There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. You Don’t Know Why She Swallowed a Fly? I Do.

Collage by Lisa Congdon

Collage by Lisa Congdon

I know why she swallowed a fly. She was a woman, past her physical prime, aches and pains increasing, counting the days as she aged. And she was pissed.

At first she didn’t realize she was pissed. She thought the people around her were getting more annoying and stupid, whatever common sense and humor they once possessed draining away by the second.

For example, if she saw young women, who obviously spent hours on their hair and makeup, gossiping, giggling and strutting their stuff in shopping malls, she wrote them off as dim-witted, self-centered idiots. As for the men, they were worse. They spent all their time staring at women.

Riding on the bike trail, she went by a queue of children headed the opposite way, chattering and careless of her passage, nearly knocking her over. She wondered why they weren’t in school where they belonged. Better yet, isolated in boarding school or juvenile hall until they were able to function like adults.

As for television, films, print, Internet, the people featured seemed to be in a never-ending competition to show the most skin and selfishness. First extolled, then rewarded with heaps of money and attention, they repaid their perqs by modeling behavior for those around them to ever-increasing extreme behavior.

When she thought about the respect given to older people in other times, other societies, she had sworn previously that she would function as if she expected and received the same today. She wouldn’t fall into the error of the marginalized seniors she’d seen since childhood. People ignored, treated as simpletons, overlooked in stores and restaurants, talked over and around when in a group. However, she was learning the impossibility of fighting an entire culture on her own.

So when a fly flew by, she snapped and caught it.

Swallowing a fly was nothing compared to the bile she had to hold down. She was becoming a grouchy old lady, replete with negative attitudes. But since she still possessed her wits, if not her young looks, questions kept arising. Why was she angry constantly? What had happened to the good will she used to extend to all humanity? Was she going crazy or was the world around her doing so?

In the slow process by which she always seemed to learn about life and its truths, she began to probe her emotional responses. Questions, always her guide to self-discovery, arose. Why the negative reactions? She uncovered jealousy, regrets, fear, anger, a heaping load of damage. Now the real work had to begin—to use these as the stuff for constructive growth. Or to be an old lady in truth as well as appearance.


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