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Why blog about turning fifty?

1 Aug

I’ve been facing fifty for the last five years.  Knowing it’s out there, but not looking directly at it, much the way one doesn’t look directly at the sun for fear of suddenly going blind.  Instead, I’ve been glancing at fifty with my eyes squinted and teeth gritted, head turned to the side so that I am just peeking at it out of the corner of one eye.  Acknowledging that it’s coming, like a party guest you really don’t want but your mother makes you invite anyway.

As the big day approached I even concocted a plan to run away to Canada, like some middle-aged draft dodger outrunning the long arm of the law of nature (okay, I took my husband with me, and called it a vacation, but I was running away).  It did no good.  Last week, even in Canada, it finally happened.  I turned fifty.

Street scene, Quebec City, Canada

For most of history, few people lived to see fifty.  Even two generations ago, fifty was considered old, the age at which women gave up, stopped caring about their appearance, and donned flowered muumuus.

Fifty is, thankfully, no longer the obligatory muumuu-wearing age.  It’s not even old anymore.  In Westchester, New York, where I live, women with gray hair are an endangered species, and I’ve seen more than a few past-fifty-year-olds with their thongs peeking out over low-cut skinny jeans.

So fifty is just a number, and one that doesn’t obligate me to feel old.  But it does make me feel different.  Maybe it’s all the other changes going on in my life.  Today, my middle son turns sixteen, old enough to get his driver’s license.  Three weeks from now, our family of five will pile in the van and drive my eldest son down to Baltimore, where he will begin on his freshman year of college.  A week after that, my daughter, my baby, will begin high school.  These are all wonderful events, moments to be celebrated and relished.  But they are also, for me, moments of loss, changes I am not yet ready for.

Fifty feels to me a bit like I’ve reached the end of the fun part of the roller coaster ride.  There may be another dip or two, but the loop-de-loops and wild, scream-inducing drops are past.  And I’m not ready for that.  I’m not done figuring myself out, stretching and challenging and changing who I am.

So I’m embarking on a project to make myself over at fifty, not with plastic surgery and hair extensions and teeth whiteners, but with action.

My goal is not to become thinner, although that would be nice, or smarter, also nice, or even happier, which would be very nice.  My goal is to become the me I always wished I could be, someone who is not so far away from the me that I am right now, but a little more daring and a lot more flexible.

Each month this fiftieth year, I will undertaking a task or activity I’ve always wanted to do but have never made the time for or had the courage to try.  I’ll blog about and hope you’ll find entertainment, and perhaps encouragement, in my experiences.

In the month of August, I intend to take singing lessons, with the goal of one day being able to carry a tune.  Anyone who has heard me struggle through “Happy Birthday” will know just how big of a mountain I am trying to climb with this one.

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