Women Rowing North

WOMEN ROWING NORTH

Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age


From Mary Pipher, the New York Times bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia, Women Rowing North is a guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.

Women growing older contend with ageism, misogyny, and loss. Yet as Mary Pipher shows, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life. Their struggles help them grow into the authentic, empathetic, and wise people they have always wanted to be.

In Women Rowing North, Pipher offers a timely examination of the cultural and developmental issues women face as they age.

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From Mary Pipher, the New York Times bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia, Women Rowing North is a guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.

Women growing older contend with ageism, misogyny, and loss. Yet as Mary Pipher shows, most older women are deeply happy and filled with gratitude for the gifts of life. Their struggles help them grow into the authentic, empathetic, and wise people they have always wanted to be.

In Women Rowing North, Pipher offers a timely examination of the cultural and developmental issues women face as they age. Drawing on her own experience as daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, clinical psychologist, and cultural anthropologist, she explores ways women can cultivate resilient responses to the challenges they face. “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully,” Pipher writes, “we will experience a joyous time of our lives. If we have planned carefully and packed properly, if we have good maps and guides, the journey can be transcendent.”

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  • Bloomsbury
  • Hardcover
  • January 2019
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781632869609

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$27.00

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About Mary Pipher

Mary PipherMary Pipher is a psychologist specializing in women, trauma, and the effects of our culture on mental health, which has earned her the title of “cultural therapist” for her generation. She is the author of several New York Times bestsellers, including Reviving Ophelia, The Shelter of Each Other, and Another Country. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Author Website

Praise

“This is bound to become the bible of baby boomer women.” Editors’ Picks, Library Journal

“A work chock-full of wisdom and consoling messages . . . While a must-read for its target audience of women moving into old age, Pipher’s engaging book is an ought-to-read for their daughters and sons as well, as it sets forth the universal message that ‘happiness is a choice and a set of skills.’” Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Uplifting and calming . . . Pipher’s skill of listening to clients and parsing meaning is evident in this volume filled with stories of women in the throes of change.” Starred Review, Library Journal

“This positive, affirming book will inspire and guide women facing these challenges.” Booklist

“An encouraging, comforting and very welcome message about the strength and joy that can come with age.” AARP, The Season’s Big Books

“Thoughtful, wise, and profoundly transformative, Women Rowing North tells the stories that make us feel accompanied and hopeful as well as providing models and muses for all the challenges and joys of this later stage of life. Pipher inspires us to take on this most important role, one that is most needed in these challenging times of division and rancor: that of wise elders joining together and welcoming all into the beloved community she has labored to create. This is truly a one-of-a-kind book, one that I’ve been waiting for.” Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Once Upon a Quinceanera: Coming of Age in the USA

“In Women Rowing North Mary Pipher offers an illuminating, much-needed template for moving through advancing years with gratitude and grace–not through denial or rejection of what’s broken and lost but by opening our hearts fully to everything our life delivers. This is a book to treasure, to keep by the bedside to remind us that, contrary to shopworn stereotypes, joy and wonder don’t have a time-stamp.” Barbara Graham, New York Times bestselling author of Eye of My Heart

“If I needed one book to guide me through the perils to the delights of aging, it is Mary Pipher’s Women Rowing North. It sets the direction, shows the dangers, and brings the reader safely through to joy. I feel gratitude, not only for life, but for this wonderful book.” Jane Isay, author of Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today

“Simultaneously honest and calming, Women Rowing North is like an extended therapy session for millions of women who are strong and resourceful, but need to be reminded of that. This book examines head-on the losses and crises we all fear, cohering into a profound and comforting guide to living deftly and deeply well into old age.” Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions

“I love this book. Don’t stop with a once-through reading. I myself keep it at hand to dip into for a quick shot of Mary Pipher’s matter-of-fact wisdom, humor, and instinct for the essential. It never fails.” Joanna Macy, author of Coming Back to Life: Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects

Discussion Questions

1. The book’s title, Women Rowing North, evokes the common metaphor of life as a stream and also the visual of navigating the current, both as a single kayaker and in community as a larger crew of supportive women. Before beginning this book, how would you have described your life? What does your vessel look like, your stream’s current, your crewmates? A lone dinghy on the open sea? A river cruise in full swing? Has that view changed by the conclusion of this book?

2. Each chapter starts with a small collection of quotes. Which, if any, provoked strong emotions of agreement or disagreement, and why?

3. In the introduction, Dr. Pipher discusses the extended life expectancy in various countries, the difference between being young-old and old-old, and how the shift from one to another is based on life experiences rather than chronological time. How would you classify yourself and why?

4. In the introduction, Dr. Pipher shares what she considers to be the core foundation for
happiness, such as emotional resilience, positive attitudes, gratitude, and intentionality. Do you agree? What else would you add?

5. The author describes an experience where she finds a cholla cactus with branches dying even as new growth flourished and compares it to the experience of growing older. In looking at your own life, what new offshoots are flourishing?

6. Dr. Pipher quotes a seventy-year-old friend as saying, “I’m invisible now. I could take off all my clothes and walk through the courthouse and I’m not sure anyone would notice.” Do you feel this is true? Why or why not? In thinking back through your own life, who were the visible older women in your life, and what did they do to make themselves seen and heard?

7. In early chapters, Dr. Pipher talks of crucible moments and of the transformations that can come from defining events. What crucible moments have defined your life, and how have they changed you?

8. In Chapter Eight, the author tells her niece, “You can’t navigate from there to here if you don’t know where you are.” She then ties that advice to knowing ourselves before we chart our course. Each woman’s path is unique, but which of the women in the stories most resembled you? Independent Kestrel? Accommodating Emma? Career-driven Willow? Overburdened Sylvia?

9. The same chapter also discusses the difficulty in saying no and the freedom in using that word judiciously. Do you find it difficult to say no? How can you set reasonable limits for yourself?

10. Chapter Nine discusses intentionality, especially intentionality in wealth, whether that be financial wealth or an abundance in other resources. One definition of wealth Dr. Pipher offers is “the number of people I am in loving relationships with.” How do you define wealth?

11. In discussing how to build a good day, Dr. Pipher explains the difference between a minimizer and a maximizer. A minimizer is happy with “good enough” while a maximizer, always wants a little more. Which category do you fall into? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both categories?

12. On page 149, Dr. Pipher writes “We can slowly train ourselves to think in stories that allow us to flourish. We hone our skills in perspective taking, emotional processing, and reframing. Stories of joy, kindness, and courage empower us in ways that the culturally stereotyped narrative never does.” Think back to a difficult time in your life. What narrative did you craft in the moment? How did it affect how you reacted? And, in looking back, has that narrative changed over time?

13. Dr. Pipher looks at the different kind of happiness, from joy to contentment to excitement to deep-rooted meaningfulness. When evaluating your own happiness, which of these (or another kind you define) are you most focused on? Has your definition changed over your lifetime, and if so, what’s changed it?

14. Part of who we become is rooted in our experiences from childhood onward, in the people we have met, and in the choices we’ve made. Few of us have become who we set out to be. Think of who you were in a crucial time of life—as a young child, as an uncertain adolescent, as an independent young adult, or as a middle-aged woman. What would that version of you think of who you’ve become today? What would she like? Be surprised by? What are your proudest areas of growth?

15. Near the end of the book, the author’s friend Sally exclaims, “Getting old is a freaking privilege!” Do you agree or disagree, and has that view changed at all while reading Women Rowing North?