I’m a woman of many contradictions. I have an iron will when it suits me and nothing anyone does, or says, can dissuade me from my chosen path. However, when it’s to do with technology I can give up at the first hurdle, leave the problem for days and then ask someone else to solve it for me. Today though, I’ve made a pact with myself to tackle problems when they arise and only ask people for advice, not to do the job for me. Now that it’s there in print I know I’ll commit myself to keeping the pact.
So what is it about the written word that I find so powerful? Is it that I feel I’ve signed a contract or legal document, or is it that publicly breaking a promise is shameful to me? I honestly don’t know the answer to that and it probably has a lot to do with issues of self-esteem, but ever since I could first translate squiggles on the page and unlock their meaning I have been in awe of words and what they can do. My brother refuses to have ‘discussions’ with me because, and I quote, ‘You always have to win and anyway, you know too many words’. Have to win? Moi? Surely not. Yet words have always been potent allies – what I couldn’t fight with my fists I fought with my mouth.
About ten years ago I cracked up big time and the CPN suggested I set myself 3 targets for each day, which I had to write down. At first they were things like: get up and dress; make a meal; eat it. I can still remember the struggle I had to achieve those targets, but because they were written down, the targets were somehow compulsory and I was powerless against them. They became my way back to ordinary life and every morning, before I get up, I still set myself achievable targets for the day ahead, which I then review the following morning and set new ones.
As a writer, what I love about words are the infinite choices available to me, the way changing their order changes meaning and the way I can manipulate them to illuminate or obscure. As a woman approaching the autumn of her life what terrifies me about words is the brain’s ability to lose them, rendering me someone other than who I am. Already some words are being replaced with ‘thingy’; titles of books, films, and music are momentarily lost alongside names of people and places. The time to worry is when they’re lost permanently but getting older is certainly taking its toll on me.
I can walk down the street and young people, walking three abreast on the pavement, are oblivious to my presence and force me off into the road without even an acknowledgement. I can stand at a bar waiting to be served and the guy next to me or tall woman behind me will invariably get served first. Passing people in the street I can say ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Hello there,’ or some other such greeting and unless the person is over 35 I rarely get a response. I don’t think it is an agist thing as that implies a deliberateness about the acts, I think they just don’t see me because I’m ‘old’.
More often than not I holiday alone and, conversely, I am often noticed because I am ‘old’ and doing things that are not ‘expected’ of someone my age. So it will be interesting on the coming trip to see if there is any difference in how people react/relate to two aged wrecks. Nine years ago, when we went to Hawaii together, we sat on the plane, our headphones tuned into the same radio channel, singing all the songs of the 50s,60s and 70s complete with shoo-wop-beedoobey-doobeys, entertaining everyone in the seats around us. Let’s hope nothing has changed.