Melinda can be found over at Love The Life You Lead, where this post was originally featured.
As I reflect on turning fifty, I’m aware of the impact the thirties and the forties have had on me. It’s a little long, but hell, I’m old enough now that I’ve had lots of time to consider and be retrospective.
For me the thirties were about making things happen. There was an urgency to prove what I know and how I could make a difference. Then I was running a school. I was helping teachers be better teachers. I was birthing babies. I was helping babies grow into thoughtful, grounded, young people.
I was doing most of that work because I believed I knew the best practices that would have the impact that I wanted. I was coaching people to be more than they believed possible. I ran a half marathon to prove to myself that I could. I was learning from raising children that I actually didn’t know everything, and that life could not always be controlled. I was “having it all, but not all at the same time” and found that to be challenging but not insurmountable. There was much to do. And I was DOING it.
For me the forties were about living out loud. Focusing on the things that I cared about. It was important to me to not hide. Then I didn’t feel like I had to prove anymore, but I still felt the strong urge to do many things – – a few more half marathons, a couple of triathlons, and lots and lots of workshops. It felt really important to hold everything together and provide space for growth and development to occur, both, in my work and in my home. I simply felt content in doing the things that I loved and sharing those things with other people, since there was so much less of that have to prove feeling. I’m happy to report that I am still doing this. I loved and still love making things, dancing, sharing messages on my blog that other people wrote, raising children with my husband, working in the field of leadership and coaching, holding thoughtful conversations, reading, playing, learning. It felt important to invite others to join me.
But there was a dip in the forties for me. In my late forties I realized that not everyone loves the things that I love. In my younger years I would have spent lots of time building that love with others, or trying to convince others, but not anymore. I just didn’t have the time or attention for that. While I was eventually able to accept it, that also meant acknowledging the pain that some things that I care deeply about are not honored by others. Ouch. I struggled with being and doing enough. Ouch Ouch. For me it’s different from proving. While I began to realize what brought me most joy, and what in my self I most valued. . . I battled with myself about whether that being and doing was enough for the world and enough for me. Truth be told some days were very painful. Some relationships have fallen away, others have grown.
In my late forties I’ve also realized that while my life has been very full and sometimes extremely hectic, much will change soon. In a couple of years two of our three children will be out of the house. You know how they say having children changes your life? Well of course it does, and it did. The realization also hit that having adult children will change our lives. I know that it will. The thought came, and I asked myself, when the nest is empty, will I be empty? Yes, let that really sink in. When the nest is empty, will I be empty? Well mucking around in that question was, shall we say, interesting, and provided much fodder for reflection. It’s led me to what I think my fifties will be about, or at least what I think I am stepping into.
For me, fifty is a time to acknowledge how the first half of my life has impacted the me that I am today. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have lived the life I’ve led thus far. Of course there have been ups and downs, pain and joy, and much learning.
While the thirties were proving, and the forties were doing …. a whole lot of action … for me my fifties feel like they might be different. I feel more humility now. Now I exercise – not because I have something to prove, but rather because I know that the body is a fragile instrument that unless well cared for, will break down. In fact, on January 1, 2015 I started the #50challenge. Fifty pushups, fifty sit-ups, and recently added fifty squats. Every day. Today I’m adding 50 minutes of walking. Every day. In my forties I would have invited you to walk with me, or set up a class for us all to do it together. Now I’m owning the #50challenge for myself. I’m not moving into isolation. Rather, I’m doing the things that I love because I love them, AND I want to be invited. You can invite me to walk, or to do a workshop, or to go on an adventure. You see, I’ve held it together, and created the spaces for my self, my family, my work to grow. I’ve held the container for all of us, and now I am putting it down.
We can pick it up together, but I’m not picking it up by myself and holding it on my own for everyone. That is such a liberating statement! It feels incredibly freeing. So I’m FIFTY. I’m still raising teenagers, and making beautiful custom art to wear or hang in your space, and dreaming about new programs to customize, and delivering leadership programs, and spending time with my friends (my husband is included in this group-lucky me), but fifty feels like an opportunity to do all these things with a new freedom (i.e. less holding), and a deeper sense of humility.
Fifties are a time to be with. Invite me to walk with you. Invite me to work with you. Invite me to play with you. Invite me to talk with you. Invite me to hold the you you are becoming. I’ve got the skills and I’ve got the experience. I’ve got comfort in not knowing everything, and the deepening understanding that that is enough, because I love the life I live, imperfections and all. I’m not going to be sitting here waiting for the invitation because I am not holding on anymore, yet I want you to know that I would LOVE to be invited, and that, of course, I’m moving with utter joy and humility into my fifties.