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Mary Pipher: Women Navigating Life's Currents and Flourishing As We Age

Nuggets From Mary Pipher's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Mary Pipher.

When Mary Pipher, author of 9 books (three New York Times bestsellers), told her friends she was next writing a book on older women “like us,” they protested, “I am not old.” What they meant, she says, was that “they didn’t act or feel like the cultural stereotypes of women their age. Old meant bossy, useless, unhappy and in the way. Our country’s ideas about old women are so toxic that almost no one ... will admit she is old.” But Mary's work is far from “old.” She continues to discern the needs of the times, presciently striking a chord in the zeitgeist. A psychologist, community organizer and activist, Mary is passionate about the importance of community and the development of healthy relationships between children and adults as each generation aims for the self-care and self-exploration needed to find our true selves.

We'll post the transcript of the call soon, but till then, some of the nuggets that stood out from the call ...

  • On what inspired her to explore the topic of "older women," Mary reflected that she tends to explore what she most needs to learn, what she most struggles with at the deepest levels. Mary noticed that the cultural scripts around older women were so unlike her own and her friends' experiences. Contrary to the cultural scripts, which portray older women as less attractive, less useful, and less interesting, Mary found that older women tend to be happier on balance, oscillate between joy and sorrow, and are often incredibly interesting and vibrant. When people see that there is less runway, they tend to appreciate life more.
  • On her personal experience with growing older, Mary noted that she is now more skilled in emotional modulation, gratitude, solitude, and social connection. She also noted that she has developed the skill to say "no" and to walk out the room, as well as the skill to say "yes" and to honor her intuition. She also observed that people her age tend to be more skilled when it comes to having reasonable expectations.
  • On the topic of happiness, Mary said that it is difficult to unpack, as happiness and despair are as mixed in a day, as mixed in a life, as sea salt and water. Happiness is a matter of intention, attitude, and attention, and it tends to be marked by deep and meaningful relationships, useful work, and the ability to laugh and enjoy life. With the right attitude, one can walk out of the funeral of a lifelong partner and notice the geese and taste the snow.
  • Mary discussed her deep connection to the State of Nebraska. She talked about the beauty of the Nebraskan landscape ("the sky is our Rocky Mountains"), as well as her efforts to preserve the integrity of this landscape through environmental action (e.g., banding together to block the Keystone pipeline from coming to Nebraska). "Wherever you are, be the center of the universe, and make it the place of action."
  • Mary talked about the "polite meltdown" she experienced in her 40s, which gave her permission turn inward and to discover meditation, among other important tools for self-realization.
  • When asked what keeps her going, Mary said love of community and the ability to distribute energy outside the traditional institutions of power (like government).

Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!

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