One of the great joys of my life is in spending time with younger women – something which, as the mother of two daughters ages 32 and 22, I am privileged to enjoy a lot. I love younger women’s vibrancy, their perspective on a world very different than my own, their fresh enthusiasm and questioning spirit, sometimes lingering a bit below the surface, but never far away.
There is so much for me to learn about the world as experienced by the younger generation. As a bone fide Elder, I have accumulated wisdom through experience, but there is much I do not understand, and Youth possesses a potent wisdom quite different from that of Experience.
I woke early this morning thinking of the women I connected with last week, when I was away from home for my youngest daughter’s graduation.
On my way to her city I stopped in London to meet Sophie, a former volunteer for my social enterprise, Hope in the Heart. Sophie is 21 years old, a glorious young woman of exceptional depth, who has had her share of challenges and transcended them with courage and grace. We enjoyed coffee and chocolate-covered rice cakes at St Pancras Station while Sophie told me about the new flat she is sharing with her lovely boyfriend Sam, her internship in photojournalism, which is expanding to include work with groups of refugees, and the overlapping joys and struggles of her life, so much like my own at her age.
We talked about being vegan, a relatively new adventure for me, into which Sophie has mentored me with gentle encouragement.
Later I travelled to meet my oldest daughter, Chloe, for dinner. Chloe inspired me as usual, with updates on her progress as co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party group in her London borough, her work in children’s publishing, and those of her friends I’ve known since their childhood. We discussed family matters and world events before I undertook the last part of my journey to the historic city of Canterbury, where I was to stay with Holly, a woman also in her early thirties who became a friend when I first spent a week in her Airbnb home last year. Holly has just finished training as a Mental Health nurse. She has a huge heart, a solid wisdom and a wonderful sense of humour, and I always enjoy talking with her about multiple subjects.
My daughter Fenna is learning to drive, and I had promised to spend time as a passenger in her new car while she practiced for her test. Music helps her focus and she made a playlist consisting mostly of songs by the Canadian rapper Drake, which she thought would be the most palatable of her collection for my 57-year-old taste.
We drove around for about four hours each day, discussing all manner of things, including Fenna’s transition from student to employee and mine as I start a new business and prepare to move house. While we listened to the Drake playlist on repeat, Fenna explained to me about what he represents and why he is important as an ambassador for youth. One coffee-break was spent debating the feminist implications of lip implants and fashionable desirability of big bottoms like the one I have quietly despaired of all my life!
Fenna introduced me to Elsa, a new friend who was staying with her between student homes. Originally from Kosovo, Elsa is studying Politics and World Development, and is a photographer and videographer in her spare time. She has an empassioned fascination for a vast array of topics and her creativity and insight blew me away.
On Sunday morning I went to a Quaker meeting, partly because I wanted to assess the rooms for hire at the Quaker house for future workshops. I sat next to a woman, considerably older than me, who told me about a recent holiday to my home town with a dying friend. We discussed life and death and the nuances of friendship and, in addition to my finding an excellent potential workshop venue, a strong new heart-connection was made there.
Fenna’s graduation, in beautiful Canterbury Cathedral, was a stirring rite of passage. As I witnessed my youngest child’s ritual crossing of the line into adulthood, symbolised by her walk up the aisle of that magnificent building after officially receiving her Psychology degree, the tears of pride cascading down my cheeks were also for the many other young people, mostly women, who stepped into their adult power during that ceremony.
For many years part of my work has been to mentor young women as they navigate the road to adulthood. It is always a privilege to accompany them on a little of their journey, but I don’t think they realise they are also accompanying me on mine, and how much their transient presence in my life enriches it, every time.
I also work a lot with older women, helping them to come to terms with their mortality, empty nests and shifting perceptions of themselves. In both groups I observe a boundary of which each is generally unaware. It divides one generation from another, not because each has chosen this, but because it does not occur to them that there is another way, beyond the “Us and Them” society dictates.
And yet there is; a way in which all women can enrich their own lives and each other’s. If women of different generations (and backgrounds, cultures, classes, races, nationalities…) reach beyond the divisions that dilute us as surely as do our conditioning and the expectations of others, we can pool the collective wisdom we possess to experience a joyful feminine revolution beyond our imagining.
The more we consciously engage with people (not just women) we consider “other” the more we connect to the life-force of our radiant world, and contribute to its expansion at a time when too many seek to diminish it through division.
If you recognise that you place boundaries between yourself and others who seem different from you, try removing them, a little at a time, and looking for the common humanity that unites, instead of the “otherness” that so often creates suspicion and divides. Most of us unthinkingly reject what we cannot easily understand, out of fear and discomfort. But we can all reap dazzling, far-reaching rewards if we have the compassion, curiosity and courage to dismantle the barriers that divide us from each other and remember who we all are beneath the illusions of separation.