The last few weeks have been a busy and sometimes difficult period for our family. Illness and bereavement marked the final months of winter, and it often felt that life was as stormy as the winds that raged outside. As winter trickles a path into spring, snowdrops pepper our garden and early daffodils peek out in bursts of yellow. The light returns to our mornings, the days stretch as we clear away plates from our evening meal. The season shifts and pivots, the winds rage again. Elsewhere, war descends on a raft of rage and power. I read, watch, listen – try to make sense of the senseless. I think of those who will bear the cost of things they have no say in.
I turn to the daffodil, trying to discern some kind of hope in its yellow bloom.
In my own life, the season also shifts, and light finds its way in through new and unexpected spaces. I secure a new job, working part-time for a charitable organisation doing valuable work right here in Caithness. My writing continues separately, and I submit work that is accepted for publication – work that someone thinks is good, meaningful. I send off a competition entry. I arrange an audio recording of story and music. I work on a collaborative writing project. I believe that my last novel is one of the best things I have written.
After several years of trying, I feel like I have finally hit my stride.
In the background to all of this, it is International Women’s Day. The day finds me in my mid-forties – which presumably means I’m now officially middle-aged. I feel the buds of my own seasonal shift, the tailing off of the things us women are never supposed to admit to. The aching joints, the fatigue, the hormonal dips, the anxiety, the spells of melancholy. I read a book called Confessions of a Menopausal Woman, and wonder why we are still expected to carry these transitions so shamefully.
Why we are expected to carry these weights alone.
We should not, of course, and it’s time to embrace the reality that women are often just hitting their stride at the exact moment the world perceives them as ‘getting older.’ That women are relevant at every age in their lifecycle. That we can help each other with our experience, our compassion and our curiosity. With our vulnerability and our strength.
We talk a lot about ‘strong women’ on International Women’s Day but that label applies to all women. I have known a lot of women. I have yet to meet a woman who is not strong.
So this International Women’s Day, I’m sharing the message that I’m only just hitting my stride, and also – that I’m getting a little bit older. And that those things align perfectly – that shame should never be allowed to exist or linger in that space.
I recently watched a TV show in which an older woman encouraged a younger woman to repeat the mantra ‘I can and I will’ in front of a mirror. Both women went on to achieve things that mattered to them and to the world.
So this International Women’s Day, let’s raise each other up, support each other, cheer for each other.
Even better, let’s do that every day.
We can. We do. We will.