It all started 10 years ago, after my mum died following a long battle with cancer at the age of 61. We were thick as thieves and I missed her terribly. Then I found 30 years’ worth of diaries at the back of her wardrobe.
Her diaries gave me comfort. There weren’t any words of wisdom or Buddhist philosophies though, just deadpan, one liners about everyday life. They were funny. They reminded me of Victoria Wood sketches. She mentions the weather, hairdressers and the neighbour who’d just had his leg amputated, in the same non-committal tone.
After she died I was in need of a plan, or the slippery slope to doom and gloom was going to get me. I decided that if the main woman in my life was gone, then why not get comfort from the ones who were left? Using her diaries as inspiration, I set out on a mission to interview 100 women at length and ask them how they ‘do’ life.
A mission to meet women – and talk
Initially I started close to home as I still had the school run to do. I invited women I knew to my kitchen table. I came up with some questions and off we went. We spent most of the day chatting. It was lovely. Sort of old fashioned. No one had to be anywhere, no mobile phones were on. It was a perfect day.
Over the next four years I met women from all ages and backgrounds. As I got more time, I’d travel around the country following leads. I gathered a treasure chest of fascinating facts and stories. I wanted to share what I’d heard so, with their permission, I started my blog.
Being allowed into their thoughts has been a privilege. Stopping to reflect on life felt like we were slowing down the pace for a while. The connection I felt with these women gave me a sense of loveliness. You know the sort, when you go all shuddery. I came out of the gloop!
Learning from each other
I’m a naturally confident person but the enormity of this project has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’ve never written before and the amount of information I had was overwhelming. It’s been exposing – my confidence and self esteem has been challenged and I’m glad it has. I’m not afraid to have a go now. Since completing the interviews I have written a book (in its final edit), a short play and done some public speaking, and, although excruciating inside, it wasn’t nearly so bad as my head made it out to be.
Time and time again people have asked me what I have learned about women from doing this. There are many things but the four that stand out are:
- Contradictions. We are full of them and, for the most part, we are unaware of them.
- We are natural born worriers. It’s habitual, learned behaviour and often a badge of capability.
- Once the facade had come away, every single woman I spoke to, irrelevant of their ‘issues’ and circumstances, all had a natural contentedness about them.
- Never, ever assume anything about anyone – ever.
We all need to talk, to reach out, to share
At the end of each interview I asked for feedback. What did they think about the day? Those comments alone indicate how important it is to talk. The comments below are from my blog readers:
“It’s an inspiration and a breath of fresh air to hear so many stories and quotes from women just like me. I feel more connected and a sense of belonging to a world that is becoming more and more emotionally distant.”
“It’s so good to have a reality check every now and then and stop taking ourselves so seriously.”
“I bet it has been so interesting around your kitchen table getting all this info together. I’m a bit envious… My kitchen table seems empty. I need to invite more people here.”
“Thank you. It is quite sobering to read all this… it makes me think we are all in the same boat. Funny how we are all so similar and yet so different.”
“This is amazing! I have tears in my eyes. I love the steering honesty, the generosity, the simplicity.”
“I feel as woman we have lost the art of listening to each other’s struggles. Listening puts life into perspective. We live in a technological world: we communicate by not actually speaking. It’s a lonely world for us middle aged women who have a lot to say. You are doing us a service. Thank you.”