S6-EP5: Bestselling Author Mary Pipher on Forgiveness, Happiness, and Old Age

Dec 22, 2023


Debbie speaks with bestselling author Mary Pipher, 76, about happiness, forgiveness, surrendering, and old age.



Debbie talks to Mary Pipher, a psychologist and bestselling author of 11 books including the ground-breaking Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls.  She was the first psychologist to recognize and articulate why life was difficult for adolescent girls and why so many of them felt bad about themselves.

More recently, she has written Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing As We Age, about women navigating the transition from middle age to old age (the topic of this podcast!).

In 2022, she published a memoir, A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence. In her new book, just out in paperback, Mary, now 76, talks about her difficult childhood and her relationship with her parents, the importance of family and community, living in a small town in Nebraska, and what the particular challenges of getting old are. She also talks about forgiveness, about adopting Buddhism and her definition of happiness. Per the title, she’s obsessed with light, through trees, on walks, at certain times of day, in certain rooms, and in memories — and how the light makes her feel happy and complete.

She says her knowledge about happiness comes from being someone who has struggled with sadness and anxiety much of her life, something that resonates strongly with Debbie.

This is a great episode. Mary articulates so well what it’s really like to get old and yet still feel so alive.

Don’t miss the Behind The Scenes essay on Substack accompanying this episode


Mentioned in this episode or useful:


Connect with Debbie:


Our Media Partners:

  • CoGenerate (formerly Encore.org)
  • MEA and with thanks to Chip Conley
  • Next For Me (former media partner and in memory of Jeff Tidwell)

Support this podcast:


Connect with us:

Thanks to our media partners

Encore.org, our newest media partner, is an ideas and innovation hub tapping the talent of those 50+ as a force for good. Founder and CEO Marc Freedman is an award-winning social entrepreneur and author, most recently, of How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations. Looking for a great gap-year transition program? Check out Encore Fellowships, which match skilled, seasoned professionals with social-sector organizations in high-impact, paid assignments.


Modern Elder Academy is a program dedicated to navigating mid-life transitions. MEA, based in Baja California, Mexico, provides the place and the tools to start reframing your lifetime of experience. Grow whole, not old. Founder Chip Conley is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and a rock star of the mid-life transition movement. His newest book is Wisdom @ Work: the Making of a Modern Elder.


Next For Me is an important new resource for the 50+ crowd focused on rewriting life. Taking a gap year or timeout may be the best way to figure out "what's next" when you're in this stage of life. Founder Jeff Tidwell explains, Next For Me "connects and inspires our generation to evolve our post-50 lives through new work, a new purpose, or a new social contribution."