About women in their 70’s from the New York Times


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4 Responses to About women in their 70’s from the New York Times

  1. Diana Belland says:

    Dear Friends,

    If “The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s” had been published about 14 months ago, my response would have been to write about what a robust 72 year old I was, how much I was looking forward to pursuing my many interests full time now that I was finally retired. In December, 2017, my health was good and my family–husband and three adult, successful daughters–intact.
    I had a long list of travel plans, books to read, classes to take, hobbies to pursue (watercolor painting, fiddle playing). After 42 years as a university professor, I felt I had earned–and would no doubt have— at least twenty more years to do the things I had had to put off while working. I ate a healthful diet, worked out regularly, hiked, walked, bicycled and took pride in having successfully. As Mary Pipher writes, I regarded myself “as being in a vibrant and happy life stage.”

    By early January, 2018, I had distinct symptoms of foot drop in my right leg and, after having an MRI, learned that I had many problems in my lumbar spine related to osteoarthritis. At the end of March, 2018, I had spine fusion surgery and a laminectomy to relieve pressure on the L5S1 nerve in my right leg. A few months later, two more surgeries followed due to nerve compression—carpal tunnel and Ulnar nerve surgery on my right arm and carpal tunnel surgery on my left wrist.

    Pipher writes: “we are confronted by great challenges. We are unlikely to escape great sorrow for long. We all suffer, but not all of us grow. Those of us who grow do so by developing our moral imaginations and expanding our carrying capacities for pain and bliss. In fact, this pendulum between joy and despair is what makes old age catalytic for spiritual and emotional growth.”

    The year of 2018 was, indeed, a year of great suffering and sorrow for me. I still have foot drop, great weakness in my lumbar spine muscles and in my right hand. Essentially, I am disabled and must walk with a cane. But for eight months following my spine surgery, I was faithfully doing my PT and still hoping to regain some nerve function. I learned to appreciate all the things I could still do–read, take classes, hike with special trekking poles. I would remind myself how lucky I was to have my husband and my three wonderful daughters. No matter the physical challenges I had to face, I was resilient, so I thought. I would focus on all life still had to offer and all that I could give to my daughters in terms of love, support, encouragement and the wisdom of age and experience.

    Then came the unthinkable—our youngest daughter, 28 years old, died by suicide on November 21. She had been diagnosed with clinical depression and had been under the care of a therapist and a psychiatrist. She had completed an in-patient and an intensive out-patient program at a mental health hospital. She was intelligent, gorgeous, had a wonderful boyfriend, many friends, and a loving family. She had everything to live for.

    Pipher rhapsodizes about the resilience that women in their 70s have gained: “By our 70s, 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.”

    “Our happiness is built by attitude and intention,” she says and adds, “As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. ”

    I’m seven weeks out from the loss of my incredible, beautiful daughter. At 73, I wonder if I will live long enough to “experience bliss” again. I don’t know how to “create a good day.” I am barely able to get out of bed each day.

    Pipher’s statement that “happiness is a skill and a choice” seems to imply that all you need to have is the “right” mindset, and you, too, will experience the “joy” of being a woman in her 70s. Perhaps Ms. Pipher’s next article/book will address the very acute problems of aging and devastating loss that women in their 70s face.

    Thank you.

  2. Ellen Cole says:

    Dear Diana,
    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beautiful daughter. My tendency is to deny sorrow and pain, certainly my own. And then I read a post such as yours, and am thrown into the reality that life is not a circus. Thank you for writing. I have long recognized the urgency of sharing, of gathering together with peers–in our case women in our 70’s, of connection. You have connected, with me, and everyone who reads this blog. When Jane and I started 70 Candles, our goal was to have a counterpoint to ageism, to discover how we might thrive in our 70’s. Thriving is possible for all of us, but that includes tragedy and failing health, and knowing there will, some day, be a return of moments of bliss. I am so touched by your post. It has made me deeper. I would love to hear other responses to Mary Pipher’s article. I am imagining they are complex and varied.

  3. Rosemary Nelson says:

    Dear Diana,
    My deepest sympathy. Your wise and deeply touching letter brings me to my knees. Thank you for sharing your story, as I know that in a split second, I too, might be presented with an unbearable suffering.

    My hope for you is that time and the closeness of family and friends will ease the pain. Years ago, my husband was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. My grief was overwhelming. One day, out of nowhere, it came to me, that in that very moment, as I sat weeping into my hands, millions of women were experiencing the same feelings. They too had lost someone so dear, and their hearts were broken. My tears were falling into their vast sea of pain and I was not alone. It helped me.

    Care for yourself with compassion and allow others to do for you as well. May you find peace.

    With love and gratitude,
    Rosemary Nelson

  4. Mary Lou says:

    A friend shared Mary Pipher’s article with me and I loved it! It is so much a reminder that each moment needs to be cherished because we don’t know what’s around the corner. I was in the hospital for three days last week because of heart issues. Each trip to the ER and I’d think this could be it. We ride these highs and lows. We’re still here. Mary Pipher’s article meets each one of us where we’re at so it’s going to get varied responses. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re in our 70s or because this is just how life is.

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