The Phases of Life
18 August 2014,17:14:45 BST
As a woman we travel through a raft of emotional and physical phases in our lives from childhood to teenage years, from early adulthood and for some to motherhood, then to middle age to menopause, senior to older years. In the past we were encouraged to make the most of our young years as they “don’t last forever” so we try and fail and try again and succeed or at least we think we do. I am not so sure that our early years can be enjoyed as much as we think. Yes we are young, have more stamina, can wake up the next day and shake of a hangover way quicker than with 40 years or more under our belts. We are apprentices, doers, unsure of who the hell we are –ers….
In my forties with two children I am in a “phase” of confidence. I certainly don’t have the body I would have always craved for but nor do I have the chibby body of twenties. I have a healthy body I can be confident in. Super active – as most women in their forties seem to be – I am proud to see the fruits of my labour coming to fruition, super proud to see my children growing into beautiful people, confident in my knowledge and experience, eager to continue and progress with new projects. I am on the outside, and to all extents and purposes a purposeful, successful and fulfilled woman but…. And there is always a “but”….
One of my yogini friends Elena Brower once said the best yoga teachers are the ones who have struggled, bummed out, sunk low, done some sh***y things in their life and I am no exception. I don’t profess to be the best yoga teacher but the confidence and dynamic positive energy has come from the embers of hard graft and some deep struggle.
Always the joker when younger and a large baby, child, teenager, my body issues blocked a lot of my body confidence. Arriving in my twenties not knowing who I was, what I wanted, needed I tried to me a version of me that I thought was expected of me, that my parents would love to see, that my boos wanted, that my boyfriend thought he wanted ….
My thirties, marriage and children changed my perspective on life but filled my days with needs, routine, school runs, things that “need doing”. Little time for self-reflection which was actually exactly what was needed. Having said that those early years of motherhood and married life help shape the character add the colours and flavours of our characters.
And so my forties ….. Mid-Life crisis? Time Out? Well here’s the thing! Suddenly the confidence I lacked in myself in my twenties and had little time for in my thirties knocked on my door and screamed out “now is the time”!
A combination of events maybe nudged me in that direction – a difficult birth with my second child and emergency surgery, the loss of a close friend to cancer, starting up a business…. The fact that I had had my children, had passed through that ticking biological clock, had turned a corner in my life as a woman…. All of this opened a huge door and offered me the courage to move forwards and leave the insecurities behind.
Yoga and my spiritual path has taught me to be kind to myself, to always respect emotions that rise up, to observe from behind my eyes and not judge, to allow space in between the cracks that appear, the ups and downs of life. I had not always listened to this sound advice but it was there, nudging me, pushing me in the right direction. As such I breathed deeply and took some big life decisions – separation from my husband, selling a beloved home, setting up a new one, being honest with my children and spending more quality time with them, with myself and my friends too. In the words of John Legend I started to love “all my curves and all my edges, all my perfect imperfections”. Well I tried, am trying….
To be a little more precise about where I live and my home …. I live in France and in quite a particular part of it, the mountains of Savoie. I find myself surrounded by dynamic, sporty, strong women in their forties, fifties and sixties…. It’s a celebration of mature female strength of character. A beautiful, purposeful vision. An amazing tonic for ourselves, for our children, for each other.
Years ago – in fact not that many years ago - women would not have been able to do half of what we do now. I remember my grandmother saying that after the age of 35 you shouldn’t wear a swimming- costume as it was vulgar and inappropriate. Women had to give up their jobs when they got married and/or certainly when they had children. As if we could do no more than keep home and bring up our kids.
Now-a-days we often, in the West at least, take it for granted that we can do pretty much anything and everything at any age. And so it should be! Life is an amazing patchwork of experiences, colours, paths and stepping-stones. Lets embrace the phases of life as they teach us well to be who we are, need to be, want to be at that time without looking back or forwards too much. Let the twenties be a marvellous discovery of youth and experiences, let our child bearing years be an wonderful rainbow of fullness, let our forties and fifties be fabulously dynamic and fulfilling as women, and let our sixties and beyond be exactly what we want them to be without the need to add “for her age” at the end of our physical and mental exploits.
Enjoy and revel in each phase of your lives as each one is a precious gift often only realised in hindsight. Most of all enjoy exactly where you are right now…. It is exactly where you are supposed to be.
Charlotte Saint Jean
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