Fifty Years: the gradual process of becoming me

Last month, I reached the half-century mark in my life. It was a milestone not achieved without great suffering and tremendous joy…

Oddly enough fifty feels both old and new. There are moments when I lament the way things used to be and others in which I enjoy the conveniences technology has brought to the life of this middle-aged woman. I don’t really look very different than I did at 35 or 40, but I feel different. There are aches and pains I didn’t have before, especially when I sit for too long. My hips take a moment to relax and get into the movement of walking. Of course there are other “changes” happening: menopause. I have become my own space heater, which is better in January than in July. The mood swings are manageable enough, but the sentimentality that causes me to cry at the smallest things really does get to me sometimes. It’s hard to be a cynic when you begin to weep when certain music plays or when a particular commercial interrupts your daily Jeopardy habit.

Then there’s my favorite part: the seemingly overnight removal of my last fuck.

Seriously, I feel so much more relaxed about so many things these days. Things that would have torn me apart with worry and anxiety now barely get an audible “meh”. It is the most incredibly liberated feeling! It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I’ve been around long enough to know that most crises aren’t, most roadblocks don’t, and most people can’t — so I just keep moving with full faith and understanding that everything really will be fine.

I would have PAID to feel like this at 25, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have really known how to handle it.

More than anything else, I feel a tremendous sense of freedom and accomplishment. I have a job that I love doing something that uses all of my skills and experience from 30 years of performing and teaching. I have a life where I can occasionally get to do what I want to rather than what I have to. My kids are closer to being independent and I am closer to having my husband all to myself without the daily grind of carpools, parent/teacher conferences, appointments, and endless activities that come with the blessing of having kids.

I am slowly inching up on a new way of seeing myself. I am further down the road of becoming me.

There are still questions and sometimes there aren’t enough answers to go with them. There are losses and setbacks. There are still moments of grief and despair. My life is better, but it is still far from perfect.

However, I am closer to achieving “me-ness” than ever before and clearer at articulating my thoughts and opinions in my self-hood. Not only do I speak my mind more than I have previously, I have a greater mind to speak and words worth hearing. I also don’t have the same urgency to speak, so I find myself listening more mindfully. Life is no longer a competition. How refreshing!

I still dream of the world being better and I try to be part of the change that will make it so. I still want to love and trust with my whole heart, even when my experience tells me how foolhardy and ill-advised that would be. I still cry at the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony just like I did the very first time I played it. I still smile at the sight of my children who are now both taller than me. I still look at my husband with the same feeling of wonder and awe that such an amazing man could ever love me in all my humble insanity.

Hope is still alive and well in this woman’s heart — even despite the current state of our nation and its “leadership”. The world is a scary place, but I still dare to dream a world filled with our better angels.

Fifty has really surprised me in all the best ways. I’m glad to be here and I wouldn’t go back to anything earlier for all the money in the world. Fifty is a pit stop on a long journey of self-discovery. I’m enjoying the ride.