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www.mirrorwomen.com
Workshops and resources for women over 50

About: Liz Monroe-Cook

Liz Monroe-Cook is a consulting and clinical psychologist with a practice based in Chicago. She works with individuals, groups and organizations on many topics, from creativity and leadership to communication and personal development. She is committed to people’s abilities to not only solve problems but also to open up options and opportunities for their lives.

Posts by Liz Monroe-Cook:

Our Pursuit of “Normal”

After one of our more animated LifeSort workshops, Chris and I were chatting about our participants and how they seem to be looking for a bit of normalcy in their lives. Which got me thinking… what’s normal?

Chris, you asked me to think about what’s normal for a woman fifty plus?  Well, you know that’s the kind of question that gets people like me (psychologists) to say, “it depends.”

First of all, who is doing the defining of normal and what does that mean?

I think there’s probably a larger range of “normal” psychological responses for anyone of any age than we typically think.   Definitions of normalcy differ from region to region, culture to culture, person to person.  I know, I know – I quibble.

If you’ve seen the movie, “Babies” you will no doubt have recognized how different “normal” childrearing is in different cultures.  That movie was also a good reminder that some developmental things are universal, mostly in the physical realm, but also in the behavioral realm.   So I’d like to encourage people to recognize both the wide range of things that are normal for women of our age while giving a nod to the universals (e.g., menopause, diminished physical capacity, signs of aging, etc.)

So much of what we read about this stage of life talks about the transitions involved in being 50+.  Some of these transitions are as monumental as what we experienced at puberty, yes?  Remember those oh-so-discreet books from Kotex about menstruation, “You’re a woman now”?  I remember feeling like they offered comfort but didn’t quite spell out all the answers, particularly about why the grownups were so mysterious about it all.

Today, who’s offering those gentle, discreet, comforting messages?  “You’re a woman of a certain age now” might be the title and I think a lot of women feel like they could use some comforting messages even if mystery remains.  But now that we are of a “certain age,” we seem to be expected to figure out the mystery ourselves; we are the grownups.

What if I’m feeling anxious about my relationships at this age?  Normal.  How about worrying about my appearance when I never seemed to worry before?  Normal.  How about not caring about my appearance like I used to?  Normal. Still feeling like I’m a pouting teenager with my parents?  Normal.  Feeling rebellious about my work?  Normal.  Wanting to move on to different work?  Normal.  Loving the empty nest?  Normal.  Hating the empty nest?  Normal.  Feeling afraid that my body will betray me one time too often?  Normal.  Wondering how many times I’m going to have to work a familiar issue out?  Normal, normal, normal.

You get the picture.  Maybe one thing in the new normal of getting older is that we now have the life experience to help us recognize and celebrate our resilience as we experience new challenges (along with some of the old ones, too, of course).  And we do have the capacity to figure out the new normal for ourselves at this age.

(Our Pursuit of Normal, cont.)

Below I’ve listed some starting points for writing your own edition of “You’re a Woman of a Certain Age Now.”  (What do you find normal for you?  What’s important to you?  Where are you headed with…?)

  • Menopause
  • Relationships with others
  • Concern about our place in the social structure
  • Independence
  • Physical appearance and who finds us attractive
  • Empty nests
  • Care for aging parents
  • Career transitions, retirement, productivity
  • Loss of physical capabilities or experiencing serious illness
  • Thoughts about our own mortality
  • Freedom
  • Life’s meaning

All normal.

Liz

We’d love your comments or questions about how you feel ”normal”. Post a comment with your normal thoughts, please.

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Our Many Different “Me’s”

By Liz Monroe-Cook, Ph.D.

As you’ve seen in Chris’s description of Mirror Image, one of the paths we’re traveling concerns “identity,” or who the woman in the mirror is. (I’m not going to try to define identity any more than that or fisticuffs might break out among nearby psychologists and sociologists.)

At this age, we have the advantage of being able to look back on many different “me’s” that we have been over the years. Sometimes our identities are tied up with the social roles we have – daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, lover, spouse, in-law, mother, aunt, grandmother – or with work roles we have, starting with our days as students, maybe finishing with roles like mentor, retiree and volunteer. Throughout it all, however, I believe we carry a sense of self that transcends our social roles, our work roles and our physical selves. It’s kind of that feeling of “who I am as a human being.”

One of the things we hope visiting this site or attending one of the workshops will do is to encourage you to explore what it means to be you at this time in your life. We believe this kind of exploration can help you maximize your experiences and enjoyment, and to focus–and reach–the goals you have now.

Who is today’s “Me”?
One of the simpler things you can do, without spending a lot of time, is a quick visit or “check-in” with yourself. To do this, find a quiet spot or a quiet time of day for yourself; set aside about 15 to 20 minutes and be sure to begin and end with some relaxed deep breathing. You can just sit and think or, better yet, make some notes in a journal. You can use the following questions as thought starters, or simply notice where your thoughts take you.

• Has your sense of yourself changed over time? From what to what?
• What life events led you to think differently about yourself?
• When have you felt at your strongest? …your most vulnerable?
• If you had a chance to have a conversation with your younger self, what would you say?
• What parts of yourself or life lessons do you want to make sure you take into the future with you?
• What changes, if any, seem most important to make right now?
• What are some of the resources you have (people, processes or objects) to help you be more aware and to fulfill your current goals?

As the shampoo instructions say, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” That is, use this kind of check-in with yourself to clear things out or clear them up and repeat as needed!

I’d love to hear what your “Me’s” have to see. Post a comment when you get a minute.

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