Stress Management



When I showed up at Tanty’s door recently I found her mopping. She had forgotten that I was scheduled to visit. I tiptoed in and sat with my feet up on the chair…with her permission…and waited. She was also attending to a ‘junkie’ whom she usually engages to clean the yard. She had given him some food and a soft drink and was waiting for him to complete his task before paying him. By the time he was done, she was in the bath washing her feet. She asked me to give him the money on the kitchen counter. I did. He protested. It was not enough. He wanted $20 and she was only offering $10. She got out of the bath and emphatically informed him that she had nothing more to give. He left…disgruntled.

It is well known that his money ends up in the coke dealer’s hand, but I’m not sure that justifies paying him scrums for the time-consuming laborious work he often does. Religion teaches that the workman (junkie or not) is worthy of his hire, but I may be the only one reading the religious books. The hirer has an obligation to pay. Once the money changes hands, it is no longer his/hers, so what is done with it is not his/her concern. If one argues that a junkie squanders his/her money which is why one is not paying him/her their due, it means the initial intention was pay meagre wages, or one would have hired a non-junkie. And, if no good deed goes unpunished, one could imagine that there is no side-stepping payment for the bad deed when the Lords of Karma come to call. They have no need of money, so they find creative ways to rip our lives apart.

We got down to doing the massage and she explained that she had not contacted me for a while because she was mostly pain-free. Thanks to some herbal capsules that came highly recommended and pricey too. But we often underestimate the power of stress. It just needs to undermine our immune system a bit and our delicate health could slip from the ceiling to the floor. There have been many recent changes in her life (that are affecting her cash flow) and her body is reacting. For starters, the son with whom she has linked all of her wealth recently had a lawyer draft documents for their transfer to his name…only. Well, not his alone. Himself and wife.

This is the very wife who tweaks the coffee to keep him in line. The very wife who swore that she will have X,Y, and Z properties because of her time and labour invested in the family. So said so done. Tanty is going crazy over this. She worked so hard to build her empire and never imagined her son would betray her like this. She told me all this started happening after the wife held a Baptist function. Apparently that acted to facilitate further control of her husband’s mind and increase the size of the wedge between mother and son. While Tanty still sleeps in the same bed and under the same roof that she is accustomed to, she cries all night at the thought that the property is no longer hers. She asked me if I know what it’s like to cry all night. No. Maybe I’m not old enough.

But if you were to pass by, you would have no clue any of this is occurring. All the grandchildren go to Tanty’s place after school. There are warm greetings and laughter and eating and making a mess and then Tanty cleans up when they are gone. The very daughter-in-law could be seen sitting watching the Bold and the Beautiful many times when I go there, and when she is ready to take the children home, she would knock on the bedroom door and say: Ma, we leaving now. And they would wish each other a pleasant night. And she would enquire if Ma wants her to bring/send anything for her tomorrow. And Ma would tell her not to trouble herself. It’s all about love, and care, and family.

Strangely, it matters not how little our distress might be, it is big enough to drown out years pleasantness. I tried to get her to think of some positive aspects of her life. It took awhile as she really preferred to be miserable, but she eventually remembered. After her husband died, the unimaginable happened. She found love. The man was older and wealthier and the perfect gentleman. He wanted to make her his wife and she was flattered. He treated her so well that it was terribly awkward for her after decades of a marriage to constantly cheating husband who preferred not to show her his romantic side. The day after they were married he was down the road flirting, not knowing the girl was her cousin.

Anyway, she had a movie of a life with this gentleman. While she enjoyed being taken to functions and being treated respectfully by his friends and family, it was their bedroom time that she relished the most. She told me that had I seen her, I would not believe that a middle-aged woman could behave so. He brought her joy. She was very happy and the lovemaking was like a dream. And she would have him make love to her again, and again, to reassert that she was not dreaming. She had no idea it was possible to feel all those feelings, and felt that had he not come along she may have died without knowing such.

Why didn’t she marry him? Among several reasons is the fact that he loved alcohol as much as he loved her and that was a sore point. She also felt that as a grandmother, marriage would be a sensitive issue in the family as a whole. She also considered that something so good should be kept free rather than bound by cords of any kind. Probably above all, one of her daughters had a major crush on the man (though she had her own husband and chose to be estranged). The daughter had returned home with her children and lived in the upper flat. Whenever Tanty’s guest arrived, she would hastily present herself downstairs and seek to engage his attention and affection. He maintained his composure and reminded her on a few occasions that his interest lies in her mother. She got antagonistic, hurling insults at him in public places and doing her best to make him uncomfortable whenever he visited.

Family is family, and Tanty felt it was her duty to stop the nonsense. The relationship was terminated. His friends would meet her and plead his case, but she would hear none of it. Duty is what she knows. She spent her life being dutiful to her husband and children. In the absence of her husband, and though her children have families of their own, her duty remains. End of story. Of course she cried. She felt she would have died of suffocation. Grieving for her husband was one thing, but being away from this man superseded that. She could feel two hands squeezing the air out of her lungs. When they weren’t doing that, they were ripping her heart out of her chest. And she dedicated herself to earnest prayer. Today, that man too is dead. As she spoke of him she was not her usual self. She was a pretty little giggle girl. Memories are remarkable things. Or maybe that’s what love does to us.

By the end of the massage Tanty was normal again and spoke of sewing new curtains as she wants the house to look very special for Ramadan. Though it’s not like she’ll be basking in the atmosphere of it. No. This year she is taking the trip East. Going to Mecca. Being a little closer to the Holy symbols may guarantee some answered prayers. It may have cost her daughter-in-law less than half of her ticket price to hold that Baptist ceremony. If it proves a cheaper way to manifest results, maybe Tanty should consider converting.

One of my students has a special occasion coming up soon, so the stress has been creeping up on her as she tries to get everything right. As she was on her way down the stairs yesterday I reminded her that stress management is important. Yes. She has a plan…healthy food, relaxing music, hours at the beach, and good sex. I immediately remembered Tanty. Mature women talk differently about sex. There are levels of good, and the way she stressed on good, it was certainly not the regular level. I told her to bring me a pack of good sex next week. She laughed and told me that it does not come in packs. Ouch!

She is mature, not as old as Tanty, is her own boss, and very upbeat about life. I figure that at the over-40 stage in life when you have a clearer perspective of what makes you happy and your social status is not dependent on a male counterpart (though he may reign supreme in the bedroom) it is easy to have good (quality) sex. It is not good because something different is being done, but because the female is more mentally and emotionally available. She is not hopping into bed with schemes of leeching resources from the man, and hopes of trapping him at the opportune moment, so there is more space in the brain to process the stimuli of the connection. What she wants from him is the best he can be in the moment. He too is free to be a genius at pleasing her because he does not have to worry about her extracting promises from him in the height of pleasure that he knows he will regret as soon and the bubble bursts.

Isn’t this where men are always at? Don’t they always want sex for the pleasure of it, full stop? So maybe women are the ones late in arriving at this plane. Is it any wonder that when they do arrive, many of them opt for younger guys? And the younger guys understand and can perform too. An unbeatable combination. They often have to give her nothing more than what they are born with. Also, they still listen to their mothers and are therefore open to instructions in bed. And for the many men today who were ‘trained’ by older women one would expect marriages to last longer, but that’s not the case. That means there is another variable lacking.

But let’s not trouble ourselves with that right now. We are all affected by stress of one kind or another, so we need get ourselves a tool kit labelled Stress Management. We also need to ensure that one of the items in that kit is good sex. Not just any sex, the over-40 brand. They’ll be stocking them at pharmacies soon, but if you’re under 40 you won’t be able to buy any. If you’re over 40 and you’re already having the good experience, good for you. For folks like me who are not old enough, I’m suggesting that we capture the rapture with someone who is over 40…at least until we qualify.