On the terrace of the RSC Stratford-upon Avon
Beloved sitting on the left.
The thought has been in my head off and on for the past two weeks, so yesterday I googled it. Mr Google has the answer to everything and cites many examples of self-sabotage. Picking just one of the many, here is a psychiatrist and career consultant saying: "We unconsciously respond to stressful situations in ways that hurt us.”
My situation is stressful, yet, there are women in Valley’s End who have a much harder row to hoe than me. And, in public anyway, they appear to be coping better than me. I can tell they are tired, I can tell they wish things were easier, but they remain cheerful, they smile, they cajole and badger and drag their poor old relics into the bright light of public display. And it does both them and their spouses good.
I went to see my lovely GP for a minor niggle of my own and, him being an absolute gem of a man, he said that I must get out by myself at least once a week, that I must continue with activities I enjoy and, most of all, stay in contact with friends and have as much social interaction as is available.
And that is exactly where the doggie lies buried: I am not, never have been, a fan of organised or communal entertainment. The ladies I mentioned in the earlier paragraph are never happier than when they are in the company of many, sitting at a table for twelve, say, in fast and furious conversation, shouting louder than anyone else - in a nice way - and generally having a wonderful time.
We’ve tried it. We’ve joined a pensioners’ luncheon club. Beloved sat over his plate, miserable, deeply bored, irritated by the noise; I sat opposite him, equally bored, inwardly fuming. Why can’t we see these lovely people for what they are: salt of the earth and making the best of a bad job. My hearing is good, I can’t decide whether that was an advantage or a disadvantage during the riotous banter going on.
We have yet to try a daycare centre. On the face of it, it would be a good place to drop Beloved off while I continued into Shrewsbury for some me-time, but the moment the kind and compassionate staff showed signs of organising games and communal activities he’d grab his stick and crawl out of the place.
Call us stand-offish, conceited, superior twits, but we find a quiet lunch for four or a trip to the theatre much preferable. We did both, had a lovely lunch with a couple where the husband is in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s, when we mostly talked about books; we also went to Stratford to see a performance of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline with just two friends. Whereas the communal jollities happen frequently, the outings we prefer come round only occasionally, leaving us isolated and at a loss to know what to do for the best. Although I may wish we were temperamentally suited to join in and, in the safety of a group of sociable, boisterous and gregarious people, forget our woes, going against our nature - Beloved and I are very similar in that respect - won’t do us any good either.
Once life was joyful and exciting, complex and satisfying. Now we realise that it is finite and sad and can be intensely frightening. Whatever it is, it has to be borne. And I don’t believe that going with my instincts makes me an enemy to myself.
To each his own.