The Queenager : Eleanor's Letter (August 7th 2022)

Holidays, downtime and facing our demons...

Dear Queenagers,

I’m writing this from my holidays in west Wales – so far west that the Irish Sea is glinting in the distance, the wind is blowing and the cormorant calling from the river. It is not the warmest – about 14 degrees this morning – but the sun is shining, and at noon it is warm enough for a dip (I did wear a wetsuit yesterday…).

I love an exotic trip, but personally I’m more up for getting on a plane to warmer climes when the weather is truly atrocious in the UK. I LOVE Christmas in Jamaica, or anywhere hot in the winter. There are few things more delicious than packing a sundress into a suitcase when it is freezing outside, or lurking around John Lewis buying suncream when everyone else is buying Christmas presents! Which is a long way of saying that August for me is the Western fringes of the UK, either Pembrokeshire or Devon, I love the cold sea and the waves and blustery walks and how chuffed I feel when in a sheltered spot I can pretend I am in the South of France!

However, what I know about holidays is that the first few days are never as idyllic as we expect. Uncoiling a spring packed tight with tension from so many months of work and stress is never easy. I always imagine I’ll just arrive at my destination and immediately feel chilled and holiday-like. But this week I felt jumpy on the journey down. (Might have something to do with my electric car and the nightmare that is the UK charging infrastructure… it’s bad enough having to wait for 40 minutes while the thing fills with more energy, but there are so few chargers on the motorways that often we have to wait for half an hour to even get on a charger and start the process… it’s a bloody scandal! My friends call me the most impatient woman in the world, so I think this enforced patience is probably good for me in terms of Karma, but my husband says I am like a cat on a hot tin roof – it doesn’t help me relax…)

Anyway, having got here, I then felt unaccountably sad and stressed about things which weren’t really important. It’s like having taken the lid off the usual day-to-day buckle-down-to-it mentality, everything spills out… I really felt all over the place. It’s like there’s a well-spring of stuff that needs processing and the lid has been taken off. And then it all comes out but what do we do with it?

I’d had a long chat with a Queenager friend on Monday who was talking about her break up with her boyfriend and how she was just feeling incredibly sad and that rather than trying to avoid it she’d just decided to sit with it. To really feel it and write down all the things she felt miserable about in the aftermath, how lonely she was, how she had wanted it to work, and it didn’t – that sense of hope being trashed, and the emotional impact being like a depth charge that just went down blowing through more and more of her insecurities. She told me that usually, she resists that kind of process – she’d go out and get drunk, or work really hard, numbing the pain with busy-ness – but that this time she had just sat with it and cried. She’d even pretended a cushion was the man and told it everything she wanted to say (it wasn’t safe to say it to the man himself, as I said a really bad break-up).

Anyway, we talked and talked and I could see that allowing herself to feel all of this had actually really helped. So with my own much lesser sadnesses I just sat on my sun lounger looking at the sea and let myself feel it all.

I think it helped. I cried a bit and then went and jumped into the sea and felt so much better.

Eventually, I concluded that if we want to feel joy, really open ourselves up to all the good stuff – and oh golly I do – then we also need to feel pain too. We can only feel the good stuff if we also open ourselves to the bad stuff. Another pal who has been through a really dark time said to me that she embarked on the agonising process of therapy because she ‘didn’t want to feel numb anymore – I have to start feeling something’. So I know it’s not desperately cheery, but I also think that part of a holiday is really getting a handle on how we are feeling, what is good, what is bad and looking at it in a very direct way. Then we can move through it and come out to the other side. I certainly find that yelling it at a crashing wave is a very good way to get the universe to take away the things we no longer need!

The other way is to share them with others who understand – that true open-hearted, unfiltered conversation that is possible between friends, old or new. There is nothing better than feeling truly heard and understood. At this point in life that sometimes requires a new tribe. Sometimes those who know us best and are most intimate have a vested interest in us remaining the same. I’ve found that new friends in my Queenager years are sometimes more open to the new kind of me than some of the old ones. They allow me to become a new version of myself.

So all of this is a long way of introducing a new Noon initiative – we’re calling it Noon Tours and the first two are now live on our site. These will be group holidays to a variety of destinations (we did a survey and some of you want quick trips while others want them to be of longer duration, so we have both). I will come on them – or if I can’t another member of the Noon Advisory Board will. The idea is that they are a cross between a holiday and a retreat and are an opportunity for you amazing Queenagers to meet more of each other, share life stories and make new pals.

We know from our research that around 40 per cent of you are living alone and also that many of you who are not quite fancy a trip with some like-minded intelligent women. (See my earlier newsletter about renegotiating relationships in midlife!)

So do check out the links and come and join us – the first one is a trip to Morocco, coming up we also have a walk along the Camino trail and some trips to Italy. We are organising these with our friends at the Silver Travel Advisory, who still believe in talking to people on the telephone and you having a real person to discuss your needs with. I am so excited about going on these trips with you all and can’t wait to get cracking!

I am also super excited to announce that the author of my favourite book of the year Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead, is going to be joining us at the September Book Club. Because it is August and a fat book I am arranging for you all to get the brilliant August book The Herd, and Great Circle at the same time as I reckon you might all have quite a lot of time for reading on your hard-earned holidays (once you’ve got over those early jangly days).

The fresh welsh air, some white wine and quite a bit of crab are already working their magic, and I have woken up this morning feeling much more myself. But I also know it is important to be honest about the downs as well as the ups and not pretend everything is plain sailing when it isn’t!

So hope to see you at a Book Club or Noon Tour soon, and thanks to everyone who joined the Facial-a-long which was a huge success. Well done to Beatrice our Noon Beauty Director for sorting it all out and to Katherine Daniels, an amazing By Queenagers, for Queenagers beauty brand.

Lots of love and have a great week,

Eleanor

By Eleanor Mills

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