When my girls were young, I would always be dipping into child development books, like Your One Year Old or Your Two Year Old, to get the heads up on what to expect for the next stage in their growth and development.
Now here I am, just turned sixty-eight, and I am devouring a book, Women Rowing North, which is about how to navigate life as we age, especially when over sixty. Author, Mary Pipher shares stories and insights into what we can face as we enter this last chapter of life.
While some sections are sad, with the loss of friends and family, Pipher reminds us to celebrate the person and treasure our memories of those relationships. She talks about how resilience is not a fixed trait but is one that we can master. Sadly, however, not everyone does, she observes, and some women remain locked in the past. Growth is not inevitable when we face losses in life.
Grief, she notes, is a physical and emotional experience, one that needs time to unfurl. She feels it is important that we feel our own pain. Ironically, she says often we want comfort in our grief from the very person we have lost. However, the grief never goes away, more we learn to live with it.
It is lonely at first, but we can learn to reframe loneliness into solitude. Time spent alone can become more positive as we find ways to enjoy ourselves. Learning to protect our time and space can help reshape a life that is complicated and messy.
While our lives may be dominated by death and illness, she believes there are many ways to keep things in perspective, like volunteering or caring for a loved one. I remember looking after my mother after her cancer surgery and while it was hard to see her suffering, it was also one of the most tender moments in our relationship. We’d reversed roles and I was the caregiver, giving my mother the love and care she’d given me as a child.
Pipher then turns her attention to the wealth in our lives, with our concept of wealth changing as we age. It’s no longer just about financial security, but about our sense of abundance and our comfort in deciding what is enough. It’s important, she points out, to distinguish between wants and needs.
It is also about how we spend our time. She strongly advocates giving back, believing that “all of us have something to give to someone. Whatever our gifts, we can offer them.” But she also cautions about going overboard and recommends that we set some boundaries, otherwise, we have just traded one “job” for another.
And this is OUR time, we can focus on our own needs and put ourselves first.
She devotes several chapters to our friendships with other women, believing that this “sisterhood” can help us navigate tough times, as well as sharing happy moments, with laughter, intimacy and companionship.
She encourages us to spend time with women whose values we respect. “No matter our age, we can select women who allow us to grow and feel good in their presence.”
As we feel more comfortable in our own skin, we are less compelled to worry about what other people think of us. We give ourselves permission to be who we truly are and become more vocal, voicing our opinions more openly.
It is with this authenticity that we choose who we want to hang out with, knowing that friendships may change as we change and evolve. With increased self-awareness, we know when to check in with ourselves if we sense we are veering off track. We’ve learned to trust that inner voice, and we listen.
It is also a stage when we are, hopefully, less judgmental of others and ourselves. We better understand that everyone is wounded in some way and we don’t let that knowledge interfere with the everyday.
Pipher shares stories of women in the sixties and older and weaves what is happening in their lives throughout the book. These snapshots are insightful, but I smile when I realize, with my fading short term memory, I often had to dig back to earlier sections to recall their story line!
Now in her 70s, Pipher admits that most of the activities she enjoys now are the ones she most enjoyed at age ten. And I would concur – for me it would be reading books and “playing” with friends.
Life has come full circle.
Company of Women
I have had an eclectic career from running non-profit organizations and being editor of a national magazine, to working for government on women’s issues. In 2003 I launched Company of Women, an organization that supports women in business. A prolific blogger, I also write for the Huffington Post, and several other online publications. I am the author of five books on women and entrepreneurship, and co-author of Good Enough. Embrace who you are. Unleash your brilliance. which is available on amazon.ca In June, 2016 I launched Full Circle Publishing offering one-stop services to get your words out into the world.