The joys of dating and being single has hit me in my fifties.I remember waking up one morning feeling desperate and wondering how I had possibly gotten myself into this position. What had the meaning of my last ten years been? Precious left without a backward glance or any significant parting with my children. What was left of me. Where was the person I had once been. What had I taken from this time and had there been significant self growth?The heaviness did change, the numbness turned to quiet contentment. The spring in my step returned. My walks with the dogs became not desperate and lonely, but a wonderful appreciation of my surroundings and life ahead. The relief of not being anxious and unsure was replaced with an absolute freedom and calmness I had long forgotten. So why mess with this newly found peace, right? I was sure that nothing would be able to replace this new calm and nor did I need any change to my carefully structured days.The storm hit unexpectedly. A 50th themed party that I considered not attending when I heard that the person I had relied on being there wasn’t going any longer. My intention was to mingle and leave graciously when it was polite.I was dragged across the dance floor by the birthday girl insisting that I just HAD to meet someone. He was the only Indian in a room full of Cowboys, I was the only Saloon Girl in a room of Cowgirls. As I tripped across towards the massive bright Indian headdress I was muttering rather loudly under my breath, “I do NOT want to meet anyone.”He was standing in a corner quietly observing. We made contact, and something about him piqued my interest. Conversation flowed easily, no awkward silences, no game playing, no outrageous flirting. Somewhere in time he reached across to put a stray hair behind my ear, at once intimate and I didn’t flinch.juncture ~ noun 1. a particular point in events or time.”It is difficult to say at this juncture whether this upturn can be sustained“
So Precious and I have done our time. It is not my personality to demean 10 years with blame and accusation, we are just unable to connect on vital core issues. As we are, we are fabulous. We entertain with aplomb, we party up a storm, we will tango and be the last to leave, we have the best time on holidays, and yet here I find myself writing about the last week of our amicable uncoupling. These few days in Robertson have been organized together knowing that shortly after it we will be saying goodbye, he to return to Pietermaritzburg where he feels his heart and soul are, and me to re-enter corporate work and rediscover life alone.
We book into Africamps, Pat Busch, in Robertson – a glamping experience which we have wanted to do for years, but never had the time…We are to leave on Tuesday morning and return on Friday. Just prior to leaving, I receive a text confirming that my summons is ready to be collected from town. The wheels are really in motion.
We have pre-planned our trip to a point, printed a map, discussed if we are just going to run only or hire bicycles as well, established which days are going to rain and where we want to go wine tasting. My neck and back are stiff with weeks of tension, my eyes are hollow and dull. I glance at him in the car. His eyes are slightly swollen, no softness, just survival mode, we are going through the motions.
The tent is just beautiful, and the surrounds. We unpack and decide to walk a bit to familiarize ourselves. A little walk up to the dam becomes a semi hike, me with a polo neck jersey and jacket on. Beads of perspiration start flowing, but the fynbos, bird calls, views, silence entice us up and up. We eventually turn and descend gently. Once back in the tent, he suggests we spend the afternoon at Graham Beck with some bubbles in the afternoon sun. Well, what an afternoon ! We started with their “Gorgeous,” then the “Brut,” then “Rose (Pinot noir/chardonnay) then the “Vintage Rose,” and finally the “Blanc de Blanc,” the best bubbles I’ve ever had. Much laughter and warmth and the day ended with an outside fire, an inside fire, our electric blanket on and a warm content feel in our bellies but the underlying sorrow sits between us, unspoken.
Day 2 starts with a jog along the farm road, it is 1 degree, but we are committed, off we go, passed massive blueberry plantations, an olive farm, onto the tar road and up to the Klaasvoogds Primere school, the cold air biting into my chest, but the familiar happiness of the run is invigorating and such a release for me. We giggle over the encounter with a very boisterous boxer male who runs all the way back with us. Shower, breakfast and head out to the task at hand…..wine tasting. Springfield, our first, is captivating, we go on to Viljoensdrift, Excelsior, (where we blend our own bottle of red) De Wetshof, where we have the pleasure of meeting none other than, Mr Danie De wet, who chats to us and on departure discover that he has given us a bottle of his delicious Naissance as a gift. Not to waste a moment in the day, we finish at Klipdrift, where we eat THE most awesome nachos ever and proceed to brandy taste. We rambled back to our tent in the late afternoon, with much knowledge and a boot full of wine and a bottle of Black Gold (Brandy). We settle next to the fire, (inside one only) and play numerous games of rummy with a merlot in hand. A beautiful day, sorrow between us still unspoken.
Day 3 begins lying in bed procrastinating about a run to justify our planned lunch at Four Cousins in Robertson, but by the time I get up and get organized the heavens open for the much awaited rain. Back into bed I jump, electric blanket back on and book in hand. It is sad we only do these kind of things on holiday. By the time we get organized, it is too late for breakfast as we are going to lunch so off we pop to Rooiberg ostensibly just to buy some of the Graham Beck, “Game Reserve Chardonnay” but end up having a full tasting with Muscadel and Port to finish it off, not a shabby start to a day. We add to our boot collection and head to Four Cousins for lunch very pleased with ourselves.
Four Cousins – a beautifully designed restaurant, large big fireplace, glass, modern, lovely, just to my taste, I couldn’t be happier. Second mouthful of my food. I’ve swallowed, but it hasn’t gone down. My eyes widen, I remember tapping on my back with huge eyes to get Precious’ attention. He rises and pulls me up and attempts the Heimlich. Nothing. I can’t breath. I feel another man grabbing me and doing the same, I vaguely hear a woman’s voice loudly saying, “punch her,” there is then a third man, who I’m told thrust and punched at the same time. It worked. He had done a recent first aid/survival course. Precious loudly says, ” I hear the food here is not that good,” there is a roaring of laughter and everyone carries on as normal. I sit dazzled, tears run down my face, but I’m good to go. Not to allow this incident to affect us, we pop in at Zanvliet. Another fantastic tasting experience that ended with delicious gin and tonic. Back in the tent, we lit a fire of note, played music, danced, tried to tango in the tent, played scrabble. I’m told then that we have to leave early the next day as he is working in the afternoon, silly me thinking anything else. No feelings discussed at all again.
Friday morning is a subdued day. We pack quietly, load the car, I take a last photo of the tent. He is distracted by his cell phone. He is silent and I’m just a passenger again. I am back to not knowing his movements, where he is working, when he is leaving, what times his flights are, who he is staying with. We arrive back, he races to change and leave the house. I unpack and drive to town to fetch my summons.
I gave it my best. He gave it his best. We are as we always were. So to our friends, do not treat us any differently. Life will go on as always.
“Do you not care at all how I feel?”
End of conversation.
I have recently read a book that really resonated with me. The storyteller is “Music” and just as “Death” tells the story of the Book Thief, “Music” certainly touched something in me. The idea is that, as you are born, “Music” decides how much talent you receive and enters you as you emerge from the womb. “I am a brilliant colour in the rainbow of human talents from which you choose. Later when a someone special lifts the curtain, you feel that chosen talent stirring inside you, a bursting passion to sing, party, dance the tango or simply bang on drums.” Talent is a piece of God’s shadow and under that shadow human stories intersect. Talent weaves from generation to generation and the shadow stretches. Truth is light. Lies are shadows. Music is both. From the Jewish Midrash, there comes the teaching that, “With each child, the world begins anew.”
How the flatting of the third finger on a guitar can change a major chord to a minor chord – happy to sad. In a heartbeat, the mood is changed. The ambiance and feeling is altered, but not necessarily destroyed, sometimes enhanced and more beautiful. In comparing our life paths, it is necessary to anticipate these melancholy times and ride with the tide until the change of the chord.
In musical terms a suspended forth moves back to the third. A diminished chord slides to its tonic. Dissonance to consonance. Dissonance is a total lack of harmony among musical notes, and a lack of agreement or harmony between people or things. Disparity. Do we ride the tide until consonance is achieved? Consonance, the combination of notes in harmony with each other or in agreement or compatibility between opinions and actions.
Music forms the base of most of our memories. It transports you back to your childhood, possibly in utero, that is if you were lucky enough to hear the joy so early, to the singing of nursery rhymes, to teenage years, first loves, concerts, ballets, weddings, funerals. It is the most cathartic form of joy and healing we have on offer. Whether you find this joy in the gift of others, play your own version of honky tonk or dance to your own rhythm, it is a wonderful form of release and correlates to your life path.
I was one of the fortunate. The tide swept into my soul at birth. I hear it, I feel it, I play it, I dance it. It is beautiful. Like so many, I perhaps let the shadows overwhelm me. Let there be more light. Let me be free to my music.
The god of music quotes “I have said that music allows for quick creation, but it is nothing compared with what you humans can destroy in a single conversation.”
“Frankly no.” Two words.
And, she’s back at it.
Today she is particularly pleased with herself. I sense the jauntiness in her stride. I have allowed a gentle return to her passion. We have jogged around leisurely as she acclimatises herself to new shortened bones, plates and taut muscles. The relentless tenacity has had me wake up earlier again, but not quite at 4am. I shudder at the thought of it. It may come. I hear her appeasing those around her, with “I’m just so grateful to be able to go for a jog,” its absolute bullshit of course. She has engineered a training plan. I am whisked off to gym and up and down she goes on all my sensitive parts, weighted calf raisers, rotary calf raisers, squats, lunges, it’s absolutely mind blowing. The next day we hit the road, the next day, I feel electric waves rush through the mother body as she “Bodytechs”. Ah, then the “rest day,” she is SO not rested, she paces around, dissatisfied.
In her defence while on the couch last week, she did try to briefly waft through this little concern of hers, she is aware of it. She queried if it may be a personality flaw, no shit Sheila. “I was so grateful to be able to do 5 km, but then I pushed to 6, then 7, then 8.” We are currently dashing around the Constantia suburbs for a little over 10 km. She is watching her Garmin again and the foot strides are becoming more rapid, the hair on her neck sodden and her pulse rate pounding. As she sits on the couch contemplating what has been suggested at her session, she eagerly nods her head and agrees that maybe all that is necessary is an iPod, “Yeah, she says, I guess I could just run on my own, for the joy of it while listening to music.” Bullshit, she can’t. All the reasons she initially gave for pushing her body further and further are no longer prevalent, or are they? What is missing? Why is everything she does so measured? Was she pressured to perform as a child or is it simply the classic “A” type personality, or is she still running away, and then from what? Is she simply a crazy runner?
In her mind I think it is aligned with coming out of rehab, it is aligned with alcoholism. It is aligned with a lack of control. She is fearful of the hold it has on her and simply being unable to manage it. It is her dirty little secret. She tries to pretend that it is a casual activity. She puffed and pushed me up to Groot Constantia this morning and on the trot through the vineyards, I felt her come alive. I get the endorphins, I get the ecstasy of achievement . I am just so scared that she will compromise me, or for that sake, my partner in crime, and all will be lost. She knows it too. I do not want to fail her again.
I have no need to whisper to or jab her at present, I am not feeling pain. Long may she be free to run. Our bodies and body members are all part of a temple are they not?
I suddenly feel that in some ways my middle age is a huge disappointment. Besides realising that there are so many things that I wanted to do, but now may not fit them in, there seem to be continuous stumbling blocks that I had thought would miraculously be out of the way at this stage of my life. Pheromones, hormones, menopause, mid life crisis, whatever it is, once a woman is in her fifties there is a subtle and sometimes not so subtle shift in her needs. It is not necessarily our partners, our jobs, or our children we have had enough of, its ourselves. The years of carefully constructed lives that have made us wives, career women, mothers, suddenly feels totally dissatisfying. Let’s be honest, nowadays most of us hit middle age and still have a whole heap of caring duties. Teenage children, adult children, elderly parents, domineering in-laws, partners agonising over dodgy business partners, not uncommon for us to find we have become full time psychiatric nurses to those around us. We are all proficient liars, to ourselves and those around us, because without a carapace daily life would be impossible. We have learnt to construct carefully, our ways of being women, the ways we present ourselves to a world in which we are constantly observed and constantly judged. Middle aged women have disassociation down to a fine art. Try spending just one day being totally honest with those close to you, in both your home and workspace, and you may not have a friend, job or spouse by the end of it.
Is this our mid life crisis which is a transition of identity and self confidence? We are at the stage where there is a general downward drift of our physical features as weight and gravity take their toll and this coincides with increased self awareness and the realisation that we have finally got a bit better at working out what we want. So where we are empowered on the one hand, we become a little insecure on the other. Carol Burnett quoted, “I finally got my head together, and my ass falls apart.”
So how do we articulate this dissatisfaction? How do we experiment with other ways of being ourselves without hurting those we love and destroying what we have? The tragedy for so many of us is that the desire to experiment with a different self can destroy the life we are leading, when all we really want is a holiday from it.
Perhaps men have always been “allowed” the mid life crisis more readily, when all our lives, both men and women are a process of constant negotiation with the different selves we want to be at different times.
The feeling that you forget until it is awakened. As happily married or involved as you can be you can suddenly become captivated. You become aware of his every move, nuance, tilt of his head, you can feel his eyes on you. As you pass things across a laden lunch table, the hairs on your arms raise as his skin briefly touches yours. The friction brings colour to your throat and you can hear yourself breathing, ears thumping. Surreptitiously, you glance around to see if anyone is noticing this discomfort, but the cutlery is clanging as people are eating, voices are raised between mouthfuls of food and gorgeous wine. When you are touched by this power, perhaps enjoy the glow, the tumultuous ups and downs of emotions, and then let it pass. The awakening is sweet. Alternately become the rationalist who acts on a moment of impulse.
I’m loving writing this, as right now, I am sure that every one of you ladies reading this, is identifying on some level. Perhaps over analysing this change is pointless, but it is always so good to know that there are many of us out there, who are so grateful on one hand for the life we lead, and so dissatisfied on another level, and we don’t communicate it, because we feel guilty.
I happened to read my friends blog this morning fulfilled-life.com and her very title is “Living behind the mask of accomplishment. Its time to come out of the fog.”
The technical term of disassociation is the feeling we all get, when sometimes whether you are walking to your car, or sitting on a bench, we feel unreal, as if we are watching ourselves in the film of our own lives. How happy is your film?
Honne (true sound) and tatemae (facade) are Japanese words that describe the contrast between a person’s true feelings and desires and the behaviour and opinions that they display in public.
As much as we all go on about how being older, enables us to say exactly what we mean, accept only what we are prepared too, in essence, take control, find our voices. There are so many times, that we can’t express what we need too. When for whatever reason, there are things we need to keep to ourselves and weather the storms alone, as sharing them can cause unnecessary hurt.
“Our little sister” is story about a Japanese family of three sisters, who hear of and attend their father’s funeral and discover a little sister, who they willingly take into their home and hearts and another, “Like father, like son,” (pic above) another Japanese movie currently available where 2 families are ripped apart when they discover that their six year old sons were swopped at birth in hospital. Words that come to mind about the Japanese people based on these are kindness, humility, control, respectful, contained, welcoming, ritualistic, vociferously non judgmental, and it begs me to ponder if maybe we share too much and too hard. Perhaps less is more, to contain your feelings from the world leaves you more respected and in control of yourself. In both of these stories, the backgrounds of the main characters were fraught with pain, disappointments, hurt and unspoken feelings. Amal, is a Japanese concept/word that is used to describe people’s behaviour when they desire to be loved, depending on another person, whether it be your parents, your wife/husband or even your boss with a certain meaning of submission. We all desire to be loved, and to be loved we crave the reciprocation and submit ourselves to whom we seek the love from.
I chose to share many months ago that Depression and Loneliness haunt me from time to time. They seem to cohabit. Sometimes in the morning when I wake up I can sense a faint trace of Depression’s smoke, but he has gone somewhere in the night and taken his buddy Loneliness with him. In the vine of this story, perhaps I should have kept it to myself, but I need you friends of old and those met recently who have walked this road with your children. You can’t help them feel better or fix them, you can just be alongside them. Sometimes the lines between honne and tatemae become blurred.
The closing line of Greys Anatomy last night was…”We have to hold it together for as long as we can”
So go gently all of us. We have to hold it together and we will, we are of resilient stuff, even when are hearts are breaking.
Having coffee with a friend this morning, we were gleefully discussing the venue of a new stylish hotel in Cape Town. We were both absolutely blown away by the magnificence of the simplicity of the reception area. A rich worn looking, tapestry like, Persian carpet, tasteful placing of art, the rest uncluttered, unencumbered by “stuff” to fill the space.
Unfortunately for most of us, it takes a scare before we realise the importance, the love of, the devastation at the potential loss of that human before we take stock. I have had a few such wake up calls but the most heart wrenching has been my best friend and my daughters best friend.
Picture this, because there are many of us that do this. I was flicking through Facebook posts one morning and noticed a beautiful picture of the Mom and daughter, as I was about to just click the “like” button, words further down the page caught my eye, “please pray, Amy is fighting for her life.” I went cold, heart racing, I made the call. Indeed, what enfolded were days of uncertainty and fear for her family and for her. Would she survive the series of mini strokes, would there be paralysis, would her brain be affected?
While out on a regular early morning run, this supremely fit child turned and felt a pain shoot down her neck. As she ran, she mentioned it, she completed the run, she had breakfast, before she went home to shower and get ready for work. Only then did the nightmare begin. Once showered, nausea engulfed her and she began vomiting, she then could no longer hold onto the bowl she was using or hold her body weight. Total disorientation followed and the horrific drive to the hospital had her eyes rolling to the back of her head. Just like that. Little strokes were occurring and this feisty child/adult was suddenly at the mercy of the universe, every second that was ticking was time not to be wasted.
As caught up as I was in the actual drama, my being was totally overcome for Wendy. I imagined her little face, strained, and willing Amy on. This is not supposed to happen to us or our children, is it? It is always someone else, and we say, “I wonder how on earth they coped?” I could hear the raw emotion in her voice as she bravely recounted the days progress or setbacks. I sobbed at night after listening to her, willing her on. I have never felt so distanced from anyone before and I am so ashamed that I let our friendship tick by on Facebook. You see, this friend of mine, is one of the most selfless human beings I know. She makes friends and she is yours for life, her family have learned that from her too. Their lives are rich with love for each other and all those connected to them.
This tale has a very happy ending. Amy, being Amy has fought tooth and nail. The little body that couldn’t support itself is confidently getting her around. Her old signature guffaw has returned. Her fine motor coordination is improving every day. She religiously rolls out play dough, does beading, practises her writing, bounces balls, exercises, she is back to work a few hours a day. She is fine and will end up stronger in every way as these sorts of shocks make you take note.
My lesson learned…… Look after your friendships, don’t leave them to social media. Do not fill them with external clutter. To all of us who exercise perhaps a little too excessively, listen to your body, it whispers to you all the time.
“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)
An oversight but the ramifications were so painful. I have pondered over writing this blog, but I have finally decided to share.
There are many of us who have multifaceted parenting structures in place and I particularly say this, as the norm when referring to a divorced household is “broken homes.” I fiercely contest that my home is broken. The relationships of the children in it are rich. They are confident, caring, intelligent humans, who watch over each other fiercely, all three are gentle spirited and treat me with love and respect. I have never faltered in insecurity at their regard for me and the total love and devotion I receive.
Leaving my youngest in a different province was one of the hardest decisions I made. My health dictated that a significant change was necessary and the opportunity arose in Cape Town. I packed up and made that trip three and bit years ago. Staying as connected in his school life has not been as easy compared to the locals, but I have been guided by his requests and have attended as many gatherings as possible. I believe that it has partly to do with my absence that he has become the independent man he is today. I have not been on tap to pick up pieces. He has found a voice, he is articulate, a force to be reckoned with in his own way, and has a rich array of friendships across all age groups. His relationship with his father and stepmother have had a chance to flourish, for which I am proud and so grateful to her, to step into this important role so graciously and with love for my child.
Matric has descended on us; he has acquired his driver’s license, and is closer to total independence. A few more months of hard work and dedication are required. The school calendar card dictates my diary with the fist major event in our lives being the Matric Ball 2017.
Excitement started for the Ball over the course of his last mid-term break when we went out shopping for his outfit. We matched up a waistcoat, bought the tie, the shirt for his cufflinks. We discussed his buttonhole and the appropriate flowers for his date of choice. I booked our flights, car hire and organized our accommodation. I was filled with much anticipation and excitement.
Friday EARLY morning airport check-in eventually arrived. In communication with him, I was only due at the “Pre Drinks and Photo Session” at 6.30pm. I queried with him, if I had the time right as it all seemed like a lot to fit into before a 7pm ball. I luxuriously spent the morning and lunch with an old friend and daughter, languidly left to fetch the flowers and then treated myself to a wash and blow dry to look my best for the evening, all in perfectly good time.
Forward a few hours. I look great, my hair is swishing on my shoulders, I’ve bathed and changed, I’m leaving my accommodation (also close friends) to turn onto the highway with half an hour’s travelling time when my cellphone rings. “Where are you Mom? Are you close?”
“I’ve just turned onto the highway my boy, I’ll be there for 6.30pm.”
“Oh, but we are leaving at 6.30pm for the ball.”
My heartbeat started pounding in my ears, my hands went clammy, stay calm, stay calm, don’t lose it, don’t spoil the evening I started slowly chanting to myself.
“I’m coming at 6.30pm as we discussed, what do you mean you’re leaving?”
“Oh, the Pre drinks, changing and photos started at 4pm, sorry Mom, I must have forgotten to tell you and only told Dad.”
Eardrums pounding, I’m quiet, I stay in control.
“I’m driving as fast as possible, please hang on so I at least get a chance to see you both before you leave, or otherwise I will drive straight to school and see you there?”
“We will wait as long as possible Mom, drive quickly.”
So the hired Nissan Go exceeded all expectations. It screeched into Gowrie Golf Club and came to a grinding halt. He and his partner had waited. In the exchange of buttonholes and flowers, I didn’t get an immediate photo. They then jumped into his Dad’s smart car to get to school. Once again the Nissan chased to keep up. I lunged out of the car and chased them to the venue. He turned, waited, posed and I finally got my photo, they then turned and walked away from me. My god, I felt like I had been punched on what must feature as one of the most beautiful nights of his life to date.
Feeling defeated I found myself at the front of the pomp and ceremony, watching each couple walk the red carpet towards the entrance. He suddenly appeared at the entrance, his tall frame graciously greeting the staff. I called and he saw me, beaming as he slowly took the walk. Gratefully I got that on video.
What transpired after that for me was a wonderful evening with other parents. We laughed with abandon at their antics and growth over the five years and lauded their achievements. I got to see the photos I had missed. I had a wonderful evening.
What is it then, that makes me feel like a petulant child? Do I feel childishly usurped? I did have a wonderful evening, I did spend quality time with him the next day watching hockey matches and snoozing with him in the afternoon. So here I am, middle aged, and still full of the kind of angst that I thought I’d said goodbye to in my forties.
No child of mine would willingly hurt me, so to all of us, a lesson learnt. Do not presume you have passed on information if you are not sure. Be gentle with your love. A Mother’s love is unconditional.
angst – a feeling of persistent worry about something trivial
Temerity – noun – excessive confidence or boldness, audacity, barefaced cheek, gall, presumption, brazen, forward, rash…..
Summonsed for a family lunch I go with some trepidation, but acknowledge that there are just some things one has to do right?
To explain, I have had an abundance of uncomfortable encounters and have always held myself in check, preferring to stay away and be quiet. After ten years my predecessor’s name is most often used on introducing me, my religion has been hit on and tried to be debated , my divorce status has been bandied about with alacrity, to quote, “She is a very nice woman you know but she has been married twice already!” silence….”Oh goodness so have you Dear!” Go figure, who does this?
Small and feisty, dynamite in a jar. Jovial to all who know her, but the joke is most often at the expense of someone else. So back to lunch. After all these years I meet my brother in law for the second time and seat myself next to him. Quiet, with a gentle twinkle in his eye, hugely intelligent, we chat quietly and listen to the louder table participants. Suddenly she launches, “What have you got on your ears?” “Heavens, are they a trophy?” “Did you win them at running Dear and wear them?”Of course the table starts tittering, but I am now older and not going to feel stupid anymore. You see, I chose my earrings carefully to go with the top I was wearing. “No, I replied, I actually bought them because I like them.” More laughter pursues, but now a little uncomfortably. Daughter dashes in, “Mum, how rude!” The attention is then diverted by plates being removed.
With lunch over we move to the outside verandah and take a seat. There is happy banter with an old friend, and plans are being made for B&B keys delivery and talk of walks and hikes in the area. I stand to leave as a Kirstenbosch Concert awaits my Sunday afternoon, I feel her eyes lock in on my jeans, my purpose-made “torn” jeans and immediately she says, “Goodness, what have you got on Dear?”
“I have jeans on, and I didn’t win these either.”