Reflections on Turning Fifty
I Wanna Be a Cowgirl
On June 6, 2018, I'll turn 50. I'm planning to live to 111, so you'd think it would be no big deal. I'm not even halfway there yet. But, I am kind of freaking out. Fifty jumped out like one of my kids from behind a door. It caught me off guard.
I hate to admit it, but I feel old. All my friends, students and clients assure me that getting older is just a number, and old age is a mindset. But when I think about the big 5-0, my blood runs cold.
It's not necessarily the bifocals. It's not the new wrinkles, that seem to appear every day. It's not the sagging stretch marks, the memory loss, or the night sweats. Its a feeling that I haven't done enough.
I started counting down sometime in my forties. When I began the countdown, I had 69 years remaining. With every birthday, that number dwindles. The number of years I have to do something important, to make a difference.
I'm not quite halfway, but I haven't yet done everything I want. I still feel good, so I guess I'd better get to the hiking, camping, traveling and writing. Turns out, we don't last forever.
What I'm Doing For My 50th
3. Lose 20 Pounds
4. Run for Public Office
5. Finish Fourth Book
"Opportunity Knocks Again"
Do You Make New Goals On Your Birthday?
My First Melt Down
In My 20's
My first age-related melt down came when I turned 20. With a two-year old daughter and a baby on the way, I had already been married nearly three years. I was nearly finished earning my Associates Degree in Science, and I had a job. Living the American Dream.
Suddenly, when I turned 20, I realized that it was time to grow up. Strange, but it never occurred to me before. I guess, since I was a teenager, I thought I could get away with a lot more. Now, turning 20 meant I couldn't blame my stupid choices on anyone else but me.
It was a rude awakening. No more foot-loose and fancy free. Not that I ever was. No more head in the clouds (actually, my head is still in the clouds.) No more fun. No more hair-brained ideas. Now, it was time to grow up. The idea terrified me. I was no longer a kid.
Some might argue that getting married and having children indicates it's time to grow up, but I didn't let that stop me from being immature. Turning 20, however, felt like a bucket of ice water over my head. I cried at the "loss of my youth."
Seriously though, I had a crying fit when I turned 20. I lost my cool. I sobbed. My daughter likely thought I'd lost my marbles. My husband knew I'd lost my marbles. But inside, I thought it was all over, but the crying.
Little did I know that sometimes, things can and do get worse.
My thirties was a long, slow decade. I learned a lot. I spent most of those years working hard, making little money and having lots of babies.
Those were the longest, hardest years of my life. I put my dreams of writing on the back shelf. I put my head down and worked hard, rarely thinking of the future. I could only focus on the moment at hand.
Lost in a haze of homeschooling, diaper changing, waiting tables and working as a landscaper, there seemed no end in sight. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
I felt desperate and hopeless during my thirties. There seemed to be no way out of the deep, dark depression in which I found myself. I felt like my life hit rock bottom, and there was nowhere else to go.
My kids weren't the problem. My husband wasn't the problem. My many jobs weren't the problem. Poverty wasn't the problems. Sure, in a day-to-day sense, I could blame everything wrong on one or more of those issues. The truth is, I was the problem. I lost myself and I didn't know how to get me back.
Forty and Finally Growing Up
What I Learned at Forty
At forty, I finally grew a spine and learned how to be happy. It was a process that didn't happen overnight. It took a combined effort from the previous twenty years. The school of Hard Knocks taught me a thing or two, and by the time I was forty, I was ready to learn.
I took all the lessons and misery of the previous years, rolled them into a big ball, then threw the ball in the trash. Time for a cool change. Time for something new. Time to move on.
At forty, I learned that I am in control of my life. I am not a victim. I can choose happiness in any moment. I stopped living my life to make other people happy, and I began living the life of my dreams.
I learned in my forties that I am a creator. I can create the life I want every day. Not everyday is sunshine and roses and chocolates in bed. Some days, like today, you accidentally catch the dryer on fire and nearly burn the house down.
What you learn, as you grow is what truly matters. People matter. Stuff, not so much. You can always get more stuff. You can always leave stuff behind. You can always find better stuff. People are irreplaceable. Relationships matter. Touching lives, healing hearts, mending fences, those things matter.
What Matters Now
Now, as I approach 50, I try to focus on what's important. I try to let go of all the little stuff and embrace the people in my life. I'm no expert. I still yell at my kids. I still interrupt. I still get mad when the Universe doesn't spin the way I think it should. I still get my knickers in a twist when the gas station doesn't carry Junior Mints.
Be that as it may. At least now, I can see (usually) when I'm getting spun up, and I can attempt to get off the crazy train. I can admit when I'm mistaken (rarely.) I can speak my truth and honor myself. I can let go of my crazy body image problems (maybe.)
At fifty, I'm learning that the important things are not things, but people. We are all spiritual beings on an earthly journey. There is so much more than just this life. There is a bigger picture, and I want to embrace the flow every moment I possibly can.
As Ebenezer Scrooge says at the end of the movie, A Christmas Carol, "I want to live."
So let this be my treatise on life. Let's embrace the time we have left, whether it's 50 or 100 years, or two days. Let's make the most of the time we have left. And let's remember what's important.