This week I’ll be 56. FIFTY SIX. Four years away from 60. I don’t feel old enough.
I’m told I don’t look it – which is both kind and pleasing to hear. I’m not entirely sure where the last 46 years have gone: I sometimes still feel like a 10-year old girl looking out at the adult world around me, curious, confused and concerned.
Yet, the strangest thing is happening: as I emerge from the (fe)maelstrom of menopause and beginning to feel more in control of my emotions, there’s a bubbling reemergence of the girl I once was – before puberty brought a storm surge of hormones and life threw banana skins and olive branches.
I’m a bit of an ‘Archers’ fan – my grandmother who lived with us growing up listened every day – and there’s been a recent story about a ‘rewilding’ project. For ‘Ambridge’ this means allowing countryside return to an uncultivated state, to bring back birdsong, butterflies, bees and wildflowers, a hopeful return to more uncomplicated times where nature can flourish. It seems there is also a rewilding in progress for me, Bridget.
As a child I climbed trees, ran through cornfields, made camps, danced when the mood or music took me, drew pictures and painted, dressed up, talked non-stop, cried, laughed and loved, with abandon and without judgement. Yes, there were times I felt excluded, fell out with friends, suffered little injustices, felt hurt at imagined slights and withdrew into my own world but I was able to bounce back, to forget and forgive and view a new day as a new adventure.
Although I’ve always had a ‘sensitive’ side – my mother with her endearing lack of tact once described me as ‘chicken-hearted’ – there was and still is a core of steel and spirit. After all, my name means ‘strength. I find comfort and inspiration in that plus, at least one of the ‘St Bridgets’ I discovered on the web is associated with healing. I’m rather pleased at that, as I’m now a psychotherapist supporting others with healing psychological hurt, integrating and accepting the whole self.
Which brings me back to myself, and reintegrating my 10-year old self with the middle-aged woman I now am, by way of the work and relationship years.
For those with children, reconnection to their younger selves is perhaps a continual process as offspring progress through babyhood, to child, and youth reminding them daily of their own growing up years. I don’t have that living memory store, not having a family of my own, so maybe this link to my former self feels more vital and pressing to explore and honour.
I want to give myself permission to have fun, to be frivolous, to say ‘yes’ to possibilities, to just be and do, to seek joy, embrace sorrow, to hug and yield to hugs, to feel excitement at simple things, to have little adventures, to feel fear but have belief that I can do and all will be well, to feel proud and happy, to dance barefoot on grass and sand, to glory in nature, to find comfort in small things, to trust, to believe in good, to feel and give love, to have compassion, hope and resilience, and to keep an eye on the light and fun side, to see things through a filter of humour and wisdom.
I don’t have the energy of earlier years, and I’m finding my joints and muscles don’t feel quite as they did, even five years ago, but I am feeling a welcome lightness inside, a tingle of positivity, and an urge to seek new experiences, to not settle into what’s expected at my age, to listen to the 10-year old Bridget within but, with the git of hindsight and the freedom and capacity of a mature woman.
Bring on more camping trips – solo if necessary – being a bit silly, laughing until I cry, weeping at sad films and finding bittersweet joy in nature’s transient beauty, swimming in the sea, spending time with loved ones, eating jam from the jar, stroking neighbourhood cats, running outside to spot rainbows, talking to sheep, talking to myself, chatting to strangers, dancing in supermarket aisles, shouting at the TV, taking off my shoes to walk on sand even in winter, not wearing tights.
This may not be ‘wild’ as in being out of control but it IS rewilding: freeing the spirit, listening to the body, responding to sensations, intuition and feelings, trusting my instincts, my gut, doing what feels right for me, for now, for the future.
As Isadora Duncan said, “Once you were wild, don’t let them tame you”.