Today is my ‘Happy Birthday’. For today only, I am 59 and am embarking on the last year of my 50s. The 60s scare me. *shudders*
Will I feel I’ve experienced enough by then? Will people really think I’m old? Will I become a blue-haired helmet-head like so many other elderly women? Will I automatically begin dressing like an ‘old lady’? I’ll give you the answers at the end of the post. (Note: this post was previously published on June 15, 2011.)
Most of the birthdays I celebrate with family and friends are clustered in periods of a few months but, over the course of one year I celebrate 35 birthdays…and that’s just family. I suppose everyone, who has a few family members and a few friends, experiences that in their calendars, too. Do your own birthdays give you cause to celebrate or to hide out behind the pages of a good book?
Some people put no importance on birthdays, but I think it’s a day to celebrate the positive impact another person has on your life, not to mention celebrating the length of that person’s life. On our own birthdays, the extra loving attention focused on us and the opportunity to look at what we’ve done and where we’re going with our lives, is a great gift.
Let’s say it’s the day before your 50th birthday. This is the BIG ONE. You’re at the crest of the infamous “Hill”. Are you up for the challenge? Can you master middle-age? Only on B-Day are you allowed only to stand at the very top of that hill and look down on both sides – look at the ‘you’ before 50 and the ‘coming you’ after 50. You only have one day to be 50 years old. Will you relish your view from the top of that hill and look excitedly at all that lies ahead or will you be a bit of a coward and pretend you haven’t reached the crest yet, fearful of failing to survive midlife? You may as well face it, there is no way to slide down the backside of “The Hill”. Truth be told, why would we want to?
The only survival skills you need to get through the next 20, 30, or 40 years are the right attitude and the ability to communicate with others in this age group. The right attitude means liking yourself for who are and surrounding yourself with a support system so that you are confident you can handle pretty much anything you have face. Being able to communicate with others in your age group means reaching out and connecting to create new friendships, partners in this mid-life story we’re writing. What would you answer if a much younger person asked you how you feel about getting ‘old’? Think about that for a minute.
My Mom, who is 87 years old, saw a picture I snapped of her recently and said, “Who’s that old lady in that picture?”. My mother still thinks of herself as a much younger woman. Oh, she sometimes curses her body for not working the way she wants it to, but she doesn’t despair for long. Mom has had a long and full life. She has loved and lost, worked and traveled, pursued her artistic talents, made many wonderful friends and raised a family who cherishes her. She would say her age is a gift. She is kind to and not so critical of herself now. She doesn’t chide herself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making her bed, or for buying another fairy figurine for her collection. She’s entitled to the privilege of a delicious treat, being messy or extravagant. She knows she won’t live forever, but as long as she’s here, Mom won’t waste any time lamenting the things she didn’t do, or worrying about the future. She’s a wonderful example of a woman who wrote her second chapter of life in a positive, light-hearted prose.
As for me, at 50+, I’m much more the person I always wanted to be. There is more I want to do still. When I look back, I see people and experiences I would not trade for more money or a flatter belly. When I look ahead, I see my amazing friends and loving family standing there while I shape my future. I have never lost my desire to learn new things and that keeps me young. I hope you pursue activities that give you youthful optimism.
At 59, I’ve become my own friend. I love the freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will sing to myself those wonderful tunes of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, and I now have my husband to share it all with but, not to limit in any way. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But then, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I usually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself so much anymore and I’m okay with being wrong sometimes. I can’t yet say I like getting old, but I like the person I have become.
What would your answer to that question be? How do you feel about getting older?
Answers to the questions above, as promised: 1) I will always want to experience more. I will never have enough. 2) People will only think I’m old if I think I’m old. 3) I refuse to ever cut my hair short, let it go white and then apply a blue rinse–ugh, never! 4) You’ll never see me wearing a knit pantsuit or sweatshirts with appliques or stockings that puddle around my ankles or ever zip any article of clothing up to my chin! I guess the answer is an emphatic NO to all those questions. How about you?
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