For Women on the Journey of Their Lives
I became aware of an extraordinary happening several years ago. Women over age 50 — my clients, friends, leaders in corporate workshops, and me, seemed to be deeply questioning traditional post-career models of life. For many, the well-worn picture of traditional retirement was unattractive.
Repeatedly I heard similar themes:
* Strong desires to continue contributing to the world, though not necessarily in the same way.
* Re-definitions of purpose.
* Healthy resistance to assumptions about age and relevance.
* Restlessness fueled by physical and intellectual vibrancy, with long lives ahead and no desire to “wind down.”
* An attraction to experiment in creative new ways.
* The fun of continued learning without pressure to produce something.
* In some cases, disorientation about identity.
* And a deep desire for spiritual exploration and development.
And all this happening alongside the collective urgency for new models — feminine models — of leadership in the world.
Sensing my own satisfied closure on 28 years in the corporate world, I wondered if the personal shake-up I was feeling was a norm for women like me. That’s when I stumbled on the work of social anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson. Bateson announces in Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom that for the first time in human history, there’s a whole new phase of life between ages 50-70+. Those of us living it are literally pioneering a new way of being. She calls it “adulthood II” – the stage after adulthood I but before entering elderhood.
Whether we know it or not, we are laying down new tracks for what it will become.
I sensed this to be the tip of an iceberg. So in 2016/17, I interviewed 100 women ages 50-70+ across a mix of racial, socioeconomic, professional, geographic and religious backgrounds.
The purpose was to find the answers to these questions:
* What’s happening in the lives of women age 50+, especially those who have had strongly-defined careers and are approaching what used to be called retirement years?
* Are there new markers for this new stage of life? If so, what are they?
* How are we navigating the big “what now” question?
* Is traditional retirement (ease, travel, volunteering, relaxation) a thing of the past?
* What’s most important to women at this stage of life?
* And … what are we learning as we pioneer this new territory that other women can learn from?
Nine themes emerged; nine affirmations of what we are learning and perhaps creating as a blueprint for women on the same journey.
My upcoming book Manifesta of Active Wisdom: A Call to Further Becoming from 100 Women Over Age 50 is filled with stories and insights from these 100 women whose collective voices highlight what’s helpful, hopeful and important at this stage of life. These themes are particularly relevant for women with an urge to continue self-actualizing, making a contribution, and doing so without homage to the constraints of a cultural patriarchy.
My work is focused on bringing their voices into the world and supporting women who, like me, are eager to chart meaningful, contributing, spiritually-satisfying and love-filled paths in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.
May we all fully inhabit the rich ongoing journey of our lives!