My Mirror Speaks

Age has a nasty habit of creeping up on one and asserting itself when least expected. You can chug along, quite happily oblivious to the fact that you are getting older, and then, BAM, it jumps up and hits you in the bloody face.

The other night I had a rather disconcerting dream. I dreamt that I, wrapped in a towel, was about to take a shower in some sort of communal bathroom. A good-looking, young man walked in, carrying a violin case. He was dressed all in black, as if he played in an orchestra, and had lovely, long dark hair. He put the violin down and, smiling at me, started to undress. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m going to shower with you” he replied. I protested and tried to push him out of the shower when a woman my age walked into the bathroom. She raised her eyebrows at the scene and I, feeling embarrassed, tried to explain that it wasn’t how it looked and that the young man was just leaving. After he left she turned to me and said “I don’t know why he would be attracted to an older woman.” It was then that I woke up in a cold sweat. Omigod, I am the older woman! I found it difficult to get back to sleep after that and even more difficult to drag myself out of bed the following morning.

I know that dreams are not meant to be taken literally and I hope that none of you are experts in dream analysis as I fear I might have just unwittingly revealed some of my more subconscious neuroses. Be that as it may, the dream did force me to take a long hard look in the mirror and reflect on how I’m dealing with getting older. That, and a Skype call to my daughter just before Christmas gave me the kick up my backside that I desperately needed in order to get my act together, mentally and physically.

Kiera and James spent their Christmas holidays on Long Island in the Bahamas. We were chatting on Skype and I was oohing and aahing over the video cam pictures of their villa which was right on a beautiful Caribbean beach. I happened to mention how much I wished we could be there too and Kiera’s response was “Why don’t we all meet up next Christmas in Belize?” After Peter, Alex and I had exchanged puzzled glances and quickly Googled Belize, we all agreed “Why the bloody hell not?” Now, if in fact my next family holiday requires me to wear a swimming costume in public, I have more than enough incentive to get back in shape.

I shall be 58 years old in June and in the past couple of years I have allowed myself to slip into bad habits. Not only have I become more sedentary but I am eating more than I need to and exercising less. As a result I am becoming increasingly lazy and my stomach is expanding exponentially. This is not healthy, it is not comfortable and it certainly isn’t attractive. It is also not going to help me as I get older – we all know that old age is not for sissies and in order to stay one step ahead of becoming a geriatric one needs to stay fit and healthy.

In the early 80’s I taught as a volunteer English teacher at a rural school on the Makhathini Flats. One of the other teachers, Mr Gcina, used to say quite emphatically that he was very “dettermined” about all sorts of issues. It took awhile before I realised that he was mispronouncing the word “determined”. This has become my mantra (it sounds so much more resolute) – I am absolutely dettermined to change these bad habits I’ve fallen into.

The main issue to tackle first was my lack of daily structure and focus. Let’s face it, I had become idle – getting up late, fart-arsing around during the day playing online bridge and lying in bed at night, eating dinner, drinking wine and watching any old crap on the telly. I had stopped doing what I enjoy (walking Layla, gardening, taking photos, exploring the countryside, yoga and writing – even writing my blog seemed like too much effort). And with no routine, mealtimes became erratic; instead I snacked constantly throughout the day.

So in order to get back on track I’m now trying to structure my day more creatively. I am waking up early again and have begun doing a 20 – 30 minute stint of exercise and yoga EVERY morning. What started off as agony, I now look forward to, especially as I find myself becoming more agile and flexible and my breathing less laboured (being an asthmatic this was a bit of a concern). I am eating less because we are now sitting down to 2 meals a day (breakfast and supper usually) and snacking is a thing of the past because I no longer have time to mooch about the house, bored and disgruntled. This is because I’ve been asked to take over the fundraising portfolio for a local Trust, which supports the nearby Curry’s Post primary school (which caters mostly for farm workers’ children).

Perhaps this is just what I needed, I hope so.

Oh, and I’ve dusted off my camera.

playing peek-a-boo with a malachite sunbird

playing peek-a-boo with a malachite sunbird

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to My Mirror Speaks

  1. Chris Ammann says:

    Cathy, the reminders of increasing age can indeed be disconcerting. One of my favourite poems is by Silvia Plath:


    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
    What ever you see I swallow immediately
    Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
    I am not cruel, only truthful—
    The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
    Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
    It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
    I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
    Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
    Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
    Searching my reaches for what she really is.
    Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
    I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
    She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
    I am important to her. She comes and goes.
    Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
    In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
    Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

    Sexist though it might be, signs of the aging process hit women harder than men but we blokes aren’t immune. In our newest AK47 song, ‘Magnificent’ about men’s dreams of rising above the hum-drum, we sing “passing the mirror, we scare ourselves”. Acceptance of both the outer and inner self is an uphill battle for many if not most of us. But pay no attention to the nightmares, keep up the exercise and I’m sure you’ll look just fine in that costume!


    • Cathy says:

      That is a brilliant poem, thanks for posting it. “A woman bends over me, Searching my reaches for what she really is.” How true – I often catch glimpses of myself in shop windows and think “that can’t be me, where have I gone?!” And that last sentence is going to haunt me!

      I have every intention of persevering with the exercise and look forward to being able to swim in the sea and snorkel with my kids again, even if the figure leaves a lot to be desired.

  2. michele harpur says:

    As I read this I am munching on my Banting breakfast of Avo and left over cauli rice and whatever from last night – can’t face another egg at the moment. My 58th is less than a month away and I have faced the same mirror as you. I now Stretch, walk the dog and try to spend less time at my desk – new regime has sent me into semi-retirement!. The Local trust has made a mighty win (congratulations) – It is amazing how much energy we still have when required, combined with a maturity of knowledge. The poem is oh so right – can’t look into the mirror in candlelight; now is the time to care for ourselves, make a difference and enjoy all opportunities and celebrations (that’s where the wine still remains!). Good to celebrate at the end of each day.

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Michele, we are also trying to follow the Banting way of eating and really enjoying it, although with a field full of very tasty tatties we haven’t given up totally on the no-no carbs. Thanks for your kind words, I hope I can do justice to the work (I am more than a bit rusty on the fundraising side of things). And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about how we need to live our lives now – hear, hear I’ll drink to that!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s