March 18, 2010

Over 50? Need Some Guidance?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:12 am by lbrosch

Over the past 6 months I have been reading books by Joan Anderson. You can learn more about her books and retreats at In her first book A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman (2000) she describes her feelings as she has just discovered that she is facing life on her own, So with her mothering years having finished and her husband busy with his career she decides to spend some time on Cape Cod by herself to think about where to go next with her life. She happens to meet Joan Erikson, wife of Erik Erikson, the famous psychotherapist who is noted for designing the Eight Stages of Life. After spending several months with Joan as her mentor she comes to discover how to set a course for a purposeful, energetic life. This book was full of helpful advice for me and I truly identified with many of the feelings she was going through as I have just retired from a full time career and am looking for ways to find purpose in my own life. After reading this book I was immediately drawn to find more of her work and a few months ago read her newest book The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself (2008). This book again affirmed many of the thoughts I was having about how to best make use of my time. Though not as specific in goal setting as the first book, it was a good chance to see how Joan is not always the best teacher and falls victim to some of the pressures many of us face as we try to reset our lives to new goals. In this book she finds herself dealing with an aging and frail mother who is becoming more helpless and demanding of her time. Again, we all can gain insight into how to face our midlife crises through Joan’s guidance. She talks about women’s phases. These phases cause us to change emotionally, spiritually and physically about every 7 years. 1-7 we are filled with wonder; 7-14 is the hormonal stage (no explanation needed); 14-21 sexual stage; 21-28 desire to procreate; and then the resulting stage of mothering and losing ourselves to the needs of others. By 35-40 we are looking beyond the stage of selflessness to what may lay beyond and then by 42-49 we see approaching menopause. 49-56 is a desire to live without rules and find out who we are and who we want to be. She says this is when we truly become who we are, what she calls the ‘watchwoman’. She says that Joan Erikson gave her the idea that ” a full life is about self-cultivation. We owe it to ourselves to create something out of nothing.” She talks about evolving inwardly, the situation of facing downsizing and a dilemma of being in two states, the human condition of wanting to be alone and wanting to be in a relationship. I can really relate to that one and it was so affirming to see it talked about in her book. There are so many more nuggets of wisdom for women within her books. A Weekend to Change Your Life (2007) describes the agenda used during her weekend retreats with many of the exercises. This book can be used to design your own weekend retreat with a women’s group or group of friends. Her other books include A Walk on the Beach (2005) and An Unfinished Marriage (2003).

Another book which caught my eye recently, especially after remembering a theme of “share what you know” from Joan’s book; is What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self (2006), edited by Ellyn Spragins. This book contains letters from a wide variety of successful, confident women ranging from Madeline Albright, Maya Angelou and Ann Curry to Noor Al Hussein, Kitty Kelley and Nora Robert. Women of all ages and walks of life share their advice on how to face life.

If you are approaching 60 then you might like Carolyn G. Heilbrun’s The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty (1998). This was a New York Times Notable Book and has gotten great reviews. With a wise and compassionate voice Carolyn will help you ease into this next phase of life. She is still writing books to help women gain a clearer perspective on their roles with her more recent bestseller, Writing a Woman’s Life (2008).

Before I end this post I must tell you about a new book that was recommended to me a couple of days ago and definitely intrigues me. Listening Below the Noise by Anne D. LeClaire (2010) is the story of this novelist’s decision to start a practice of spending 24 hours not speaking for twice a month. She explains how this period of silence brings her to a greater self-understanding, deeper observation of nature and a spiritual contentment. I think this will be yet another way of dealing with our encroaching stresses as we age.

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