There was a time when middle-aged women would melt into the shadows.
Many would adjust their elasticated skirts, sit down in the darkest corner of the room and watch men continue to perform in the sunshine. Folding their hands in their laps, they closed their mouths and let the next generation turn their faces to the sun.
Those days are gone. Approaching my half century, I’m feeling a resurgence and I’m not alone. There’s a fresh charge of electricity sparking from many women I know, and the energy given off is lighting up my world.
What’s causing this resurgence?
In an exchange with the life-force that is Jodi Rilot, an Executive Coach who’s recently taken up acting, she asked if I thought it was an awareness of our own mortality pushing us to be more productive, because our time is diminishing and we have so much left we want to do.
She says, ‘I remember a period in my 20’s when I had no interests outside work beyond going out. Now I’m knocking on 50 and have more interests than I could handle even if I never slept,’ she adds, ‘I could have another 30-40 years left and I plan to make the most of every single one of them.’
I think the ticking of the clock is a significant factor in my renewed élan, and that’s a shame. I am writing and reading more now than ever before, I love life-drawing and take every opportunity to sit in a room watching the light shine off somebody’s bum. I wish I’d found the time to do this earlier in life (all of it, not just the bum bit).
Like many others, I got caught up in establishing my ‘life’. I focussed on my career, my partner, home and eventually my children. I don’t regret any of it, every eon of energy I spent on those things has bounced back to me redoubled and I am in the privileged position of being comfortable and loved.
But am I happier now I’ve added my own interests to the foundations I’ve spent years laying? I am. Thank you for asking.
With this in mind, my advice to my children will be to never lose sight of what gives them energy in the first place; to remember that the foundations of a life are more firmly built on a solid sense of self. I’ll keep showing them Rose Milligan’s wonderful poem, Dust if you Must. The second verse tells us:
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.
I’ll probably be sorry when they take it literally and live in squalor, but if the mess consists of scattered books and discarded paint palettes, perhaps I won’t mind that much.
Of course, one massive cloud it’s difficult to outrun at our age is the menopause. The often-debilitating symptoms could easily explain why many women don’t want a spotlight trained on them in middle-age. An author friend of mine who’s attained great success in her late forties told me she went on HRT specifically because the menopause was spoiling what she rightly termed, ‘her time.’
I truly believe our time is now
I truly believe our time is now, that middle aged women are no longer slipping into obscurity simply because of the number of years they’ve lived. More knowledge, information and treatment options for dealing with the menopause means we aren’t as roundly hindered by that particular gloomy shadow either.
If you enter the term ‘Middle aged woman’ into your search engine, you’ll see a glut of negative entries and articles about our invisibility or what it’s deemed appropriate for us to wear. I made the mistake of looking at the Urban Dictionary’s definition of us (this site is useful on the rare occasions I want to understand what my children are saying), it wasn’t pretty.
I don’t feel represented in those pieces; they don’t describe me or the women I know.
With the benefit of the internet and social media there are more opportunities for us to show ourselves as we really are, confident and brimming with potential. We still want to take our place in the sun. We can spread the energy which is thrumming inside us and share our positive experiences of being a woman of this age in this time.
And it’s good. We’re connecting, we’re creating and we’re living as richly as we have in any other era of our lives.
Here’s to the resurgence of the middle-aged women, it’s brightening all our lives!
Featured image by Miguel Bruna on Upsplash