Turning 50 Ain’t So Bad – Honest!
Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait for your birthday? How you longed to be five, then six and then 10? Double digits. Boy, life was so much better when you were 10 and not babyish nine anymore. If I stare into space long enough and dig into my memory, I can almost feel what it was like to be 10, 16, then 21. For me, those days are long past and I came to look at my age as a marker for what I should have become by 20, 25 or 30 – a wife, a mother, a successful career person. How sad it seems now to have put so much of myself into a number. And speaking of numbers, did I mention I’m now 50? No, well I am. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the half-century mark. So, pardon me as I ramble on and share with you my musings. Get comfortable, because I tend to be long-winded.
For years I have dreaded the “Zero” birthdays. Not the 10th, or 20th, because those are still the fun years. But 30? Oh, Hell, yes. I refused to celebrate that one. I took the day off work, didn’t answer my phone and wallowed. Looking back, it was a waste of time hiding because when I returned to the office, my co-workers had decked it out in over-the-hill crap. I was already two years into hiding the grays anyway, so why pretend? Because that’s what a woman is supposed to do when she hits 30, right? Believe it’s over and cry over the fact her best years are behind her. I could go on and on about the pressure society and the media put on women to look young but, I won’t. Because every one of you reading this who is over 30, or 50 – gets it!
Turning 40 was more of the same. Told my family no party, no acknowledgment; thank you very much. It’s just another day. However, I was forced to answer my front door when a friend showed up with a present. No sense being rude just because I couldn’t handle a freaking number that ends in zero. So, I accepted the present and carried on. Now, 40 was better than 30. By this time, I was married, had two kids, a dog and the usual adulting issues. And, on occasion, I was still being asked for my I.D. when I bought wine. I do have to give partial credit for my unlined skin to Oil of Olay. I’ve used it every day since I was a teenager and swear by it. J
So, 50 has been looming for a while. A blinding beacon on the horizon which you think you’ll never reach. And for a few years I forgot that 50 was a possibility. But, then 46 hit. No longer in my “early” 40s and I began to hear a whispered voice remind me that I was one year closer to midlife and dammit, it got louder. Year after year I tried to ignore it; however, my aching back, creaking knees and waning eyesight never failed to chime in when I was attempting a new activity or when I began writing novels a few years ago. Oh, and PS, my husband is 2 and ¾ years YOUNGER than me, so he was absolutely no help with my neurosis when it came to aging. He often joked and called himself a “trophy husband”. (and to think one of the reasons I fell in love with him was his sense of humor – insert eye roll).
Fast forward to October of 2017; the three-month count down began. Every time I was reminded of my age and pending roll over to the next zero birthday, I shoved the feelings way, way down into the darkest depths of my short-term memory and prayed for more time. Bargaining for more time is a useless exercise that some of us fall back on when faced with our mortality. Rational thought became scarce as I allowed myself to become lost in the road blocks life dropped in front of me. But, something happened. It wasn’t so much an ‘a-ha’ moment as an “I just got sick and tired of myself” moment. I became sick of the excuses I offered and the near obsession I had with a freaking number. Really, I was not fun to be around; especially when I was alone with my own self-deprecating thoughts.
After the much-needed attitude adjustment I’d given myself, and reading some inspirational books, I began to focus more on those around me and less on my aging woes. I had spent so much time worrying about turning 50, I forgot that my parents, my kids, and my younger husband (dammit) were also fighting their own battles. Although the kids are in the opposite camp at this point and rushing head first into teenagedom. But, what got to the most, was the realization that my parents were fading into people I didn’t always recognize. Talk about a wakeup call. Suddenly when faced with the reality of those around you and their own struggles, turning 50 doesn’t seem so daunting. Besides, I’m my own boss, I still have my own teeth, I’m fully invested in Clairol and the miracle it provides me every 4-6 weeks and my younger husband still chases me around the house. I should be embracing my life, my age and not dreading it.
Now that I’m officially 50, I’ve discovered I have a lot of stuff figured out. What to eat, what not to eat to stay in your rock star jeans, who to give your valuable time to and when the best time of year is to buy appliances. Seriously, you can save hundreds by purchasing your new stove or microwave in December. I speak from first-hand experience and not because I wanted to. <sigh> It’s finally sunk in that spending time on wishful thinking gets you nothing but wasted time; time you can’t get back. And, as time marches on, life throws you all sorts of curve balls. The realization hit that I need to get over myself and the belief I held on to for dear life that the smaller the number behind my name the better my life will be – the prettier I’ll be, the thinner I’ll be, the more successful I’ll be and the happier I’ll be. All of it is BULLSHIT. I don’t need a number to define anything in my life – so there!
In the last month, I’m excited to share that I’ve found the ramp up to turning 50 to be a relief. Gone are the mind games, the negotiations, the falsehoods I’ve told myself for so long that being 50 means I will no longer be relevant, hip or that I will still be a desirable woman. Not just to my husband, although that’s a big plus, but maybe I can still turn some heads. Well, you guessed it – none of it matters. Once I erased the track that kept playing over and over in my head, the lighter I felt. My confidence in various areas of my life returned and I created a new mantra to play over the old tired out and scratched record that, on occasion, kept me paralyzed. Age is not the problem. If you want something to be something, create something or influence anything, you take that leap of faith and hold on.
This is one of my favorite quotes to read when that nasty doubt creeps in:
Never give up on something you really want. It’s difficult to wait, but more difficult to regret.
– Author Unknown
Today, when I take a deep breath it’s not just to suck in my tummy, but to check myself when those old negative thoughts creep in and I recall all the things I have achieved. It’s my reminder that ‘I got this’. Try it. A cleansing breathe helps wonders. Aromatherapy works too, oh and a glass of wine is never huts – especially when you raise it in celebration to yourself.
Now I’m not saying I all of a sudden have life figure out. Ha! Life is still going to challenge me. Kids will still be in a hurry to grow up. Hard decisions will need to be made and followed through. But, I will spend more time focusing on the things that matter, really matter. Like the people you love will not always be there. Time marches on for them as well. I need to remember that the opportunities handed to me, that I’ve worked my butt off for, should be embraced. And stepping into the fear of failure is the best gift you can give yourself. Conquer fear, in whatever it’s form. It’s a powerful feeling.
Lastly, I have come to believe that living my life without regrets needs to be the real marker of who I am, of who I strive to be every day. So, screw the “Zero” birthdays. They’ll come, Lord willing, whether I want them to or not. And I might as well embrace the numbers as they creep ever higher. They are a badge of honor, a way to measure my accomplishments and a reason to celebrate the gift I’ve been given – to live, to share, to serve. Life is good, no matter the number. No, 50 ain’t so bad after all.