Saturday, 17 August 2013

Number games and life games

On my Android tablet and phone there is an app called Days Since, on which you set up events you wish to remember (future ones, as well as past ones) and then it will tell you how many days have passed since this or that happened, or how many must be lived through before something will come to be.

And today, there are two round numbers.

3,000 days since I retired on 31 May 2005. And 900 days since my surgery on 1 March 2011. That's strange, that these two most important events should go 'round-number' on the same day.

Take the first figure, 3,000 days since retirement. It's really getting to feel a long, long time since I last worked, and even though I do frequently talk about the benefits of getting some kind of job - I was discussing it with my cousin R--- just a few evenings ago - it doesn't have much reality. Can I really see myself getting up early, donning a shop uniform, and standing behind a counter for hours on end? Or can I really see myself thumping a keyboard in front of a screen in some back office? And, in either case, being at some manager's beck and call? Just for a bit of cash?

Of course, there would be the social side: staff friendships, favourite customers. But then, I've got a social life now, and I can expand it at will if I want to. I'm not lonely or bored, nor constantly at a loss for things to do.

Above all, do I want to give up control of my leisure time? Do I want in fact to enter into a commitment that might quite often stop me from doing the spur-of-the-moment things that give me so much pleasure? A sudden wish, for instance, to drive off to a café and have a mid-morning or mid-afternoon cup of tea, and a stroll through lovely grounds, or along a beach, camera in hand?

My cousin thought I'd romp through any job interview, citing my confidence, presence, ability to communicate, people skills, and heavyweight career background. I hardly recognised myself! But even if she was correct, even if my target employer, Waitrose (i.e. John Lewis) were genuinely into Diversity and wouldn't turn a hair at employing a trans woman, I doubted whether I'd be a suitable candidate for whatever positions were going. I'm simply not hungry enough for the money, the responsibility, and the chance to be a success in the workplace. I need to be those things. Otherwise, there will be no compelling incentive to stick at it, or to do that bit extra. And it would be immoral in my view to take a job on a hobby basis, when many others, perhaps less dazzling at interviews, would genuinely need the work, and would give better service in the long run than I could.

But it's an issue that keeps nagging at me. Days Since tells me I still have to wait another 446 days before my State Pension begins. Right then - a part-time job to last for just one year. But R--- did the same at my age, she took a part-time job in the garden department of B&Q after retirement as a headmistress. And seven years on, she is still working there. So, if the job is right, once you are in, you stay in. It clearly becomes part of your life.

And that other figure, 900 days since surgery. That seems a long way in the past too. Every day, morning and evening, I see myself unclothed. It's not an hourglass figure, but, considering my age, it looks very satisfactory. I look like a typical late middle-age woman - too much fat, too many unwanted bulges, but comfortable in her skin. There are millions of women just like me, and it's worth putting the flab and tired skin on display, because it's a fabulous way to blend in.

But, in some respects, I do seem freakishly young - where are the bingo wings? The crinkled and veiny hands and arms? The parchment skin on my face and chest? Thank goodness nobody can see the teen boobs. Only my legs, mottled with red and blue veins here and there, are suitably old-looking. Perhaps my throat now has the scrawniness that a woman of my age should possess. And although there's nothing beautiful in my face, it's got that sagging heaviness you see in older women who were never pretty. I'm sure the 'Miss' in front of my name raises no eyebrows. Of course I do think about facial surgery, and what it might achieve; but there would be no point in having any, because I'd end up looking unnatural.

So it seems that I'm in fact happy with how things are! Why then these speculations on a different occupation and appearance for myself?

I think it's because, in this life, one is never left in peace. You feel under constant pressure to meddle with a winning personal formula. People expect you to progress, to look for challenges, to achieve, to move forward, to simply do something. To keep changing for the better. And not just to stand still because you are content. Some would say that I've wasted the past 900 days on navel-gazing, when I should have been making my mark.

I say pish, bosh and humbug.

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