The Big 5-0: A golden opportunity to give thanks
This month I turn 50. As in, half a century. As in, at least half of my life is gone. It sounds depressing, and in some ways I guess it is. But for the most part, it feels like a gift.
Earlier this year, I vowed to become as healthy as I could before my momentous birthday. I increased my visits to the shrink, started getting acupuncture, hired a personal trainer, scheduled facials on a regular basis, tried to give up carbs, and took up yoga. I had hoped the big day would approach and find me 30 pounds lighter and boasting a low cholesterol number. Alas, those things did not happen. What I can celebrate, though, is feeling more like myself than ever.
I think this comes from finally being able to embrace who I am without apology or (too many) feelings of inadequacy. With regard to my career, I have learned — with each misstep — what I don’t want to do and what I’m not especially good at. In that process, I have been made aware of what drives me, as well as where I can claim expertise. I have made peace with the fact that just because I am interested in a variety of professions, it doesn’t mean I need to pursue every last one.
When I was younger, I thought I had to prove that I could do it all. Now, I realize that “just because” is not reason enough for anything. If time allowed, I suspect I would have enjoyed wearing the following hats: chaplain, crime investigator, professor, novelist, astronomer and psychologist. There are probably others, but I don’t want to waste any more time thinking about it, because I am, after all, about to turn 50. The clock is ticking.
On a personal level, I have learned that the more I concentrate on the pursuits and the people that matter to me — I mean really matter — the larger my world becomes. I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true. When I hone in, the universe opens up and I receive opportunities I’d never imagined possible. I run across people with common interests and make new connections. It seems contradictory to me — that the narrower my focus, the wider my experience — but I’ve seen it borne out over and over, so that I now consider this discovery one of the most important lessons of my life.
As I contemplate what the next phase of my earthly existence will bring, I do not long for my high school years or wish I could go back to being 20-something. I don’t get all misty looking at my scrapbooks, lusting after days gone by. Those were good times, but my life has steadily gotten better with each passing decade — fuller, richer, and more complete. I’m sure we all define what “better” means for us in different ways, and for me it looks like this:
• Wanting to enhance my appearance, but being satisfied with the way I look now.
• Looking for interesting work that challenges and inspires me, all the while appreciating the professional opportunities I have today.
• Honoring my past while savoring the present, and trying not to borrow trouble against the future (heretofore one of my favorite pastimes).
• Letting go of whatever — and whoever — doesn’t support, challenge, enrich or comfort me. Being able to do this without guilt (not much, anyway) is a definite plus to growing up and is worth every gray hair.
• Wondering where to live as I approach my golden years. Let me know if you hear of a retirement community that allows dogs and has a happy hour.
• Continuing to dream, as there are still things to do: learn to play the saxophone, finish writing that memoir, visit Yellowstone, and figure out what Faulkner was all about.
Regardless of what anyone says—even Oprah—I don’t think 50 is the new 30. If I got up every morning, looked myself in the mirror, and repeated “If you dream it, you can do it,” a hundred times, I simply won’t be able to accomplish everything I’ve ever aspired to do, or learn, or create. I have made good progress, and many of my goals have been accomplished. For that I am grateful. But I’m here to tell you that 50 is 50. And with each passing day, every creak of the knees, that sounds just fine to me.
Recommended Reading For Women Of A Certain Age
• A Woman’s Worth, by Marianne Williamson
• Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton
• The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
• When the Heart Waits, by Sue Monk Kidd
DID YOU KNOW?
A short list of celebrities who hit the big 5-0 in 2011: George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Michael J. Fox, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Boy George, Julianne Moore, Heather Locklear, Woody Harrelson, President Barack Obama, and last — but not least — video vixen Tawny Kitaen.