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June 13, 2010

What I Love About Being 50

Juicyredpepper "Why is it that we have to wait until we are 50 years old, before we see just how beautiful a red pepper is?", Sandy Dennis laments in Alan Alda's mid-life themed movie, "The Four Seasons." That clarity of appreciation that she speaks of, that wonder of our world, is one of the things I've grown into since turning 50. It is a new way of living for me, and I love it.

I wasn't always this way. I lived life in a blur, crossing things off my list of what needed to be done, and diving into the next project. Since turning 50, I have found a wonderful place to be in my life, that of gratitude for what is around me. At this age, I've come to realize what is important, and, not to be morbid, but I also know that I have already spent half of the life I've been given. I want to spend the life ahead of me in happiness. I don't want to waste any more time with sadness, or miscommunication and missed opportunities, as I have done. I know each day is gone at sunset, and, like currency, spent forever. I want to revel in my world, with all of my senses, fully aware.

My husband and I are blessed with 3 beautiful sons, and being an older mother, our young sons are with me on this new found place in my life. What I now feel is a sense of wonder for all that once was ordinary to me. This wonder of knowing that more than half of my life has already been lived, mimics the wonder of our youngest son. We walk hand in hand, and I marvel at the softness of his skin in my palm. We walk without needing to take a watch along, we find earthworms, and squat down to see how they squirm their way back to where they came from. We look at all the flowers, stopping to admire and count how many petals in each, and talk about which colors look best next to each other. He sees nothing unusual in soaking in the world with his whole being. As for me, this is a new way to see things. I used to run on all cylinders, like a machine, multitasking through my day. Efficiency! Efficiency! was my mantra.

But now, something about the number 50 is so real and visible to me: it is a marker on the half way point of my life gauge. I see it as a road sign on the highway, mile marker 50. It's like a second chance to get things right, and no longer make the mistakes I've made, such as living life as a to-do list. My age feels like a golden ticket that allows me to change the way I've been doing things in the past. It allows me to get rid of all the anger over petty things, to let things slide, to make allowances for people, to tolerate differences in opinions and lifestyles. It is a more loving volume in this book of my life.

The number 50 itself can conjure up different feelings and attitudes in people. I never thought about what it would feel like to be 50. I had no apprehension, and I only had what my older sisters had been telling me would be a "new and improved me" with age. My older sisters would so often tell me how much I would enjoy getting older. They may not have realized that they were doing that at the time, but with their comments of, "oh, that won't bother you when you're older," led me to look forward to growing older. I felt I'd be freed of all these heavy thoughts, the thoughts I had at that time allowed to take up so much of my mental and physical energy. Worries of someone disagreeing with my opinion at our town meeting, or of how the neighbors would think of us if they saw weeds in our lawn. Yes, these things are important, to keep your home and appearance up...but to allow it become a source of daily concern? Not so very healthy for the mind and soul. I grew to anticipate the days when I'd no longer be tied down to things that I somehow felt in my gut, were a waste of what could be spent in more positive thoughts.

My sisters were right. I do love being older. I am more secure in myself when I express an opinion, I think twice, no—three times before I speak, so that the words I choose are gentle. I try to see why someone would say some of the things that they do, and examine all the possibilities that would bring them to that opinion. While I don't make allowances for bad behavior, I try to understand the root cause.

I feel freer, and happier, as well as more accepting and understanding of myself and with what I am able to do. I no longer feel that I need to be all things and do all things, nor do I need to keep up with what everyone else is doing and is able to do. I recognize my limitations, and frankly, my shortcomings. I may not do all things well, but I'll try my best. What I have is valuable enough for me, and my family. I don't need more to show what I am, or who I am.

This new me finds joy and blessings in what used to be everyday and expected in my life. Our weekly Farmer's Market has become just such a new source of this beauty for me. When a day with our children involves a trip to the Farmer's Market in our small town, I stop at every single vendor's stand. I seek out the vegetable stand, pick up a red pepper, and turn it over in my hand. My children watch me and say, "yes, yes, we know what you're going to say; kids! just look at how beautiful this red pepper is...isn't it glorious?" My children are right. I do ask them that every single time, and the red peppers have become more and more beautiful with each year.

This is an original post to the 50-Something Moms Blog. When Alexandra is not falling in love with red peppers, she can be found blogging at Good Day, Regular People. You can also follow her on Twitter.