The Getting of Wisdom
As a woman of a certain age (50 and three quarters) I find that my mood swings are a bit like those giant swing boats they used to have at the fair. You remember the fair? The physical place you went to for dangerous mechanical fun before Oculus Rift arrived and you didn’t have to leave the house? These days my dangerous fun is supplied by ‘menopause’. Yeh, grown men look away now. Cowards. Yes. I’m here to tell you, it’s like being a werewolf and every day is a full moon.
Take this week for instance when the idiot in the sunglasses picked a fight in the car park at the local ‘out of town’ retail hell. I do not like these places at the best of times but this trip was a necessity as the fridge decided to go bust. In a re-enactment of ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ this noodlebrain almost hit our car as we were reversing into a space. It seemed a perfectly normal thing to do, reverse into a space in a car park. It appeared to be what the function of a car park is. The High Plains Drifter seemed unaware of this as he donut-ed around the corner. Not his fault probably because, what with the tyre smoke, the overcast weather and the polarised windscreen and shades he could see very little, possibly his own reflection, no doubt a source of endless joy for him.
He was snarky and bumptious when he first got out of his car to abuse us. Time was when I would take this on the chin, feel upset but get over it. Not these days. One minute and a moodswing later and the Bandit was running for the revolving door at Pet Parlour because it appeared there was a bad tempered lioness in the car park. The bad tempered lioness followed him into Pet Parlour because she had not finished with him. There were going to be gizzards trailing from her canines or someone was going to know about it. Snarling and foaming at the mouth I was trapped in said revolving door and tranquilised. My husband has become my wrangler, on hand with a soothing word, a comforting hug, or, on one or two seriously fraught occasions, a whip and a chair.
So then we bought the lovely fridge. I am not generally speaking a gadgetty person. I don’t, for example, have a wi-fi kettle although right about now I fancy one. Does wi-fi mean that you can operate it telepathically? I just have to think about tea and…? No. Course not. What a stupid invention! Grrrrrrrr. Rwwwoooooooarrrr. Snarl.
The other issue with being a woman of a certain age is that my emotions are at def con 1. This meant that I was teary eyed at the frosty white LED lighting inside the fridge compartment. I filled up at the dimensions of the vegetable drawer. It was like a snowscape, an ice palace for my spinach and carrots.
The door swung shut and my mood with it. From the white light of the contraption, my mind swivelled to The Darkness. Of Everything. I have to keep the radio turned off these days in case Gypsy John Humphries has more soothsaying to declaim on Radio Four. Nothing in the news is good and most of it, I have found lately, is also speculative. Oh no, oh heck, here it comes. Take cover.
If a psychic appeared on ‘PM’ and did a card reading of the future they would be scorned. Oh no, pish and nonsense, Eddie Mair might suggest, you don’t know anything from looking in that crystal ball. Pack away that Tarot Deck, those scraps of paper tell us nothing. Personally I see no difference in what a Seer might suggest as a possible Post-Brexit future and the outcomes predicted by so-called political and economic‘experts’. Just because you use a graph in your forecast does not make you right. An economist or pollster has no more idea of the future and is less interesting. Pompous and arrogant dullards anyone? Wrong every single time? Give me a patchouli scented velvet boudoir and some hooped earrings any day. At least if a gypsy reads your tea leaves, YOU GET A CUP OF TEA AT THE VERY LEAST. RWWWWOOOOOARRRR.
And breathe. Yes. In. Out. Calm. Zen. Think of…something. Puppies. No? Kittens? We are way past kittens. Orkney. Yes. That will do it. Brodgar. Sea. Stones. Moss. Lichen. Reach for that.
My rants at the radio are usual. I have always done that. However, the ‘certain age’ situation means that my ranting is more frequent and aggressive. They used to be short and sharp and end with me being easily distracted by the pressing need to sprinkle tarragon into the sauce for the chicken or wrangle potatoes. Now it ends in hot tears and the throwing of knives, leaving a sense of raging despair. But then, there are days when crossing the road brings much the same emotional response.
Or there was the incident in the library the other week when the mum asked her daughter, “What book shall we have today?” and the very small girl reached out of her pushchair with open arms and declared with intense passion and delight,
“ OWLS. I want a book about OWLS! Can we pleeeeease have OWLS!”
I had to look away in tears.
My age has also brought the wisdom that most people are idiots and need punching. I include myself in this bracket. I have to use the ‘scan as you shop’ system at the supermarket these days in order to cut down my human strangers contact time. My shopping expedition requires my Ipod so that I can disconnect from the world and not end up in a brawl. How long does it take to choose some sliced ham? Why are you wandering around in your pyjamas sipping a takeaway coffee? GET OUT OF MY WAY! You see?Look away for your own safety.
I used to have patience with people and would try to see the good and the best, now I know I was fooling myself. In many ways I feel better, I cut straight to the chase of things and don’t waste time. I am delighted to find someone who is friendly or funny. I follow my instinct about people, it turns out I have an instinct, a terrible new radar. As I walk through town or interact with people I can feel the bad or good vibe and feel compelled to look away, to walk faster, to avoid. I no longer feel the need to try. You have to earn a smile. You will have to withstand the inspection of my gimlet eye. I am, on some days, a volcano of rage, ready to rise out of the magma with a growling and terrible vengeance. It is as if all the shutters are up. Everything, every speck, gets in.
You can call it menopause, there is even the ‘Peri-Peri-menopause’ which is the spicy version available in Nandos. Cronehood. That’s where I am. Let’s not fanny about over this. I’ve been a maiden and a mother and of course, if you are lucky, you get to be a crone. I was afraid at first. The fear is subsiding and is being replaced with an idea of who I am. The world discards its older women and I for one am now thinking ‘more fool you, World’. I admit freely that I am feeling disconnected but with that has come a notion that I am newly empowered. I don’t care what the world thinks of me any longer. I am me. I love my grey hair and my odd clothes. I scorn any fashion Nazi webpage that advises on ‘Hairstyles for Women Over 50’ or tells you you can’t wear sparkly eyeshadow or Doc Martens. Bollocks. You can do what the hell you like. Please yourself. Be Purple. Be a Goth. Be a Faerie. Be YOU. Grasp the fact like an escaping weasel.
Barriers have been taken down and I see clearly. Like Neo in the Matrix, I know stuff. I have instinct, intuition and wisdom that has been learned and earned.
On some days.
On others, well, here I must confess something. Wisdom has dragged alongside her, her lowly twin, Madness. I do not use that term lightly. Thought twists my brain, it shouts and barks like a three-headed dog. It rushes me with searing panic. It chooses only bad dreams. My mind lurches and swerves when I’m not looking. It is a bit of a struggle some days but, if I can see the madness coming, I can ride it. Like a broomstick.
If you see me wobbling about a bit as I scud overhead, you will understand that I am having a wild day, that the beast inside is clawing at me and chewing my mind. Understand that if you cross my flight path on such a day I will take you down, like the man in the library the other week who dinged the service bell just once too often.
Rest assured, I will cry about it later, when I’ve made my emergency landing.