I am 53, my eldest son is 31, my youngest daughter 16, my mother is 83 and my father 86. 5 months ago I became a grandmother. I occupy a space so familiar to women of my age and generation. I am a daughter, mother, sister, wife and grandmother – I am all of these women every day.
Each of these roles carries responsibility, each requires time and thought, most demand attention and action, sometimes with the benefit of time to prepare but more often in haste. For women like me (and there are so many of us) the years fly by in a flurry of activity, with work and family taking up every minute of every day. Time, which seemed to go on for ever as a child suddenly compresses. Christmas – the marker of the year as the zenith of activity both work and family appears to come round ever faster.
These are also the years of menopause. The point at which we move from one life phase to another, we are no longer the bearer of children, we are becoming the wise women. The transition is challenging, it’s a kind of rebirth, recentering, reappraisal. It is the grand reshuffle, a turning point, the realisation that we are now the next generation and that our children are becoming the parents, that life moves on in its endless, predictable cycle. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter the annual turning of the year. Baby, Child, Adult, Elder the generational turning of our own seasons.
How we exist within our various roles, how we somehow bring them together to create a coherent way of being is a challenge. It requires resilience, reflection and a very great deal of love, not only for others but also for ourselves. This process provokes us to find new ways of being, of forging a path for ourselves that nourishes and feeds us whilst also keeping our connection to those around us.
For me, to walk a landscape, to sit by the sea, to breathe in the scent of a flower, to crush a fragrant leaf in my hand, to explore a new place, to learn a new skill, to connect with friends, to hold and be held is my life blood. It keeps me sane on days when the challenges of maintaining so many roles feels overwhelming.
I think we need to be honest with ourselves as women, particularly because life can be tough – from meeting the needs of teenage children to concerns over elderly parents – the desire to make sure that everyone is fine is hardwired into our very being. To allow ourselves the space to withdraw for a moment to regroup is a positive act, to take the time to work out what makes us feel better is time well spent. To give yourself permission to simply be in order to re-centre is essential especially during the Winter months when light levels are low and energy is depleted.
I often marvel at the capacity of women to carry so much responsibility so lightly. I think we have an extraordinary ability not just to manage but to thrive. In my work I have a team of women who are creative, bright, funny and inspirational. They are a daily tonic. Our wellbeing as we age is dependent on finding a path that inspires, sustains and nourishes us – it is not about conforming or trying to fight off change, it’s not about searching for the elixir of youth, it is rather about understanding that nothing remains the same, life is dynamic and so are we. We just need to keep on developing, growing and embracing the opportunities we are offered. Like the Spring that will soon be upon us, we can regenerate and flourish…
In the words of Maya Angelou,
“Now you understand
Just why my heads not bowed
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
That’s all of us :)