Island Blog – I Can Do This

Having my young and strong bodied children with me for a few days shows me my age, not that I have any problem with ageing for it is a very natural part of the living process. Nonetheless, my observations shunt forward somewhat around such ebullient fluidity of movement, of thought. I smile, I did smile a lot, as they leapt off steps, landing two feet square, knees flexing whereas I consider each step, paying close attention to my feets and pausing prior to each cautious descent. In fact it chuckles me. It seems like just yesterday I watched my own mum, my in-laws doing this pausing cautious thingy whilst I was still a gazelle, albeit minus two legs. In a doorway with a step down into and up again from the garden, on the stairs, at the top of a set of steps or when wheiching a body in and out of a car seat, I could flow then as they could not. Now I am experiencing it all for myself.

I find the same around packaging, lids and cork-pulling. But, unlike some, I am determined and my favourite of all phrases is my mantra. ‘I Can Do This.’ It might mean I need to ascend a hillock on all fours. It might mean the descent is on my bottom. It might mean I have to cut the packaging with sharp scissors instead of using what are left of of my teeth. It does mean, in the realms of cork-pulling, that I must needs squat on the floor, hold the bottle between my feets and brace myself against the kitchen unit in order to avoid a backwards somersault when the cork comes out but I will succeed because I Can Do This. I say it out loud, just to ensure the full attention of my whole brain, expecting it to communicate new strength to all required limbs. And it does.

When speaking an affirming and encouragingly defiant phrase out loud, I can feel my body responding immediately. Ok, she says, wake UP you sleepyheads! The Boss requires an elevation of pep right now. It always works. When himself vacated his position as the strong one I did flapdoodle a bit, I confess, but there is something about finding oneself on the spot that brings the opportunity to rise strong in circumstances as yet uninvestigated fully. I didn’t then need to find the strength, either of mind or body, to achieve the result I wanted. Now I do and with that ‘I do’ comes the option to falter, fall back, to bemoan my lack as if that lack is terminal. It isn’t. I have succeeded in more situations wherein I was lacking, or believed I was, since being alone than I would ever have believed possible back in the lack. The thing is this:- I don’t want to miss out on anything. Allowing myself to miss out would be my way of dying long before my death and to hell with that shower of nonsense! Ok, others may run far ahead of me, skipping down 3 flights with alacrity, popping corks with one hand or skipping over hillocks, but I will allow myself my place behind them all and I will find my way. I will run the gauntlet of my ouches and my anxieties and will think of life and not on the demise of it because demise is for someone else who gives in too early. I don’t even like the word.

I Can Do This, I tell myself when I have to barrow a load of wood into the shed. I Can Do This, when I manage to press the wrong button on the right machine and it goes into either chatty overdrive or a huff; when I find it hard to twist a lid or descend a hill or climb a fence or any other little challenge that comes my way. I will even manage to free a toothbrush from its ridiculously tenacious package, because I Can Do This.

What are your favourite words of self-encouragement? If you don’t have a line, pinch mine. I have it written in fat felt tip on a card where I can see it all the time. and each time I feel a falter coming on, I read it, speak it out, lift my chin, straighten my spine and smile. Suddenly I am invincible and it feels so very good. Life is for living no matter a person’s age. And remember this……

Circumstances do not control man (or woman)

Man (or woman) controls circumstances.

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.