You’ve probably heard of that famous line, written by Charles Dickens, in ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’
One of my most favourite lines in literature, ever. That, and the way that Cleopatra is described by Shakespeare in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. Enorbarbus, a general in Antony’s army, debates with another soldier, who thinks that Cleopatra is no more than a whore. He describes her in the words that follow:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety. Other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry….
I read ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ as a 17 year old, for A-Level literature, and I was blessed to have a passionate, intelligent, sensitive English teacher, who was the head of department and a massive feminist. She opened my eyes and talked about how many men throughout time had dismissed Cleopatra as nothing more than a weak woman who was only able to stay in power because she slept with the right men. If we dig a bit deeper, then we realise that Cleopatra was a smart, intelligent politician. A queen. She ruled in a time when it was virtually unheard of and impossible for women to rule. How successful she was as a queen, I haven’t researched. But what inspired me, was Shakespeare’s words about her.
The fact that her age would never destroy her, and that she was so extraordinary, where other women satisfied the appetites of men, she only left them wondering what more she was capable of, and what she would do next.
As a 17 year old I studied those words. I learnt that quote off by heart to use in my written exams, and I was determined, no matter what the context, I would shoehorn that incredible quote in. I can’t recall if I did use the quote in my exams, all I know is that those words never left me. Every time I see or read about incredible women, I am reminded of Shakespeare’s words.
I’m going to go back to Dickens’ words, about it being both the best and worst of times. In my life, this quote reminds me of my late 20’s being both the best and worst of times. I suppose at that time of my life, I was the most confident. I was confident in most aspects of my life, my career, my ambitions, my opinions. The world was mine, everything was black and white, I had no commitments, I could do anything I wanted. I had overcome many struggles in life, proven a lot of people wrong, shattered many gender stereotypes, and proven to myself – I could do anything. I had incredibly strong, fierce and loyal friends, we would put the world to rights all the time and feel bamboozled with others who would make foolish decisions and make life worse for themselves.
However, it was also the worst of times because I wanted to meet ‘the one’ and it just didn’t seem to be happening. People around me seemed to be in stable relationships, having children, living the dream and it just wasn’t happening for me. This would make me feel down, insecure, doubts would begin to creep in, but my incredible friends were always there for me to snap me back to myself.
Now, I’m not in my twenties.
Now I do have the things that I once longed for – but I wish I had savoured and valued being younger for longer. I wish I had valued my skin and how I looked, and how easy it was to lose weight. I wish I had valued how easy it was to make a simple decision about whether or not I was going to go out – without there being 50 other things to consider.
I am also aware of another massive thing – if I am lucky enough to grow older – then I should be valuing what I have now, instead of lamenting over my weight gain, older skin, restricted decision making. I should be valuing how my daughters still hang on my every word. How they seek me out for a cuddle because that makes their worries go away. How they watch me do my makeup with awe. How my youngest enjoys writing stories because she feels like she is blogging, like Mummy does. How ‘movie night’ and family holidays brings a huge buzz to their lives. How going shopping is still quite exciting because they are ‘helping’.
Yes, I have lots to appreciate and savour for now.
I know that when I am 60, I will look back on photos of myself from now and think that I was an idiot for being so hard on myself and not appreciating the positives.
I want to, I desperately want to be that Cleopatra-esque woman, who knows the right thing to say, at the right time. Who makes smart decisions. Who oozes confidence and inspires awe in all who she meets. Who people say – that age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety……
However, I do remember that Cleopatra also got into a huge fix and had to commit suicide by being poisoned by an asp!!!
So, perhaps me being me, at times brave and confident, at times incredibly insecure. At times wise and insightful; at times losing my shit with my daughters because of the mess they make. Perhaps, I am who I am and that’s ok?
The best of times, the worst of times – it’s always happening now. It’s the present moment. Where we are now is the best, and at times, the worst. However we should savour and love each moment of this crazy, insane, frustrating, painful, incredibly beautiful journey that we call life.
Whenever and wherever you’re reading this – love and appreciate each moment now. This moment right now, you are the smartest, wisest, most beautiful that you’ve ever been. Stop giving yourself a hard time. Don’t put yourself down. Relax. You’ll never get this time back ever again….