It’s no secret to those closest to me that I was absolutely dreading the most ridiculous three words I’ve ever had to type: my 50th birthday.
The big five O. The F word. The new 40. It didn’t matter which way I said it to myself in my head. It didn’t matter how humorously I tried to ‘dress’ up the idea of turning 50. None of it worked.
I couldn’t come to terms with no longer being in my early 40’s, never mind late 40’s, much less blooming 50 (when I’m still 35ish in my head). I was in denial.
Then there was the small matter of my website. As a blogger who covers parenthood, marriage, womanhood, modern society, life in general, I knew I couldn’t hide in the bathroom and not write about it. But trying to process the F word privately and ‘coming out’ publicly and telling my readers and social media followers that I’m officially middle-aged? Shudder.
So, I started, scrapped and restarted this post, more times than I can possibly remember. Well my memory’s not what it once was because…you know…I’m 50 (!)
But I think I’ve reached that moment of clarity where I feel more able to write honestly (warts and all) about this midlife transition (even if it’s to the point of discomfort).
I don’t want to expose my juvenile disappointment at no longer being able to joke about 50 year olds as I’ve now joined that club myself. #GotMyComeuppance
I don’t want to listen to one more person cheerfully quipping ’50 is just a number’, ’embrace it’, ‘the next half century starts here’ (when I still want to sue the clot who claimed life begins at 40).
But I will readily admit that I have the wrong attitude and I have to make mental changes. I’ve spent most of my life stunting my own self development by constantly harking back to the past, almost sick with nostalgia. It’s a habit that has made me a mere passenger in my own life, instead of being the driver of it, living for the now.
I admire those who take the big five O on the chin instead of like it’s punch in the gut. #OurThoughtsControlOurLife
I don’t want to have to warn you that before you turn 50, you might almost die of shock at finding a grey hair there. Yes, THERE. Don’t look at me like that. You need to KNOW what’s in store for you! Just be happy that someone is looking out for you. #NowThatsWhatICallBreakingNews
I will, however, reassure you that at least you don’t publicly display that body part so at least the discovery will be made in private (and the neighbours who hear your horrified shriek through the open bathroom window won’t know what it’s about) #TheGlassIsHalfFullMyFriend
I don’t want to embarrass myself admitting that I hesitated over whether to mention my 50th birthday at all on my blog/social media because I was worried about losing my younger readers who might feel unable to relate to anything this granny writes from now on. (Well they’ll be properly put off after that grey hair announcement won’t they?) #DefinitelyWorried
But I will gushingly share my delight at the realisation there is life beyond the mum blog! Some of the best reads I come across are by bloggers who happen to be mums but don’t just define themselves as ‘mum bloggers’: Mother of Teenagers, Glowology and Mum Revised. #MidLifeBloggersRock
I don’t want to bore you with trivia such as the fact that Naomi Watts (love her), Hugh Jackman (love him), Daniel Craig (just thank you God) were born the same year as me.
But I will choose to enrich you with the following amazing advice from a friend’s husband who made me look at things differently.
Listen, you’re going to live til you’re 90. That leaves you 40 years. You’ve spent 50 years doing all the usual ‘life stuff’ (nursery, school, university, career, marriage, kids). What you do with the next 40 years is up to you. So make it count.D. Abbot
(OK I don’t know the 90 prediction but gotta love his way of thinking right?!)
I don’t want to alienate you by oversharing my twisted thoughts. I long to be 45 again. But if you’d asked me five years ago if I was happy, I would have said I wanted to be 40 again. If you’d asked me the same thing when I was 40, I’d have said I wanted to be 30 again. #LoveYourAgeTodayAsTomorrowYouWillBeOlder
But I will ease up on myself and realise that millions of women all over the world are going through the same damned thing because every time we come to terms with one stage in life, it all changes! Just as we accept the impact on our bodies from nature, pregnancy, childbirth, stress, environment, what life has thrown at us in general…just as we are processing reaching the dreaded F word, we realise we’ve reached the even more dreaded M word. #AChangeIsGonnaCome(Again)
I don’t want to reveal my self-destructive tendency to waste energy feeling depressed every time I catch a glimpse of myself in a car mirror/shop window, or feel yet another muscle/joint twinge when I should be spending my time constructively achieving life goals.
Or bring you down with the admission that I have become somewhat of a recluse with a fake smile the last few months, finding it hard just to go out and grab a coffee or pick up the phone to my mum and sisters for a chat #PleaseDontGiveUpOnMe
But I need to point out that despite all the self-help mantras and positive affirmations all over social media, it can be hard not to disappear inside a cocoon of ineffectiveness, negative self analysis and frustration over all the road blocks (whether self-inflicted or beyond my control) in my life.
Maybe these very feelings are in fact part of the aforementioned M word and that it’s super important to educate myself (and my family) about what to expect from the menopause, so that we can get our mental safety armour on in preparation of what’s about to come!. (Or maybe we should just throw out our mirrors.) #EveryoneAssumeTheBracePosition
I don’t particularly want to reveal that a doctor said my face’s entire central column had collapsed and that a woman’s face can disintegrate in the space of six months which made me wonder if I should get some ‘work’ done #DecisionsDecisions
And I don’t want my kids to think physical appearance is as important as the cosmetics and media industries would have one believe. #PutDownThatMiracleCreamItsACon
But I will acknowledge that only I have the power to make peace with that so-called unrecognisable reflection of a deteriorating person staring back at me. #WhoYouGonnaBelieve
I don’t want to warn you that your twenties will seem like they were yesterday and also a lifetime ago at the same time. And that it never ever gets any less weird.
Because I think it’s more helpful to share this great outlook by a wise Glaswegian friend.
The pretty young girls we sigh looking at will one day be our age (if they’re lucky).
What they bring to the table with their youth and zest for life, we bring with our wisdom, experience and warm hearts. For all we’ve done, earning each grey hair, raising kids, paying bills, handling what life brought and achieving, we’re survivors. We are warriors. We are women, ageing like a classic car. Our exterior might not be what it once was. But it is traded for our spirit, our courage and our strength to enter this chapter of our lives with grace and pride for all we’ve experienced and accomplished.
Never feel bad about ageing.
It is a privilege denied to many.S. Abbot.
I don’t want to deny that I’m ashamed I haven’t achieved much/enough for someone aged 50. And I don’t believe that one’s kids should be one’s sole defining achievement in life.
But I will say how happy and proud I am that I finally found my passion in life and that I never feel more at home within myself than I do when I write, thanks to this blog. #BetterLateThanNever
And finally, dear reader, I have to say this:
I know people younger than me like Laura who are battling extreme illness yet still manage to do more in one day than I can manage in one month. I know those who came through surgery after surgery like Line to stay with us and put their experience to a positive use. I know people who didn’t even make it to 50.
And I know those who only just made it clinging on…before breathing their last breath in a hospice bed at 7am on their 50th birthday, as if to shake a fist at the Gods that wanted to take them before they had completed that first half century.
I do know that it is shallow, self-indulgent and disrespectful to joke about Desperately Seeking Lost Collagen. Or obsess over the distance my bum has descended. Or feel like it’s all downhill from here like a part of me is dead. I may have found that twatting grey hair. There. But it’s just a funny story, not the end of the world. There is more to life.
I could keep writing posts each birthday about the need to be grateful – in an effort to convince myself that I actually I am grateful – or I could ruddy well mean it.
I am 50. Yes, they ARE the most surreal three words I’ve ever had to type or say.
And I could keep euphemistically referring to them as the F word (let’s face it, it does have a certain ring to it).
But maybe 50 really is just a number.
Let’s just keep that last one between you and me…
In memory of beloved Meena who left us on her 50th birthday.