Getting older is not for sissies ……. A revelation after turning 50 had brought some fascinating insights. Traditionally, a couple of years ago, women in their fifties were seen as sweet grandmothers who stayed at home. However, maybe it is a new era, or it may just be me, but my journey over the last couple of years has been exciting and not as conforming as tradition dictates.
When I was young – a million years ago, if you were unmarried by the time you were eighteen, you would be considered to have been left on the shelf – a fate worse than death. If you thought you were an outcast at school, you should try being left on the shelf, a whole new level of weirdness and "wondering" at what exactly was wrong with you. Nowadays, 18-year olds have options and do not have short-term marriage plans.
A woman over 50 is in a league of her own as the only way to get old is to live yourself there. It's not something that can be bought or faked or one day you decide that you are 50 and wise. You have lived one day at a time to get there – a glorious 50 years or 18,250 days. We have better life stories, witty jokes, wisdom, and so much life experience that is pure gold. I got my driver's license before I lost my virginity in that long-ago innocent time of life. I did manage to get married before I was "officially on the shelf” which made me a bona fide entrant to the “keeping to the tradition of the day” or “swimming in the same pool” as the cool kids and not one of the social outcasts.
Having children is a bitter-sweet satisfying experience which comes with much love, anxiety and 24 hours of putting yourself last. The listed benefits are at least 20 years of extremely gruelling, unpaid work, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of worrying, cajoling, negotiating and pure love. Those years are a blur and seemed to pass in a flash. I would do it all over again for 40 years, but that is where grandchildren come into play. Not as stressful, but just as much love, and the ability to enjoy them without the anxiety of being a parent.
Then when you think that you have your life sorted and back on track – fate hits you with one of the biggest jokes ever. It comes with a capital M – Menopause.
This can be interpreted in many ways, Men-o’-Pause, Mean o' Pause, Me-Not pausing to being happy. Only a woman knows how unglamorous, how uncomfortable and overwhelming this is. Constant perspiring from hot flashes and night sweats, migraine headaches and then to add some spice, debilitating back pain to add another dimension.
One day you wake up to the most exhilarating thought that you have survived menopause and life is good once again. You not a total mess and you have got this and if you haven’t heard that adage about –“if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. Trust me, it’s true.
There, waiting for you to get yourself together comes another huge hurdle which is more gut-wrenching than menopause, and it is "The Empty Nest" syndrome. Not seeing that one coming or the outcome is no joke. One day your children have grown up, they no longer need you, you have done the best you can, and they are ready to fly the coup. You have to trust that what you have taught them is enough to not only make them decent human beings but equipped to deal with the harsh world out there. (I am especially Blessed in this area as I have the most amazing two sons who blow me away with the men they have become. If this is my only claim to fame, I will take it with both hands).
WHAT A TIME OF REVELATION – available time, understanding of self, a perspective of others, of situations, of 'what can be, of dreams, of possibilities, of the knowledge of your strengths, your limitations and a new blossoming of what you want out of life. Mortality is at the back of your mind, and you know that you have not achieved all your dreams. I found that I was much more productive at 50 than what I was when I was at least 20 years younger – most probably thanks to menopause insomnia, but I am nonetheless, thankful.
I never knew that there were so many divorced people at the age of 50 until I fell into that bracket. I was astonished to learn that I was part of a general statistic. A new awareness was born, far from feeling that everything was over, it brought a new beginning. When I took notice of other women my age around me, I realised something else – that many women were starting a company or a business at 50-years of age. I think it is because they have more confidence, life experience, wit and knowledge to bring to the table.
I speak for myself, but my perspective on partners and love is now much calmer and different. I think that 50-year olds are competent through their life experiences, of letting go and moving on. The expectations of love and reality are more real and not viewed as the starry-eyed affair of being 18. We learn to live differently by looking for a better quality of life, and we have the tools to do this and to enjoy this wonderful time in our lives.
Many inspirational people have done great things at 50. Chef Julia Child published her book as a 39-year old, and her television show launched when she was 56. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book at the age of 65 and released the last of her Little House series when she was 76 years of age. Actress Kathryn Joosten was a nurse for decades, started acting at 56 and won an Emmy Award for her role on The West Wing at age 60.
I am a couple of years over 50 now and find that I still have dreams and the belief that they can come to fruition if I continue to feed the ambition. Life has some funny twists and turns, but if we can roll with the punches, we will be absolutely fine. NEVER STOP DREAMING.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether they be twenty or eighty. He who continues to learn is still young. “