Wise and otherwise

Dear Uma: It's the kind of day that makes one feel like putting on flannel pajamas, all lowering clouds and the smell of cold.

Dear Uma:

It’s the kind of day that makes one feel like putting on flannel pajamas, all lowering clouds and the smell of cold. Instead, I force myself into sweater and jeans and take enormous mugs of tea to my desk, to sit there staring at piles of books and notes.

The human brain is said to have the consistency of custard, one of those facts of life I would have been better off not knowing, let alone being entirely unable to forget. There must be at least half a dozen times in each day where something occurs to remind me of my custard, and staring at the pile of work on my desk is one of them because I can feel it solidify as I attempt to think about how to go about assembling the mess into a coherent and commercially viable thing.

Sometimes it feels as though being self-employed is the hard way to earn a living, but the feeling rapidly dissipates when I begin to consider the alternatives; in a world where patriarchal hierarchy still rules, the only other jobs can be described in two words: “yes, Master,” and this is demonstrated powerfully enough to have kept me from joining the ranks of those who have a boss.

There are a couple of writing jobs I have come across that have some appeal, though not enough to make me apply. The folks that write the restrictions for movies, for instance; how much fun must it be to come up with warnings for parents such as “mild peril” or “adult situations” with which to baffle and worry moms and dads who are trying to act responsibly. The naming of paint colours, or nail polishes, would be a good gig: just take a bunch of words, mix ‘em up, submit “gone bananas” or “green twilight” or “celebrity bash” and cash your paycheque.

Before I stop lollygagging (now there’s a lovely word) and get to work there are a few things I need to say, especially after hearing that new, thin tone in your voice on the phone last night. It sounds as though you are finally getting fed up with your life being so full up. I didn’t think you had a limit, to tell you the truth; your schedule has always been one that made me feel like a sloth.

Something is changing in you and it’s worrying me. We are both getting older, learning to deal with all the crap that comes with this final stretch of life’s journey, but you are sounding as though you aren’t getting the time to get to know this emerging self, the crone. She ain’t pretty, but she’s smart and in this time in our culture there are more of the flabby-armed Us than there are Them. You know Them, those whose every movement screams “Young! No pain!”

There are some good aspects to getting older. One learns to relax about things one spent most of youth obsessing about. As an adult and a single woman past the first flush of youth, I used to obsess about ending up alone, weight, smoking, and spending money on travelling instead of real estate. Now, married and getting old I realize I am not fat, I don’t wheeze, and I still have a bank account.

I find I am not so intent on happiness; I don’t need to have that buzz all the time. There is more content, comfort, and gratitude; there is more of a noticing of kindness, loyalty, and the beauty of the world. There is ease, and a better understanding more of how people work, along with a readiness to forgive the ones that don’t work, though not before griping a lot about them. We are definitely not going to pass on the chance to meet the expectation that age = crabby. Older people feel less compunction about expressing their dissatisfactions and isn’t that on the up side of becoming senior?

It is the time of attention to relationships and making the effort to deepen and strengthen them. It is the time to realize some relationships need a merciful ending.

Aging and living in this small town, I have learned a lot about this phase in a woman’s life. There have been none of the distractions of life in a friendlier climate; there has been instead the time to reflect, ponder, and discover new thoughts and ideas while reworking some old ones.

A lot of this has happened for me from living in one place for more than a year, from having a partner and a home. Maybe it wouldn’t have come if I was living in another place, or even if I were still single, but in any case it has come and I am glad.

We need to make the time, Uma; we need to try to understand now who we’ve become and who we are not and how we are going to deal with a lot of things we’d never anticipated. It is the best of luck that we live in the times and in the places that we do; we have the luxury of comfortable homes, meaningful work, and the time, if we chose, to do something with our middle years other than trying to keep up the hectic pace of our youth.

The horse business is a 24/7 endeavour, yet for years you managed to combine it with child-rearing, running a large and busy household, entertaining, and even doing some volunteer work. You were a marvel, Uma, in those youthful years; I was not the only person awed by your talent and your drive. Your commitment to your horses, your family and your community was admirable; the rest of us paled in comparison, not matter what we were engaged in.

Finally, right about the time there was talk of Andrew’s retiring, you hired Juan. We all assumed you did this in order to free yourself up to spend some quality time with your husband. I was not alone in believing this meant you were about to slow down a little, spend some time doing for you instead of for everyone else. Then Jason and his wife decide to move onto the property and start an organic market garden, with your help, of course. And when their baby arrived, naturally you took on some of the child care.

You did it all with ease and grace, making it look as though you not only had it all but you knew how to keep juggling all those balls forever.

Of course it turned out you there was one thing you were not taking care of and that was your marriage. I thought when Andrew left you might slow down a bit, take some more time to smell the roses, but no; instead you take Juan as your lover, embarking on all the stress and turmoil of a new relationship.

I am not saying a lover is not a good thing, and Juan is lovely, but you can’t ignore the fact that the change in your relationship with him is loaded with implications for both of you. Not only has he been moved from his status as a valued employee to a live-in partner but he is also 10 years younger than you.

And now Andrew has become ill, perhaps fatally, and has moved back into the bosom of his family. Geez! No wonder you sound so tightly wound; and believe me, you do.

Do you think maybe it’s time to clear the decks; to delegate or even abdicate? I suggest another just-us-two getaway time; how does Portland sound? There is a five-day cruise we could take that involves hiking, biking, and kayaking but I am thinking we could forgo the three strenuous days and go for the winery tour and the visit to Mount St. Helen’s. The busy days we could spend in deck chairs with wine and talk while the rest of the passengers go off to hike, bike, and kayak.

Just call me and I will book the trip; all you have to do is meet me there. It really sounds as though you could use the break, and more importantly the opportunity to unload to me, your best friend what loves you, as we used to say in our bygone, carefree days. I will advise, listen, or a combination – whatever you indicate will work best for you in accessing my wisdom.

Remember, there is wise and then there is otherwise.



Heather Bennett is a writer who

lives in Watson Lake.