I feel myself grimace whenever I read that 50 is the new 30. I don’t want to be 30 again. Even my body doesn’t want to be 30 again. You might think I’m crazy because what midlife woman doesn’t yearn for days past when she had lineless, pore less skin? Thighs that might not have jiggled and upper arms that didn’t flap just a little?
No, I don’t like waking up in the morning with an extra pain or four—the one in my neck, shoulders, hips and knees. I don’t enjoy worrying that a single run on the treadmill could bench me for a week—or two. I don’t appreciate the hot flashes that start in my calves and work their way up and leave tomato red blotches on my chest and neck. And sometimes, I’m just mad as hell at the limitations my body has foisted upon me because quite frankly, I was never asked.
When I think thirty what comes to my mind is a woman in pursuit of everything—a non-stop, never-ending series of things to do and places to be. I think of how inundated and overwhelming it was to be perfect at everything or to think I had to try. And much as I might try to discard some or all of it, it’s there, in your face, unrelentingly there.
I faced thirty with fear. I locked myself in the bedroom and refused to attend the surprise party that I knew had been planned. Seriously? Yup! I was thirty going on twelve then. I had to be told. I had to be seriously scolded about how my behavior was letting everyone down. I apologized to my husband who had painstakingly planned this event, smiled, laughed and enjoyed my friends immensely. It was years before I could tell him and anyone else how much I hate surprise parties.
Ironically, I felt old and depressed at thirty. I had been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for three years. I felt like a failure. When my son arrived a year later, I designed the perfect nursery and bought the cutest layette. He vomited profusely for months and stained every petit bateau onesy. He was diagnosed with colic at four weeks old and proceeded to cry all day and night for five months. So much for perfect! I rocked, cradled and loved him without a single complaint. I even had to do colic with perfection.
Forty was better. I was part of my own birthday celebration plans. I was finding myself and starting to acknowledge and share my own voice. I went to therapy and stopped smiling so much. I realized it made my face hurt. The next ten years were a mix of rocky roads, uphill battles and downward spirals. There was also great joy and the feeling of a cool breeze on my face that I was finally able to take note of and actually feel.
I stopped moving. At times it hurt like hell. I grew. I recommend the journey but it isn’t for the faint of heart. You have to believe in yourself and that may be the hardest thing of all.
Fifty arrived. I wanted solitude and a nice journal. I got lonely at around 7 p.m. and invited a few people to a local bar. The bartender treated me to four shots of something. He thought I had turned forty. I admit I didn’t correct him.
Yes, I often wish I didn’t dream about a cupcake and gain a pound. And that sagging around my jaw line is an interesting (?) addition to my face. And right now at this very moment I am icing an ache in my shoulder. It’s o.k. I’m o.k.
Sadly most of us don’t know how smooth our skin is at thirty and how much our hair shines or that being with our children is what makes us perfect parents. We don’t have the wisdom or the insight to see what’s right in front of us. At twenty and thirty you just want to keep moving forward. You don’t know that sitting still is a gift.
For me fifty is an opportunity. I still sometimes wrestle with the number and at times I am in utter disbelief when I share my age. As this decade unfolds I am slowly trying less and being more which doesn’t mean I desire less or work less. It just means that I try not to be so ferocious or attached to the product. Like everything else, it’s an evolution and at fifty, I am perfectly content if it takes time.
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