I had just climbed out of my car, was distracted and talking on my cellphone when someone wrenched me around by my shoulder. I turned, thinking it was one of the Knead guys teasing me, only to find a large man I had never seen before – grabbing at my handbag.
I grabbed back, he grabbed again, I grabbed back. He grabbed harder – I screamed at him: “@#&* off’. He stuck a gun against my forehead. I let go of the bag.
Nothing focuses your attention quite like a gun in your face. Everything around me went completely silent. The barrel was cold and the gun was very black.
The adrenalin surge sent me sprinting down the road after the getaway car screaming: “Give me my @#&* diary” (apparently cursing is my response to threat). Ever practical – I was working on a fundraiser and everything I needed was in the diary. They threw my make-up bag out of the window, drove over it and were gone. And it was done.
The theft happened just before Christmas: “Affirmative shopping”, the detective told me. Frowning when I identified the gun as being the exactly the same model he was carrying. Although it was shocking – I didn’t feel fear. And had no repercussions to speak of. Apart from a brief period of hyper vigilance. But I realised that it wasn’t personal and I had just been in the wrong place at the right time for them.
Wisdom I wouldn’t have had at 25.
Camparigirl wrote yesterday about the differences between being 25 and being 50. She said she didn’t feel she had changed that much, but she touched on one profound difference: anxiety. Both of us worry about running out of money when we are older. Especially as we both plan to live until we reach our century. That worry turns inwards and becomes an anxiety that colours everything else we do. Until one of us reminds the other to take off those lenses. And reframe the situation
The 25 year old me never worried about having enough money to live on for the rest of her life. I lost a job, was supporting my brother while he studied, England was in a recession and it was the middle of winter. I spent hours on the phone – calling every company and employment agency I could think of – trying to get hired. Eventually I went to work with the manager of one of the bands I had worked with – a kind gesture on his part: and one that had me travelling 90 mins across London, far south to extreme north, twice a day to work. My job description was varied – and included fetching dry-cleaning and ‘straightening up’ the kitchen. But I didn’t care – there was some money coming in. I was less afraid then, with no resources, than I am now with considerable some.
I always thought age would bring with it an emotional freedom. That having made our way through the pitfalls and fuck-ups that come with a life well lived would remove anxiety. That having reached this place alive and healthy would be enough proof that worrying was pointless and we should just get on with living. But then my dad tells me he doesn’t like to travel anymore – because it makes him anxious – and I realise it is fear more prevalent than we realise.
I was watching the exodus from Syria on the news last weekend and tried to place myself in the midst of it. Wondering what that anxiety must be like. All encompassing and about basic survival. Not the maintenance of living standards. For them this is a life changer –nothing will ever be as it was. camparigirl made the comment that we are unlikely to ever be able to travel freely in that part of the world again – at least in our lifetimes: and I think she is right. There is no reframe available to those people. Extremist religious beliefs and politics have altered a homeland beyond recognition and built a wall of fear around a whole region. None of this is coming from internalised fear. Disaster has manifested and is upon them. That’s fear right there. They have cause for anxiety
For the rest of us – fear is part of the package. And who knows – we may or may not make it til 100. Our money may or may not last – but the resilience, resourcefulness and relationships we have will plug the gaps. And we will make a plan.
Aung San Suu Kyi called fear a habit. I think she is right. And habits can be broken.
So – Claudia, here’s my promise to you: if you run out of dosh – you can come live with me in McGregor. We’ll start a coffee shop and you can flirt with the men. We’ll hold music evenings and market them well. We’ll serve cocktails and canapés. People will dance and have a good time. Service will be excellent. Word of mouth will build our business and we will make enough to feed ourselves.
Because – while we may not have the blind optimism we had at 25, we have experience. And we’ll apply everything we know to whatever is immediately around us. The fundraiser happened. We will make it work.
Because, Wahini, that’s what we’ve been doing since we were 25.
(Photo of the dancer on a tightrope – by the great Brit Graffitist – Banksy. Photo of the entrepreneur in the public domain.)