Wicked witch of the west

www….. that’s what my husband calls me when he can’t understand my reasoning, or when he can’t win the argument. Wicked witch of the west..and the east too, when he really gets going. I generally don’t accept this as a personal judgement of my character. Nobody else calls me that. It’s just my husband’s way of trying to get at me when he feels a little hard done by. He gets over it eventually and starts calling me ‘gorgeous’ again.

My wicked witch of the west title is exercised under several categories. My testiness in the mornings when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep, ie…being kept awake by my husband’s tossing and turning, with the occasional gurgle and snort just when I’m drifting off.  My irritability when I am little stressed over a family drama, and it interferes with the Saturday afternoon football game that he is engrossed in. My lack of concern for his aching back after he has wacked at the tree stump all day, after I told him to get an aborist in. And maybe even my lack of interest in a new fruit tree that he has planted, after I suggested that ten fruit trees might be enough, and perhaps we could get a christmas bush instead.

As far as my husband is concerned, I am a chameleon. I change like the wind, and so, he has invented one title to suit all moods. It works for him. And while it continues to be a half-affectionate musing that is overshadowed by his more adoring remarks of my physical and intellectual abilities, I am inclined to let it go for the time being.

God forbid that he ever loses his sense of humour.

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Birthdays

A couple of friends of mine were talking about birthdays the other day. They are around my age – for the benefit of the reader I shall say fortyish – and they were laughing about the things that they did when they were …  and the things that they couldn’t do now that they are … 

I had to stop myself for a second. These women ‘sounded’ old – and I coudn’t relate to it. I got home and had a look in the mirror. Nope, couldn’t see it either. Was I in denial or did I just look ‘good for my age.’

I pondered the age thing for a while. What was it all about? To some, I think it is a real concern, and they categorise the things that they should be doing by the age that they are and what is expected of them. I like to call this ‘age related disillusionment- if there is such a thing. We can be so caught up in what media and society expects of us at a certain age, we can almost see it in our minds – the illusion of what we have created.

When we are young, birthdays are a real bonus. You can’t wait to get to the next one, because it brings more benefits and bigger presents. Reaching those magic numbers of adulthood are agony, and sweet salvation when you are finally there – until, of course, reality bites, and you have to meet the demands that adulthood brings – like study and employment, credit card payments and mortgages. Then of course there’s marriage (for some), babies, families, more bills, life, untold ups and downs, more life, …phew. There’s a lot going on. Pretty soon you’ve sailed past the twenty-five mark and are looking down the barrel of thirty. At this point in time you will probably ponder getting older a little, but then go back to what you were doing, but decide to go to the gym and work out, change the hairstyle and learn the tricks of applying make-up to achieve that ‘youthful glow’ – just in case.

You reach thirty-five and you decide to go back to univeristy (well, I did anyway) to upgrade your skills. You sign up for over six years of juggling life, work, and meeting study deadlines. Your social life is still ok, you like to get out a little to nightclubs. You can still pass for twenty-eight with the right make-up and lighting, but it gets a bit stale, and when you look at the antics of the ‘youngsters’, you wonder if you were ever that stupid. Could it be that even your attitude is going through and age-related adjustment as well?

By the time you hit forty you are over it. The age-related thing anyway. You might worry a bit about getting older and what that new pain in your left ankle means, but for me, I’m probably happier now than I was when I was an eighteen year old. I’m not as ‘perky’ as I used to be – but then again – I don’t want to trade what I have learned and what I have done for that youthful insecurity.  I have ‘done’ the age related thing at times, but it feels strange. I can’t fit into the ‘age-box’ because I’m not sure what it is.

One thing I am sure of though is that ‘age’ is a mental thing. And it’s an attitude that will almost certainly be mine alone – copyrighted by me. I don’t feel old, I just feel different to a sixteen year old, a twenty year old, a thirty year old – and in recent times – other fortyish year olds.

Birthdays are just numbers. Real age is experience plus knowlege, minus the stigma.

Rest in peace

As I sit here my mind is in disarray. I have lost my Auntie Joan, my mother’s only sister, and her best friend. It’s hard to take the news in, and I’m pretty much in denial. She can’t be gone. Mum was making plans for a get together in September. We were all looking forward to it.

I probably shouldn’t be here at all, typing. I probably should be with my mother, but she wants to be on her own tonight. She doesn’t want us to see her heart breaking for the one person who saw her through every single event in her life. Her sister was her mentor, advisor and champion if she was in trouble. She is lost, and I can’t begin to understand her pain.

I cry because I have lost an Auntie who was a beautiful human being, a loving spirit who was loved by many. But most of all I cry for my mother, for her aching heart. 

I plan to see my mother tomorrow. I will support her as much as I can, even if she says she’s ok, because I know she’s not. I will take care of her before, during and after the funeral, which must come – as much as we don’t want it to.

I will give my mother some space, but not too much. Life is short, and you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. I want to make the most of every opportunity that I have with her, right now. I don’t want to regret a thing.

Rest in peace Auntie Joan.  Until we meet again.

My mother, my friend

As a child, I was never really close to my mother, and the gap widened when I reached adolescence and became an authority on myself, and what was good for me.

When I hit sixteen my parents separated, but lived under the same roof for a while, until they could afford to go their separate ways. The situation became intolerable, and my relationship with my mother went beyond the point of no return. So I packed my bags and hit the road. It would be many years before I could bring myself to speak to my mother without feeling like I was that angry, unloved kid with a point to prove.

My unresolved anger was a strange and destructive thing. It affected any relationship that I had, and was based on my need to recreate the same childhood scenario –  again and again, so that I could ‘resolve’ it with anger and indifference. In a weird way, I was happy being angry, if that makes any sense. I was happy with my first husband because we argued a lot. My mother opposed the marriage of course, which made it all the more enticing.

My first marriage produced a son before it dissolved into a bitter separation, and an anti-climactic divorce.  There was no custody dispute and I never saw my husband again, but I saw plenty of my mother, who was always there to make sure that her grandson was being brought up the way that he ought to be.  It irked me at times. Was this an attempt at yet another put down, from one mother to another? It hurt me, and I remained argumentative when it came to my son’s needs.

When my son was around six years old I met the man who would become  my second husband. Motherhood was good for me –  I had evolved and matured a little. I was more able to negotiate the terms of the kind of relationship that I wanted for myself, and my son.  My new beau had a wonderful relationship with his mother, a lovable Scottish woman who was not difficult to adore – which was the one thing that I had craved all my life. I was drawn to him like a magnet.  When my husband kissed his mother and told her that he loved her – often – I was jealous. I wanted some of that for myself.

As I threw myself into a relationship with my future mother-in-law, I discovered the importance of understanding the separateness of another human being. She was the wilful child, the contemptuous adolescent, the young woman in love, and the married matriarch all in one. It was this slow revelation that would open me up to new possilbities of  holding out the olive branch to my own mother, to get to know her too.

At first my mother and I circled each other warily. Neither one of us wanted to say the words ‘I love you’, or make the first move. I had become open to the possibilities, but my mind had frozen in unfamiliar territory. Familiar fears and resentments bubbled just beneath the surface, waiting for the inevitable rejection.  My husband, bless his generous heart – could take it no more and handed me his half of  the two gold seats  to The Eagles’ concert, three days out – pleading an early onset of  flu and telling me I would have to take my mother instead, who would enjoy it more than him anyway, as they were one of her favourites.

My mother enjoyed herself immensely – it was her first concert. Her happiness was breathtaking, and the moment that had elluded me for most of  my life. I forgave myself and my mother for years of misguided malice and misunderstood intention. The rest was plain sailing – and history.

I have learned more about my mother in the last ten years than at any other time of my life. I have learned the reasons why she is like she is and behaves in certain ways. My mother has had a difficult life, and the fact that she is able to be the person that she is, is a testament to her ability to rise above it, despite it all. I have a new respect for the person that is my mother, the person who has had a life that is separate from my own, unique in her experiences.

I have learned not to judge her and listen more. As she shares her experiences,  she lets go of her predisposition of ‘mother’, and we become something more. I have gotten to know the lonely eight year old girl who went from one relative to another after her mother died. I laughed with the ‘mature’ adolescent when she got drunk at the local dance and threw up on my future father’s best jacket. I grieved silently as I thought about the dreams of a young woman that were lost to the reality of the times, and a difficult marriage.

I have had so much more opportunity in my life than my mother.  And I have inherited so much more from her than I had realised. My husband tells me that we are very much alike. I’m happier about that statement than I ever thought that I would be, thank god.

Just me

I’m having some time off work. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it’s an interesting concept, and one that I haven’t quite gotten my head around yet. In my case, ‘time off’ may mean a lot of things – from ‘time out from the rat race because I’m having a nervous breakdown’, or simply ‘time off because I can.’ I’m probably somewhere in between the two. I may have had a nervous breakdown if I’d continued to overwork an overtired nervous system, and I can almost certainly have a couple of months off at least, because the financial burden has been diminished somewhat recently. An enviable position? I guess so, but quite frankly, I’m not a millionaire, I’m just trying to get my priorities right for once.

Back in the old days, when I had nerves of steel, stockpiles of energy, and a big guilt complex about not contributing my share to the household funds – I would work, study and leap tall buildings on command. I would put up with other people’s complexities and hidden agendas, along with my own stereotypically steeped attitude towards the many, and my immediate environment. You can only get by for so long in this type of self-imposed martyrdome, before you have to take a look at what is really going on beneath the surface, which all too frequently, is never what it seems.

I am a consequence of many things. My upbringing and my family values, my environment, my education, my culture and my friendships. I have formed a resilient belief system and a half-decent map of the world that has seen me through all the life experiences that I have had, and will have in the future. Some of it is flexible, some of it isn’t – and I can safely assume that my map and beliefs aren’t an exact replica of anyone else’s. Ironically, and systematically over time, however, I have still tried to fit myself into a groove of society, to be accepted and to enhance my peception of my self worth.

For me, at this point, it has become a valueless exercise in practice to continue on. I am unable to perform to my ‘utmost best’ on demand at any time, without questioning why I would want to do this for somebody else’s benefit. There has to be some instrinsic value for myself, something that is not specifically tangible or intangilble, and not necessarily a monetary gain – but a gain nonetheless – of self and purpose in life.

Life is always one big question mark – where am I going, what am I doing, when will I get there, and how? And the big one…what does it all mean?  For me, right now, the ‘meaning of it all’ can take away all the value of any other question I may ask…or add to them tenfold, if I can work out how to live my life in such a way as to derive the most benefit.

A mid-life crisis? Maybe. But I would prefer to think of it as a place that I have come to from everything that has been before. I am a part of all my experiences, and I am grateful for a life that has created the insight to preceed change. For once, I am happy to be just me.

My beloved Jackson

Today is the anniversary of my beloved dog, Jackson’s death. Jackson has been gone for two years today. He may not have meant much to the guy down the road, but to me, he was pure gold. To anybody who has ever had a loving companion with whom they have had the privelege of sharing a part of their lives, know that this is a tribute to your special fur-friend, and that part of you that left with them when they went away.

Jackson was pretty special, and he came to me at a time when I needed him the most.  It was love at first sight, in that pet shop window, that was for sure. And the feeling was mutual. He pranced out of there on the end of his little red lead like he owned the world. He was a bobbing, five inch high powder puff as he strutted with his head high just in front of me, moving through the mall as fast as his little legs could carry him. He was on his way to better things and he knew it!

My husband was harder to win over. The puff ball wasn’t a real dog as far as he was concerned, this was some kind of toy – he just couldn’t find the battery slot anywhere. His tune changed the day he discovered that Jackson was categorised as ‘very cute’ by any female that came within ten feet of him. And so the die was cast for future strolls and time on the beach.  I hadn’t realised that the ‘win-ee’  had finally been won, until the day of one very heated argument, when my husband  interrupted my ranting, reached for Jackson and held him to his chest, screaming  ‘if we get divorced, there’s no way YOU are getting MY dog! 

Game, set and match.

Jackson grew a little in stature, but a lot in heart, good temperament, and good looks.  He was well mannered, quiet, friendly to all, loving to family and chief chicken taster. He enjoyed the finer things in life just as much as we enjoyed indulging him, but the benefits of his kind and generous soul that we received in return still make my heart grow light and sad at the same time, whenever I think of  him.

He was with me throughout my illness and spent most of his time by my side when I was recovering. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight until I began to do things for myself again. He was there beside me and my computer when I began my study, and he was there the day I graduated, although he was a little miffed at missing the formal ceremony. We moved around a lot, so he did too. He enjoyed a good holiday as much as we did. As long as we were around, he was happy.

We were with him at the end, my husband and I. It was a short illness, but severe. The doctor did all he could do, but it was his time to leave us. I will never forget my last moments with him. There was hardly any time to say goodbye, but a part of me died too as I held him. I’d lost my best little friend.

Sometimes I think I see him around, or I feel his nose on the back of my leg, trying to get my attention like he used to.  Sometimes I still cry, like today. But mostly I’m happy because I know I that was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to have known such a special little being, and I’m a  better person for it.

Goodbye my dear friend. I hope we meet again.

Real life

I sent an email to a friend today. I probably should have rung her, but quite honestly, I didn’t feel like chatting on the phone. It was easier to type a few lines and press enter. In the past you couldn’t have kept me off the phone, but sadly, I think button pushing is becoming a bit of a habit that I’m not in any hurry to kick.

 As little as twelve years ago, I was still sending gift cards filled with all the news and handwritten accounts of my life that anyone could hope for, and would wait in anticipation for a reply in the mail. I was doing my banking with a teller and every book that I bought was carried home in a shopping bag from the store.

These days I read my news online, catch up with most of my friend’s news by email or e-photo, and get most of my books with the click of a mouse. I even have my own pet portrait business online. It makes so much sense in my time poor world, that I have become accustomed to it.  I’ve even bought my mother a mobile phone so we can send each other texts when time doesn’t permit a catch up session that takes longer than fifteen minutes.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot to be gained through our cyberspace interactions, but there’s a lot of ‘realtime’ interaction to be lost as well. And I’m as guilty as the next cyber-person. I’m not quite sure how to fix the problem, or if it is viewed by some as a problem at all – but I’m hoping to make a few real phone calls this week, and catch up with some real friends  and family in real time with a real lunch at a real cafe.