I’ve been writing rest home profiles over the last couple of weeks. It’s part of my job as Pen-for-Hire. I’m lucky to have the work, but it’s been a little depressing. I’ve been making God’s waiting room seem attractive, and it’s got me thinking…
Don’t get me wrong, these rest homes really do sound like terrific places, and the company running them is all about empowering our elders. But, it’s bleak because it’s a reminder to me that the years are passing, and one day, before I’ve even realised it, they’ll have passed.
I’ll be doing a jigsaw puzzle, sitting in an armchair by a window as a caregiver pops a cup of tea next to me and asks how my arthritis is today. I’ll tell her that I’m a martyr to it, as I try to remember her name.
Writing about one rest home after another has had this particular effect on me, and I find myself suddenly determined to live life with considerably more gusto than I am at the moment. There’s a lot I want to do before I sit in that armchair, become a martyr to arthritis: places I want go, things to do, people to meet.
As I write, it’s my birthday.
Quite an attractive number – 44. Pleasing to look at. Exits the mouth between bottom lip and top teeth with both alliteration and assonance. How many numbers can claim that?
But, it is a ‘middle-age number’. I don’t feel middle-aged. I feel young enough to get a shock whenever I look in the mirror: who’s that lady – the one with the big hips and wrinkles? Can’t be me – I’m young and nubile. (Not anymore.)
So let me turn the mirror.
You have a look. What do you see?
What do you want to do before you get to God’s waiting room with the pleasant courtyard and secure dementia facilities?
During the Instagram challenge I did for World Suicide Prevention Day, one of the prompts was to post an image of a favourite phrase.
I chose ‘Appens dunnit!’ – a jokey, silly response because I didn’t want to be corny. A streetwise character, Bianca from the British soap Eastenders, said it years ago, as she shrugged off someone’s woes. I loved it and it remained with me. Translated into English it means: ‘Shit happens, doesn’t it.’ Oh, yes, it does. The phrase has actually got me through more than a few sticky moments in my life that could otherwise have spiralled. Maybe it’s my English sense of humour, but I generally feel the need to be irreverent, especially in the face of earnestness or near catastrophe. It lifts me, probably in the same way that people use ‘fuck it’ or some such. I shrug in the face of adversity and I say ‘appens dunnit’, and the adversity generally goes away.
The phrase I initially wanted to choose is very corny, but I wish I’d stuck to it. I picked it up at AA and Al-Anon although I think its source is biblical: ‘This too shall pass’.
Less irreverent, it’s got me through more serious times, ones where I’ve been close to ensuring that I’ll never get anywhere near to a rest home.
‘This too shall pass’ means two things to me. Firstly, it reminds me that black moments will pass, and I will get through. Experience, and the phrase, tells me that when those moments arrive, dangerous ones where I’m ready to exit any way I can, there’ll come a time in my future life when I’ll barely be able to remember it, and good times will follow…
It is also a reminder that those good times are equally fleeting. This too shall pass, and I’ll find myself in difficulty again, because that’s life, and you know, shit happens. So savour those good times; make the most of happiness and pleasure. Try to create more.
I don’t mind being 44, and I hope that I’ll be blowing out candles on a cupcake on my 88th. Just got to make every year that passes count. Maybe that’ll make all the difference to the little old lady that’s me, sitting in my armchair, doing my jigsaw, remembering all the gorgeous foods, passionate loves and foolish adventures I had when I was a young woman of only 44. I’ll remember how I got through the black times too, and have a special smile for that.
Or maybe I’ll just watch the birds flit in the courtyard, sip my nice cuppa tea, and realise how incredibly lucky I am that I made it there at all.