On Being In My Fifties

Aunt BeeAs I pondered what I could write about this week I started listing all the things I knew something about. The one thing that rang the truest with me was I know how to be the age I am.

My twenties and thirties were spent raising children and trying to build a career. In my forties, I was all about the competition of running and triathlons. In my fifties, I’ve worked hard to figure out who I am. I’m still working every day on trying to figure that out.

I’ve also had more fun in my fifties than in any other decade of my life. When I tell other women in their fifties or older how I feel about how much fun this age is, they all agree. Why are our fifties so much fun?

We no longer have our children underfoot and affecting our schedules.

When my children were still at home I was working full-time, usually 50 or more hours a week. When I was at home, I spent most of my evenings and weekends running three children to various events and activities. As anyone with multiple children can tell you, that usually means you are trying to attend at least two separate events each night. I had two daughters who were both in softball at the same time and I can clearly remember standing in the middle of the two fields and trying to watch two games at once.

My then live-in boyfriend and I made a point of trying to steal a few hours every Saturday afternoon to go do something together without the children. Unfortunately, as that relationship deteriorated, our Saturday afternoons began to feel like a chore and one more thing that had to be done. How that happened is a whole story on its own, but the point is, we did it and it worked for many years. But it took a conscious effort on both our parts to make time away from the kids a priority.

As far as stealing time by myself, I had to take up running and triathlon to make that happen.  It amazes me to realize that I had to find a socially acceptable, but physically strenuous, way to be alone. How sad that I never felt like I deserved to take that time just because I needed it. That time alone in my own head was crucial to my forward movement and sanity.

We know who we are and what’s important to us.

For myself, being happy is what’s important to me. This doesn’t mean I spend all my time wandering around in a blissful daze. Everyone has good days and bad days but by focusing my energy on  doing the things, like writing and teaching, that are important to me, I have less inclination to focus my energy on the negative. Thanks to the teachings of people like Iyanla Vanzant, Louise Hay, Lama Surya Das and James Altucher, I have the tools I need to not let the negative take control of my outlook. PS, I thank all of them for coming into my life when I needed them.

We no longer care what you, or anyone else, think of us.

Okay, I’ll be honest. The “caring what other people think” gene was never big in my genetic make-up. I was always relatively comfortable being myself and doing what I felt was right for me. The problem was I had to become old enough to know myself well enough to know exactly what it was that felt right and what it was that was important to me. In the movie Harvey, the character Elwood P. Dowd, played brilliantly by James Stewart, says “Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say “In this world, Elwood, you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart… I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.” That concept has resonated with me ever since I first watched the movie and I wish more people would apply it to their lives.

There have been three separate times in my life that I have stepped away from jobs that were making me miserable. What makes these three times different than what most people experience was that each of these times I walked away without having another job waiting for me. I cannot tell you how shocked people have been each time. If I had listened to all the people who told me I couldn’t do it, I would still be working a job that I hate. Who wants to live their life like that?

We’ve had success in one area or another, so the need to prove ourselves is no longer the driving force it once was.

I’ve worked my butt off to be successful, often at the expense of my children. I moved up in more than one company just to find that the view from the top often looked worse than the view from the bottom. My hope for the future is to be able to support myself without ever having to move back into a box working with and for people with political agendas. I truly do not think that was what we are intended to do or be. Even if the day comes when I have to walk back into a box, I don’t want to move to the top unless that is what makes me happy. And the box I walk into will have to be space filled with positive energy and encouragement.

Thanks to a happy combination of good genes and hard work I am blessed to still be looked at as an attractive and sexual being. At the gym where I teach, both men and women have commented on the shape of my body and the confidence I carry myself with. Thank you to all. Fortunately, I do not think I am an exception. I think there is a whole generation of women my age who defy the stereotype of what our fifties look like.

On my 55th birthday I looked up Frances Bavier who played Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show. As I was growing up, she was the quintessential picture of an aging woman. Frances Bavier was 58 on her first season of the show. Please let me repeat, 58. Frances Bavier was a lovely woman and I mean no disrespect when acting shocked when I state her age. However, the difference in how women in their 50’s were expected to look and act in the 50’s and 60’s and how we expect them to look and act today is a radical world apart. I am thankful to be where I am in this era and not an earlier one. I LOVE being in my 50’s. Do you?

What are your thoughts?