What Are You Waiting For?

What will I be like at 80? This was the question which confronted me back when I went through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way. (2013 – hasn’t time flown?)

The first thing that came to mind was ‘dead’, but since that didn’t really fit in with the purpose of the exercise, I tried again, trying to be a bit more optimistic this time.

About to go, my entry began, and went on to suggest that I would be the kind of old woman who enjoys shocking people by how directly she speaks, and doesn’t mind being disliked or unpopular.

sombrero-1082322_640Or as I put it in the post I wrote at the time, “if I do make eighty I bet I’ll be one of those acute old ladies who says what she thinks you need to hear and doesn’t mind how excruciatingly embarrassed you are by it.”

Now admittedly, I’ve got nearly fifty years to reach this happy state of affairs (if I don’t die first), but as it stands, this is about the opposite of who I am now.

I don’t like to be disliked, and the feeling that I may have just offended someone eats away at me like a vinegar bath, leaving me anxious and restless. There are times I feel it would be advantageous to take a vow of silence, and then no one could take offence at anything I say.

Richard Nitsch Hausandacht einer Schlesierin aus der Neisser Gegend
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in the habit of being offensive; I just worry that I may have inadvertently given offence. It seems quite easy to do, particularly when you are not entirely at home in any one culture.

Perhaps that’s what I’m looking forward to about being old and near my death: I’ll have stopped worrying so much; and I’ll be open, honest and straight-forward enough to tell people the truth without hedging it about with fluff and diversion (though still, like Elizabeth Bennet, endeavouring “to unite civility and truth”).

And being old and eyeballing my approaching death, I won’t be bothered by any resulting unpopularity. I hope. Perhaps, like the lady who intends to wear purple, I’d better start practicing now, so as not to take people by surprise.

Ethnie dong 3764a
What are you looking forward to about being old? And have you considered starting now?

Warning

(by Jenny Joseph)

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit

merry-1162081_640
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
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Who Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Or if that’s too hard a question to ask, the future being a far and mysterious place, who do you think you’ll look like?
Old woman in Kyrgyzstan (2010)I myself expect that when I get well and truly old I will look like Nanny Ogg, of whom it is said in Lords and Ladies that “time had left her with a body that could only be called comfortable and a face like Mr Grape the Happy Raisin.”
Except I hope to have a) more teeth and b) fewer husbands.