Recently I turned a half a century. Even as I write this, it is still amazing to me. Frankly I can’t believe it. If it weren’t for the fact that I have friends who I have grown up with who too are fifty or certainly a step or two away from it, I would think that my birth records had become mixed up with someone else’s, or that my mother has been lying to me about
my real age. But I know this is not so.
The weird thing about being fifty is that I don’t feel like what my perception of fifty would feel and look like. I feel young and I look young. After having recently been carded it dawned on me that perhaps on a good day the only thing that separates me from the twenty and thirty-somethings are my life experiences. Depending upon how one feels about
being mistaken for twenty or thirty, it’s not so bad.
When I was younger, fifty sounded like a different world. It was an age that sounded old and well, settled. When I look at pictures of my grandmothers, both of whom were stunningly attractive women in their forties and fifties, they personified their age group. It was a different time. There was a reserved look about them that spoke their age. But rarely was age something that women of that era discussed. They accepted and wore it for what it was. Today, as women we are bombarded with advertisements proclaiming to make us look younger, and feel younger. It is little wonder that when a woman reaches a milestone birthday she may feel like she has hit a brick wall and needs to do
something to keep her youth. The options are enough to make any confident woman dizzy and confused.
While it may feel good psychologically to hear that fifty is the new thirty, the body still knows otherwise. Botox, liposuction, plastic surgery will not fool Mother Nature or Father Time. Months before my birthday I was having trouble accepting that I was going to be fifty years old. Because I didn’t feel what my perception of fifty had always been, I told
myself that I just wouldn’t claim it. But then I realized that not claiming it would be just like getting cosmetic surgery. The truth would still be there under the surface. I may have been able to fool people, but I could not fool myself. Now that I am a few months into my half century status I have grown comfortable with the reality. It is not as scary as I had
thought it would be. Although it still feels odd when someone asks me my age and I manage to say “fifty” with confidence and sometimes amazement. It’s great when I get the deer-in-the-headlight look that says, “no way.” It’s truly an Oscar moment when someone tells me they thought I was thirty-five. I nearly want to kiss them and smother them with gratitude. But there is a grace that comes with age and instead I say, “Thank you,” because it’s enough.
Anyone breathing knows there is an alternative to aging. Not being here to watch it happen. I have lost friends who didn’t live to see thirty, forty or fifty. When I think of them I am reminded of the miracle of life and living long enough to be grateful to have reached this age. I was just not prepared for the years to arrive so quickly. It’s almost funny when I think of it in that way. It’s impossible to be mad at a blessing. And while all of the years have hardly been a walk in the park, turning fifty is a gift. The transcendence of each decade are reminders that the years are getting shorter. With every funeral I attend I think about my own mortality.
I have to accept that at fifty unlike thirty or even forty, my life is probably more than half over. It’s startling when I look at aging from that perspective. Looking back, when I turned thirty for no apparent reason I cried. As I approached forty I felt scared, then turning fifty forced me into momentary denial. Maybe there is something to be said about
milestone birthdays and the self-inflicted mystery it brings. I don’t know. But it is okay. Each decade since reaching adulthood has brought something new to my life. It may not have always been pleasant, but a lesson is a lesson all the same and I am grateful for having been around to get it. Maybe that in itself is the mystery and gift of aging.
I laugh when I read articles about women who proclaim a particular decade as being the best years of their life. I wonder who these women might be since I know successful, educated, average, gorgeous, tenacious, resourceful, bold, witty, funny, compassionate, serious, smart, women, who will admit that while they are grateful to be alive they can’t
claim any one entire decade as being the best years of their life.
I think the charm in aging is making it through the years mentally unscathed. Everything else is gravy. Recently when I found myself thinking that it couldn’t be possible that I was going to be fifty, I tried to imagine the alternative. I turned on some music and danced! I began to think about the struggles, disappointments, and plans gone south and I danced
harder. Then I thought about all of the wonderful experiences only I could have had and will have and I nearly tore up the floor! I realize that it has been one hell of a journey. And if the journey is about what living is all about, then mine, thus far, has been grand. So, while turning fifty still amazes me, I have further reached the conclusion that I have obligations to the universe I must meet, that my purpose here on earth is far from complete. Therefore, am embracing fifty with bravado. After all, what else can I do but hop on the saddle and see where the next century takes me?
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
Is this my body?
Always be thankful for what you didn't have years ago. The reason will eventually reveal itself. What I didn't have thirty, twenty or even ten years ago were achy joints. When I was in my teens I could run like the wind. Well I was long legged and skinny. My father had been co-captain of the track team, and a sprinter when he was in high school, so I guess my running streak was inherited. I managed to continue to run and jog off and on well into my thirties. While I can still run around a track at least once I usually pay for it later.
The first time my knees started to ache, I thought, 'What is going on?' When I asked my mother if she had ever experienced this, she laughed and told me, "No, not at your age I didn't! I was in my early forties. I admit when I was much younger I didn't quite understand it when the old folks talked about their aching joints. I guess it takes something to hit home to finally reach an understanding.I've started a daily regimen of glucosamine and chondroitin, which works towards preventing the debilitation of cartilage in the joints. A year ago my mother made an appointment for the two of us to have a bone density test. I thought, why not? With all of the talk about osteoporosis affecting women it certainly made sense to have the test just to be sure I wasn't at risk. By the time my paternal grandmother was 80 she had osteoporosis.
I liked that my mother and I were going to the doctor together for the same test. You know, a true bonding moment for mother and daughter. Technology is amazing. The nurse applied a cream to my wrist and moved the SXA device along my wrist as she watched the reading on a screen. It was almost like a massage. I sat there wondering how such a small instrument could read the density of one's bones.
As it turned out my mother's reading was -05, which means she is pre-osteoporotic. But my mother is 71 years old. So this in fact, as the nurse pointed out, is not a bad reading. My reading: -05! The same as my mother's! The nurse pointed out to me that there were several factors as to why I was more prone to osteoporosis. I am tall, on the lean side and had previously smoked for over 20 years. While the three of us got a real kick out of the fact that my mother and I had the same reading, I wasn't laughing. I couldn't wait to get to the drug store to stock up on calcium supplements.
Since then I religiously take 1200 mg of calcium daily. To take more than my required dosage would not make a difference, as my doctor pointed out to me, the bones can only absorb so much, so it is a waste to take more than the recommended dosage. By the way, smoking affects every organ in the body, robbing our bones of calcium and affecting all of the small blood vessels. It will be four years, November 1, since I called it quits cold turkey. Not a day has gone by that I have hankered for a cigarette. Yet the smell of tobacco when anyone around me lights up literally makes me nauseous. I don't want to get all spiritual, but I asked God to take this habit away from me once and for all. Giving up cigarettes was the best thing I could have ever done for my health. I quietly celebrate this achievement every year on that day.
Now that I know what it takes to keep my joints healthy I know what to do when my knees act up. Humidity is not a friend to achy joints, so it is important for me to stay on top of taking my glucosamine and chondroitin. I mean, I still have a desire to run, and to run in a marathon one day. In the meantime I'm off to do some serious power walking! Yes, this is MY body!
So my what's my guide to guide to healthy joints: Lose weight. Eat joint healthy foods.Keep it moving. Walking is cheap, always available and has redeeming factors. Lift weights. Check Vitamin D levels. Wear flats. I know, I know. We love our heels. I'm not giving them up either. But try not wearing them every day.
Anyway, that's the way I see it.
*Always consult with your physician before starting any exercise or diet program.