It had been one of those weeks. The hot flushes were swooping in with monotonous regularity, I was irritable, angry and the entire family, including the dog were giving me a wide birth. Desperate, I sought help from my doctor, “You need to give me something before I kill someone.” I pleaded. He smiled the sort of smile that indicated he had no idea how I was feeling. “I’m sure you’re not that desperate,” he said with a patronizing laugh. He was wrong, and as I sat in his tiny, overheated office I wondered who this angry woman was.
I left the clinic with the obligatory white slip offering a bit of chemical release but, I knew there had to be another way to relieve the tension I was feeling. That’s when I saw the sign for the “Aggression Session”. My prayers had just have been answered.
All it took was a phone call and I was feeling better already. “Dig This Invercargill” was going to be my saviour even if only temporary.
The friendly voice on the phone advised me not to drink any alcohol as a breath test was mandatory. It was a big call feeling the way I did, but deep down I suspected the red wine may even have been stimulating my flushes.
“Dig This” is in effect a giant gravel pit, New Zealand’s only heavy equipment playground where visitors can operate bulldozers, diggers and skid steers, smash a car or truck and leave with a sense of empowerment and in my case a little less anger.
“I’m ready for this” I told my instructor, Geoff Shepherd, as I started striding ahead to the biggest most destructive machine I could see. “Now hold on little lady” he said. My hackles raised. The sudden ignition of anger had become one of the hardest thing to cope with during this menopausal madness.
“We’ve got a quick Health and Safety talk and some training before we let you loose on the monster,” he said. I was keen, so took note of the quote on the wall “You’ve got two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion” and kept quiet and listened. Briefing concluded it was time for some action.
First challenge was getting into the digger. The steps were high and my legs are short. “Step here, here and here. Three points of contact at all time,” he said as I struggled up. I’m sure he probably wanted to give my big bottom a hoist but he waited patiently as I climbed and got myself sorted. Feeling slightly heady and overpowered by it I was finally belted in with headphones on and ready for digger control 101.
“Right hand back, out and in, push forward, push out, pull in to leg. Push out closes the elbow, do this and it spins left, do this and it spins right. This is the brake. Push these two levers forward and the tracks move. Easy.” Geoff’s disengaged voice floated through my head.
“Arm, elbow, bucket, I repeat, got it. Not!”
“In the event of an emergency just take your hands off the machine and the kill switch takes over. Remember, Keep breathing.”
As he gently coaxed me, the giant digger rose on back tracks into a mechanical kind of handstand and spun around on its axis. At this stage I had grave concerns that my squealing was exceeding the decibel limits for Geoff’s headphones. I raised my hands. Everything froze. I was tilted back like in a dentist chair and my head was spinning.
“Relax,” he told me. “Apart from your vocals you’ve got it sussed.” Second challenge was to dig a hole. A deep hole. A very deep hole. And as I dug it I thought of what I’d like to bury in it. My angst, anger, frustrations, baggage. Lots of old baggage. This therapy was really working.
“You’ve done well. Time for the Aggression Session,” Geoff said guiding me out of the machine and leading me towards a much bigger digger which sat beside an old car. My aggression had lessened and slowly been replaced with a sense of euphoria.
A surrounding wall was covered in graffiti, “anger, tax, rent, mortgage, wanker”. “Do you want to spray paint anyone’s name on the car before you crush it?” he says with a laugh. “Ex-husband? Mother in law?” The doctor runs through my mind but I know I was just being irrational.
I revel in my new skill base, raising the shovel as high as I can then releasing it fast and hard, plunging it onto the chassis. An overwhelming sense of power takes over and I’m raising and dropping that shovel at double speed. The more it crushes, the happier I am. How flat can a car get? Very! When it was completely flattened I switched off the motor, climbed down, and stood like a conqueror on the crushed remains.
Would the release I felt last? Probably not. But for a short time at least I could feel the old me return, a strong, powerful, woman in control of her life and destiny.