Yesterday, I had the good fortune to celebrate my 53rd birthday. I am grateful for and humbled by the wishes, hugs, emails, FB posts, gifts, chocolates, handmade goodies, gifts, and gift cards that made their way to me from many timezones near and far. I got weepy several times because of it. I am cared for and loved, and it is a wonderful thing.
I was once married to a good chap that just hated his birthday. He approached it with trepidation, running a commentary of the “shoulds” in his head. “By (insert age here) I should have done this by now, should have seen this by now, should have bought this by now.” I’ve never felt this way, but then I prefer looking at the filled part of the glass. I have no idea what I though 53 might look like from my 20’s (other than perhaps hoping I wouldn’t be as unhip as I perceived my parents to be) but I can say without doubt that I’m the best, truest version of me I’ve ever been. And for my next birthday, should I get one, I plan to have refined myself further down this path!
On my 50th birthday, I wrote the following essay, and as I revisited it today, I see that it’s all still true for me. So I’ll share it here, and I’ve added three more to grow on at the end.
50 Thoughts on Turning 50
A time for reflection and introspection. Time for a party filled with embarrassing gifts of prune juice and adult diapers. The big five-oh. Mid-century. Half way done, should I be so lucky. A few thoughts on that…
1. In the inimitable words of the Monty Python gang – I’m not dead yet!
2. Turning 30 was a relief. Turning 40 made me feel powerful. Turning 50 makes me feel grateful.
3. Questioning authority is still fashionable.
4. Knowing that your girlfriends get you (and like you anyway) is incredibly comforting.
5. Eating chocolate every day is sacrosanct. Wasting calories by eating bad chocolate is just wrong.
6. Having a season pass to Disneyland allows you to see all the small things in the design and artistry – and to marvel at the absolute commitment to the concept such details illustrate.
7. Board games are even more fun as a grown-up.
8. Fake butter is just that. Fake.
9. The shift of a smooth gearbox on an open road is still a thrill.
10. However, next time I’m buying an automatic car. I’m done with clutching my way through traffic.
11. I got too good at not wanting to be a bother in the doctor’s office, and it almost killed me. Being firm about what I instinctually know about my body is the right kind of bothersome to be.
12. Spending time outside of your home country is important.
13. Facebook birthdays rock.
14. Uncomfortable shoes are just not worth the agony.
15. Uncomfortable undies aren’t either.
16. Although I would have chewed my tongue off before admitting this to her as a teenager, I’m grateful that my step-mother spent the time to teach me which fork is the right one.
17. While I think I could have been just fine without children in my life, I’m so glad I have my son, Steve. He somehow makes me more complete.
18. Art really is everywhere. And that is a very good thing.
19. That multitasking thing that we’ve all tried so hard to be good at is a load of bull. Being fully present to one thing at a time is so much more satisfying.
20. Having good manners never goes out of style.
21. It is wonderful to find a lost friend from your youth, and to find out that that you still like who they are.
22. It doesn’t matter that my shoes never match my handbag.
23. Having an opinion is a good thing. Respecting that other opinions may differ is a better thing.
24. In my head I’m still in my thirties. But 50 is the new 30, right?
25. Smart phones are incredible tools of efficiency and convenience. And distraction.
26. I’m no longer willing to play dumb, or hide my light, or stay silent when I should speak up, just for the comfort of others.
27. Climbing to the top of a dome or church is a spiritual journey. Coming out into the light and 360 view after the fight of the climb, through the dark and narrow passages, is a re-birth of sorts and worth every ache, gasp, and bead of sweat.
28. I prefer clocks with hands.
29. Wearing the right earrings can make your day.
30. I’m ok with not being liked by everyone anymore. I’m ok with not liking everyone anymore. We are not ALL made for each other.
31. Keeping the back of your neck warm from draughts wards off colds.
32. When all else fails, bake shortbread.
33. Having my face cut and filled to look like a version of 30 will never happen. I’ve earned and lived all my lines.
34. Saying “thank you” is SO important.
35. Saying “sorry” is perhaps even more important.
36. I’m grateful to have been born in times that allow me to exercise choices. And I’m aware that with such privilege comes the responsibility to make sure that these choices are available to future generations.
37. Those SMTWTFS pill boxes really do make your life easier.
38. Sleeping under a handmade quilt is a special joy.
39. Not being obsessively clean is good for your immune system.
40. I hope evolution takes care of chin hairs and the hairs on the top of big toes in future generations because I can vouch for them having no use whatsoever.
41. I’m thrilled to see my young friends making babies, and even more thrilled that I’m no longer in the business of teething, tantrums, and teenagers.
42. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
43. I love the summer movie formula: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the guy gets the girl, and stuff blows up during a really good car chase.
44. Slumming with the occasional book of trash pulp will not rot my intellect.
45. Learning to say “no” is a good thing. Wish I’d got better at it sooner.
46. Beautifully written words are as satisfying as perfect crème brulée.
47. This teach-to-the-test crap is ruining our children.
48. Seeing it in person is so much better than reading about it on the internet. Just say no to the mediated experience.
49. The color orange makes me happy.
50. You dishonor the people who love you when you don’t allow them to actually do loving things for you. Accepting love is both humbling and powerful.
51. Making stuff makes my world right. Make, make, make.
52. Minding your values matters. Both personal values, and the color values in art.
53. In the words of Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Fabulous words of wisdom from one who knows
I agree with all of that (except the bit about earrings, which, sadly, I cannot wear). I am the stepmother who tried to teach her stepdaughter basic table manners!
I love this list and I hope you add to it every year!
Just read this list. Wish I had thought to make such a list when I turned 50. Maybe I’ll “borrow” (If that’s allowed) some of your thoughts and add more of my own to equal 57 (my next birthday next month). Not sure my brain could come up with 50 unique thoughts – many of yours I thought “Yeah! She’s so right!”.
Borrow away! (and Happy Birthday!)
So, we could be friends, because I was 53 on the 20th December 2014 and after reading your list, which could have been written by me, although perhaps not quite so eloquently, I thought “the only thing I don’t agree with 100% is the ‘orange’ thing. It’s rainbow, or nothing. And there is a function for chin & big toe hair, it’s to keep beauty therapists in a job.