Friday Fodder – Temperament

Once upon a time…

Karen Clegg was a disagreeable middle-aged woman. Every fold on her wrinkled face contributed to her resting scowl. And yet, rows of yellow bananas greeted her as she passed through the produce department like a hundred sunny upturned smiles. It made the town’s resident battle-axe sick with disgust. Mrs. Clegg glared at a woman loading her cart with bananas. ‘Freak!’ thought Mrs. Clegg. Sure, the fruit was okay every now and again. But only a dippy clown would want such a goofy-looking thing sitting on her kitchen countertop all week long. Instead, Karen loaded her cart with radishes, chard, liver, and brine. The natural opposites of bananas and happiness.

The cashiers eyed each other nervously as the crotchety woman approached the check-out counters. Who was going to draw the short straw this week? ‘Please not me. Please not me’ they silently prayed with sweaty brows. The clerk at register two made eye contact for just a second too long. Mrs. Clegg locked in on his gaze and approached his check-out line. She’d teach him to stare.

As the clerk placed the groceries into a paper bag, he accidentally crushed Mrs. Clegg’s liver with the box of brine. “Do I need to call your manager over here to teach you how to pack groceries?” Mrs. Clegg interrogated.

“My apologies, Ma’am,” said the clerk, “I guess you can say that I’m one banana short of a bunch today.” He wondered if the woman would soften with a little self-deprecating humour. 

“I wouldn’t say such a thing,” said Mrs. Clegg, “I. Hate. Bananas.”

“Uh… well…” the clerk floundered. He had never met someone who hated bananas. Even if you don’t eat them, it’s still a fun word to say, thought the clerk. “Have a nice day,” he said as he handed the woman her change.

“Have a nice day, Ma’am,” corrected Mrs. Clegg. She tore the paper bag out of the young man’s hands and marched out of the store.

On her walk home, she passed a Banana Republic outlet. ‘What a stupid name for a shop peddling blazers’, thought Mrs. Clegg. She noted bananas as the annoying theme of the day. The storefront was the third encounter, and it annoyed her how difficult it was to think of anything else besides bananas. She crossed the street and came upon a busy ice cream parlour. A dozen outdoor tables with red and white striped umbrellas littered the patio. The first thing that caught Mrs. Clegg’s attention was a banana split shared by a young couple. One banana, sliced lengthwise into two upturned smiles; ice cream, syrup, and a cherry on top. ‘What kind of imbecile came up with that travesty?’ she huffed. Tensed and frustrated, she crossed the street again, not giving a single hoot to passing traffic. Cars screeched to a halt, but honking horns and shaking fists did not even raise an eyebrow let alone cause her to pick up her pace. A fortune-teller sat at a table outside a crystal shop and watched the indignant woman cause pandemonium in the street.

“I think a tarot card reading would benefit you today, my friend,” said the seer.

“I’m not your friend,” barked Mrs. Clegg, “but if I were, the first thing I would do is advise to get a real job, you hippie charlatan!”

“I am receiving a lot of negative energy from you,” said the seer, her hands hovering in the air between them both.

“Well, aren’t you insightful,” glared the woman.

“Watch the bananas. They will be the death of you!” cried the seer suddenly.

Unwilling to give the fortune-teller the satisfaction of her piqued interest, Mrs. Clegg turned up her nose and growled, “Seems about right.”

Unsettled by the seer’s warning, Mrs. Clegg counted the banana references she had encountered that day and pursed her lips; it wasn’t just a few. The bananas were piling up! She wondered for a moment if a stupid fruit could actually kill a person. Hastily scanning the ground for banana peels, she breathed a sigh of relief and ascended the stairs to her condo. The property had a shared pool in the centre of the complex and the pool boy, Todd, was there performing his daily duties in a bright yellow banana print shirt. ‘This is just getting ridiculous now’, thought Mrs. Clegg as she unlocked the door to her unit. Before she could step inside, her landlord, Ralph, approached.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Clegg. I just wanted to remind you to be off-site tomorrow. Remember we have the exterminators coming,” said Ralph.

“And where do you suggest I go?” petitioned the woman.

“Perhaps you can stay with family,” smiled Ralph.

The woman’s glare bored holes right into Ralph’s soul.

“Or perhaps a friend?” tried Ralph.

“What if I refuse to leave? Will you call the police to haul me out of my own home?”

“No,” said Ralph, “but it would complicate things. Sammy said everyone needs to be out of the building. And he’s the top banana.”

“Come again?” asked Mrs. Clegg.

“Everyone needs to be out,” he said.

“No, after that,” said the old woman.

“He’s the top banana? You know, like the big cheese.”

“Well, which is he? Cheese or a banana?”

“Does it matter?” asked Ralph.

“Yes. That’s why I’m asking,” said Mrs. Clegg.

“Sammy is definitely a banana,” decided Ralph, after some consideration.

Mrs. Clegg massaged the bridge of her nose and exhaled. “Fine,” she conceded as she entered her unit and slammed the door right in the man’s face.

The following day, Mrs. Clegg boarded a bus and left town. It was true she really had no place to go but the more distance between her delicate equilibrium and the “top banana” and his chemicals, the better. A young girl wearing headphones in the seat behind her was listening to Gwen Stefani so loud the song could be heard rows away. Arriving prepared for such an occasion, Mrs. Clegg jammed plugs far into her ears until they muffled out all auditory signs of life. 

She took out a copy of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Finally, she thought, something of substance. Mrs. Clegg wasn’t really a connoisseur of literature. She only bought the book because she liked its title. As banana symbolism presented itself in the text, her face contorted in shock. Ears still plugged, she shouted, “WHAT THE HELL IS WITH YOU PEOPLE AND BANANAS!” Mrs. Clegg barged off the bus at the airport, convinced that traveling to the next town wouldn’t cut it. She would need to board a plane north to escape this fruity blight on the map, once and for all.

She purchased a seat on a non-stop flight to Cairns. ‘Lobster. Now that is serious food’, she thought. ‘I’ll take a sea bug over a banana any day’. Before getting comfortable, she thought it best to cover all bases. She waved the flight attendant over to her seat.

“How can I help you, Hon?” said the peppy young woman.

“You can start by guaranteeing me that this will be a banana-free flight …Hon.”

“There won’t be,” she answered.

“There won’t be what?” probed Mrs. Clegg.

“Bananas, of course!” said the woman.

“You’re sure you don’t have any?” said the old woman, demanding absolute clarity.

The cheerful flight attendant quipped in a singsong voice, “Yes, we have no bananas -”

Mrs. Clegg grabbed the young woman by the shirt. “Now, don’t get cute with me, you little snot. If I see so much as one banana, I’m going to go straight to your manager. Or my name isn’t Karen Clegg.”

The flight attendant sucked in the corners of her mouth to stop herself from laughing as she asked, “Are you the original Karen?”

Mrs. Clegg released the flight attendant when the pilot announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts. We’re experiencing some turbulence due to poor weather.”

The plane shook with increasing intensity, and the oxygen masks dropped from above. As Mrs. Clegg rushed to don her mask, she elbowed the little girl next to her in the face without apology.

“Everything is fine,” said the pilot over the intercom, “This weather formation is just… bananas!”

That was the last thing Mrs. Clegg heard before the plane fell out of the sky. The next thing she knew, she was clinging to a wing in the middle of the ocean. A yellow banana-looking raft appeared, and she seriously considered drowning to death rather than going near the thing. ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, Mrs. Clegg thought to herself as she clamoured aboard. It just looks like a banana. The raft had oars, and the survivors rowed their way to a nearby island with no help whatsoever from Mrs. Clegg.

The survivors surveyed the beach. Upon taking inventory, they agreed that locating food and water was crucial to their survival. Soon after commencing their search through the fringes of the jungle, they realised the old plantation island contained a wealth of wild bananas. Upon hearing the news, Mrs. Clegg began kicking and punching the nearest banana tree. The tall stalk swayed back and forth as she repeatedly struck its base. The blows caused a colossal bushel of bananas to detach from their stalk, hurtle to earth, and land squarely on top of the furious woman’s head. The crew members rushed to investigate the loud thud. They saw the bushel of bananas on the ground with Mrs. Clegg’s arms and legs flailing out from underneath it.

As they hauled the fruit off of the woman, the flight attendant said, “Hey, I thought you hated bananas!”

Delirious, Mrs. Clegg requested to speak to the manager. The group reminded her they were all survivors of a plane crash. “Hon, there is no manager on the island,” said the flight attendant.

“Like hell, there’s not,” mumbled the stubborn woman, spitting out a broken tooth.

For the next two days, Mrs. Clegg sat curled up in the foetal position, gnawing at her fingernails and rocking back and forth. She was losing her mind to hunger. The others had had a ball harvesting bananas, singing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song.” There was joy on this desolate island, and it was causing the beat-up battleaxe to snap.

Unwilling to let her fellow survivors witness her defeat, she waited long after nightfall before tearing a banana off a bunch. She stuffed the whole fruit in her mouth and munched. ‘See, I’m not afraid of a stupid banana’, thought Mrs. Clegg. The fruit was just sweet enough, dense, and satisfying. She ate another. ‘So what if they’re cheerful?’ And another. And another. She smiled at the peels around her feet; the silky skins cool on her toes. She giggled as she took another. And another. She was belly laughing, almost in complete hysterics, eating her eighth banana. She slid on the peels in the darkness and reached out to the tree for support. She threw her head back and laughed with a mouth full of banana. In this action, Karen Clegg choked on the eighth banana and died instantly.

The Coast Guard arrived on the island to rescue the survivors mere hours later. They brought Mrs. Clegg’s body with them to the mainland for a proper burial. The crew deliberated over what had transpired on the island. With no next of kin, they devised a sentimental send-off for their fallen comrade. Karen Clegg’s tombstone reads: ‘Find the joy in your banana while the sun still shines’. 

“Some people are like gravity; they draw you into a room with a hop in your step and a smile on your face. Others are like the stench of sulfur; they make you scowl and want to swivel on the balls of your feet towards a quick exit. Have you stopped to think if you are gravity or sulfur?”

― Richelle E. Goodrich

Moral of the Story:

Midlife rage is an underwhelming term for the gamut of emotions experienced by many women on the other side of 40. Feeling a loss of value and purpose, feeling overlooked or ignored, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in emotional responses and physical changes are all indicators you might be morphing into an angry middle-aged woman. These changes can be extremely stressful and can be expressed by women in both a verbal and/or physical manner. If you suddenly display uncharacteristic behaviour such as screaming or shouting, an urge to hit out, sulking, excluding others from a social group, or storming away from a situation, it’s time to take stock and get a handle on your emotions and behaviour. Relationship problems can cause a lot of stress which can take away resources from other parts of life. Depending on your lifestyle, middle age can come with a host of health problems too: Thyroid issues, insulin resistance, changes in hormone levels have irritability and anger as part of their presentations. Not living the life you had imagined is basically a midlife crisis. Parts of you may still seek expression, and thoughts arise which can create anxiety that time is running out.

If you are over 40 and have not started meditating, it’s time to rethink your life strategy. By developing the ‘observer’ muscle, you can learn more about yourself and why you are unhappy. This also helps to regulate your emotions as well as untangle negative, repetitive thoughts in your mind versus your intuitive voice. Hint: anxiety is loud while your intuitive voice is soft, yet this will be your guide through the next half of life. Look at all the parts of your life that are not serving you and update your priorities. This might mean you have to let go of relationships that are no longer serving you, changing the way you live day to day, forgiving some people, and letting go of others. It is up to you to take responsibility of your own happiness: We often wait for others to make us happy or to make things possible for us. We go from our parents, to our partners, to our friends or our colleagues, hoping that others will make us happy, and at midlife the frustration really builds up. It is at that point we need to understand that no one else is responsibile for your happiness but you. It is up to you to figure out what makes you happy, state it, ask for it, or go out and get it.

“Never allow your short-term temperament to affect your long-term decisions.”

― Moutasem Algharati

Affirmation: I love and accept myself at every age.

Each moment of my life is perfect. I trust the process of life and in any moment I can say my life is just beginning. I am worthy enough to follow my dreams and manifest my desires. Everything works out for me. I am supported by life. I am flexible and flowing. I am free to ask for what I want. It is safe for me to express what I want. I rise above all limitations. I move forward with confidence and joy, knowing that all is well in my future. I think and speak only words of love. I am at peace with life. I now create a life I love to look at. I am now willing to see my own beauty and magnificence. I choose to see everything and everyone with joy and love. I create a new life with new rules that totally support me. I am willing to change all patterns of criticism. I feel tolerance and compassion and love for all people, including myself. I choose to love life. My channels of joy are wide open and it is safe for me to receive.

“Avoid having to pump your brakes by keeping your flow on cruise control.”

― T.F. Hodge


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