Midlife Musings... Interview with Tamzin Merivale, visual artist and writer.
"I was always surrounded by truly exceptional women who had important stories to share with the world, and I wanted to celebrate both those stories and the humans behind them."
“I really believe that we cannot float to the surface without sinking first into the depths and spending some time down there, no matter how painful that may be.”
Every couple of weeks I post an interview with an inspiring midlifer on topics ranging from beliefs, goals and habits, to food, mood and mojo; from sex, success and style, to fitness, health and hormones, from sleep, skin and hair to career, change and challenges and a bit of whatever else you fancy that affects us women at midlife. This is Tamzin Merival, an incredibly inspiring artist who uses her art to reveal the truth of her subjects. See below for the amazing results.
Tamzin and I have that very modern form of relationship - we met on social media. She contacted me after seeing an article about me, and as I delved into her IG, I knew I’d found a fascinating woman doing a fascinating thing - acting as a mirror, reflecting someone’s magic and impactful energy through visual art and storytelling, showing someone what they may not be able to see for themselves.
Here’s Tamzin’s thoughts on resurfacing, fear and the best midlife mantra.
Hi Tamzin, why do you do what you do?
I work with energy, intuition and creativity to facilitate my clients to unearth their true, powerful selves. To do this, I began “Soul Signs”, which is essentially a portrait of your strength, impact and light, sometimes accompanied by a piece of writing about your life. The whole experience facilitates women to help them let go of anything that's holding them back and to see just how extraordinary they truly are. Creativity is my survival mechanism and I find this work so fulfilling and challenging but it also continually teaches me. But mostly because I was always surrounded by truly exceptional women who had important stories to share with the world, and I wanted to celebrate both those stories and the humans behind them.(You can see examples below).
What’s the best bit of advice you wish you’d been given sooner?
One I learnt when I was still in my teens, but I still would have liked to learn it sooner: vulnerability is strength. It’s an obvious one, but I think we often need the reminder.
What would you tell your 20 year old self?
Don’t feel like you have to follow trends to be successful － trying to do what others describe as a ‘recipe for success’ will not work for you. You will actually only be successful when you follow your own instincts and pursue your unique ideas, that perhaps others don’t understand at first. Don’t worry about them, listen to yourself and follow what excites you, it will lead to magic and opportunities you can’t imagine.
What must have happened, or for you to have experienced or achieved that hasn’t yet, that you’d look back at 99 and say “Yes!”.
Oh I have such a long list of things I’d still like to learn, to do with my time, or to achieve, far too many to name! Here are a few that I’d like to tick off over the next couple of years: to become fluent in Arabic, to learn to free-dive, to be launched into new, surprising creative pursuits that come along unexpectedly and bring out parts of myself I don’t know are there. I’d always like to keep working with people in-depth, to have a positive impact on them and on anyone else I meet.
Tell us one of the toughest things you’ve gone through and what you learned as a result.
For most of my teens and twenties, I struggled with a lot of health problems and with my mental health. In 2020, I spent eight weeks in hospital just a few months after I had moved to Austria. Overall, it was a bizarre and difficult experience, but it did lead to some major shifts.
My Substack newsletter is called “Resurface” because I really believe that we cannot float to the surface without sinking first into the depths and spending some time down there, no matter how painful that may be. One of my biggest strengths is how I relate to others, how I make people feel seen and understood in a way they don’t normally feel － so much so that my work now revolves around it. I have no doubt that I only have that strength because of everything I’ve been through.
What is your “guilty” pleasure (but we’re not doing guilt because guilt is a wasted emotion and we all need to own our shit, so what is your secret sauce that always makes you feel better)?
One thing that always makes me feel better is sticking to my evening routine: journalling, reading, face massage before bed! If I’m having a bad day then I’ll often just take timeout and watch a series, make a cup of tea and bake biscuits. The trick is to allow ourselves those breaks without feeling guilty or judging ourselves for it.
Honestly, so many things make me feel better: writing, reading, being by or in the sea, swimming, cycling through the mountains to arrive at a lake and jumping in (that’s a new one for me), travelling, eating good food, yoga, dancing, laughing with good friends, hot weather.
What are you tolerating in your life right now, or what are you working on that you’d like to improve?
I am soon moving to a new country, looking for a home to settle in for longer than a few years. I’ve moved a lot and I’m just ready to find a place that feels like home. Having the move on the horizon can make it harder to focus on the here and now with some much to do and plan for the future, especially with so many decisions still to be made. I’m excited for it, but it also can be distracting and at times.
What’s the hardest thing to balance in your life right now?
Similar to many other self-employed/entrepreneurs, I struggle with knowing when to stop working. Enough versus not enough. I always have more to do, more to accomplish before switching off at the end of the day, so detaching myself can be an inward battle. Then, other times, I probably take it too easy and take more time off than I "should". Trying to be both gentle with ourselves and maintain discipline at the same time is a constant balancing act.
I became self-employed because I wanted freedom and space in my week, variety and the ability to pursue what lights me up. I’m so glad to be able to do that, but I still have to be aware of doing too much versus doing too little.
If you could wave a midlife magic wand, what you most wish for for women today?
That fear no longer holds them back. That they see just how amazing they really are. To be able to be fully themselves alone and in company, to take time for themselves, and to pursue exactly what they want without guilt. Simply being ourselves is sometimes a lot harder than it seems.
What matters most in your own midlife?
Quality relationships, both with myself and with others. I have no interest in surface relationships or people who aren’t right for me. Making time for the important people in my life and for myself is truly a priority.
Breaking the routine also matters to me － I want to keep challenging myself by trying new things and going to new places, either with loved ones or alone. It slows down our perception of time and gives us so many memories.
My work. It took me a long time to find work that is truly fulfilling and has a life-changing impact on others. I love my work so much -- it's rewarding and joyful. I want to keep exploring what I have to offer, to keep showing up for my clients.
What is a midlife mantra you try to live by?
“Happy, thank you, more please.” A mantra I first heard from Kyla Cobbler, a Cork comedian. These simple five words do so much; they bring us back into the moment, they remind us to be grateful for every little good moment in the day, and they also allow us to ask for more which is something most of us have a hard time with － we’ve been conditioned into believing that we must not be greedy and that we should ignore our desires, so giving ourselves permission to ask for more is really important.
What would you like to share about the work you do and why it’s important for women in midlife?
Someone recently told me that my writing is “a gift of hope and inspiration.” I truly hope that that’s the case, so if you want a taste of it or to learn more about me and what I do, the best place is to sign up to my Substack.
Vision boards, when done properly, work for a reason: images bypass conscious thought and go straight to the vision centres in the brain, giving us an emotional reaction, which in turn makes us take action. Soul Signs are like a vision board of who you truly are; you can’t deny your strength when you see it represented in a portrait. The overall experience is a journey of healing, of self-acceptance, of deeper understanding and connection to yourself. My hope is that when you see your portrait, nothing can hold you back.
Examples of some of Tamzin’s “Soul Signs”
And these are some of her client’s reactions when they see their portrait for the firs time….SoulSigns Reactions.mov