When I was a kid, before the hormones kicked in and screwed everything up, Saturdays were heaven and the fruit of that heaven was oranges. During the week I used to sit, trapped in school, dreaming of my blue Raleigh bike, my torn and patched brown corduroy trousers and those Saturday oranges that often accompanied me on my treks across the fields at the back of our house.
Weekends nowadays have come to mean nothing but drudgery. For the last eight years I have worked 12 hours shifts at the weekends and these days the massive juicy oranges of my childhood have come to mean only the pain of pounding sinus headaches.
When I had to take two weeks off with a sprained wrist recently I suppose I should have been happy but instead I was filled with dread. I am used to spending week days alone but weekends are for friends and more particularly family.
I don’t seem to have ever got the knack of having large groups of friends. I seem good at having far away friends, one-of-a-kind friends, artist friends but day-to-day pals are harder. Partly it is age of course. Many people have settled down and are busy with families and, though they would protest, have no time for friends. Some are kind enough to slot me into their schedule between 11 and 12 of a Thursday(always bloody Thursday).
I have been told, by oh-so-world-weary “grown-up” women that I am lucky to have such a stress free life implying that I am some kind of child-woman with no idea what “real life” entails. I realise I am indeed lucky but more to have escaped the failure of imagination that the prison of domesticity imposes on such women than because I am alone. Anyone who thinks supporting oneself in a dead-end-occasionally-in-danger-of-disappearing part-time job without any recourse to the State or the additional wage of a partner (loved or unloved) while all the spare time stretches ahead emptily and interminably to a lonely death is in any way “stress-free” is coddled beyond my understanding.
But all that’s for another post. I do like my own space, my own company but I like other company too. I guess I am just picky about it, which I think is OK. Sometime loneliness is even worse when you experience it in company, something many marrieds know too well.
Another factor that looms large for me is my hard of hearing-ness which has me veer away from people in ways I am only coming to understand and gives the impression that I am happier to be alone. It also bars me from phone calls and from getting involved in local groups.
All this gets harder with age too I suppose, and for everyone. Lately, being of the age where it is natural to review things, I am feeling the weight of failure in all the arenas of life-success, money, love-and an empty weekend serves only as time to think on where I went wrong and thinking never solved anything.
Maybe this particular weekend it didn’t help that I had just finished Claire Messouds The Woman Upstairs, an angry cry from an aging woman who feels life has passed her by. A book I should possibly have avoided but I actually loved it, the first novel I have been glued to in a long, long time, and it is not as hopeless as it sounds however a part of me, I know, is still processing what it means for me.
Underneath all of this is the uncomfortable thought that the desire for company or busyness is merely the desire for distraction from what is “real” and what is “real” is not scary but vast and mundane and mind-numbingly boring…
All of this is to say that this weekend was very empty. Last weekend I managed to have some adventures but this weekend resisted my attempts to engage with it.
On Saturday I went and watched the Viking Marthoners streaming by down at the beach, exchanged greetings here and there. I walked the cliffs in the sun with my binoculars later on. I sat with the flowers nodding around me and the gulls screeching and hallooing above and peeled the headache-free clementine I had brought and thought of long ago Saturdays and didn’t feel too bad until later.
Needless to say Sunday is not worth mentioning.