Turning fifty didn’t freak me out as much as turning thirty had. Thirty prompted feelings of needing to be a real adult, not the international wandering soul of my twenties. Real job, real money, maybe even a real husband and kids. These thoughts were as comforting as the plague. Who wanted the responsibility? Yet, where was I headed and for what purpose?
A few more years of wandering, both physically and metaphorically, led me to forty, a real job, real money, and a real husband who came prepackaged with two real kids—all acquired during wanderings abroad. Forty was easier than I thought. Determination to be satisfied coupled with good old-fashioned denial is an easy pill to swallow. A weekend celebration at the Hershey Hotel & Spa with the womenfolk in my life, immersed in cocoa baths and chocolate strawberry wraps, helped forty go down even more easily. Still, where was I headed and for what purpose? Add to that: What had I accomplished so far?
Several months before my fiftieth I had begun preparing emotionally. Soon, half my life would be over (I’m determined to make it to 100 at least), and still I was asking: What have I accomplished so far?, only with less anxiety than at forty. My lead-up to fifty began with thoughts about loss. Fertility. Youth. Agility. Eyesight. Parents. It didn’t seem like a good start, yet rather than mourn them—which I allowed just a little—I chose to surrender each. Then something amazing happened. What I thought were losses actually became gains.
Fertility. Though I never had—nor wanted to have—children of my own, the loss of the possibility did sting a little. Progeny of the chromosomal kind are no longer in my future, yet I’m more fertile with ideas than ever. New stories, concepts for business ventures, and ideas for community enhancement programs. I’m better at problem-solving, and my entrepreneurial spirit shakes me awake at night, creating a loss of sleep. After fifty, however, sleep becomes over-rated. Who has time to sleep when there’s so much to do?
Youth, Agility. Our bodies start to deteriorate when we are precisely 20 years and 1 second old. That’s not an easy thing for an athletic and physically active person to accept. I tire a lot quicker now, have gained a few pounds and some gray hairs. My hips ache every time I rise after sitting for more than twenty minutes. Yoga is manna from Heaven for the body and mind. My imagination is as youthful as a 4-year-old’s. Nothing is impossible anymore—well, many things aren’t. I vowed not to do limits; the sky is even too low. I’m also much more agile in navigating my world, people, and the complexities of living in a large, multi-cultural urban area. Have you ever opined, “if I only knew then what I know now”? Well, you do know better now so use that wisdom to yours and the world’s betterment.
Eyesight. Not only can I not see far, I can’t see close either. A combination of Lasik touch-up and $10 specs from the drug store has allowed me to drive and read (not at the same time). My eyesight might continue to fail over time, but my vision is eagle-eye sharp. I’m much more clear about what I want the second half of my life to look like. Focus for my life’s purpose gets clearer every day. So does my view of the world. Wait, what? How can I have a positive view of the insane mess we’ve created? Just that. We’ve created it, which means we can also create something different. It’s called vision, and ever the optimist, I look forward to the day when more of us wake up to it. In the meantime, I’ll be joining my fellow visionaries in doing what we can to create a saner path for the world.
Parents. Dad died two months before my fiftieth birthday. I’m saddened that he won’t be around to see me flourish in the latter half of my life. As I witness Mom’s journey into her final years, I’m becoming the parent, yet I continue to learn from her. My parents’ physical selves won’t be around forever, but their legacy will. Gratefulness, surrender, devotion, kindness, service, and of course unconditional love are their gifts, which I will try to pass along to my grown stepchildren and anyone else ready to receive.
So what have I accomplished so far? Well, I survived to 51, and from where I stand, the next 50 years are looking pretty good.