Q & A: Flourishing After 50

Q & A: Flourishing After 50Kathleen Vestal Logan and Betsy Smith Wrote the Book on Cultivating Life in Your Golden Years By Lilly Rockwell

Like many women, friends and Pensacola residents Kathleen Vestal Logan and Betsy Smith struggled with the challenges of middle age. Though each had a long and successful career — Logan as the employee assistance coordinator for Baptist Hospital, Smith as the dean of continuing education at Pensacola Junior College — both grappled with how to approach the second acts of their lives, and how to find meaning beyond careers and families.

So the women decided to write a book to help other women cope with this problem. That book, which was recently published, is called “Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life That Matters After Fifty.”

Emerald Coast Magazine writer Lilly Rockwell spoke with Logan, now 68, and Smith, 61, about their book, available for purchase online at major book retailers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

How long have you lived in Pensacola, and how did you end up here?

Logan: We have been in Pensacola exactly 22 years. My husband and I ended up here. He was in the Navy, and his last duty was in Pensacola, and after three years we thought it was a nice place to live, much to our surprise. It’s the longest we’ve lived anywhere. What drew us here is we found a very warm and welcoming community.

Smith: When I got the job as dean, my intent was to stay for five years and go back to Texas. But I stayed for almost 22 years. It’s a lovely place, and I felt I was put there. I left Pensacola two years ago and moved to North Carolina.

When did you decide to write a book?

Smith: We were a lot younger when we started!

Logan: It was April 11, 2006. Betsy invited me for lunch, and we sat down and talked to each other and she said, “Would you like to write a book?” and I said: “Sure.” We narrowed it down to a book on women over 50. Because we’re over 50 and felt like we had a whole lot left to offer, but the culture we live in dismisses and devalues women over 50.

Tell me about some of the challenges of being a woman over 50.

Logan: The big one for me was feeling invisible. It used to be that I walked down the street and men noticed I was alive. Now I walk down the street and it’s like I don’t exist. If you look at images on television and in magazines we are not there. This is not unique to me. I’ve heard countless women say the same thing.

What are some of the good things about getting older?

Smith: I think some of the positive things about being over 50 is many women now feel that they can make decisions based on them rather than everybody else. Some don’t, and those are the ones that we wrote the book for. Your second half of life is your half of life. And it is the time for you to do the things you’ve wanted to do that you’ve kept on the back burner.

Logan: When I was writing the chapter on the “good” losses, it was like a little light bulb went off in the brain. I was abysmally shy for most of my life. I am not anymore. Fear of failure kept me from writing more sooner, but now I’ve lost that fear. And you quit fooling around and do what you want to do. It makes you want to procrastinate less.

Why is getting older something women struggle with more?

Smith: That’s an interesting question. Men are picking up the book and reading it and saying, what are you doing for men? They are facing the same stuff, especially in these economic times when they are getting laid off and changing careers. More and more men are also doing soul-searching and deciding how they want to live the second half of their lives.