Notes on turning 50
AKA, aging is inevitable but getting "old" is up to you.
A couple of years ago, with the big 5-0 on my horizon, I found myself in a bit of a meltdown. On paper my life was pretty awesome. I was married to a great guy, had 2 healthy, reasonably well-adjusted teenagers, I was living in an old craftsman house in a city that I loved and working from home with hours that I chose myself. I was healthy, had an active social calendar and regular trips to NY & LA. But as I got closer to that big birthday I started feeling lost. 50 sounded so BIG. So old. So middle aged. It was doing my head in.
I started obsessively thinking about age. I would see a movie and google the actors to see how old they were. I had a little gasp when I realized that Michelle Obama was almost a year younger than me - but felt better when I remembered that Barack was a bit older. I started comparing myself to other women at 50. It felt like they were all more accomplished than me and changing the world in ways that I wasn’t. In my mind they were happier, thinner, nicer and less old-looking.
I started walking around in a funk. I felt somehow more invisible and less relevant. I felt like I was dragging around a big ball and chain. I wasn't ready to be "old". Plus there was some shame attached to it all because clearly I had nothing to feel bad about. My life was awesome, right?
I realized I was having my very own version of a "mid-life crisis" and decided that I was going to do something about it. Fast forward to me finding Martha Beck's website, going through Life Coach training and then getting certified the year I turned 50. By the time my birthday arrived I felt completely different.
The supposed "crisis" was not a crisis at all. It was a transformation.
I felt renewed and reinvigorated. In fact, I have reclaimed the same sense of possibility that I had my 20's and 30's but this time it's even better. Not only can I do anything and be anything I want, I am way wiser than I was back then.
Midlife is full of promise and opportunity.
Midlife is typically defined as anywhere from 45-65, so if you’re reading this then there's a good chance you're already there, or at least getting pretty close. For those of you who are not quite there yet, let me share a few things that you might find as you hit the orbit of 50.
You may need reading glasses but you are infinitely clearer on who you are. You know your strengths (and weaknesses). You know the skills you have and the ones you want to develop. You know what your body likes and what makes it most efficient. Whether you utilize your innate gifts or fuel your body with what it craves is a different conversation and usually one that's based around some kind of fear story, but the good news is that you can always learn to tell yourself new (and truer) stories.
You start to realize that your "somedays" have an expiration date. You know what you want (and what you don't want) and if you don't know how to get it then you at least know what to do and who to call to make a plan. You start to question the things that have been on your "bucket list" for years and decide whether or not you want to keep them there. You recognize that your health is the key to your future in a way that you might not have been able to see when you were younger.
Your "I don't give a shit" filter is much more efficient. One of the best things I learned in Life Coach Training is that what other people think of me is actually none of my business. If I stay in my integrity (and in my own business) and act accordingly that's all that matters. And besides, I have zero control over what anyone else thinks. "Shoulding" all over myself and others will keep me stuck and resentful. Not interested.
You are so much wiser! You know the difference between "not sweating the small stuff" and "it's the little things". Depending on who you are, that can mean anything from spending less time folding laundry, obsessing over a decision you made at work or compulsively searching online for the "perfect" pair of black boots (when you already have 5 pairs in your closet) to spending more time taking walks, being with the people who totally "get" you, binge watching a killer series on Netflix and pondering what things bring more meaning to your life.
Your FOMO* eases into JOMO*. Pretending you like something is so not worth the time and energy. It goes along with your more efficient "I don't give a shit" filter and the fact that you are so much wiser. How you decide to spend your time becomes an easier decision. Yes, you will still likely fall into procrastination traps like too much Facebook, Pinterest or puttering around (pick your poison) but that's a whole different conversation. *Fear Of Missing Out --> Joy Of Missing Out
Of course everyone's experience is different.
Some people sail through the transition to midlife with very little difficulty. Perhaps they have an innate sense of optimism, possibility, resiliency or a very strong "I don't give a shit" filter. Others might not hit speed bumps until well into their 50's. There is no one "normal" way.
One of the reasons I love coaching is because when people are stuck or holding themselves back in some way it's almost 100% of the time connected to those fear stories they tell themselves. It's my job and my joy to help them dissolve those old stories and watch them create newer, better and truer ones.
Bottom line: midlife means whatever you make it mean. And that, my friends, is totally empowering.