I was quite pleased with myself last week. There are few weeks when I can sidestep the black hole altogether, and keeping a black cock hatched in March as a protection against evil spirits - it is said they are terrified of his crowing - isn’t on the cards as I don’t keep chickens, so feeling good about myself and the world around me was surprisingly pleasant. I must try it more often. This week started a little less bright but at least the weather wasn’t all bad. Afternoon sun threw shadows across the field, and the river sparkled. Paul and I chucked a couple of hours' work at the garden too, another first for the year. I’ll get those pesky endorphins moving yet. In fact, I’d better. A winter of sitting on the sofa reading books and eating chocolate has done my shape no favours at all. I got on the scales the other day and took a quick look over my shoulder to see if anybody behind me was putting a foot on; but no, it was all me. A lot of me.
The reason I was feeling proud of myself last week was a very simple one: I rediscovered the joys of going outside my comfort zone. In a previous existence I depended on no one but myself for everything, child raising, money earning, household keeping etc. All the obligations of adulthood landed on my shoulders. Not a state of being I’d wholeheartedly recommend. With Beloved it all changed; the children had grown up and left - that blissful state all of you whining about empty nest syndrome will one day come to appreciate - and I became not only a kept woman but one who found a solid presence beside her at all times.
And now that solid presence isn’t quite as solid as it was and I am having to relearn being the one who not only does, but also makes a lot of the decisions to do what, when, where and how. It happens. Take driving to town and going shopping. Any kind of driving, in fact. Beloved didn’t feel like coming along, so I went off by myself.
“I am a bus virgin”, I said to the uniformed driver of indeterminate gender, as I stepped on board the ‘park-and-ride’ in the county town - s/he had a kind of curly halo of dark hair and I didn’t want to stare - “please tell me how this works.” I always find people are willing to teach you anything provided you act dumb and ask nicely.
Shrewsbury is a lovely town, with steep lanes and smart little shops. Once I’d completed the main errand, collecting a watch from the jewellers’, I decided to roam. I bought some new undies, a lipstick, some smart notepads, a few tasty treats at the delicatessen’s and made various other totally unnecessary purchases, only limited by having to carry them to the ‘park-and-ride’ which would take me to the car park on the edge of town, the supermarket for boring groceries, and thence the hour's drive back home to Valley’s End.
It was nothing, most of you do this daily, but I’ve been leading my life in tandem for many years now and going it alone is a whole new, slightly scary but not unpleasant, departure. Throughout the week I kept up this determination to step out of the twosome. We had dinner guests, a meal which I planned, shopped for and cooked - something usually goes wrong, this time I burnt the roasted vegetables. Prof. Tony was kind enough to say that he preferred his vegetables crispy - ; I drove us to a theatre one night, only a short journey, but I’ve been avoiding night driving for a long time; going to a restaurant on my own was something I did all the time years ago, now I am doing that again too. Beloved will still accompany me on many outings but sometimes he feels the effort is too much and not worth it.
The shadow of old age encroaching on daily life is something we must all face eventually, but it needn’t be the death knell of all endeavour, singly or jointly.