Yep, today is my birthday. I am now 50 years old. Half a century. I have lived more than half my life, unless I turn out to be one of those folks who reaches triple digits. I am not telling you this to solicit "Happy Birthdays" from anyone. My friends, family and colleagues have been more than gracious to me on this landmark day. I just want to throw out some ideas, some thoughts I've had on turning 50 and on aging in general.
I'm going to start with the "cons," since I always like to end things on a high note. There aren't many, but the ones that have surfaced are formidable. First, I hurt. For no apparent reason, at least one thing on my body hurts at any given time, night or day. I know I've whined about this before, but I feel betrayed by my body. I take pretty good care of myself, and I feel as though my body should, I don't know, appreciate that. It doesn't, apparently.
Second, I find myself consoling my girlfriends of a similar age now that I've reached 50, about the fact that I am now 50. I was at a Christmas party this past Saturday night, and a dear friend of mine pulled me aside and whispered of my upcoming milestone, "Aren't you scared?" I told her that no, 50 does not scare me any more than 40 did. My fear, in fact, would be of NOT reaching 50. Or 51 for that matter.
Third, I am really struggling with the statement, "Wow. You look terrific for your age." What does that mean? In my mind, you either look terrific or you don't. The woman sitting next to me in the pedicure chair yesterday was 65. She was beautiful. Period. She was strong, clear and healthy. That's beautiful at any age. Not surprisingly, I hear this remark more often from men. I have a theory about that. Beauty, to many men, is defined by firmness, brightness, perkiness and perfection. I guess the fine print - "for your age" – means that, for an old chick, I've held onto as much of that beauty as gravity and time will allow, but it wouldn't hurt to start price-shopping wheelchairs. However, the only man whose opinion about my appearance that matters is my husband, and I believe he truly believes that I am beautiful. He thinks I'm beautiful when we're dressed to the nines for an occasion, and he thinks I'm beautiful when I first wake up and look like Don King in drag. He loves me completely, and for that I am happily grateful.
And fourth, reaching 50 has triggered in me a bothersome tendency to look back, to replay certain phases of my life so that they result in different outcomes. It really makes me think about whether I've been the best parent I could have been, always. Of course the answer is "no," but I think more accurately the answer is "yes, to the best of my ability given the tools I had at the time." I do not believe in revisionist history, so I have to call a spade a spade in this area. I love my children fiercely and with all my heart. For any disservice or shortcomings they may have experienced from their mom, big or small, I simply have to ask for forgiveness.
Now, for the good stuff. I dug my 40s and can only hope that my 50s will be half as rewarding. I like myself, and I love my life. I remember my 20s and 30s, jockeying for corporate position, being ever-mindful of what others thought about me, what I wore, what I said, how I performed. I wish I could revise that history! I would have been 40 from age 12 on. Gone are the days when someone else's opinion, gossip, emotional slights could ruin a whole day – or days – for me. At 50, I care very deeply what a handful of people think. The rest is simply white noise, sometimes entertaining, more often just static. I don't mean that in an uncaring or callous way at all; I have simply learned to prioritize using the right measuring stick.
Men and women age differently. I think many men tend to look better with the years - another of God's little zingers he threw out just to give us something to ponder. Women spend billions annually and some even go to the extreme of being cut, sliced and extruded to the point that they look like walking quilts, all in the name of youth and beauty. And men naturally age well, physically. Go figure.
Women tend to BE better with the years though, and if I have to choose, I'll choose the latter. It makes for sound sleep and good days.
In short, I appreciate the stuff I never even saw before. I love the ages that my kids are, love seeing them become the adults I prayed they'd be. I finally get that serving others is the best way to better myself. I get that the boundaries in life are there to hold the good in and protect me from myself, not to keep me from having fun or fulfilling dreams. And I know without a doubt that my husband is exactly the man with whom I am supposed to walk into this next phase of life.
And I really, really appreciate Tylenol and a good heating pad.