Book Review: The Wisdom of Women

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Book Review: The Wisdom of Women

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By Kathy A. Megyeri 

In her 30s, Jane Fonda wrote a book entitled “My Life So Far,” and in it, she said, “Aging is like a three-act play but perhaps aging should be a spiral staircase because the wisdom, balance, reflection and compassion that this upward movement represents doesn’t just come in one linear ascension but it circles around us, beckoning us to keep climbing, to keep looking both back and ahead.”   

That quote motivated professional ballroom dancer and writer, Deborah Monk, to write her new book, “The Wisdom of Women: 10 Decades. 10 Women. 5 Questions,” in which she asked 10 women in each decade of life, one even over 100 years old, to answer the following five questions: 

  1. What would you tell your younger self? 
  1. What would you tell your older self? 
  1. What is most important to you right now? 
  1. What do you struggle to accept about yourself? 
  1. What do you love about yourself? 
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And Monk was no beginner when it came to garnering womanly wisdom. Her former books, “Well-Behaved Woman Coming Undone,” “Searching for Julia Stone,” “Storytime for Grown-Up Women and the Girls Who Will Become Them,” all struck a nerve with readers and were successful. But in her latest, she gathers women’s advice that is useful both to our younger selves and our older selves. Her book’s purpose is stated in her forward: “Aging is the vehicle that allows us to travel through the stages of womanhood.  Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride because resisting aging denies you the incredible beauty of every age, every transformation that is what it means to be a woman. 

And the responses from the women she profiles are priceless. One says, “Being needed doesn’t mean being loved. Needing someone to love would mean that love is only available to me through another person.” Another says, “Love is an energy that comes from within—an infinite well that is available to me.”  Even the 100-year-old from New Hampshire concludes, “Your soul never gets older.” For me personally, the best advice came from an ex-math teacher who said, “Realize that you can’t do or be everything. As a teacher, sometimes I needed to be a mother, father, disciplinarian, teacher and psychologist, but no matter how much I gave, it was never enough.” 

In each case, these women prove aging can be awesome, but it is not simply the passage of time. It’s about being brave enough to embrace every stage of life of being a woman. And the entire book leaves the reader asking the most important question of all, “What are you doing to make yourself happy?” 

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