Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review - Bolder and Wiser by Sarah Dale

Hit 50 yet? Sarah Dale is about to. This impending event set her wondering about successful ageing, what life looks like for women who have been there and done that, and what adventures are to be had on the other side of 50.

In this fascinating and celebratory book, Sarah talks to 20 inspiring women who have not only made it past 50, but are happy to be there.

These open and honest conversations, punctuated by Sarah’s observations about her own journey, reflect on friendship, work, health, creativity, marriage, motherhood, money – and whether you should stop dyeing your hair.

Sarah Dale is a chartered psychologist and accredited coach. She devised the Creating Focus programme and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up. She was born in 1964...


On a beautiful day in August, we seek out a wild swimming spot on Dartmoor. It is an idyllic setting, an ancient grassy common on the bend of the river, overhung by lush oak and beech trees in full summer leaf. Dappled sunlight falls across wet children sleek and glossy as seals, and their shrieks bounce off the rock face as they dare each other to ever higher leaps from the bank.

I bring up the rear of our little family group, as we haul our picnic and towels from the car park. My varifocals and unsteady flip flops, as well as customary caution, result in me being slower than everyone else in making my way along the uneven riverside footpath.

I imagine, if I were living in some fictional primeval tribe, that I might soon be discarded. What do I bring to the party? Am I becoming a liability? As a woman approaching fifty, I no longer offer physical strength or child-bearing potential. If I ever was physically daring, I’m less so now. The brief appeal of dipping in the river chills as quickly as my feet when I test the temperature.

I’m no longer the quickest, strongest or the one with the loudest voice. I have fulfilled my reproductive purpose, if that is what we are here for. I won’t have more children and my daughters are growing in independence on a daily basis.

But I don’t feel ready to resign myself to the background yet. In many ways I feel that my work has barely started. Am I deluded in thinking I have some valuable contribution to make? What shape will it take? What exactly is my purpose? And does it matter?

The women I have had conversations with over the last months have a wide range of views and experiences. My initial response is relief that not one of them is invisible. Their contribution may sometimes be subtle but is often all the more powerful for that. 

It is like a dew-laden spider’s web: visible if you look for it; awe-inspiring in its construction; efficient, beautiful and very strong in its natural habitat. It is also very easily swept aside by those clumsily making their way through life without stopping to notice what is right in front of their faces. The corporations, institutions, families and generations who ignore older
women are losing far more than they realise. Society needs older women like the world needs bees.  

I have heard from women, all of whom are at least sixty years old, who hold things together. They quietly and relentlessly challenge injustice. They support and soothe and organise and nurture. They lead the way. They laugh. They struggle, and doubt themselves. They keep going, and encourage others to keep going. They see the bigger picture as well as the tiny details of life that matter. They are a curious mix of astonishing patience and exasperated energy. They care.

I have paused for a while in my middle-aged rush of busy domesticity where work and motherhood uneasily co-habit, backlit in recent years by my own uncertainties about ageing. I have stopped to listen to these ordinary, yet extra-ordinary, women. I expected interesting things.

However, I didn’t expect the project to be so immediately and intensely personal. It has confirmed or challenged my own views of what matters and what doesn’t. It has left me with clearer ideas about the kind of older woman I would like to be. It has reassured me. It has been time well spent. 

What did I think ?

This was an incredibly interesting book and Sarah seems an incredibly interesting person. I'd love to sit and chat to her for hours about the book, the people she talked with and their journeys as well as her own.  I've got a way to go yet, but I know that my sister is reaching the big 50 this year and it seems to have really influenced her life and her decisions. 

It's a book that makes you ponder, raises lots of questions of your own, certainly made me think about how my mom must have felt when she reached the ages that some of these women had reached and how I would be motivated and inspired by them.  I'm sure that after reading this book, some of my priorities will have changed.

About the Author

Sarah is a practising occupational psychologist and accredited coach. She designed the structured coaching programme, Creating Focus®, and is the author of Keeping Your Spirits Up, a guide to facing the challenges of modern life. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, two daughters and step-son. Her moments of leisure are spent Nordic walking, reading fiction and frequenting coffee shops, the more independent the better. She secretly loves a good jigsaw.

You can find out more about Sarah Dale on her website, or by following her on twitter (@creatingfocus) or on Facebook (Sarah Dale – author).

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1 comment:

Shaz Goodwin said...

Thank you for reviewing on tour Kim.