During my drive to work, I often think how lucky I am – I actually have a job to go to and a vehicle to get me there. Then there’s my morning make-up routine, reminding me that I need to stop choosing thickening mascara on a trial basis and start using it religiously. Evenings at home in front of the fire, with my cats jockeying for position on my lap, continuously fill me with gratitude. More and more often I find myself appreciating long sleeves, while making a mental note to start lifting weights again. Having lunch with good friends and sharing laughs through Snapchat with my nieces have become more and more precious. As I gaze at a collection of memories – a couple of old photos and my baby shoes – I feel melancholy, while at the same time realizing I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
I must be turning 50.
It’s the only explanation I can come up with, the lone reason for the wave of mixed emotions that I’ve been experiencing the last little while. It’s not a crisis; there’s no depression setting in. I just feel like I need to allow myself a moment of honesty and let the thoughts and feelings flow.
To say I’m grateful to reach 50 is a huge understatement. Many of us haven’t, or won’t. In my own family alone, two of my sisters didn’t make the milestone; one didn’t even make 17. So yes, I feel extremely lucky to be here. In fact, for the past few years, my days have started with thank you. Those first few moments of my day always make me smile. But I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d be a 50 year old. It sounds strange, but it’s true. I just always thought I’d be the same ‘me’ forever. And for the most part, I am. But my existence has gone through a major shift and it’s been a little hard to wrap my head around. Up until now, I was a kid, I had middle-aged parents and I had grandparents with grey hair and amazing stories about their childhood. Suddenly, or so it seems, my nieces and nephew are the kids, I’m now middle-aged and my Dad is an elderly, frail man with dementia. As I write this, I realize I’ve just described life. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming, I just think I may have been a little unprepared for what I would feel, and I seem to be surfing the fine line between denial and acceptance. It’s not that it’s bad to be middle-aged, I’m just marveling at the fact that I’ve actually reached it. I’ll get used to it. I’ll even embrace it…eventually.
It definitely feels like I’ve reached a turning point – as I look back, I see the life I’ve left behind. I’m the youngest in the family, the baby, one of the ‘little kids’, as my sister and I were referred to. Life was simple, it was okay to not know what you wanted to be when you grew up, as long as you were happy, and the message was to have fun and enjoy being a kid while you were one. As I look forward, I see the importance of health and mobility, the value of family and good friends. And I can’t help but wonder…will I be alone in my old age, or will there will be someone in the rocking chair beside me, willing to keep listening to all the stories one more time?
Youth is wonderful, but I don’t pine for a life lived. I’m processing, is all. When I first started to notice the thinning hair, the crepey skin and stiff joints, I would immediately wonder if I was lacking a certain vitamin or if I needed to incorporate something in my diet. I figured I needed to do something to recover whatever it was I’d lost. But I’m starting to realize, maybe it’s not about vitamins or the food I’m eating. Maybe I’m just getting older. Maybe these things aren’t going to come back. Just like the jeans we keep because we want to fit back into them one day, we eventually realize it’s just not going to happen. And the truth is, I’m okay with that. I’m happy with who I am today. Youth for me was all about uncertainty, shyness, low self-esteem and unknowingness. Age brings a certain unfamiliarity, yes. But for me, it also brings strength, wisdom, and boundless love for life and the ‘me’ I’ve become.
So yes, things have changed. I’ve changed. And now that I’ve gotten everything off my chest, I can settle in to life as a middle-aged woman. The hair’s a little greyer, there are a few more lines on my face and naked yoga no longer seems worthy of adding to my ‘I’d try anything once’ list. Having said that, I couldn’t be more grateful at this moment. Life truly is a gift.
Today, I get to turn 50. Thank you.
Photo by Carol Good – all rights reserved