In the middle of June, I packed my suitcase and flew from New Zealand to England. This was the first time I had made this journey home in 10 years, and it was my first extended time away from the day to day operations of my business Archeus, which also turns 10 this year. I was longing to see family and friends. I couldn't wait to immerse myself in places I knew and loved. And I was also exploring opportunities for Archeus and NatFem in the UK. But excitement was tempered by anxiety. I had never left my business before, and so the prospect of being away for one month felt quite daunting.
I had hoped to ease the pressure of my going by getting on top of tasks such as writing and scheduling newsletters and feeding the voracious appetite of social media with prewritten scheduled posts. These are all things we are told to do in business, but the reality of being a solo operator means that simply sometimes we just run out of time.
I consoled myself by saying that once I was back in Europe, I would be able to do posts and newsletters while on my travels, but this just simply didn't happen. Sales dropped, income wobbled but I decided to get a little bit Buddhist about it all and simply focus on what was right in front of me, and that was the trip itself.
There is so much pressure to be busy all the time. We are expected to be consummate multitaskers and have boundless reserves of energy. We get so busy doing, that we forget about being. It wasn't until I arrived in London that I started to recognise that the time I had over the next few weeks was incredibly valuable. This trip had been a long time coming. COVID of course took out years of travel and access, but for me that had come on the heels of caring for both my parents as they grew ill and sadly died.
I had returned to New Zealand in 2011 because I could see their health was declining and I wanted to be there to support them in any way I could. I’m glad I made that decision to return then. I’m glad I was able to be here for them. Throughout this time, I also went through my menopause transition, started my business Archeus, and built a new life here in New Zealand which included a new relationship that has happily culminated in marriage.
All of this makes me a very different person to the woman I was when I left Europe over a decade ago.
This trip, these past few weeks became profound on so many levels. This was a different energy to that I had as a younger woman. What I discovered was a rich kind of wonder that has arisen out of the deepening and mellowing of me as a midlife woman.
Conversations were often tender and moving as we traversed tales of the highs and lows of our lives. I realised also that I was seeing things through different eyes. I navigated my points of belonging with ease, but it was as if all these points of being had deepened. I had deepened. I wanted to immerse myself in history and art and the healing plants growing by pathways and hedgerow. I didn't want to miss a thing. I wanted to be filled up by experiences in a way that would truly nourish and nurture my interior world. I wanted this trip to be medicine for my soul.
So, part of this was letting go of the pressure for busyness. I knew there would be a cost to this inaction. That taking my foot off the pedal of marketing and social media and the tasks that we are faced with every day when we run a business on our own, but I knew I had to do this so that I could truly engage with the experience of being back in a place that was my home, will always in a sense be home, but is not where I live now.
I found myself comparing my current lived experience with that of the younger me, and I decided that I liked this experience better. I enjoyed experiencing things from the perspective of a woman in midlife. I paid attention to what resonates with me now. And what doesn't. I found that conversations with friends and family had an intimacy and depth to them that I had not experienced previously. Honest conversations about the struggles and the joys we experience in our lives. The loves and the losses, the opportunities gained and lost and the things that inspire us. I enjoyed exploring the things that give meaning to the lives of those we love.
This trip was a pilgrimage of sorts. And there were moments of heartbreaking tenderness such as when I finally was able to lay my father's ashes to rest in a place that he loved under an oak tree in the middle of a wood. This was a trip of reunions and partings. It was wonderful to see people no for many years look now be together in a room when so much time had passed, and explore what life meant to both of us now. I spent much of the time trying to hold back tears. It was like I was in some form of sensory overload, and moments would catch in my throat, eyes watering with the joy, sadness and wonder of it all. It was also a trip of opportunities and I have come back brimming with ideas and plans for Archeus.
I realised that I liked this midlife journeying. I felt the years have added depth to my everyday experience. The passage of time had made me even more aware of the importance of being present to each moment. Only by being fully present, by being in the moment, would I be able to gather up the sights and sounds and experiences so that I could draw on them when I had returned to my life in New Zealand.
On the plane on the way back to NZ, I reflected on my experiences of the past few weeks. I thought about what it means to travel now, and I boiled it down to a few key points:
1. We never know what lies around the corner. Our lives can be changed in an instant, and so it feels even more important to really be present in the moment that we are in now.
2. Don't be afraid to hold space and ask questions that deepen conversation and experiences
3. Pay attention to the things that nourish your interior world so that they may sustain you through time
4. Know that it can be easier to be curious the older we get, and that we can learn so much about someone or something in the process
5. Don't be afraid to tell the people you love that you love them
I’m back at my desk now. It’s day one of ‘back to normal’ but what is normal?
I think about my beloved cousin Vin whom I saw in Berlin. She is 89 years old. Her sight is going and she is a little hard of hearing, but her appetite for life has not waned. At one point she described to me how she no longer liked to listen to music because her hearing aid made the sounds unpleasant and harsh to her ears. Then she beamed at me and opened her arms out wide and said, “but I am just so grateful”. She went on to say, “I am so grateful for all the music I have listened to over the years. All the concerts and recitals and operas I have been to. I am so glad I went to them whole-heartedly, because now I can return to them in my mind. I can hear every note and see the movements of conductor and bow. I have so much music within me to listen to.”
This trip for me has been like that. A concert of things to return to: sights, sounds, the warble of a skylark, the chant of a Benedictine nun, the green of oak and the laughter of friends. All music I too can return to, because in their individual moments I chose to be there, truly there and present for them. No busyness. No multi-tasking. Just a midlife woman being in the moment.
And if you are interested in my offering Soul Medicine for the Midlife Woman, check it out here.