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Workshops and resources for women over 50

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.


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


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