Fifty. I can remember being in my teens and thinking that fifty years old was basically about 10 minutes away from being six feet under. Just the very thought of it made me shiver. What a horrible time in life that must be for all those old women. Gosh. Poor things.
My perception of that awful age of fifty didn’t change much as I grew older because in my twenties I didn’t feel like I was growing older. For me, the twenties were a wild blend of something resembling a four year college hangover that quickly escalated into a career, marriage, lots of fast love-making, babies and a mortgage. The twenties were the place to be. We could all still rock holey jeans and skin-tight tees and breastfeeding was the best way to ensure that I could slide back into my pre-baby clothes by the time my maternity leave was up.
Yeah, that metabolism was still revving and so was my sex drive. Motherhood wasn’t the only thing we were nailing daily. The twenties weren’t exhausting because we still had magical secret powers that allow us to get by on only a few hours of sleep. Caffeine first became a staple at this phase. We still had energy and sass and even after a great night filled with laughter, girlfriends and too much wine, we could easily bounce right out of bed to cheerfully take care of our babies by the time grandma dropped them off the next morning at 9:00.
The twenties was also when you were still madly in love with the boy you married, but were slowly beginning to fall out of love with him and in love with a new man. And you liked this new man your boy was becoming. You like him, a lot.
Then in my thirties I dreaded my forties. Sure, the thirties were a good place to be. We all still looked fabulous in tight jeans and we could still rock a baseball cap as we drove our kids around in a mini-van and sat in school pick-up lines. I spent more time in my thirties worrying about what was coming than appreciating the place I was in.
The thirties were a big step up from the 20’s because we had a lot more money and more time to enjoy wine and both were super important at that age. When you are in your thirties you can still do amazing things like put a halt on eating carbs for five days and miraculously knock off 5 pounds without even going to the gym.
My girlfriends and I were getting promotions and climbing the corporate ladder. The thirties allowed me to not only look good in a suit, but really feel good in one too. I actually relished carrying around a leather briefcase by day and diaper bag by night. I loved the new corporate world challenges the thirties offered, because I was using my brain again, or at least the part that had gotten dusty. Confidence, a new kind, blossomed in my thirties.
In my thirties, I finally secured how to walk in heels like a real lady and not the way a drunken college girl, or an insecure twenty-something girl would walk. Oh yeah, this walk was different. This walk had class.
I recognized during this decade that I knew a lot about my job and that I could stroll into a conference room and command attention without saying a word. In my thirties, I realized I loved mentoring the girls that were still in their twenties. I knew stuff. Not because I went back to school or read lots of fancy books, but because life itself was teaching me things every day and I was really paying attention. In my thirties, I wanted to pass the baton and ensure the next tribe was ready.
I became more aware in my thirties. I became more aware that certain tiny, little things were changing in my physical appearance. My hands were ever-so-slightly starting to look like my momma’s hands, my hips were four inches wider and my face was fuller.
I became aware that I was appreciating the way my children were growing and my favorite pastime was watching them in wonder and awe. I became aware that I still had several close girlfriends that I had had since grade school and that other friends had dropped off the radar along life’s path and that I didn’t really even mind.
The thirties were when I first discovered that marriage was hard. Really hard. But it is also where I learned that if you stick together, you will be a force no one should recon with.
The thirties are when I first noticed that back pain in the morning when I would get out of bed. Weird. I wonder what that’s all about.
In my forties I learned my worth. To my husband and my children and my employer and my friends. And to God. I knew who matters most. The forties were a transition period. Life was getting easier, and the kids demanded less of my attention.
Forty felt good from a financial standpoint. We spent lots of time doing things that took thought and a strategy. We had lots of conversations about uncomfortable things. We updated wills and life insurance policies and when we sat down with the financial planner and nodded, we weren’t pretending to know what they were talking about, but we really understood it.
I was beyond competing with other women in my forties. I knew what I wanted and other people’s opinions no longer mattered. I was confident in a new way I never realized existed. And it felt good here. The SUV got traded in and my dream car was purchased. During this ten year span I learned that most women who gossiped about other women were the most insecure people I will ever know. I learned at this age to actually feel sorry for them and that I didn’t have the time or desire to be in their circle. At forty, I learned that I had made wise decisions and that I had built an army of faithful women to surround me. Occasionally, we would let a new one in our circle, because that’s what you do when you’re forty if you know another woman needs you.
I learned that some of my friends would start breaking down. Mentally and physically. I learned more than I wanted to learn as I watched my friends crumble over financial turmoil, divorce, depression and anxiety, over hysterectomies and ugly things like cancer.
God and I found our grove again in my early forties. I came to find out he had been there all along and that it was me who pulled away. We began having more regular conversations and He didn’t mind me rambling, unlike everyone else who did. It felt good to be reconnected to Him and I was always hopeful He felt the same about me. Our relationship is still “a work in progress” but we’re getting there. I think the two of us are in it for the long-haul.
And at forty, it felt like we were making a whole lot more trips to the funeral home than ever before. We would stand in line, uncomfortably, while rehearsing in our minds what we would say when we wrapped our arms around a precious, old high school friend and consoled them over losing a parent. Still, I struggle with finding the right thing to say. It’s always hard.
At forty you vacation. With no kids. You start rituals with your spouse and do ridiculous things like download Snapchat, because according to your husband, that can add a whole new level of fun to the relationship. At forty, you play along with his silly requests because “confidence” is now your middle name.
During these years, the faster you drive the louder you’ll sing and it doesn’t surprise you a bit that you still know every word to incredible songs like Blinded by The Light.
At forty, you slowly start to notice that being mischievous, like you were in your twenties, is beginning to come naturally again. And you realize the importance of not only crossing your “T’s” but also your legs at the ankles. Ain’t nobody got time for varicose veins.
And at this remarkable age we start feeling enthusiastic about what the future has in store. The adventures will be different. It is an easy kind of feeling that brings excitement to my soul and stirred something deep down inside that I hadn’t felt in a lot of years.
There are no criteria when it comes to entering fifty. Mother Nature just gently nudges us forward walking us into our new time. She knows we are ready. She knows we have gathered wisdom and courage and experience and grace. She’s always been standing on the sideline of life and has been our biggest cheerleader along the way. Trust Her. Trust that she has built you mighty enough to maneuver your way through the next chapters and that in the abundance of laughter and tears and wisdom and grace you’ve got more than enough juicy stories left to write.