we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues

We’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

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.”…

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities…

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

~ Mary Pipher, excerpts from The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s (The New York Times · January 12, 2019). Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist in Lincoln, Neb., and the author of the forthcoming “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.”


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Comments

  1. i read this three times and love it so much. it is so very, very true. ‘it is both a miracle and a privilege to be alive.’ yes.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. “We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea.” Wow. I’m with Beth…have read this twice now and will likely do so twice more, just to let the thoughts bounce around in my head. Every sentence carries a kernel of wisdom, and all ring with the sincerity of experience. This one gets printed and saved. Thanks pal…

    Liked by 4 people

  3. “Gratitude is a survival skill!”, sounds so true.

    Interesting read, looking forward to those years.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Where is the “love” button? I’m not there yet but there is a knowingness here that resonates with me. 🌀💙🌀

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Resonating, much of this I am experiencing now … leaning in!! 🙂 MJ

    Liked by 2 people

  6. freddiegeorgia says:

    This definitely pulls you in to reading over and over. I especially like the line…There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. Everything about this is so delightful. I hope when I’m 70 I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. “make everything workable…smell the wood smoke after a friend’s funeral…more tragedy and bliss than we could have foreseen..” – Hope I can “Row North” as gracefully as Ms. Pipher. Looking forward to reading her book.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Resilience brings confidence, yes?

    It’s pleasing to read someone’s experience and feel such a strong kinship. I wonder too, if those of us, which likely includes many of us here, find our way to this vintage approach to life through a love of language as part of what influences the attention we now know makes a difference. And does this awareness that brings attention to the small, quiet moments what brings about the grace we feel as we age? Then, how much nurturing is now available to us through the sharing of a common love of this human bird song; language – with its ability to express the beauty and to share in the ordinary, inescapably repetitious daily fare.

    Perhaps it takes the accumulation of experience to at last live in life’s qualities; not only making peace with, but loving those small everyday creaturely moments. It is in a way, life renewed, and transformed we are by simple monotony into lovers of beauty, wonder and surprise, which might yet, slowly unburden us from the tight grip that pain and sadness must sometimes bring. For at last we see how unique and special all of it is and that this too shall pass.

    Thanks, David!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. No more people-pleasing, and plenty more “No”s — because the horrible sense of guilt has been burned out of us. Finally, room to be, and to let others be others. Together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s it. Our authentic self. Reminds me of:

      You must unlearn the habit of being someone else or nothing at all, of imitating the voices of others and mistaking the faces of others for your own. […] One thing is given to man which makes him into a god, which reminds him that he is a god: to know destiny. […] When destiny comes to a man from outside, it lays him low, just as an arrow lays a deer low. When destiny comes to a man from within, from his innermost being, it makes him strong, it makes him into a god…

      ~ Herman Hesse, If the War Goes on: Reflections on War and Politics (Farrar Straus & Giroux; June 1, 1971)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The “no” part is really appealing.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Too bad it takes us so long to get smart.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. 70 is still 15 years away yet I connect to this text so much (as do all your fabulous readers).

    “We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.”

    So. Very. True.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. 70 is 9 years from now… but this feels so true right as I live today. at least the beginnings.

    Will share with gratitude

    Liked by 2 people

  14. What a bloody great post and so very true indeed

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on renplus.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Amen. Great share David. Hope you don’t mind that I re-blog it on Rainy Day Writing. And perhaps my facebook page, which isn’t public just friends. It’s such a sage piece. Thanks for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. More than a decade to reach 70…I’d like to think that I live my life this way, currently… I enjoyed reading her wisdom…one word she used is ‘expectations’ A few years ago, that was my word of the year and I still go back and forth on seesaw thinking about if life should be lived with or without ‘expectations’.

    Liked by 1 person

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