Conscious Aging:

Clinical psychologist Mary Pipher has a new opinion piece about women in our ’70’s. Friend Phyllis sent along the link; she and I are both in the target audience. Pipher’s piece is optimistic, and I find it accurate in describing women I know — which indeed is a privileged or genetically lucky cohort.

In America, ageism is a bigger problem for women than aging. Our bodies and our sexuality are devalued, we are denigrated by mother-in-law jokes, and we’re rendered invisible in the media. Yet, most of the women I know describe themselves as being in a vibrant and happy life stage. We are resilient and know how to thrive in the margins. Our happiness comes from self-knowledge, emotional intelligence and empathy for others.

Most of us don’t miss the male gaze. It came with catcalls, harassment and unwanted attention. Instead, we feel free from the tyranny of worrying about our looks. For the first time since we were 10, we can feel relaxed about our appearance. We can wear yoga tights instead of nylons and bluejeans instead of business suits.”

Self-knowledge, emotional intelligence, and empathy. Yes.

I do think key elements at this age are reasonable health, and enough financial stability not to have to worry all the time about a roof over our heads.

Pipher does talk about a woman named Jane Jarvis, who is happy despite living with difficult circumstances:

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”

Pipher also talks about loss, an unavoidable component of this stage of life. As I’m about to head to Panama to visit Minga’s family without her there, I’m mindful of the ache of loss but also of the richness of a 50+ year old friendship. You can only have friends that long when you are, well, old. 🙂

Pipher is writing a book called Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age. You know it’s going on my list.

5 thoughts on “Conscious Aging:

  1. On mine too! I think it might be a good book club read also. Happy travels to Panama, and give my best to all of Minga’s and Gloria’s families.

  2. Great article and I agree with it. However, in the last two weeks I have become all too aware of how life can change in an instant. Just came back from NJ where I visited my closest friend from college. Met first week of school in 1954 so we have been friends for over 64 years. At any rate, she lost her balance, fell, broke her femur, operation, and is now in rehab. Concern because this is not the first time she has fallen and they are thinking that perhaps she can no longer live independently. Daughters hope she can return to her villa home and stay there (with her precious dog) by having 24/7 home health aide. Frightfully expensive and she is far from a wealthy woman. Widowed at 50, had been a stay at home mom, and had to get herself back in the job market. Fingers crossed there. Other friend devloped kidney stone, then kidney infection and then sepsis. In ICU for a week, doctors thought she was going to die. Now in rehab learning to walk again! Amazing how quickly muscles atrophy when you are in your seventies. Bottom line – enjoy each day!

  3. for Ada: What you share is true of our age, for sure. Life can change when you’re younger too, but there is more capacity to rebound. Now, rebounding is a long, hard slog. Every day that I get up and know who I am, and everything more or less works, and the people I love are more or less OK is a great day.

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