Try as I might in middle age to do things in moderation, this seems a failed project.
It was doomed from the start. I have been a child of modest means, satisfied with little materially, except for the flashes of extravagance that get away from me.
I fall in love excessively, and can’t stop being over-expressive about it, till my drivels can scare away or bore the target of it. Till feelings sometimes disappear, regrettably, and no more last drops of it can be squeezed out, I will go on about it. Nauseatingly. Tirelessly. Being loved by me can be as bad as a flu attack.
Oh, and did I mention how frequently I get infatuated? Positively scandalous.
My excitement and enthusiasm knows no bound. My brain is given to idea invasions, and within minutes of deep ponder one thing leads to another, and an impossible marching band of soldiers has made themselves a garrison. I imagine in colour, a thousand vivid glittering rhinestones, like the pinpricks of light one sees after digging one’s knuckles into the eyes. A word of reason often settles them, or the next fanciful coup de état.
Arranging surprise gifts is my thing. Managing get togethers. Writing academic essays with content referenced from multiple sources.
I can visualise every detail, know the result even before it shapes, feel the palpable charm of the finished product and the amazement it would produce, each trajectory to get to the desired cohesive end. If my scattered brain does manage to forget one or two items in the vast repository of requirements, it has the resourcefulness to improvise, also enough equitability to let go.
I’ve spent my entire adolescence frowning at the mirror, wondering how to minimise the furrows between my nose and mouth. How is it that one stops smiling?!
Alas, I haven’t found out till this day. Such unstoppable bonhomie isn’t the work of anti-ageing creams to repair.
I can give over to moods of depression that don’t let up for days, reminding me of the few justifications I’ve never contemplated suicide and how, blessedly, it will all be amortised one day.
I cry when overwhelmed with thankfulness.
I can snivel and howl unstoppably in imagined and real pains of the heart; my husband learnt to what extent when I wrecked his cocktail celebrating our engagement.
I sleep. To ward off desolation and hurt. To proclaim my peace with Life. To beat off dust, humidity and heat. To enjoy the rain. To make an occasion of the chill. (My mother had famously predicted before my departure for colder climes, “She’ll be back by the second month crying, ‘It’s too cold!’ “) I sleep to escape the rambling non-end of to-do-lists. To pass the time because there’s little to do.
On a night when he was feeling particularly passionate and I was sleeping like a happily fed cat, my husband moaned lowly, “Why do you always feel so sleepy?”
“Why you never do, baby?” I gurgled sluggishly back.
Frugality attracts me for its nobility of purpose.
Yet I am given to binge eating and shopping.
A loaded larder and bank card can be instruments of self-destruction in my hand.
My battles with bulge and intermittent intervals of extreme exercise are much retold legends now. Smells draw me, spices wafting from the boiling wok, the freshness of herbs on the chopping board, newly popped toast, yawn-laden coffee, an oozy yolk settling into the cheese molten mushrooms, the kind that wake you from day dreams and sent you running to the kitchen as a child: “What’s cooking, mom?” The colours of raw vegetables allure me, which is also why I enjoy salads so much, just to take a full look at them before and while munching. It’s like gorging on a bouquet.
Ingredients draw me with their possibilities of delicious co-mingling. I’ve always laughed when Dagwood Bumstead slipped down to the kitchen in the wee hours, emerged from the fridge packed to the shoulders with additives and finally eyes closed, sat biting through a gargantuan sandwich, not because I found it absurdly funny but because it triggered warm reminiscence. Been there, done that. Often.
I prefer entering retail destinations only when there are discounts, an out-of-control buyer’s delusional syndrome. Merchandisers now know the bait works, and annual sales have been replaced by multiple multi-reason pop-up deals. Sometimes it’s end of summer, sometimes it’s monsoon.
I’d start casually lifting one article, holding it up for admiration, return it to the stand, flip through the line. Somewhere along I’d spend that extra second scrutinising it, turning it around, lifting it again. “Just looking,” I’m telling myself as I queue at the trial room, wishing none of it would fit me, hoping some of it will.
Then comes the excruciating choice between colours. Why must the same kameej come with both peach and turquoise trims? After half hour of circumnavigating the display, a peek at the watch, I’d stuff both into my by now bulging shopping satchel and head for the till. Have you noticed how floor assistants never hand you small carryalls?
My two cameras, at a gap of four years, both led to a month of extreme penury. I find it easier to save after purchases than before.
I can spend even longer in book stores, ask my boy friends. No body who’s ever dated me hasn’t got dragged into one, trailing after my dreamy steps. With what I imagine as patience, but more likely was impatience that went unnoticed. Now, with the charity shops and their charitable prices, my husband clumsily exits them loaded like a Christmas tree, me chivalrously going before, holding the doors open. He is the one who offered to help!
The words I read are only beaten by the volumes I write. Excess marks my need for self-expression. “Can’t you ever keep anything to yourself?” my sister bristles, “How you jabber so!”
“That’s thrice you said it,” my husband reminded me, grinning, when I asked if we could have his mother’s starchy rice with soft spuds, boiled eggs and butter, some other night.
I say, feel, dream, exist. Abundantly.
There is so much of life to be caught with every breath!
As he was driving through the rolling green alleys of suburban Bradford the other morning, I turned to my poor man, between trilling Brown Girl in the Ring and the forgotten lyrics of a carol, for what was possibly the forty-seventh time and said:
“By the way, have I told you how happy I am?”