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15 Things I Learned In My Fifties

They say hindsight is 20/20.

I am gaining perspective on the decade I exited a few months hence. In some ways it was my least favorite. In some, one of my more dear. If you can have favorites for that kind of thing.

life lessons, turning 50, turning 60, midlife, adult children

So what did I learn ten years after turning fifty?

1) How to grieve my parents’ deaths.

They had lived until their early 80’s. One not physically well. One, mentally very anxious and withdrawn. However, there was still love. I didn’t ever get that orphaned feeling after their deaths I hear others talk about. My realization was that there was no one on earth that would ever love me quite that way again – that I would not light up anyone’s day or at least be told that I did.

I felt instead that I was lucky to have been loved that way at all. Many people are not.

I was glad for them that their own battle was over. It feels strange but it’s all okay.

2) How to let go of adult children.

To watch them mature. Maybe make mistakes. Maybe need support. Maybe not. It hasn’t killed me. It hurts sometimes. It’s fabulous others.

It’s a transition.

Hands-on parenting was great while it lasted.

3) How to begin dealing with ageism.

Ageism is alive and well. Sometimes it’s a little hard. I notice very subtle things sometimes. Especially with younger people. If you are filling out a computer form, and it is assumed you didn’t understand how to do it, rather than there is something wrong with their form. If it takes you a moment to remember a name, when you have always been lousy with names.

You have to be patient with them. They think it’s all about your age. They are busy about the business of avoidance. I try to remember to smile. And accept that’s what they need to do.

4) It takes more self-discipline to keep doing the things “I’ve always done”.

To keep in shape. To eat right. To stay involved. But the payoff is greater. It’s huge in staying positive.

5) Menopause does end.

And yes, it was my hormones. I didn’t like hearing it when I was in the middle of it. But face it. It’s just a tough time for a lot of us. And it feels fabulous when it’s over.

6) How to deal with fear. Mortality. The death of friends is very hard.

Time is not going faster. I am simply aware there is less of it.

I don’t read obituaries anymore. Unless I want to obsess about every little ache and pain I have. It’s better not to do it. When those you have loved are no longer living, however, there’s a strange kind of void that can form. I hear people I love who are much older than me say they are “ready to die” and I wonder if I will get there as well. All their loved ones are gone. All the people that share their memories.

Working on my spiritual life is essential. And living life in the present.

7) It gets easier to appreciate simple things.

I watch the sunrise almost every morning. And never cease to wonder.

8) It gets harder to tolerate hatred. Cruelty.

Of any kind really.

9) I have to stop myself from using phrases like ” that little whippersnapper” or “nice young girl”.

I am not ready to become my grandmother quite yet. But they are on the tip of my tongue. Damn.

10) Laughing is essential to living well.

And I plan to do a lot more of it. Thus I need to practice my Kegels regularly. Also something I learned in my 50’s. The hard way.

11) Old friends grow more dear.

People who knew you “when”. There’s nothing like them. But new younger friends bring freshness and zip. Let me know what’s trending. Told me about the word “trending”.

Both are vital.

12) You take nothing for granted in your primary relationship.

You keep working. You keep investing. But it’s nice to realize –  he’s a keeper.

13) Sixty is not the new fifty.

I don’t need it to be. What would all that learning have been about in my 50’s if I erased it? Went back? No. Not for me. I like sixty.

14) Focus on how I try to make a small difference every day.

That’s what I have control of. What matters.  I have learned to surround myself with people who are going about the business of creating good things in their lives. For others. For their town. Their culture. Their world. Their energy supports my energy. And hopefully vice versa.

15) Never underestimate the power of trying something new.

Or something you know you don’t do well. When I work out with my trainer, I always groan when we do balance work. But I ask her to make me do it. Because I’m really, really bad at balance work. I don’t learn much if it’s something I do well.

I’ll stop with 15. Perhaps enough for one decade.

I welcome additions to the list!


Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

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Ali Davies

Saturday 16th of May 2015

Margaret, I found your points quite moving. A reminder that fulfillment lies in accepting what is, simplicity and build a values based life on integrity.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Saturday 16th of May 2015

Thank you so much Ali. Your words, like integrity, simplicity. They are growing in meaning to me. Probably should have meant more long ago.


Friday 15th of May 2015

Great points. Today I just used the phrase to my husband, 'A nice young woman" when talking about a new neighbor who is in her mid 30's! I don't take my health for granted and I stay current on all age appropriate vaccines and tests like yearly mammograms, colonoscopy, eye exams, shingles vaccine, tetnus etc.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Friday 15th of May 2015

There you go Haralee... it's slippin up on you.. (I'm not sure what I what I would call it but it's slipping up on me too.. I am going to figure this out and get back with you... I hope..

Thursday 14th of May 2015

Margaret, you never disappoint. I love how honest and real you are. Thank you!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Friday 15th of May 2015

Neither do you Nancy. But thank you.

Leisa Hammett

Thursday 14th of May 2015

Excellent. I'm making a note now to include this in my annual birthday post, (55 this year!).

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Thursday 14th of May 2015

Oh wow thank you! Please send it to me when you do!

Barbara Hammond

Thursday 14th of May 2015

Great list! In retrospect I think my 50's were the best decade, and maybe the most challenging. But, heading for 65 in 2 months, I have to say my 60's may surpass it. b

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Thursday 14th of May 2015

That's fantastic to hear Barbara. I will try to follow in your footsteps!

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