From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

A Half Century Yet to Go

Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Satchel Paige

The gifts were strewn as if at a child’s party. But I was no child. I had turned fifty years old and was feeling worse than old. I felt ancient. The cake was covered with so many candles its bright heat almost burned me. As I strained to blow them out in one breath to show I was still full of life, the guests cheered for me as if I had won my way into some kind of secret order. If I had, I didn’t want to be a member. An over-the-hill club was definitely not my idea of special.

Why was this so hard for me? Why did I feel a sense of grief, a longing for that good, young age of forty or, better yet, thirty? I balked at those birthdays, too, as each made me feel I was losing my youth and had nothing to show for it. But none had made me so sad and weary as this one.

Making my way around the room, I watched my friends laughing and chatting with each other. Most of them were in their fifties. A few had yet to reach this milestone, but several others were in their “golden years.” They seemed to have survived this rite of passage with grace and even a bit of humor.

Don’t they realize their lives are more than half over? Don’t they know that career dreams, if not already realized, are most likely unattainable? Couldn’t they see themselves—necks wobbling like turkeys, hands spotted and knobby, breasts sagging, tummies bulging, hair bright with bottle-color, eyes needing glasses?

And here I now stand, one of them.

“Bodies are boring,” my mother once told me. “They always need something.” I’m beginning to understand her statement.

Snippets of conversation reach me.

“I’m working on a book.”

“I’m walking two miles every morning.”

“I’ve gone back to college.”

Curiously, these women don’t feel their lives are almost over but, rather, just beginning—again.

Even though most look middle-aged, incredibly, they seem to love it. They look like women—not girls, of course, but vital, interesting, and interested women—full of life and sparkling with the enjoyment of who they are and what their lives bring them.

Some are still quite beautiful. Many have suffered devastating losses—husbands, siblings, and, worst of all, children. Others fight enormous health battles. They put on their wigs, cover their bandages, then head out to party, to laugh and seek joy in life.

Suddenly, I envisioned an entire new chapter of freedom in my life, with time to discover new interests and pursue them. I had a delicious feeling of stepping to the top of the hill and surveying all that lies beyond, just waiting for me to explore as lightly or as deeply as I desire. And there would be no more responsibilities, except those I willingly took on, such as spending quality time with my husband, children, grandchildren, and mother.

With health on my side, I can climb mountains, walk in the surf, or play tennis, golf, dominoes, or bridge. I can volunteer at church, hospitals, or homeless shelters, take classes at the local community college, write a book, sing in the choir, learn country line dancing, prepare gourmet meals, travel to foreign lands. The possibilities are endless.

Life begins at fifty? No. It just gets better, richer, more precious, exciting.

Depressed? Not anymore. I joined in the laughter and fun and enjoyed the celebration of the anniversary of my birth.

I have lived half a century. Amazing.

Jean Stewart

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