I got myself in a muddle yesterday. Dwelling on what the world is becoming. How frightening everything seems. How much anger there seems to be bubbling under the surface of almost everything. How resentful we are. How conflicted by media, politics and the looming, slightly wonderful threat that is surely AI. How the world has become so very exhausting for women. How hard we are having to fight for almost everything. How sad it is that our right to privacy, to female suffering, to sovereignty is compromised daily by a more insidious, complex misogyny than that we have ever had to fight before.
I felt exhausted by it. Slightly overwhelmed by what it means to exist now: what it is that my purpose is now that so many aspects of our lives are public property, and in the terrible light of the furore sounding Nicola Bulley’s right to privacy while she remains missing, to what degree we all need to be rising up in rage. In the past week I have sat in coffee shops with three different friends and our conversation has been less trivial, less domestic and less personal than it ever has been before: a discussion of what it means to be a woman in mid-life in 2023 threading through every branch of each subject we meandered through, our respective exhaustion and worry central to the time we spent together. And in my groups and personal coaching work I am tracing that same tired, frustrated rage too: something that once felt like a silly, simple celebration like Valentines Day, now barely tolerated for it is merely the reinforcement of how complex life has become, with no headspace for trivia when our world is burning, and money and relationship trauma so constantly prevalent in too many of our lives.
I felt displaced. BrocanteHome has to some degree always been a luxury in all our lives here. A puttery online treat of a site designed to encourage you to embrace the little nothings of our day that make life worth living, and for a while yesterday afternoon I pondered how I can continue to keep directing you to celebrate the tiny little stuff of life when the great big stuff is casting such huge shadows, how I can keep persuading you to be grateful when every hour of every day feels challenging and complicated in a way it hasn’t – in my adult lifetime at least. And as I pondered it struck me that we need gratitude for the small stuff of life more than ever, for gratitude is the antidote to despair. Puttery treats still reasons to sink into the minutiae of our day and allow ourselves to be comforted not by what we do not have the power to change alone, but by the effort we can make within our own four walls, the effort we can make for ourselves in order to keep on reinforcing our own strength, and that of domesticity and mothering to offset what feels cruel, vile, exhausting or simply ridiculous.
And so as is my wont, I began to write a list. A list I suppose of reasons to be cheerful despite my own frankly relentlessly exhausting circumstances, and oft barely suppressed scream. A list that said I am grateful for this, despite that. Little silly things and huge great big things. A list that reminded me that rage doesn’t have to be loud and ranting, it can be determined, focused and purposeful. A list that said all this, it still matters, it matters more than ever.
For my Finn, who so patiently explains how the world is now for those of his age who see it so very differently to how we do. Who says you can’t understand, (and we don’t expect you to) because you did not grow up with the pressure of social media and were free to be wholly yourself. But who also expresses derision for his many teenage peers (and grown men) buying into the myth of Andrew Tate and his cronies because he has the confidence necessary to know his own worth without needing to bolster his ego by compromising that of the women in his life.
For the wall around my own soul finally brave enough to say no, that isn’t good enough for me, and thus resist falling in to another relationship that will do no more than continue to erode what was once crumbling.
For the frankly astonishing women in my life who have left relationships recently or watched it dissolve around them and have stood up and fought for new homes, for their children and for entirely new fresh starts because they had no choice, while the men they have left behind flail and whimper and stall.
For the good men I know and have met recently who ask me to tell them my story and express a genuine desire to help me to understand that I deserve more. Better. That I have to expect it for myself.
For that awful man I endured a date with a few weeks ago, who could barely string a sentence together but who assured me regardless me he was happy to be on our date because he couldn’t take his eyes off my “tits”. A man who ended the date by giving me a “special hug” that involved squeezing my cleavage and shouting “tits!” into the scary dark of the carpark. A man who did more in the hour I spent with him than anyone else has done in a lifetime to remind me that I am more than my body. And I am entitled to the rage I feel about how it has been received over the years.
For the roof over my head. A house I love but will eventually have to leave. A house I am so very grateful for but have to hustle every day to keep because it was never intended to be something I managed alone.
And for the imminent arrival of the menopause. An end to the debilitating, frightening symptoms of peri-menopause and the endless toll it took on my body, soul and relationship, and now the welcoming of clarity, creativity and determination I could not have imagined while I was lost in the wilderness of shifting hormones.
I am grateful too for the own surge in my emotions. In fact I think perhaps I am angry. No. There is no perhaps about it. I am angry. And I know so many of the women I love, are too. Some of them quieter than I am and simply channelling their rage, exhaustion and disappointment into lining their own lives with personal betterment, carrying the kids with them and managing because they have to, while still doing their upmost to do the next right thing, and be kind and decent along the way even in the face of indifference from those that purport to love them.
And of course I am livid that we dare not say too much. That gender politics are so complex, egos so fragile, society so berserk and that I am all too aware that women can quickly turn upon each other, that woman cannot rise up, without men shrinking into bitter puddles and other women calling them out for the pain they have decided to endure instead of casting angry, justified aspersion on. For their own shame and unwillingness to rock the boat, their denial that all marriages have rocky patches, that the menopause can be grim and that their bodies war zones over which men can exert power with a display of strength, indifference or ugly opinion cast like so many stinging hailstones while other women carry on judging them as if their own relative beauty or otherwise is everybody else’s business instead of something so deeply personal.
This then is not all about men, please don’t imagine that to be so. I love the company of men and have loved one in particular so deeply it has almost undone me. But I am just as upset by the tiny, relentless cruelties inflicted by men serving their own egos, as I am by the likes of the two women last week who felt the urge to send me repulsive, uncalled for emails denigrating me for daring to look more polished now and selling my own solution to weight loss. Women apparently triggered by who I am becoming (how dare I!) when all their energy should surely be reserved for bolstering their own self-esteem?
No, it isn’t about men, it is about all of us. It is a plea for the sort of kindness, consideration and respect for other people that the pandemic seems to have destroyed in us: as if our universal fight for enough loo roll has splayed out across all aspects of our lives and it is now one man and women for themselves without thought for what others may be enduring, despite the old adage, we are all in this together, never being more pertinent. I am tired. I think we all are. How could we not when news of the very real threats we face in 2023 are never more than a button away? I am tired and I so very much want us all to do better for each other. To acknowledge each other’s pain and look not to criticise or turn away from but to support to whatever degree we can. To inspire our boys to validate women’s feelings AND respect their bodies and to teach our girls that compassion for each other has never mattered more.
It starts then, with gratitude as the antidote to despair. For the still safe rooves over our head and the people that continue to show up for us even when we are at our worst. For long conversations with good friends, and for those not yet enlightened who remind us to have respect for ourselves and walk the hell away. For those who listen and quietly point out the flaws in our thinking. For a society that unites in fear when a woman goes missing, (despite those who want to make a gameshow out of it), and for tolerance, above all else for tolerance and our own right to act for ourselves, to be as kind as we are capable of being and to look after each other, in a world that might have just gone mad.
Let’s look after each other. Always.