THE WAY THINGS ARE
By Colette Ni Reamonn Ioannidou
The storm was descending as I strode out, and it had nothing to do with the gunmetal grey skies sulking over the Kyrenia mountains that had turned the old rocks to a deep purple as the pale sun scuttled away in dread of the approaching rain. It was my personal storm, the thing Churchill called his ‘black dog’. I prefer Steinbeck’s East of Eden term, Weltschmertz – world weariness. Some of us suffer depression; it’s a constant, the extent and duration depending on circumstances. Some use pills to help, other battle in different ways.
I had weeks of pain and annoyance with a trapped nerve that made walking excruciating. I’m not a sitter, I like movement. My fear was that, at my age, I might be left hopping and slow. I was not alone. I’d run into two friends my own age both on sticks, both walkers who were as disgruntled as I was. The thing about getting old for the practical woman as opposed to the high maintenance woman is not the wrinkles; some can afford to have the fault lines on their faces plastered over or filled in. Nor is it the hair losing its lustre and colour, that’s easily rectified. It’s the bones that betray us, clicking and clacking like demented castanets and giving us grief. I have lost the ability to wear heels and I miss them. I wear sensible shoes and I allow myself to recall Sandra Bullock striding out in FBI issue shoes in Miss Congeniality and tell myself they are dignified instead of fogey-ish. In fact, I was given them by a policewoman pal. These shoes were made for walking!
It’s the downers that accumulate, things that happen to a woman as she gathers years behind her instead of in front of her. When we are young we face the decades: Oh, I’m almost thirty, I’m old! You’re not, you’re wonderful. A couple of years in and we realise it’s not the end of the world. We’re still young, still productive. Then we face forty and hate it. Oh God! I’m old. No, you’re not; you’re in your prime. My forties were my most productive years. Then fifty looms and it’s not that you’re old but you have to face the fact that your charms are fading. Not that they have to now, lines can be ironed away and boobs hoisted or enhanced, bums and thighs whittled away at the gym or by liposuction. The period, however, is on the way out, hence its being derived from the Greek which means the stopping of the bloody thing: the menopause. One of my friends said she barely knew she was going through it. Personally, it gave me hell and seemed to last for ages. Sixty was a joy, a relief. All that was behind me I was free and feeling good about it.
As you get older it’s the years that count. My mother had me, her seventh – four were delivered dead – when she was forty-eight. She used to smile and say, ‘If a woman had the first and a man had the second, there would never be a third.’ She was probably right. Men get off easily… no pun intended. They deliver the goods and thereafter play a mostly supporting role. It’s the female period, under normal circumstances, that allows birth and they can come as early as twelve or thirteen and last for decades – the tampons and towels years. Then the mens kick in. Perhaps if the mens had to suffer all the inconveniences women had to, the world would be a more sympathetic place.
Chores completed, I arrived home as soupspoon drops of rain began to pelt me, to find a cake-making friend had left one of her delicious products hanging from a bag on my door handle. Gather while ye may, grey skies, storm clouds, black dogs and all. I have cake for tea! Be thankful for all the small mercies that brighten your life, allow them to warm the dark places.