I am looking out at the world through tired eyes, jaded eyes, at a world that is no longer my friend. I wake each morning unrested, move through my days with a repetition that no longer offers comfort. My body aches as I draw each breath deep into my soul. I am empty and alone, serving those around me, a cog that turns unnoticed.
It was not always this way. Once I was considered a bright young thing, pretty, ambitious, fun to be with. I was sought out, invited along, a welcome part of other’s lives. What happened?
I allowed myself to be subsumed by those I loved, what had been me disappeared. For years I had purpose, too busy to notice that I had lost what had been valued.
And then I aged. The energy and vitality had gone along with the looks and the regard. When I peeled back the front that I was expected to present to the world, all that was left was a shadow.
Perhaps I should simply have put on a show, is that how we oldies are expected to behave? I am looked at askance when I do not conform, I am criticised, although rarely to my face. I know, you know, I know what they say.
I have a void that needs to be filled, a desire to show that there is a person inside this oversized, ageing shell. I think and I feel just as I did before, even if the world no longer wishes to notice.
What is our purpose when we pass our sell by date? How can we give when there is no one to take? I will not complain about how I am treated, demanding respect merely for ageing successfully. If I desire change then it is I who must change.
Yet always I am tired, achy and so alone. I brought this on myself.
Carol took a deep breath as she put her key in the lock, steeling herself for the trial ahead. These visits had become a burden, a dreaded chore. Where once she would have popped in cheerfully, several times a week, she now found reasons to postpone until guilt forced her to face up to what she considered her duty.
Opening the door she stepped into the hallway, noting the stale air, the lingering smell of last night’s dinner. Her mother was sitting in her usual chair, smiling, happy to see her only daughter, ready to unburden herself of her many complaints and opinions.
Carol unpacked the shopping she had brought, tidied the small kitchen and made a pot of tea, all the while updating her mother on the family’s comings and goings. It was only when she sat down that her mother would start on her litany of woes.
The carer had been rushed as usual, no time for a chat; next door had played their loud music until gone midnight, no consideration; a child’s ball was in her back garden, was she expected to throw it back when she could barely bend? The volunteer driver had been late to take her to her hospital appointment…
‘…and after all that he took the £5 I offered him!’
‘ Why did you offer him money if you didn’t want him to take it? You know it’s a free service, but those who can afford it can make a voluntary contribution’
‘So he thinks I can afford it does he? Thinks I’m made of money, me a poor widow on a pension’
‘If you offer money he will take it. Don’t offer if you don’t want to pay’
‘I’d be better off taking a taxi the amount that so called free service is costing me. You told me it was free when you sorted it’
‘It is free mum, and a taxi would cost you at least £15’
‘£15! That’s robbery. I couldn’t afford that. I don’t know why you don’t take me in that car of yours, that would be easier all round’
‘Mum, you go to the hospital too often for me to manage every visit. I take you when I can’
‘When you feel like it more like, when you can be bothered. What could be more important than your own mother’s health? Do you know how poorly I get?’
‘The volunteer drivers get you to the hospital when you need to go’
‘Selfish, that’s what you are. How did I end up with such a selfish daughter?’
Carol stayed a little over an hour, it was all she could cope with today. She promised to return later in the week but her offer to take her mother out for some air was declined. There was no doubt that the older woman had multiple health problems, but she played them for all she was worth. Carol left feeling exhausted, deflated. Here was another family member that she could never please.
Damien was delighted to find the house empty when he returned home from school. Normally his mother was there with her inane questions and irritating habits. Scouring the cupboards and fridge for food he prepared a stack of toast and a pot noodle for himself, carrying it upstairs to eat in front of his computer. He had just made it to his sanctuary when he heard her key in the front door. Shutting himself in he hoped against hope that she would leave him in peace.
Alan barely noticed his wife these days. She was there when he got home from work, making the dinner or pottering in the kitchen. She would smile and ask the same questions, pass on mundane anecdotes about her day. He noticed that the house was never quite as clean as it had once been, that the food she prepared rarely changed. She sometimes complained about her figure but did nothing to improve her looks. Most of what she said drifted over his head and was forgotten, irrelevant, colourless as her.
I will change, I will take back control of my life, I will shake it up and become what I know I can be. It would be an improvement for us all if I had more energy, more interest, more character. It would be an improvement for us all if I were happy.
I will find a way to escape from this cell I have built around myself, I will somehow find the means to fight this lethargy and reticence. There is no need to walk away, I can do this from here, not for them, but for me.