Sometime after I hit 50, I gave up.
It all seems pretty silly, and frankly embarrassing, looking back on it now. At the time, hitting my mid-century mark sent me into an emotional nosedive that left me floundering for years.
I was stunned the day I woke up and realize I’d joined the ranks of the middle-aged. I knew it was coming, we all know it’s coming. But how could it be here? now? happening to me?
Getting old was something our mothers did. How on earth could I be “past my prime”? I don’t even remember hitting my prime, let alone passing it!
My bucket list was full, with a million things on it I wanted to cross off. I still wanted to turn heads. And what about that novel I never wrote? The Italian villa I never rented? Would I never get to buy a loom and hike the Adirondack trail?
There were so many dreams I’d saved for later.
Suddenly it felt like I had run out of time.
Hitting Rock Bottom
I became obsessed with getting older — the wrinkles, the gray hair, the aches, the pains. How bad would it be? I found myself watching older women, cataloging the changes that lie ahead.
Then there was menopause to look forward to with its hot flashes, mood swings, and other joys (not!) Let’s not even go there.
I was mourning my life.
When I looked back, I missed my glory days. When I thought about the future, I was fixated on every possible loss it might hold. As for the present, well there didn’t seem to be any point in continuing to try.
After all, we all know what comes next. The big D. Death. Might as well curl up on the couch and go as comfortably as possible.
I know, not one of my finer moments. It wasn’t logical, it wasn’t rational, and it certainly wasn’t pretty. I gave up on every front and it made me miserable. I was living like I was already dead.
Physically, I was a sloth. After decades of trying to run-diet-spanx myself into shape, I threw in the towel.
I became the classic couch potato.
I sat on the couch, night after night, washing down my Oreos with wine. Out of shape, out of breath, out of my size 10’s, 12’s, 14’s, I was watching the pounds accumulate like it was the latest, greatest spectator sport.
Mentally I was floundering. I felt depressed and anxious. My energy was low and I was tired all. the. time. Most days I plodded from one task to the next with little enthusiasm. All my motivation had disappeared.
Ambitions? Dreams? I tucked those in my memory box. I’d been there, done that. I put my heart on the line in my 20’s and 30’s and what did I have to show for it? A world of hurt and bitterness. No, thanks! I was done, done, done.
I told myself I was being realistic. This is how life goes, right? We get older, we slow down, we can’t do what we used to do. Best to admit that the party was over and slide gracefully into the senior set.
I was wrong.
My party had just begun. I was the guest of honor at a big, old Pity Party, and it was killing me.
Then one day, my perspective shifted. I was driving to the grocery store. It was just me and the radio, a ten-minute drive with my thoughts drifting here and there. Nothing special happened on that drive. There were no bolts of lightning, no life and death rescues. Nothing happened, yet everything changed.
I remember idly thinking, I wonder how many good years I have left?
Boy, was I surprised when I did the math.
I was 50 years old. I come from a long line of sturdy, farm stock. Given my genetics and modern medicine, I’m likely to live a long life.
My father will celebrate his 90th birthday this month (Happy Birthday, Dad!) Barring a bad illness or accident, I’ll probably live to see 90 too, maybe even 100. So…
90 – 50 = 40
40 years of living left. 40 years! Four decades. 480 months. 14,600 days.
The idea of spending the next 40 years quietly fading away, well, that’s just ridiculous! It shook me out of my apathy.
True, I’m not the same person I was at 25 or 30. But I’m, still me, and I’ve got a lot of living to do.
To put things in perspective, I decided to look 40 years in the other direction. 40 years ago, I was a teen with my entire life in front of me. My future held unlimited possibilities, endless promise. I was happy and confident and raring to go.
Think about all the living you’ve done between your teenage years and now. How many adventures and careers and surprises did you cram into those decades? Do you remember all the cities and cars and homes? How about all the laughs? Hugs? Kisses?
Today the secrets of my early adult life have all been revealed. My future is still a big, bright, beautiful mystery, full of possibilities and promise. How many more friendships and adventures might the next 40 years hold?
Just like that, I snapped out of it.
Let Go of Fear
It is true that I am getting older. (Aren’t we all?) Like everyone else on this planet, I am going to die someday. None of that had changed.
What has changed is my focus. I’ve stopped looking at the years that lie behind me and started looking at all the years that lie ahead.
My fears about getting older are just that, fears. Like Scrooge’s vision from the ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, these things are things that MAY be, not things that WILL be. It all depends on the choice I make today.
Being afraid of getting older is the same as being afraid of living. It shuts you down and steals your happiness. It robs you of your present and diminishes your dreams for the future.
Let go of your fears and live.
You Define Your Future
Getting older is a fact of life, just like the sun setting every day. There is great beauty in the sunset. There’s also great beauty in the darkness of the night that follows.
I no longer fear the dark.
I feel the same way about my future. Sure, there will be bumps in the road and obstacles to overcome. I know I can navigate my way through them gracefully and joyfully.
That morning, looking out over my dashboard at the quiet streets of my town, I made a decision. My life will never be defined by my age or my fear. I’ve got a lot of living left to do.
Living for Today
A few years have passed. I’ve found my way back to the land of the living. It wasn’t an easy trip, but I’m so glad I made it back.
The first steps I took were small ones. Bribing myself with my morning coffee, I made time for myself every morning.
I filled that “me time” with little things that made me happy: positive reading, journaling, brief meditations and quiet moments with my morning coffee thinking about the good things in my life.
Next, I started exercising regularly. What a difference that has made! Everything is easier. Everything is better. Yes, I get stiff some mornings. Perhaps I’m a little more cautious now than I was when I was younger. It doesn’t matter. It makes me feel alive and strong again.
I made room for creativity. It brings me great joy. I’ve always loved theatre, music, and writing. I make time for my passions, no matter how full my days are.
That decision has paid me back tenfold. I’ve had a ball connecting with other creative folks, co-founding a theatre company and collaborating on an original musical.
On the writing front, I’m taking classes, trying my hand at fiction and exploring new outlets like this blog.
A Bright Future
My life is full again. I am thoroughly enjoying the gifts of today. Gifts like having the courage to write these words to you.
There are mornings that I wake up with a feeling I remember from my youth: I can’t wait to get started. I am eager to see what adventures the next years will bring.
When I look at older women now, I see them clearly. My fears no longer cloud my vision. In their smiles, I see beauty, humor, and wisdom. I feel their happiness as they laugh with friends over coffee. They’re enjoying their lives, enjoying themselves. I will too.
My shift in perspective has opened my eyes. There are 50+ women everywhere finding meaningful work, trying new things, finding love and exploring their passions.
Just this morning I read a story about a 106-year-old woman who loves to kayak. An 89-year-old made headlines touring national parks across America with her grandson.
Clearly, the future can be as vibrant as we want it to be.
I’m awake again. Each day I do whatever I can to prepare my mind and body for the next adventure. I’m learning to push past my fears and open my heart to the journey ahead.
Manifesto for 50 and Beyond
So here is my mid-life manifesto:
- The world is as full of possibility today as it was when I was 18. I’m 50+, but I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot.
- I will live fiercely and cherish every day.
- I will not settle. No more going through the motions. No more got-to’s and sorry’s and should’s.
- The past is over. There’s no re-do and no point in reliving it. I am grateful for everything I learned.
- My eyes are on today. I will squeeze the most out of every moment and live in the present.
- I will continue to open doors. New is good. Different is interesting. The world is full of fascinating discoveries with my name written on them.
- I will make time for myself every day and fill that time with the things that wake up my mind, engage my soul and bring me joy.
- I will not cheat myself of tomorrow for a little gratification today. I’m not a child. I know what I need to do to feel good. I will eat good food, move my body and get enough sleep to fuel myself for the journey ahead.
- My future is big and bright. I will not limit my dreams. I will not tame my ambition. I will live a big life.
I’m on a quest to find happiness. My goal? To rediscover and practice the things that make me feel awake, alive and full of the joy of living.
Will you join me?
I want to create a community for women who are ready to live BIG. What do you say, ladies? Are you up for an adventure? Let go of your fear and live.
Let’s challenge and inspire each other to live our best lives: today, tomorrow and every day. The possibilities are endless.