Polly sucked the end dregs out of her bitter Krong Thip and left the beach hut. She had just finished the dog-eared copy of the Jackie Collins novel that was the last dusty deposit in the book box and now felt a little lonely. Her beach hut neighbours had moved on.
Polly felt static even though she was ‘travelling’. The stasis was a internal throb – a low drone of boredom from her very core. She had been doing yoga on the beach every morning but it definitely wasn’t ‘the hum of the universe’. She was somewhat perturbed that having paid all that money to get away from her job in the paint shop in Bedford, she now felt exactly the same as she did before she went away: totally unclear of her direction. She decided to seek some help.
One of her friends had given her the address of a woman soothsayer that lived in the neighbouring village. Polly was certain the woman could rescue her from her low drone feeling and resident existential crisis. With some new-found energy and intent she got in a cab and headed north to discover her new beginnings.
Polly climbed the rickety old steps to the woman’s elevated wooden hut and knocked feebly on the door. The old woman opened the door slowly but deliberately and invited her in. She gave Polly a cup of very herby tea and beckoned her on to a mat, nodding sagely without speaking. Polly settled herself down and felt the woman’s passivity draw the words out of her, almost as though they were being pulled up from the empty drone deep within.
‘I need to have some sort of certainty or outcome about what I am going to do with my life. That is why I have decided to leave everything and go travelling: so I’ll know what I want when I get home’, Polly said plaintively to the old woman, struggling with the great void of the unknown that stretched out in front of her.
She had reached some sort of strange plateau in her life where there was a sudden dearth of plans, events and exciting opportunities. Things were pedestrian. She had got bored of going out and all of her friends had paired off. Her job was ok but she didn’t bounce out of bed to go to work every morning. People had exciting stories to tell but she felt that life was a drama that belonged to other people that was being played out outside of her.
‘It is not about forcing life to dance for you my dear’said the old woman. ‘It is about you shaking your feet in your own shoes to your own rhythm in only the way that you know how.’
Polly blinked and thought of an awkward moment when she had been at the Blue Oasis, and Harry Woodward had asked her up to dance sober to Ricky Martin.
‘But where do I find my rhythm?
The old woman now had a playful twinkle in her eye.
‘Where do you think you find your rhythm?’
‘In my heart?” replied Polly.
‘Yes of course’ laughed the old woman ‘but your culture has taught you to tune out your own rhythm and tune into the relentless Noise from the outside: the TV shows, the movies, the celebrity gossip and the news. You are taught to think that as soon as you press ‘pause’ on that great big external boom box you will be bored, miserable, lonely and without hope. That is one of the greatest myths that your society peddles. Just to be in your own skin and ok with your being is how you tune into your own rhythm again.’
Polly looked down at the ground and heaved a big sigh.
‘Ah but if I just ‘am’ then it feels like it’s pointless and boring and I am not doing anything with my life’.
The old woman continued:
‘Well whatever you do, if you’re doing it because you’re meeting some sort of unfulfilled expectation, whether it’s climbing the ladder or raising a family, you will always feel like you’re not doing anything with your life. You can allow your mind to spread its propaganda that you’re not happy because you’re not there now or you haven’t got this or that but it’s not the truth. Only you know where you are going by feeling whether it is right or not’.
‘Only you can know whether you want to get back into the Noise. Only you know whether you want to continue to be carried way on that slipstream of messaging. The Noise will tell you that you’re not slim enough so you will make yourself unhappy trying to compare yourself to other girls. The Noise will tell you that you are not good enough because you haven’t got a husband or a four by four, comparing you to those who have followed the beckonings of the Noise. The Noise will tell you that you are wasted as a woman because you don’t have any children but if you have children and want to achieve career success it will accuse you of neglect and selfishness. The Noise will indeed spin you lies and one of the lies is that what the Noise says and thinks is true. Only your way is the right way.’
Polly thought for a minute. She felt betrayed. She had been brought up to believe that the life she was meant to live would be a linear path starting with school and university and building up to a resounding crescendo with marriage, children and a fabulous career. For her, it did not feel as though she was simply good enough to ‘be’. That might be selling out. She wondered whose dream she was ‘selling out’ of – her own, one that she had been sold by the Noise or one that had seeped into her from her parents and possibly from their parents. She did not even know what her dream was any more. She started to cry snotty, snivelly confused tears of woe and defeat.
The old lady smiled compassionately and passed her another cup of very herby brew which she sipped gratefully.
‘It is ok to drift into the land of the unknown’said the woman ‘for that is when the adventures start to happen. You cannot know and it is not for you to know. The Noise sells you the notion that you can buy everything to control your life with but it is not true. You’re never really in control. You just have to trust that the boat that you are sailing will be carried by the winds of fate in the right direction. Don’t worry. You will feel whether it is going the right way.’
Polly felt the woman was being too cryptic. She thought she sounded a bit like something out of a fairytale. She wondered how the old woman could possibly know how she felt. She did not have to navigate the wilds of internet dating or a sullen, sweaty boss who treated her like some sort of second-class citizen. It was all very well for her to talk in metaphors as she lived a simple life in a village in the hills. Not everyone could have that luxury.
Polly wanted some real answers about her life right now and she was annoyed that she had been signposted to some old crone who had not told her what she needed to know. She now felt even more lost and alone. It was like not being able to find the right answer to your college coursework on Google or even worse – finding too many answers and not being able to pick the right one.
‘Well I best be going’ she said ‘Thanks for your time’. Polly thrust a few large notes at the woman who smiled inscrutably, her eyes as deep as pools.
‘Very well my dear’said the old woman with a mischievous glint in her eye. ‘Come back and visit if you need to talk some more.’
‘Hardly! What a rip off’ thought Polly defiantly as she turned on her heel and left the old wooden shack. She was entitled to so much more than some stupid talk about rhythm. She might as well just go home, watch Strictly Come Dancing and have a stupid boring life like everyone else.
Copyright Fizzy Wisdom 2018