On my 40th birthday I felt as if I was turning 100. Worn out from my middle child’s sudden death 5 months prior, I was fragile and tired. Ten years later I am a different woman in all regards and as I sit here kissing 50 I’m feeling rather youthful.
There’s a sense of renewal and excitement about stepping into a new decade and yet one trip to the card section of the local pharmacy confirms for me conventional wisdom treats the fifties with a combination of resignation and humor, the subtext of which is “You are in decline, get used to it. And by the way, keep your sense of humor.” Excuse me, but I feel better now than I have in a years. My heart has grown in capacity to compensate for the dark hole that is grief. My children are thriving. Moments of awe that evaded me in the darkest days are now a part of daily life. My muscles are strong and I am fit. All of this has happened both despite and because of my life experience. Have you found that as well?
Perhaps some of the resignation and angst I hear from others about turning 50 lies in the mere fact that by being here on this earth for 50 years few of us is untouched by grief, suffering, disappointment and struggle on one or more fronts. But do we give ourselves enough credit for being resilient in the face of these challenges? It is in the wisdom gained through time we learn to pay attention to the silver lining of that which is placed before us. We see that experience offers us the gifts of growth and often even a blossoming and a deepening of heart, soul and mind.
We also live in good times for health in the western world. New body parts, pharmaceuticals, fresh air and good food are more accessible to the broad population—all of which contribute dramatically to our quality of life.
The vitality, vim and vigor so many of us have at 50 along with the lessons we’ve learned in the trenches tees this up to be the sweet spot of life, doesn’t it? We know what matters now. We can make stuff happen. And if we don’t feel obliged, then we often don’t show up. With age comes great privilege.
You see, we’ve all got a lot of good living to do. For the decade of my 50s and for my 50th year in particular I plan to just BE. Be present. Be alive. Be full and live fully. I’m going to focus on what is important: Love. Awe. Connection. Laughter. Kindness. Fun.
This business of turning 50? Based on what I have seen I’ve decided that ages 45-65 are the sweet spot of life. I am looking forward to some of that sweetness. Guess what else? All that focusing on what’s important in daily living? It keeps you young where it matters: in your heart.
NOTE: This essay was featured on the front page of the Huffington Post Post 50 section on January 21, 2015. It is also archived on my Huffington Post blogsite