The Art of Midlife: Courage and Creative Living for Women

By Linda N. Edelstein | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The heart of my work is clinical psychotherapy, and in that practice, I have found a great many unanswered questions. Some resonate strongly with my own. One question -- how can we, as midlife women, author intentional, spirited lives? -- is the basis for this book. Because of who I am professionally, I turned my interest in midlife creativity into research and went about it in several ways simultaneously.

I reviewed the theories that examined women's adult development, loss and adaptation, and creativity. I located relevant research studies in psychology and distilled hundreds of pages of psychological research and thinking into what I hope is intelligent, conversational language. Theory and research were both necessary because I needed to confirm or refute my ideas and I wanted to integrate three processes that are usually treated as distinct: mourning, creativity, and normal developmental change. In addition, I looked for, found, interviewed, transcribed, and analyzed talks with women who had refashioned themselves in satisfying ways and had carried out interesting and significant changes in their lives. I interviewed women-ordinary women, not the rich and famous -- in the Midwest, where I live, and elsewhere. The women, who ranged in age from their late thirties to their late fifties, told me about all kinds of changes -- leaving jobs, starting businesses, returning to artistic pursuits, marriages, searches for biological parents, and unfortunate events such as deaths, divorces, handicaps, or alcoholism -- that became sources of motivation to build new lives. Essential to this project was the fact that the women experienced the changes as being within their power, a happy contrast to the adaptation research I had done years ago with women whose children had died unexpectedly. Those deaths were tragedies that entered women's lives like bricks through glass and shattered them just as easily. From those women, I learned about overwhelming losses and limitless mourning. For this book, I sought women who had choices about the changes in their lives and made decisions that led to positive outcomes. What does it take to create a full second half of life?

The twenty interviews provide the major descriptions and illustrations, but I have used other information as well, all disguised. During the last fifteen years, I have probably worked with more than one hundred clients in their middle years. With permission, some small portions of their stories are included. A few examples are composites of the experiences of several women. True stories also come from autobiographies and biographies. I. recount some of my own insights, which were the most difficult to put

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