The Joy of Midlife

The Joy of Midlife

The Joy of Midlife

Nearby is the country they call life
You will know it by its seriousness.
— Rilke

 

A certain age arrives where you believe yourself to be post-surprises. With enough been-there-done-that lodged in your bones, you may find yourself saying out loud, ‘Nothing could shock me.’

But the relief came as a surprise. When I turned 50, my kids were young adults, the vigil of my mothering had finally come to an end and I was still alive. If I died, no-one could rightfully mourn, ‘she died so young.’ At best, they might sob, ‘She died so middle-aged.’ It felt like both an existential and generational victory given how many women in my ancestral family died young.

But more than that, it was a giddy, unexpected liberation that was only the gateway to an ever-expanding sense of freedom I had no idea lay just beyond the trenches of mothering.

I’d always romanticized freedom, assuming it was either, like youth, wasted on those without a prefrontal cortex, or on men who left their wives and kids in the intoxicated fog of a midlife crisis. During the long sacrificial years of hands-on parenting, I’d quietly mourned that the days of wanton partying, shagging and shirking were well behind me, and all that was left was relentless responsibility and respectability and where the hell was the fun in that?

The eight kilos that had climbed onboard with menopause and settled in the apron of my midriff, seemed a minor mortification. So, I’d buy bigger clothes. Suddenly, hours opened up like startling blooms, where once was an endless landscape of (dermatologist, dentist, basketball, guitar) arrangements and appointments (none of which were for me). What would I do with such bounty? And why had midlife been kept such a secret? It struck me that knowing your fifties would be your #bestdecadeever might have come in handy as an incentive to get through the quagmire of the previous three.

I had spent my twenties steering myself towards motherhood like a moth to a flame. Every choice was shaped by the goal: find a man, make babies. Motherhood lay before me, an unconquered territory. That was hardly freedom. It was conscription.

In motherhood, I melted into the lives of other people where I became a blur of a person. I clocked up thousands of decisions about the well-being of others entrusted to my care. I wounded my heart worrying about whether they were the right ones, causing my husband to once remark, ‘Don’t beat yourself up, just because it’s your fault.’ The neurosis crippled me. There is no liberation in watching your children struggle when you’d pay good money to suffer instead of them but are powerless to swap places.

Who knew that at midlife, we come to know true freedom for the first time?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

We no longer fret about expiry dates (being left on the shelf or our biological clock). We either met Mr or Ms Right (or several versions of them) or we didn’t. We know – or should by now – that romantic love is a commercially funded and loaded business that sets traps for young women (maybe we were that young woman not so long ago).

We either had babies or we did not. We stop waiting for someone to come and save us, and find we are strong and smart enough to do it ourselves. We cease bitching about our skin/hair/weight because our sister/girlfriend/colleague didn’t make it past forty.

Once we’ve buried people we love, some of whom should have outlived us, (as if ‘should’ has anything to do with dying), we become less cavalier about every moment; and more fastidious about how and with whom we spend them.

We understand time is running out and behave with a sudden-bowel-movement urgency around things that matter.

A woman at this stage of her life is wildly untethered. She’s a terrifying creature if one is fixated on control and containment. She becomes a ‘termagant’ – a term I only just learned: a ‘violent, overbearing, turbulent, brawling, quarrelsome woman; a virago, a shrew.’ In midlife, women shrug off marriages, switch careers, go back to university, start businesses. We stop owing anyone our patience, civility or decency.

Vagueness, a not-sure-what-do-you-think? people-pleasing personality trait lest we not be liked by the average so-and-so, vanishes. Everything blurry clicks into sharp focus, like a lens in those optometry frames which turns an O into a D.

Questions we have delayed for too long nestle in the pistil of our decision-making: where would I like to live, now that ‘near the best schools’ is irrelevant? Do I want to eat meat, since I don’t have to cook for a teenage son? Do I need a television set? A husband? A car? A bra?

Perhaps we find ourselves in our petrification at the rising tide of age, lining up for Botox, facelifts and liposuction, so as not to become invisible. But invisible to whom? We become ever more evident to ourselves as our Emersonian beauty ‘steals inwards.’ Invisibility is and has always been a superpower. Midlife gives us a free pass into our own blessed autonomy.

Behind us lies the rubble and blah-blah of all our successes and failures. We finally have the freedom to leap beyond self-recrimination and bless the work we did even if it did not yield the results we hoped for. We can choose (the zenith of all freedoms) to forgive ourselves for all the mistakes we promised we would never make, and chuckle at the hubris of thinking we could control the outcome.

Then we can toss our greying hair in an insouciant manner unbecoming for a woman our age as we head out in the direction of our ‘at-long-last’ dreams.

We survived our early lives thinking it was our only chance at happiness.

In midlife, we get another go at it. 

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 13 books, her latest is Unbecoming (Lusaris, 2020). www.joannefedler.com

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There’s an Octopus in the Room

‘We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.’
– Mary Oliver

In a week’s time, I will get to live my dream.

Over four days, I’ll sit in what is called in the industry, a ‘writers’ room’ with five smart, talented women and we will discuss how to turn my book, Things Without A Name, into a television series.

If my book makes it to the screen, it has to do something useful in the world. It has to make up for my failures on the front lines. And I hear Ru Paul’s words to his queens on stage, ‘Don’t f#@% it up.’

But it’s also the knowledge that here it is – the moment I have worked all my life for. I feel the heft of responsibility to the stories of so many women at my back.

I’m afraid that somehow this tender story will be ‘commercialized’ to make it palatable to viewers.

Years ago, when I insisted on the inclusion of the appendix which hits the reader hard with the realities of violence against women, my publisher was worried it would make ‘readers uncomfortable.’

‘Good,’ I’d said. ‘Isn’t that the point?’

‘Uncomfortable doesn’t sell,’ she’d responded.

***

I get up early on a Sunday morning. I like to get down to the ocean for my swim before the crowds descend.

‘Seriously?’ I mutter as I paw through the garbage my family has been too distracted or lazy to sort out during their nighttime forays into the fridge. I pull the soft plastics out and put them in the bag above the fridge. I wash out the hard plastics and tins and put them in the recycling. I pull out the banana peels and other food scraps and put them where they belong – in the compost under the sink. ‘How many bloody times do I have to tell you…?’

But telling people how to behave is not how you get them to care enough to act accordingly. I know this. How many times do I have to know this before I’ll figure out a different way to inspire a change of behavior?

***

Since I’ve become an ocean swimmer, I will watch anything about the ocean. So I settle down on my couch and begin the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher, a South African production about a man, Craig Foster, who forms a relationship with an octopus over the span of a year.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Things Without A Name is the best of my thirteen books – so when it was met with mediocre sales (and embarrassingly poor ones in Germany, the country in which some of my books have been bestsellers), I’ve often wondered if perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps the book means so much to me because I care so much about the issue – ‘the issue’ of violence against women and children. I spent six years as a woman’s rights advocate in South Africa in my mid-twenties. I set up a legal advocacy centre to end violence against women; I sat on a Law Commission which drafted the Domestic Violence Act. I ran workshops to educate police, prosecutors, magistrates, even judges on unconscious sexism and racism. I was, I guess you could say, an expert in this area once. Those were, without doubt, the worst years of my life.

Then, when my daughter was 18 months old, someone I love deeply was gang-raped. I suppose in a story, this is what has to happen – what you fear the most is what you must encounter on your journey, so you have a chance to meet it anew and transform yadda yadda yadda.

What it did was catapult my husband and I from our beautiful rental home in Rondebosch beneath Lion’s Head in Cape Town to another rental in Sydney with two small children before I could grab hold of my heart long enough to still it. Within three years, my life in South Africa became a backstory, replete with its imprinting wounds, holding the world that had formed me, the sky under which I’d been born, the earth on which I’d taken my first steps, the people who make me a person, you know – the kind of whole person you are when you’re not half gone.

It took five years of grief and not knowing what I would make of myself in this bizarre, beautiful, terribly repressed country with a racist history that rivals South Africa’s, for me to settle down to writing, which had always been a hobby, something I did on the side. It seemed benign and healing enough an occupation after the horrors I’d witnessed firsthand, the ones I needed to forget enough so I could be a semi-sane mother.

In my narratives, I could control what happened. People you loved wouldn’t get raped. Or murdered. You could write about love; friendship; the mundane stresses of motherhood. And so I did.

Until, one day, seven years into our immigration, the words of a woman sitting opposite me at my desk at POWA, resurfaced, the way a submerged object – even a body – will rise, eventually. Her sister had been stabbed to death with a pair of scissors. Forgive me for inserting this image into your mind, but those were the facts. The line I wrote was ‘There are not many useful things you can say to someone whose sister has been stabbed to death with a pair of scissors.’

And then Things Without A Name poured out of me, a long wail of sadness, grief and, surprisingly, hope.

***

I’ve always longed for an encounter with the divine. I don’t even know what I mean by this, to be honest. It has nothing to do with patriarchal religion which makes me ornery, verging on the irascible. I’ve been a self-help junkie, immersing myself in meditation, philosophy, mysticism and Sounds true podcasts over many decades. At one point I noticed I was hoping for an angel to appear at the foot of my bed to tell me that my friend Emma who died so tragically and so young, is very much still around. Or for a voice to speak into my ear that my dreams about my cat Tanaka mean that her spirit lingers over the cat bowl. Or that my Bobba Chaya who died when my dad was thirteen watches over me when I sleep.

I’ve grown out of that, thankfully.

These days, I go down to the ocean.

‘I ask for permission to enter and safe passage while I’m in.’

This is my morning prayer before I step into the water. I wait for the cold to bite me and I sink myself into its embrace. The moment you put your face in and you feel the water on your eyelids, is sublime. It takes a full two minutes for your body to register it is not in shock and then, as my husband wrote to me in a birthday card, ‘she is made of the sea.’

***

I am sobbing.

My husband looks up at me. ‘You watching that thing about the octopus? Didn’t realise it was a tearjerker.’

‘It’s not sad… it’s just… beautiful, look,’ I say, showing him my iPad screen where Craig is holding this octopus in his arms. ‘She’s caressing him.’

***

Things Without A Name is about Faith Roberts, who at 34, has given up on love. She works, as I once did, at a women’s crisis centre. Her best friend Josh, died when he was 16 of cystic fibrosis. Faith and Josh share a love for nature. Faith loves spiders. Josh sits with dying creatures, just to be with them. Neither of them fears insects or animals – only people. Faith meets Caleb, a vet. The violent men in the book are offset by men who are tender, gentle souls.

The book, I realise now, is not just about violence against women. It’s also about the way humans interact with the natural world. As I think about the writers’ room, I know that I want whatever we do in that room to evoke the same emotion I felt watching My Octopus Teacher.

The line that sticks with me most of all is Craig saying that bringing his son to the water is teaching him ‘gentleness.’

Imagine if all fathers taught their sons that this is the way to be a man.

***

The problem advocates of any social issue face is we tackle the issue head on. We shine a spotlight on cruelty to animals, refugees, women, children, the homeless, the disabled… and we say ‘THIS IS BAD. STOP THESE TERRIBLE BEHAVIOURS.’

No-one likes to be told how to behave.

Ask my family.

When I was a women’s rights advocate, I quickly understood that the language of advocacy and the words we used to draw attention to violence against women and children, did not achieve what we hoped – to end violence and change men’s behaviour.

One of my biggest breakthrough moments coincided with crippling cynicism – when I understood that the language of cost-to-business and ‘financial damage as a result of domestic abuse’ was what got the attention of CEOs. I have grappled, oh how I’ve grappled with the question of how to make people care.

But I realize now that that is not the right question.

The question is how do we get people to feel?

***

My Octopus Teacher is filled with astonishing footage as well as a mesmerizing soundtrack. When I am done, I feel light inside. My boundaries are soft. I recognize in it what I have never been able to achieve in all my years as an advocate. It is the highest form of activism, it is not shouty, condemnatory, blaming or shaming. It doesn’t tell us how to behave. This is what art is supposed to do. It makes you want to be a better version of yourself. It exposes you to the possibility that you are part of some greater family from which you have been exiled in consciousness and it invites you back in.

When an octopus hunts prey, it often fails when it lurches straight at it. Strategy is a patient game. The octopus watches and waits, surrounding the crab or other unsuspecting creature before closing its tentacles around it. I want to learn from an octopus to come side-on, corral peoples’ hearts and souls, trusting they will draw their own humane conclusions.

I’m not saying we don’t need advocates. Of course, we do. They are the voice of our consciousness. They raise a cry on behalf of humanity. They name the things we fail to. They give voice to silent suffering. They hold our collective grief, especially the grief we are dissociated from; the grief we will not acknowledge which is the consequence of our mindless, greedy, selfish, consumerist behaviours on this planet.

I once was one of them. But it is an exhausting, lonely, nightmarish podium on which to stand for too long and eventually ones’ legs give way. We burn out, become exhausted and disillusioned with humanity – these are all built into the job description.

I’ve done my time there. I’ve had my heart butchered, my soul excoriated and my spirit dismembered, just like that octopus had her tentacle torn off by the shark.

I thought I was done.

But octopus tentacles grow back.

***

‘How did you get your book optioned for the screen?’ a friend asks me. ‘Did someone just read the book and approach you?’

I laughed even though the answer hurt.

In October last year, a friend of mine was brutally raped and tortured over many hours. I set up a GoFundme campaign to help raise money for her medical costs and recovery. Then some weeks later, Hannah Clarke and her children were murdered when her ex-husband set them alight.

I heard a voice say, ‘You’re not done yet with this issue. Take this story and find a way to tell it to more people.’

You could say I had an encounter with the divine.

***

So I made a list of every person I knew in movies and television and reached out to them.

I posted out many copies of my book.

I set up meetings.

I spoke about Hannah Clarke. The zeitgeist. #MeToo.

It happened quickly and without fuss. Bunya Productions optioned it for the screen.

Then I really got a fright.

That voice inside me said, ‘Now what, Fedler? Here it is, the opportunity you’ve asked for, a greater platform on which to tell this story.’

And so as I prepare myself for four days in a writers’ room to discuss the characters, plot and how to bring the story into peoples’ living rooms and hearts, I am taking my octopus teacher with me as my compass.

I only hope that whatever we create together in that room will resonate with the delicacy, soulfulness and brilliant beauty of one man’s love song to an ocean creature.

I see it, all the connections. That little octopus with her tentacle torn off by the pyjama shark is women’s bodies. The human is the male psyche.

And I wept to witness that wild, precious creature caressing the hand and chest of a gentle man who would do her no harm.

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May It Happen for You

May It Happen for You

May It Happen for You

Sometimes

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscatel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you

– Sheenagh Pugh

As we hurtle towards the end of 2019, I’m rounding the year up, harvesting the insights and trying to work out how I’ve become that weird and crazy person – you know, the type you see down at the beach in winter, swimming.

The year began with me flat on my back. That L3 L4 disc. I had to draw on my entire life savings of spiritual work to keep me steady and ‘trusting the story’ that was playing out.

It played out.

I took to water to learn to move again – I had to be reintroduced to gravity, like a disloyal friend who has to earn back our confidence.

The small forays in the ocean baths became swims across Coogee bay and that in turn has led me to the greatest love of my life (Zed knows, he’s good with it). Learning how to be in the ocean – to read the tides, understand the rips, manage the swells, use the waves – has taught me humility, courage and stamina. I’ve  now done four open water ocean swims – the kind of thing I consider a little reckless and extreme. The most thrilling part is that I don’t know who I am anymore. I used to ‘hate cold water’ and was ‘afraid of big waves and sharks.’ These are all still a bit true. But a little less true.

The ocean has become a life theme, a foundation of my every day, and it has helped me hold steady through a year of big decisions (letting go of my crazy busy-ness); writing a new book (The Sabbatical – the third in the Secret Mothers’ Business trilogy), staying somewhat sane while my 22 year old daughter was travelling alone through Europe for 6 weeks; big griefs and sadnesses. 

 

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

In April this year, l lost a beloved friend, Carol Thomas. She was maybe the best obstetrician and gynecologist, but without doubt, one of the magnificent humans you’re lucky to meet once or twice in your life. I met her when we were both women’s rights activists on the Reproductive Rights Alliance in South Africa many years ago. She delivered my son Aidan in 1999. Her death seared my heart and brought me to my soul’s knees. I kept swimming, sobbing my grief into the water, my goggles filling with tears.

It was a blessing to then come upon Stephen Jenkinson and his two astonishing books Die Wise and Come of Age which have literally changed me – how many books ever do that? Jenkinson says being an elder is about ‘having your heart wrecked on schedule.’ And so it has been.The water has held me through it all – the stingray, the blue gropers, the small silver and gold flecks of fin, the jimbles that have stung me ragged, the speckled wobbegongs, the large manta rays that have terrified and thrilled me, even a small Port Jackson shark (harmless, by all accounts) I came a little too close to one morning.

The sea has offered me daily astonishments with which to actively forge joy – a mercy in the face of all that has crept in as cruelty and suffering, including the terrible effects of climate change around us that are hurting our earth and the future of all sentient beings.

Of course, life is always mottled. Beauty shines like the gold resin that holds broken pieces together in the Japanese art of Kintsugi. A happy collaboration with talented artist Margaret Rolla came to fruition this year in a little book of Meditations and Visualizations for Aspiring Authors and Writers  as we turned the meditations from my signature Author Awakening Adventure course into an exquisitely illustrated book. It is Marg’s first book, so yet another celebration. Lucky for you, it’s just in time for Christmas and Chanukkah gifts.

Aren’t her illustrations exquisite? I hope you’ll grab a copy or two to gift over this festive season.

After I’ve finished the rewrite on The Sabbatical, I’m planning a couple of retreats next year – some will be for writers (I’m especially interested in working with women leaders who need support and mentorship to bring a book into the world). Others may involve healing through storytelling, family constellations and even ocean swimming (When Wound Meets Water) through collaborations with some spectacular and powerful women. In this way, I hope to cross paths with some of you in 2020.

I wish you all a blessed festive season and new year. As the Pugh poem above goes, sometimes goodness prevails.

May it happen for you.

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To My Sisters Who Are in Their Midlife

To My Sisters Who Are in Their Midlife

To My Sisters Who Are in Their Midlife

To my sisters who are in their midlife,

I read a piece yesterday about how ‘invisible’ women over 50 become. It was one of those old cliched tirades against menopause and ageing and how she’s going to wear her short skirt and go to clubs and get drunk and do what she wants because she insists on BEING SEEN. And you know what, we’re better than that. I’m frankly tired of the clichés and old narratives about this time of life.

If we want to focus on the desperations of menopause, and how sweaty, exhausted and bloated and forgetful it is making us, we can. But like, why? If we stop for one mindful moment, we may just get an idea of what a worn-out old story this is, I’m talking ‘sacrifice-your-only-son-for-I-am-the-Lord-Your-God’ boring and outdated and not written by or for me.

For one thing, ageing is a privilege. Our kids may not get to age. We’ve all got girlfriends who’ve died young. Can we remember them when we start feeling sorry for ourselves?

Secondly, in addition to the weight-gain, forgetfulness and whatever other disruptions ageing brings, midlife also heralds wisdom, clarity, self-acceptance, humility, equanimity, courage, whole-heartedness and all the qualities that eluded us during our hyped up and over-pimped ‘youth.’ And I feel sexier for it, but in a new kinda sexy way, because it’s for ME. No-one else.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

I wish Facebook would stop pushing anti-ageing products on me. If my boobs droop – that’s one of the honours of getting older. My wrinkles? I’ve earned each and every one of them, and you want me to spend money on erasing them?

And as for us womenfolk, can we please stop carrying on about how invisible we are?

To whom? To men? To people who legislate about our bodies when they’ve never changed a tampon or been in labour?? To those who don’t know the fear of walking home alone after dark? To those who sit around boardroom tables and share locker room jokes? Have we EVER been seen in a way that is empowering beyond what men want to do with and to us?

What does our anxiety about being ‘invisible’ even mean about how we value ourselves? If no-one wolf-whistles as we pass by; if men don’t harass us based on how we look, how much power does that return to us? Being ‘invisible’ to those who can’t see us is a symptom of a cultural blindness and makes us incredibly dangerous in the ‘they-will-never-see-us-coming’ way. Armies spend a lot of time and money on these strategies.

The more ‘invisible’ I’ve become to men (if that’s even a thing I could give a single fuck about), the more visible I’ve become to myself. That is the gift in turning your gaze inwards, to stop caring what others think about how you look, how you speak, what you wear, and who you choose to be.

Please take some time in front of a mirror and look closely at that face.

See yourself.

Become visible.

Let’s stop perpetuating this poor-me-no-one-can-see-me shtick. We have shit to fix. We have work to do.

Why We Should Keep Broken Things

You've probably all heard the phrase the ‘first shitty draft.’ Anne Lamott coins it in her fabulous book on writing, Bird by Bird (which if you haven’t already read, needs to go on your Urgent Books to Read list). First drafts are shitty. It’s in their nature to be...

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn't come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.Anne HerbertMy son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all...

Bedrock

Virginia can’t say if she is claustrophobic herself. She’s never been this far inside a cave before. The little spelunking she did as a child along the coast of the Western Cape was hide-and-seek with bare-footed cousins, in sea-carved rocky alcoves.

Artist-in-Reticence

A month ago, I found out that I was going to be a literary artist-in-residence. I was shocked and delighted, but also uncomfortably pleased with myself for managing to secure such an opportunity. I felt honoured. And excited. Yet an underlying sense of hubris was...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no...

How’s That Cynicism Working for You?

I went to law school. I got not one, but two law degrees – one at Yale. Yippee for me, right? Actually, my entire life since then has been a recovery from legal thinking. Not that I don’t value logic, clarity, causation and an understanding of what it means to think...

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

When I was younger, I believed I needed rescuing.

One day, sitting at an airport, I realised I didn’t want to be that person. I was homeward bound, after galivanting with no purpose, when I suddenly recognised that I could take responsibility for myself, and that I didn’t need to sit around waiting for someone to do it for me. That was the day I began to grow. I took charge of me. I decided to hold myself accountable for the unfolding of my life.  And since that moment, I have grown and evolved into the person I am today. Once I was a lost, lonely girl waiting to be saved.  But now when I look into my past, and see the me I have become, I am in awe of what I have achieved, especially because back then I didn’t know I could.

I run my own Pilates studio now.  And at the beginning of last year I realized I was at another crossroads. I was tired. Tired of being beholden to ideas and thoughts that were not my own, of trying to make everybody happy, and of not sticking to my boundaries. I took a month sabbatical, and the time away helped me see things from a different vantage point. I became clear on what I liked about my profession (and what I liked about myself), why I wanted to teach, and what my boundaries were. I asked myself, ‘What did I want to impart’, ‘Who was I willing to work with (and who was I not)’, and ‘What was important to me?’ I worked on channelling my energy from ‘have to do’s’ to ‘want to do’s.’ I rediscovered my joy of teaching. I remembered what I wanted people to feel when they were in my communal space, and what I wanted to give back to those who trusted me to move them.

I began to see who I was again. I had never been one to put down roots, for years being a restless wanderer, but over the years this changed. I brought my energy, my trust, my process of belonging in my own body – of falling into my skin – to others who needed a safe place to learn to do the same. My sabbatical happened to coincide with an imminent house and studio move, and I realised I would be able to create a studio space to encompass these insights.

About  Robyn

Robyn Spacey is a born and bred Capetonian. Though she hasn’t travelled extensively,  with a mountain, beach and city on her doorstep, she believes she lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Robyn is an avid reader, a movement teacher, andmother to a young girl. In her work, she uses words to impart ideas to clients to visualise the unseen spaces under their skins. This trusting of words to bodies has translated into the belief in the power of her own story, the confidence to pen them onto the page, and a deepening into the process of writing her book. She is, has always been, and will continue to be a writer.

Get more of Robyn at www.movementsanctuary.co.za or www.thebookclubblog.co.za

With physical renovations being necessary, I also decided to rebrand my business. Both processes needed consideration and choices in different aspects. One asked questions of my external vision, and one of my internal. Now, my decision making process can be haphazard, leaning either to a firm no nonsense approach, or the complete opposite where I don’t know ANYTHING. (I blame the effect of the moon for this…) But, I persisted. I answered questions, visualised, stretched, and transformed. Finally, with a little help from a designer who managed to climb into my head, I now have a new logo, a new name, and a new space.

I did it. I made it happen because I am no longer waiting for someone to save me. I realized a dream because I believed in myself, and in taking that next step.

For me, 2018 was the year of change, and so while all of this was happening (renovating takes time), I was also writing the first draft of my book. And I realised writing is a lot like rebranding. It is a vision only I can see. A dream only I can feel.

My book lives only inside of me. Inside my soul. There are characters who slowly reveal themselves to me as I begin to trust my vision, my words. But this book requires tenacity, effort and persistence. Bravery. It requires that I put in the work. It demands belief in myself and what I have to say. It needs rescuing from the very heart of me, by me.

No one else is going to do the work. Only I can let the words out, one after another, to trap them onto the pages of reality, to become tangible. To be a reflection of what I can achieve, of who else I am becoming. It takes time and trust. Belief, even in my darkest moments of doubt. It takes re-writing as many times as I need to. It takes asking the right questions, visualising, stretching the mind, and confidence in the transformation so eventually, with a little help from my mentor, I will manifest my book into reality.

One word at a time.

A Man’s Job

There is, however, a fine line between an acceptance of these jobs as ‘natural’ and the slippery slope into boorish gender stereotypes in which I am invariably left unshod with a frilly apron at the kitchen sink. Whilst I can do anything if I wish to, I do believe there are certain tasks I, as a woman, am simply and without further explanation excused from. I don’t want to get into a conversation about it and I don’t want to fight about it.

The Last Time I Saw My Father

I am who I am because of my father. Early on, it was evident that we shared common interests – common connections. He instilled in me a love of the theatre. I joined him on stage in amateur productions from the age of nine. Playing the lead role in high school plays...

Dueling with a Four-Year-Old

There is a world, a ‘place of tomorrow,’ Kahlil Gibran writes, in which our children’s souls dwell, which ‘we cannot visit, not even in our dreams.’ That world of fairies and elves my daughter inhabits is a familiar, beckoning place. I delight in her lilting musings...

Signs You Could Be a Writer

Signs You Could Be a Writer (No Matter What Your Day Job Is) ‘I’m not a writer,’ people often tell me. ‘But I’ve always wanted to write…’ You know, there was a time I also wasn't a writer. But I always knew I wanted to write. This longing then, could be, as Rilke put...

Writing Is Not for Wusses

Writing Is Not for Wusses... so Zip Up Your Warrior Suit (You're Braver Than You Think) Being a writer is not like any other profession. Our work is literally who we are. Not to laud it over book keepers or bakers who do an honest day’s work, every time a writer ‘goes...

Make Sure Your Story Is a Story

The biggest mistake I made with the first draft of my first novel is that my main character Mia was passive. She did nothing - lots of shitty stuff happened to her. The problem is that characters who do nothing make us feel nothing. And if your reader doesn't care...

The Write Time

The Write Time

The Write Time

When is the right time to write? Or do anything for that matter?

There are proverbs, quotes, and metaphors galore, to justify time management – be it an excuse to procrastinate, or a drive to be productive.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3.1

The trouble is, you think you have time. – Buddha

Almost everything will work again if you unplug for a few minutes. Including you. – Anne Lamott

Let’s start by taking a smallish nap or two. – Winnie the Pooh

Sometimes it’s perfectly okay, and absolutely necessary, to shut down, kick back, and do nothing. – Lori Deschene

(In the interests of complete transparency, I spent three hours procrastinating by searching for quotes on procrastination.)

I used to talk endlessly about exercise. I thought about it often. But my kids were young, I was working, and I had a house to run, so there wasn’t enough time. Consequently, I didn’t have a healthy body or a healthy relationship with the hill outside my house. One morning I put my walking shoes on in the hope I might exercise later that day. While they were on, I figured I’d walk to the letterbox and back – after all, every little bit counts. Once I got to the letterbox, I kept going. I walked for an hour – including up the hill outside my house, and a whole pile of other inclines and declines of various degrees. All it required was the decision to start, and I was rewarded with the smell of the eucalyptus along the cliffs, and the salty wind in my hair and on my cheeks as I walked along the beach.

There’s no right time for most things – there’s only now. It’s easy to find a reason to procrastinate – I can name ten things I’m procrastinating on right now (including getting out of bed and having a shower).

Procrastination means something else has prioritised our time.

We all have the same number of hours in the day, but if writing is important enough, I’ll procrastinate on something else (having a shower) and attack the keyboard instead. If it’s not important enough, I’ll have my shower, drink a cup of tea, walk up the hill, and vacuum the floor. Sure, I’ll have a nice clean floor, but is that all I want to achieve in my day?

.

About Simone

Crazy hair, solitude seeker, at peace in the natural world, Simone Yemm dedicated over three decades as a professional flautist and teacher. In 2008 she completed a Master’s in Journalism, specialising in editing, and continues to hone her skills as a writer. After a series of crises led to an emotional breakdown, Simone developed a passionate interest in mental health and shares her story to educate and support the wider community. With 25 years of marriage under her belt, she successfully raised three and a half young men and a chocolate-brown Burmese cat. A mean feat never to be underestimated.

www.simonelisa.com

Penning words is an incredibly important part of my life. When I write, I feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, my mind feels clearer and more peaceful, and ironically, I become more productive with other aspects of my life (like showering and walking up hills). When I let the habit slip, my mental health declines, I procrastinate on everything else anyway, and I feel a sense of guilt for not having done the one thing I want to do.

I don’t need to write a book every day – every little bit of writing counts. I just need to make the decision to sit at the keyboard and start.

The right time to write is the same as the right time to do anything important or valuable in life – right now.

Whenever possible. I can’t wait until the perfect allotted time frame arrives – because that never happens. Maybe I only have fifteen minutes. Perhaps there are distractions everywhere. It could be there are twenty things I should be doing, and I have to choose. There is never a perfect time to exercise, eat well, have babies, start a business, or write a book. There is simply a choice about how to use the time we have. If the only available time in the day is early mornings, so be it. Or late at night? Okay.

Exercise was important to me, so I created time and space. For six years I’ve exercised regularly, and my body is grateful. 

Writing is important to me, so I create time and space for it. I sometimes lose the habit, but when I do get my thoughts on paper, my heart, mind and soul are all incredibly grateful.

And the more often I do it, the more writing becomes a part of my daily routine and a true priority.

To quote the wisdom of Gandalf the Grey, “All we have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event (18-22 March) in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

My Triumvirate: Meditation, Mantra and Memoir

I’m in the early stages of writing my memoir. At this point, I’m hunting, gathering, pulling things out and looking to see if and how they fit. I’m reliving scenes, moments, memories. Some are painful. Some are lighthearted. I smile as I write about the lighthearted...

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father...

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn't come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.Anne HerbertMy son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all...

Bedrock

Virginia can’t say if she is claustrophobic herself. She’s never been this far inside a cave before. The little spelunking she did as a child along the coast of the Western Cape was hide-and-seek with bare-footed cousins, in sea-carved rocky alcoves.

7 Things the Writing Community Can Do for You

Being part of a writing community has changed so much for me. I have been a writer my entire life, but I have almost always navigated the ocean of words on my own. Only in the last year have I come to realize what it means to my journey to have other oarsmen in the...

Writing about Ourselves So That Others Will Read It

  When we write about ourselves, it’s not dissimilar to writing about a fictional or imaginary character. In Hemingway’s iceberg, we see that what we need to know about a character is vast compared to what we show. This depth of knowledge helps us to...