the knowing that many others feel as I feel, move as I move through the days of this and that, of should I or should I absolutely not, and if I go for the absolutely not, what then? In the days of change, we all know the insecurity of that question, the wobbly boards we navigate to what we hope is safe ground. It might take weeks, months, years. It might be a decision to change from a job we hate, or a relationship we have been unhappy in for years. It might be the death of a longtime partner. The bullet ricochet of that one is something else and I will tell you why. You think you can manage, you believe you will suddenly become who you were before. But this is a lie. As is the belief in the transcode of such a conversion. (From verb to noun, apologies grammar buffs)for nothing happens easy. The first decision to step out into the heretofore unknown, even if observed in others’ journeys, is massively brave. You think there is a cliff and you see your foot out there in space. The fall? Is a killing one for sure. But, but and but again, once you let go, once you give up, wave the white flag and surrender, you look back down again and chuckle. This cliff is but a fault line, a nothing, a thing you could have leapt across as a toddler. You step out. You don’t fall at all. Even you could never fall through such a tiny skint in the landscape of your life. Remember that.

I have watched all of my children on that cusp and, because I recognise it so well, I just said, Go. Step out. Let go. Wave the white flag. Surrender to your imagined fears for they will not follow you. They are imagined and they are nothing but whispers in the dust of your past the moment you take that first step. And the surrender is pivotal. We resist our fears, let them consume us, guide us. T’is a mistake. Another mistake is to deny our fears, our very real fears. We might fear enclosed spaces. We might fear patriarchal domination. We might fear matriarchal domination. The two latter will come back to bite us in the workplace, in relationships, in new friendships or of being suddenly and terminally alone. We might fear spiders or open spaces or crowds or travel or so many other things. All of these and more are real and need to be respected. There may well be a psychological explanation for our fears but that doesn’t stop the fearing of them. Logic does not help. We know the logic. The thing is to say YES, I fear this!

Thus, as a fearing one, I have learned the power of giving up to my fear, of waving the white flag, of saying Yes, I fear you. And what that means to me is this. I speak it out, not to others but to myself. I claim it, this fear, I acknowledge it, I affirm it. I say, hallo, in you come. I have fought you for so long and I am weary of the fight. So we talk. And, when the time is right and I decide to wave the white flag, I find a turning. It is as if I have just made friends with a long term enemy who was never an enemy at all, just one who was challenging me in order for me to move on.

So in conclusion. Giving up is not giving in. And there was me thinking they were conjoined against me.

Island Blog – The Last to Leave the Dance Floor

Around my home the fragrance of Spring is an olfactory delight. Every room sings me daffodils. My garden sways with them and bunches arrive for my birthday. As I arrange them in vases, I consider their spacing with a view to the final picture, correcting myself from time to time. I never was a ‘shove-em-in’ sort of woman. I like presentation and flow, design and a sort of roundness that tells me I am probably OCD around the flower arranging thing. I might be thus around other things but that doesn’t fuss me now, even as it does think me about a book and its cover. Let me explain.

As I walk in the still cold wind, but not so cold as to beg a jacketty coverance, what I think I see is randomness, in the woods, along the banks, beside the shore, where various shrubs, trees and plants are exploding through the ground in a shout for life. Maybe ‘exploding’ is a bit ott. It is, to be honest, a more cautious peek out and no surprise there for the slice and dice artic wind is not gone yet back to wherever he takes his raggedy old destructive self as we welcome Mother Spring. His bite is one of anger and rage, of sudden ice, of ha ha and you thought you were safe to show your colours. Mean. But he can come in this month, oh hell yes, he can come and we must stand vigil, sniffing the weather and just knowing, as we once did before diesel fumes and light pollution turned us into eejits.

But I am wrong to think that anything in nature is random. It is anything but. I get that we randomise merrily away inside the confines of our garden, forcing intelligent plants to grow in all the wrong places, sentencing them to gigantic effortness that will never produce good blooms, but out there in the wild places, new life will explode into beauty and a future in which we have had no hand at all. I like that. So as I wander beneath some ancient larches that are pushing out buds I recognise their intelligence. Here is sheltered, both from strong wind and from ice wind. There, not so. Therefore the buds are still holding, holding, because a blast would ping them off into the nothing.

I notice my thoughts, about 200 thousand a minute. I watch fat trunks pass by, ancient and strong, moss covered, they who have stood for a hundred years. They may be bent and leaning somewhat, but I bet they are not fussed about how they look. They don’t bother with a mirror to tell them how wonkychops they are now. They don’t care for such nonsense. Their sole purpose is to stay alive through whatever ice slice dice weather comes their way. They are grounded but not trapped. And that thinks me. As we grow older, things will go wonkychops. They will. And, in knowing this, we have a choice. We can fuss and fret and btw get mildly histericous about turning 50, a year I uninhabited almost 20 years ago, or we can decide to dance whatever. My thoughts are all about my kids now and their kids. This is my world and what a world. It doesn’t matter how I look. They don’t care. It’s all about me showing up. Like the push for life in Spring.

And on we go, until we stop and, just fyi, I will be the last one to leave the dance floor.

Island Blog – Make fire

Himself used to call this time of year the dying time. What he meant was that we all think it’s spring when spring is still hiding, holding back. Perhaps it is different in Englandshire, although with the extraordinary changes in our collective weather patterns, I am guessing it is not as it once was. Perhaps the early lambing now needs to be within the safety of a barn because the weather changes are not easily predicted. We cannot say it will be fine today anymore. There is intempestivity in our world, a windswept tumble, a helterskelter and we are the receivers of such, grounded as we are in our tacketty boots and our waterproof trews. We walk in sunshine and then suddenly, in a nanosecond, a black sky chucks hail at us, hail that would kill a lamb. It did and often unless a skilled shepherd was always on watch.

Himself could read the skies. I loved his knowledge even as I took it completely for granted. Can I hang out the washing? Hmmm, you have two hours. We need to ready about now (sailor term) right now, and there I was, shifting from one side to the other of the sailing boat, bringing over the boom, pulling ropes, fastening other things to other things so we didn’t capsize. He was always right. And when he was out there in the killing time, when calves were fighting to survive and lambs were the pickings for ravens and crows, not to mention the sleet and freezing winds, he stayed and watched like a mother. I guess he was another mother, one with the choice to save those who were faltering before another bone chilling night out there in the wild open. Although I might have, back then, grumped about yet another ewe and lamb to rub down, to feed and to warm, what with five feral children to find and to scrub for tomorrow’s school, his attention to his animals was impressive.

This time of a weatherly sleight of hand in ‘False Spring’ terms was also the time our beloved heavy horse sank into a bog. If you have read my book you will know she should never have been way out there on the shore, not at this time of tapselteerie, when new grass leaps up to a suddeningly warm sun only to be dashed back down to pulp after a 2 minute hail blast and accompanying wind. I hear her welcoming whinny still, sense the warm cave of her back for a slow ride home to hay and shelter. She rumbles on like an aftershock. She is remembered, respected and honoured. And her memory brings me back to the now. There are events in all of our lives we might rather not remember, but we do. Any cut between ourself and another, a permanent one, is a shock, like an earthquake. We move on, of course we do, if we can, but something we might find hard to understand are the aftershocks. They can hit us like a hailstorm in spring, one that batters and bends and breaks the inner daffodils that looked so strong and safe in this morning’s warm sunshine. We learn like students in a new school how to live with and beyond the aftershocks, faltering, awkwarding, turning away and hiding, but eventually we emerge in a shape we don’t recognise until we do. It only takes a look in a shop window to say oh Hallo You, there you are. And that is enough.

The aftershocks keep coming. They come unbidden, unsought, but they come. A crocus bloom through snow, a line in a song, something someone says, the lift of a bird, the sudden green buds of a larch tree that weren’t there yesterday and the ground rises up beneath us, confounding our feet. The wind is still cold, the hail right up there all encased in a frickin big black cloud moving right towards me, but I can see this green and I am sticking with the green. The hope. The hail, the tempests, the sinking down, the longing, the what-the heck of things will not tamp my flame. Not as long as I know how to make fire. I do. And you do too.

Island Blog – Taradiddle Tapselteerie

I like an oppositional perspective on life and deem it apposite in this instance. I also love words and playing with them, using them here and there like stepping stones, no, more like hopscotch. I realise I might leave a reader behind, baffled, bored, thinking me an arrogant wordy nerd. I bow to this. But my love of words knows no bounds even if I have to dictionary a whole lot of them. They come into my head just like that. Just like Taraddidle and Tapselteerie and then I must needs ruffle through everything up to the T pages to find their meaning. Why did, do, they come to me, all random and naked of meaning? I believe I hear the music in them, the beat, and not the memory of English Language A level, which I never took because I was unceremoniously expelled prior to the exam.

The whole oppositional perspective on life thingy is easier to explain, I think, even if redemption is not necessarily in sight. And here it is. I am not a balanced type of woman, nor was I, even as a girl. I am either on the ceiling or deep underground. It is exhausting, but, nonetheless, it is me, it is I, I am me and I am I, and if I could just get myself clear on that I just might find a home. And suddenly this knowledge laughs me because it tells me something important. I am already home and this home is me. I can make it just as I choose. I can high fence it or let everyone in. I can pepper my garden with wildflowers or let it all die. I can paint the stucco, decorate the garden furniture, even sass up the wheelie bins, or I can not bother all. The choice is mine alone, me and I.

Distilling this down to that moment when the fierce bubbling calms to a reduction, I see something. I see the imbalance of life and not just my own. I know for certain that many others present as ‘fine’ when they are anything but I get it, for who wants to invite delving questions demanding answers we don’t want to give? And it is……oh, hold, the cliche words rise in me, the ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ for which I immediately apologise. So what words do we need when we need them? Well, probably none. We are up, we are down. It’s not a good thing to pretend we are balanced when we are not but if we keep it all in it does us no service.

To acknowledge Taraddidle and Tapselteerie has worked for me. I feel the beat of them, hear their music. It’s my ladder up when the snake takes me down because I am not one, not the other, but both.

Island Blog – A 3 Frock Day

The wind is up and my wheelies are dancing. Only yesterday I freed them from their storm restraint, a rope affixed around their bellies and secured to my fence with chandler’s hook thingies that would normally keep boats from taking off to Holland. I forget their names. I was certain the gales had stopped and it laughs me as I watch the newly freed and recently emptied bins having a blast out there. My fence is smirking at me, I know that look. As a new gust, circa 40 knots, barrels up the loch, one bin, then the next open and shut their mouths. I can’t hear what they say but they are definitely talking. Or laughing.

It’s a three frock day for me, as I cannot risk going out there with anything light and floaty. Light and floaty could bring on an exposure I would rather not experience and nor would anyone else who happened to be nearby. And yet walking in high winds is exhilarating so I will still go out to watch the skinny trees bend towards each other, towards me, creaking and groaning like old women at a WRI meeting. There’s always lots of chat on gale days. The mail might not arrive and the ferry may not run. We are used to this even if it is an infuriation to the best laid plans. Deciding to pop over to the mainland for a shopping spree can lose its shine if a person is still over there 3 days later without a spare pair of knickers and a dog shut up at home. We live dramatically on the island. Nothing is ever a given and I think that’s what makes us so enterprising and so ready to help each other out.

There was no indication yesterday afternoon that a gale was filling its lungs in preparation for a dawning onslaught. The barometer read ‘Set Fair’, and this morning it shouts ‘Hooligan’. I don’t mind so much if I have warning, the time to batten down flapping things, but coming all of a sudden is just plain rude. Birds are flying backwards or in scoops and dives and the bird seed is half way out to sea by now. The feeders swing like ships lanterns in a force 10 and any bird that dares to catch on must feel bilious. I do, just watching them and am very thankful that I can eat a poached egg from a dependably calm and static plate.

The sea-loch is a rise of spume and irritable wavelets, wind blasting over the incoming tide, a conflict of interest. Geese honk over the house and I have no idea how they manage to stay the right way up. If I was up there I would be spinning like a top. It’s hard enough to remain the right way up with two feet on the ground and 3 frocks for ballast. But the weather up here is what keeps me balanced which may sound bizarre until you understand that the capricious sudden-ness of it has become the norm. When visitors rapture on about a beautiful sunshine day of calm and tweeting, they don’t see the truth. Make the most of today, I smile at them. Tomorrow could lose someone their garden shed. They eye me as they might a crazy woman. Sometimes they decide to move up here based on the untruth and then they meet the winter which begins in November and might possibly depart mid May. Endless rain, persistent gales to excite the wheelie bins and power cuts are all a given but we who know this are usually prepared. We have nourishing soup on the hob, loads of frocks and a great attitude. Or we don’t live here at all.

I could live nowhere else.

Island Blog – A Wonder and a Mystery

During these past two days of almost warm sunshine, no rain and blue skies, I have loved walking among the trees and along the shore. Gulls wheel above the tidal dance and it seems to me that every tree I pass beneath is bursting to push out leaves. However, the night frosts are sharp and I get their caution. Primrose leaves are now showing along the banks in sheltered spots, sheltered that is from the still cold wind and the daffodils open with big buttery smiles as the sun brings his warmth to their soft petals. I dare to believe that Spring is almost here and I am glad of it, not just because February tried to drown us all but also because of the long covid cloak that has darkened our days, months and years recently. Like others I have spoken to, the covid time is a blur. When I am asked how long ago Himself left the planet, I have to think hard. It’s as if time didn’t count herself. She just laid herself out before and behind us, not interested enough to make any particular mark.

However, during these timeless and dark days, the colours that shone bright and sparkly came from us, from human endeavour and resourcefulness. Instead of everyone playing sheep, individual enterprises and personal challenges rose up like flowers in the winter and were no less surprising. I heard about it on the radio and would find myself leaning in to really hear what this or that person was doing, stretching their minds and bodies in order to bring encouragement and inspiration to others. It has been tough, all of it, the dark, the fear, the lack of information, the doubts and the dithering but we have got through it, and well. Most of us. Of course there are very sad tales to tell, I know that and I am sad for the sad ones who endured bereavement and pain. But what excites me is the rise of human endeavour, not just by a few, but by millions. This is who we are and how we can live if we stop wishing the nanny state away whilst buying into it ourselves.

Any day now the larch buds will appear like tiny purple grapes. The horse chestnut, often the first to bloom, will show that gloriously uplifting snatch of green way up high on myriad branches. Then as if given permission, the other trees will follow. Delicate lurpak coloured primrose flowers will thrill passers by, including me. Then the garden will erupt and careen into real Spring allowing no time for me to catch up with the weeds and I will sit on the old bench, remember Himself who used to sit beside me and smile because whatever comes and whoever goes, Life will live on and there’s a wonder and a mystery in knowing that.

Island Blog – Ageing and the Big Adventure

The way I see it is this. There are 3 stages to life. First off we are born without a clue until we learn from parents and others who reckon they know everything about everything. The second phase is spent in rebelling against parents and others who reckon they know everything about everything until everyone is muddled. Then comes the last phase, the one of unlearning. It is a complicated process, sifting through all the stuff we have had drummed into our heads, then rebelled against in various unattractive ways. In fact, it is nigh on impossible to spin out such a thixotropic frame of mind because we have grown comfortably numb, wearing the familiar like an old coat, protection against the cold winds of life. Scrabbling through the old rules, the old patterns of behaviour, the routines and the ways our mother did it, or her mother or that before-mother who would have fainted clean away at the very thought of women in trousers, never mind see-through bikinis or no bikinis at all, is perplexing. A brain in knots. There are centuries of accepted norms to un norm, tangles of dense forestation to push through, ribbons and threads and chains to cut. It is tempting to give up. So what we do is one of two things. We decide to accept that we are a product of all those mothers and those fathers going all the way back to the Crimea or we park the lot and reinvent ourselves.

This, the latter, is huge fun. I can be anyone I want, more or less, excluding (obviously) Madonna, the Queen or Jessica Limewater the horse whisperer from County Down along with many others whose lives are not even remotely connected to my own. I am still me after all, living where I live, looking like I do with the same car, dog and home I have had for years. But a reinvention is an inner thing primarily I have found even as it can manifest its colouration, density and texture on the outside. A person may decide, after deciding to have fun with this, to start growing long sideburns or to wear jeans instead of those shiny suit trousers. He or she might choose a new diet, learn to play the tuba or take a course in Poetry for Beginners. It doesn’t really matter what is embarked upon. The key is to embark for embarking’s sake, to step out of the old even if the new is nowhere in sight. I remember my mum saying (often) that she did ‘it’ this way because her mother did it that way. Do you want to do it this way? I questioned. She shrugged. That’s not the point she said, turning back to the thing she wasn’t watching on television. It puzzled me, this unthinking way of life, the powerful hold of it, the refusal to change. When the programme was over I asked her if she enjoyed it. Oh, she said, I didn’t pay attention. Good Lord……..

In being whoever I want to be, bar those aforementioned, I can make my own mind up about pretty much everything unless, I have noticed, there is a man in the mix with definite opinions. This I now understand, having lived with men of definite opinions all of my life, to be a ribbon to the past. Once I notice it, I snip it. Even if the man is right and I get it wrong, I still want to find out for myself. I am curious about all those things from which I was ‘protected’ and besides, living just a bit dangerously is very exciting. There is a glorious euphoria in finally managing to do whatever it is the way I choose to do it. It may have taken weeks instead of minutes but it is my work and my way.

I can change the way I speak out now. I can challenge and make clear my boundaries. However, this third stage of life doesn’t always bounce along. Folk are surprised. Let’s say I was a doormat and they knew the doormat. It was a familiar doormat and everyone felt fine about wiping their feet on it. Lifting it and setting fire to it can be an unnerving upset for these folk. She has turned weird, they say whilst keeping their distance. However, there is a downside to the third stage and it’s a damn shame coming as it does just when a person is finally free to leap across rooftops singing bawdy songs into the night sky and startling the neighbours. This downside is is that the body is ageing and although bits are not falling off yet, they do ache or stiffen or bruise more easily. Fortunately I am not required to leap fences or rooftops any more, nor to offload a ton of hay bales but this doesn’t mean I can sit around all day bemoaning my not yet falling off bits that ache or stiffen or bruise. If I do focus on them then they will become my main think pattern and before long those thinks will turn into long sentences, spilling out of my mouth every time any poor soul asks me how I am. They also must not turn me into a beggar for sympathy. I ask a simple question with a yes/no response option. My mistake. ‘I don’t want to do Zumba but thanks for asking’ is response enough, whereas ‘Oh I wish, but I can’t because of my knee, yes this one. It’s Pamperloid Arthritis, have you heard of it, no? with complications, a big long list of them and it swells in the night, the knee not the list although it is a very long list and my mother had it in both knees poor soul and she had to stop doing school dinners and I have to sit for ages with it up, the knee that is and it’s at the wrong time you see, the Zumba that is, because East Enders is on that day so I have to get my husband’s tea ready early and it can’t be fish because fish doesn’t sit so it has to be mince which cooks itself and is kinder on my knee, not the mince but the standing’ is exhausting for both of us. I regret my question and just might be coming down with a knee issue myself.

So, no excuses about ageing. We all do it. Some of us get old before we are middle aged and some stay young at heart, dodgy knees notwithstanding. Getting old is not pretty, not really. Looking, as I occasionally do, into my magnifying mirror, I can no longer see the girl and this can either make me laugh or send me into a long term slump. I must decide to live all the way up to the end, choose my thinks, reinvent myself, consider my ‘how are you’ responses and get the hell out of myself ready for the next big adventure.