When I tell women that I’ve written a book about older women, they often respond indignantly. They either insist, “I’m not old,” or “You’re not old,” as if old is a negative word, like lazy or dirty. What women mean is I won’t accept the ideas the culture has about me. We’re much more interesting, complicated, and various than any of the stereotypes the culture has for us.
With each new life stage, we find ourselves in environments that pelt us with more challenges than our current self can manage. If we don’t grow bigger, we become bitter. Yet all emergencies call for emergent behavior. And if we’re able to grow when we get to these crucible moments in our lives, our growth is qualitative, not quantitative. We become deeper, kinder to ourselves and others, and more capable of bliss.
Now, of course, the world isn’t divided into two types of women: those who grow and those who don’t. All of us fit into both groups most every day. Some of the time, we’re good copers and resilient human beings; in other moments, we’re reactive and pessimistic. And in this developmental stage of the older woman, joy and despair are as mixed together as sea salt and water. But our depth comes from experiencing a wide range of emotions, including profound tragedy, and our strength comes from mastering that which could destroy us.
Happiness is a choice, and it’s a set of skills. And once we’ve made the existential choice to be happy, we can…