My mother has been catapulted into a new existence since my stepfather passed away in early 2018. She has had to learn how to stand on her own two feet for the first time in her life. She’s had to work out how to pump her own petrol, pay the bills and handle finances. She’s learned how to interact with industry people, negotiate deals and assert herself in the world. Mostly, she’s had no choice but to sift through the many layers of herself and discover who she is without her husband.
It’s in those small, quiet hours alone that you cannot hide from yourself. Those are the moments when the truth finds you. When you can no longer run from who you are.
She’s not into being alone. I am. I can happily spend hours at a time without interacting with people. Introspection is my thing – almost to a fault. This might sound weird, but I love thinking, reflecting and delving into the deepest zones of my mind. I can easily become lost in a world of my own making; analyzing, day dreaming, over-thinking situations and playing futuristic conversations and scenes in my head.
Ah, cerebral heaven. Is it wrong that I would rather spend my time in this reflection mode than engage in meaningless, no-point conversations?
This is something else my mother has had to learn since she’s been on her own – me.
Okay, I admit that my preference to living in my own head might sound a little aloof or unfriendly, but it’s really not. It comes down to need and sanity. I need space – lots of space. It’s the way I process the world, my life and feelings. She doesn’t understand. If I’m denied this reflection time for extended periods, I tend to get irritable and edgy. Maybe even a little grouchy.
The same is true when it hits a certain time of the evening and I see one of my kids trouncing around the house. I could never understand how some folks allow their children to stay up till all hours – argh! Give me a break; I need “adult time”. You know, to get my reflection on and chill without looking at a chicken.
My mother likes to talk … a lot. To the point it drives me crazy. She likes to tell me about people – what they’re doing, where they’re going and snippets of conversations. Suffering, that’s what that is. I don’t want to know why so-and-so is going to Timbuktu and how the old buddy is getting the whatchamacallit. In the politest sense possible, I don’t give a fuck.
It gets worse. Well, from an introvert’s perspective. She wants to know stuff that I know too. About people. A few days ago, she asked me about a friend of mine that is planning to move farther north. He and his wife are considering an island life.
Mother took it upon herself to have a rant about this decision – farther north means cyclonic weather. Island life means …. erm …. the probability of encountering Bogans. I didn’t understand why she would bother wasting brain power on other people’s life choices; she really meant that shit. I was utterly baffled.
Then came the question:
Which island? Was she serious? Does she not know me?
I responded with a shrug and the truth.
“I don’t know; my brain doesn’t retain that information, mum.”
“In other words, you don’t give a fuck?”
Ding, ding! Now we’re getting somewhere. She really said that by the way. Don’t tell her I told you though because she’s truly a lady and we all know that ladies don’t talk that way. Apart from the lady typing these words. And yes, I am a lady. Particularly when it suits. I might be elegantly corrupting her a smidge.
Elegantly. There’s a word. It just rolls off your tongue, does it not?
A little intel for the word nerds:
Elegant origins: Meaning “characterized by refined grace” is from 1520s. Latin elegans originally was a term of reproach, “dainty, fastidious”: the notion of “tastefully refined” emerged in classical Latin. Related: Elegantly.
2019 and the word “fuck” can be elegantly inserted in most annotations. Everybody is aware of the versatility this word holds. In fact, it’s one of the most resourceful words ever created. Its use can convey happiness, sadness, anger, disbelief, arousal, excitement and confusion among other things. But did you know there’s another multi-layered word used in Australia that is just as if not more adaptable?
Hint: It rhymes with runt.
There are all kinds of …. umm …. “runts” here – cheeky ones, sick ones, mad ones, good and bad ones. There are “runts” all over the place in this sun-blessed country. You can’t avoid them, but I try to steer clear of the crazy ones.
As much as Australians have taken this word beneath their laid-back “she’ll be right” wings, I avoid using it like the plague because I fucking hate it. My mother might say it’s not very elegant.
I walk in the mornings when the sun rises. Sometimes, I run. Mumma-bear sleeps at my place at least one night a week and joins me for these dawn outings when she’s here. She won’t run though. I’m not sure if it’s because running is a bit much for her at her age or if it’s because when she tried it once, I laughed so hard that I almost fell over. I can’t even begin to describe the sight of her arms flapping around in her white sweater like a baby penguin chasing its mother.
Entertainment. Some might even say cheap thrills, but who’s listening and who actually gives a fuck? Apparently, and according to her, I run elegantly. Who knew that was even a thing?
Told you I was a lady.
Jokes aside, it’s not that I don’t care about people – even the crazy “runts” from time to time. On the contrary, I care very much about the people that matter to me. That doesn’t mean I concern myself with the nuts and bolts of their lives or judge their choices and motivations. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. Somewhat. Who really knows what they’re doing, anyhow?
Show me someone who has it all figured out and I’ll show you a pair of earbud cords that never become tangled. They don’t exist, at least not in my world. Have you ever cursed those damned cords? I do. Frequently. They always seem to knot in the most intricate way when you need to get them in your ear quick-smart. They’re the times when I might be inclined to use the word that rhymes with runt.
Maybe one day I will figure it all out. Till then, my mother is still learning that I’m nothing like her and that I don’t have the capacity to engage in a continuous stream of phatic conversation. And I’ll keep trying to pretend to be interested in Bob, Sue and Whathisname for just that little bit longer because in the end, relationships are about giving and taking, even when you don’t give an elegant fuck.