Whoever said women were permitted only one act in a lifetime? Do 20 extra kilos, scars of an invasive surgery, dental implants and some somnolent muscles mean you are done for in this life? Would it be fair to say that you are now past your peak and prime, having discharged your primary obligations of parenting and being a supportive spouse? Could there be more to look forward to in addition to grandparenthood and paying back your dues to the generation before?
Oh yes, there was a time when you were facing sleepless hours, aching muscles, expectations, and endless neglect of the self. There were priorities. Is the family healthy? Are the relatives congenial enough? Are you in an okay equation with the colleagues? Could you have chartered your primary relationship better? Have you been nice enough, warm enough, positive enough, pleasing enough, non-demanding enough, adjusting enough, mature enough, sensible enough?
Of course you have. As a woman, you have paid heed to what the world outside told you for the better part of your life, so much so that you tuned out all the voices that ever clamoured inside of you. They would have receded, becoming a whisper before fading out completely. But they are coming back now, are they not? They are coming at you with a vengeance, telling you that you owed yourself the same validation that you have been preaching to your mother and your daughters.
There is no mention of these voices in the four Vedic ashramas of life but I hear them too! And they are telling me surprising things. They discount that this is the time to take it easy, relax and enjoy the well-earned lull. They claim my best years lie ahead of me. They say this is my consolidation age. They assure me it is not too late to get myself into shape. Playing roles is all okay but where is your definition of the real you, they ask. It would be harakiri to draw my sense of self from those I love, they would have me believe. This is your second act and you are darned lucky to be getting to do one, I am being told.
I admit my first act was shaky. There were milestones to meet. I had people depending on me. I was not friends enough with myself. There were worries, fears, and concerns. I was doing the risking, the motivating and the envisioning for others. Self-nurturing was the last thing on my list, the first priority being to secure a safe nest and get the young into a flight mode. Was it a sacrifice? Far from it, I would not have had it any other way. Did it leave me fatigued or bitter? Certainly not, for it was self-validation at a different level, an evolution of a fundamental nature. It is that experience in fact, of having been responsible for other lives that eventually empowered me with a sense of calm certainty. It put me in a space made for constructive closure.
I have never felt better. When I step out onto the streets, I am at home in my skin. I earn enough to fund my personal whimsies. I can hold my own in any scenario now. I have experienced enough hurt to understand that we are all, deep down under, similar in our needs. I have at long last begun to understand that I cannot pin blame for my lows on others. I am glimpsing more and more the range of possibilities that begin and end with me.
And so, I have decided to pull my projects off the back-burner. It is never too late to learn golf! If you always dreamed of playing the piano, walk into a school right now. Do not listen to anyone who says your bones may not be able to take the Zumba! It is great to want your life to matter and be of some relevance.
Will I ace the second act? I do not know and I do not care. What resonate in my ears are words like these: life is given to us in trust, it is for living. We owe it to ourselves to challenge the self constantly and in so doing... grow. The day is about venturing beyond the walls of security. The more you reach out, the more you reach in. And what else is life about if not reaching and touching!
by Neerja Singh
The author is an educator and blogs at http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.in/