Coach Rebecca Perkins shares her personal journey that led her to write her book, Best KnickersAlways: 50 Lessons for Midlife
Life isn’t always (and let’s be honest never will be) sunshine and roses, and living in a perpetual state of nirvana would probably become stifling and boring. By the time we’ve reached midlife we’ve all faced our challenges—some of us more than others and some of us more than our fair share. Courage and resilience, however, come from our ability to get back up again after we’ve tripped and fallen over life’s obstacle course. Getting back up again is a choice. We always have that choice.
So, we get to midlife and we face transition.
Those of us who are parents come to realise that our children do not rely on us as they once did. They are leaving home. Those of us who have been homemakers for many years wonder, Who am I now? What is my role? Our parents are ageing. We have health scares, and our friends have health scares.
Some of us may well be troubled with thoughts that the person sitting opposite us (and the one with whom we’ve lived 20 or more years) isn’t the one with whom we remember falling in love. Some of us are facing separation and divorce and learning to date all over again. Some of us have become disillusioned with our work life, and still others are looking for brand new careers.
We can face all these challenges either with heavy hearts and resentment, or we can embrace this new phase in our lives with enthusiasm and vigour. This can be a time of renaissance for us. It can literally be our rebirth.
As for me, I would find myself looking in the mirror wondering who that woman was who was looking back at me. She did look familiar; yet I did not quite recognise her. Perhaps there was something in her eyes that reminded me of someone I once knew. Was she someone I loved and cared for deeply? She looked like someone I ought to become reacquainted with. Someone I needed to rediscover.
My story began one miserable day when I was nursing a broken heart. Years of tears and grief came flooding out of me. Tears and grief that were, truth be told, decades old. I’m grateful I had my children at home and a reason to rise every day because I don’t know how long I might have stayed under the covers listening to heart-breaking love songs and wallowing in my grief.
A text came in from a girlfriend asking how I was. I responded that I was wretched and didn’t know how I would be able to get any semblance of a happy life together again. She texted me back with the words,
“All I can say is it gets better. Go gently, be kind to yourself, and best knickers always”.
Oh my dear, lovely friend knew exactly what I needed to hear at that precise moment. She knew because she too had been there. The sad thing was that I had stopped looking after myself, stopped being kind to myself: my self-esteem had taken quite a battering. The lingerie I always prided myself on was nowhere to be seen, all banished to the back of the drawer.
I understood exactly what my friend meant by her text. She wanted me to care for myself—to nurture and look after myself. I was of course doing nothing of the sort; I was neglecting myself. I’ve always gone by the credo that if my hair is cut and I’ve got mascara on (and perhaps a little lipstick), I’m ready to face the world. But there I was forgetting even these small attentions that I’d always regarded as my bare necessities.
It was time to start looking after me again.
Time moved on. Slowly I healed. I sat one morning on my deck, coffee in hand in unseasonably warm sunshine, my children still sleeping upstairs. And as I absorbed the peace of my surroundings, some questions came to me.
How had I managed to turn my life around?
What had I done to change where I had been four years ago to get me to where I was today?
Back then I had been battling with a deeply troubled marriage, a son leaving home for university, another son desperately unhappy in school, and serious health issues for my daughter and husband. And that was before I acknowledged the scars I myself had from 10 years of depression. I felt somehow that I was living in a coma, functioning day to day, inside a deep well of sadness and malaise. I was in a black hole with no sight of daylight.
And yet… surely there had to be more to life?
I picked up my journal and pen and wrote.
This is my renaissance.
Or you could always buy her book Best Knickers Always: 50 Lessons for Midlife for useful midlife lessons