What now?

I haven’t written since January. That’s a long time for a blog. What’s happening now?

Next Monday it will be a year and three months since my partner left the planet. I miss him really, awfully much but at least I am not spinning  around in quite such a painful place any more. I don’t think you ever get over a really big loss but you start to get used to it and you carry on living, because you have to. I still have to eat, sleep, shop, cook, wash, earn money etc. These things become reference points and become significant because if you want to stay alive then you simply have to do them.

When I first began to think, coming of age at 60 (it did feel like that!), what shall I do with the rest of my life, I did not anticipate asking and looking for answers, as I am, from the particular perspective that I now have. And it changes things.

A few months ago I sat with a friend, also recently bereaved, in Nero’s in Worthing. We looked onto the street and noticed the people walking by. All ages, all shapes and sizes, some walking purposefully and quickly – maybe running an errand or buying lunch – some just walking and wandering – maybe killing some time or giving themselves some time off. We wondered how many other people, how many other women, are asking themselves – what shall I do now? As we ourselves were.

What do you do, where do you go, who do you talk to, when life suddenly serves up a major change? Or when it serves up several major changes all at once, since one can lead to another and frequently does. My friend has just moved to Devon, where her son lives. Okay, so that’s not the other side of the world but it’s still a big move that she hadn’t planned on making on her own. She and her husband were considering it. She did it alone. That made it major. Her major change was the loss of him.

We thought of starting a group, along these lines, for women to come to. A group whose focus would be that question – what now? I have sometimes felt that I am holding my life in my hands, like a living thing, demanding attention and feeling kind of “hot”, like holding a hot coal. What to do with it when there are no easy answers and it’s difficult and challenging and something seems to want or need change but nothing does change?

It’s not only major changes that force us to look at our lives and pay more attention.  Sometimes it’s just the feeling that there could be more to life than there appears to be and we feel restlessness, boredom, nervousness cranking up. Entertaining ourselves from here to the next corner is not enough. We want more out of life or maybe want to put more into it; the two tend to be related.

So now I’m starting this group, with another friend. We are putting ideas and leaflets together to put ourselves out there. If you are reading this and you are interested in joining us, call me.


How do I feel

I’m a speck of dust

floating in the light

of a sunbeam

shining through the window


How do I feel?

I’m one drop of rain

falling on a grey morning

on someone’s umbrella


How do I feel?

I’m a child’s breath,

warm and sweet

in the morning,

cuddled in bed

before the day begins


How do I feel?

I’m a bead of sweat

on a furrowed brow

anxious, tired, afraid,



How do I feel?

I’m a flake of snow

trodden underfoot

on a winter morning


How do I feel?

I’m a single cell

in a human body

dying of cancer


“It is not half so important to know as to feel”

So said Rachel Carson.


Did you know

the most powerful antibiotic

discovered by Alexander Fleming

was in

human tears?

Pause for new thoughts

Well. Here I am, posting a blog about independent women. By which I meant women with or without a partner, or husband, or significant other, and as I had a partner myself I was not really making a distinction between women on their own and women not on their own.

But now I have suddenly become a woman on my own. My partner died six weeks ago, very suddenly and totally unexpectedly. We were together for nineteen years, some of that time rather bumpy. Nineteen years is a long time and his absence is huge.

And it is causing me to look again at what I have written and maybe soften a little. It makes a difference when someone is standing next to you in life and then suddenly they are not. It brings some understanding and compassion and softening around the edges for those of us who are truly independent, on our own without a life partner. I have my daughters and friends, to whom and for whom I am truly grateful and I still have the desire to build an online community of women of a certain age and encourage an independent spirit and approach but now independence looks and feels a slightly more vulnerable state. We are at quite a vulnerable age at over fifty and over sixty. We look back and see the roles we have played and some of the losses as well as the adventures. That’s what I’m doing now. Feeling sadness and loss as well as trying to find courage and a new way of encountering my life.

A personal journey

I was happy being fifty; that was a good day. I was happy with what I saw in the mirror, even though my life was beginning to fray at the edges and life in my fifties was often difficult and sometimes traumatic. When I approached sixty, ten years of emotionally-intense living had passed and I was very conscious of where I was in my life, both in terms of time – approaching my sixth decade – and how I was spending my time, earning my living, relating to my family and friends and how I felt about myself and my life. I told myself and everyone around me that sixty is the new forty. A generation ago, maybe even as little as ten years ago, forty was regarded as middle age: I would suggest that now it is the beginning of maturity. At forty we are probably not even halfway through our lives. We still have a lot of living and learning to do.

When I actually became sixty it was a bit of a shock: it’s amazing the effect that a number can have. Just going from being fifty nine one day and sixty the next seemed like a huge leap. I suddenly wasn’t sure where that leap had taken me, involuntary as it was, and how I felt about it. I could now draw my State pension and travel on buses free! What section of society did I now belong to? Had I become a member of the ‘greys’?  And if I had, what did that mean? Even though I thought it was great that I could get a discount on train travel when I bought my Senior Rail Card I inwardly shrank just a bit on presenting my ID to the clerk at the train station. “He knows exactly how old I am,” I thought. “I don’t know how old he is”. Then “Well, this is what sixty looks like”.

I looked around at other roughly sixty-year-old women and observed them. Of course, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours, hair as well as skin. And that was interesting, but also, in a way, difficult, because I was part of this group that I was observing, and I observed them everywhere I went, and so I did not have the objectivity of observing something that I was outside of and detached from. I was observing myself as well.

Some questions to get started

What do you do when you’re sixty? Or forty or fifty, or seventy? Where do you go with your life? How do you decide what direction to take? What are your choices, now?

Is this (for me) a mid-life crisis, rather later than most? A spiritual dilemma?  A family breakdown, when you no longer hold the family together and they no longer hold you together? What is this empty place in which I find myself and in which I am losing myself?

This can come at any time I think. Age has some relevance but it’s not all about age. A life crisis can come at any age. At thirty – what shall I do now? No husband, no children, but feeling the need and desire for both. At forty, with small children, alone or with a partner, with money problems, social pressures to conform, to be the person other people expect; saying “yes” when you want to say “no”, just sometimes. At fifty, children gone, possibly husband gone too, possibly not; identity problems within a relationship: “who am I now”? “where am I going now”?

Or at sixty, where I arrived four years ago.

Are you an independent woman? Am I an independent woman? What does it mean to be an independent woman? What is independence? Is it just the opposite of dependence? I have been thinking about this, before I was able to start the blog. What does independence mean for me; what difference does it make to my life?

Independence is usually fought for and hard won and then safe-guarded; witness what is happening in the so-called Arab Spring right now. The Egyptian people are having to fight again to have some measure of independence and freedom of choice in their government and some control over their lives, but they are in a different situation now than when the riots first began. And Syria is currently the scene of a tragedy that beggars belief. So it happens in steps. We don’t wake up one day and declare ourselves to be independent and therefore we are.

Independence, for me, means freedom of thought, of opinions; independence of being. Independent women have a sense of their own identity, even though it might sometimes wobble.