I remember my fear when I turned 40. I thought the gig was up, that men wouldn’t look at me anymore, and that my job prospects were dim at best. Last year I turned 50, and I wish I could say I accepted it with grace, but more with fear and sadness. Even though I have no children, I would become a grandmother overnight. I still see myself as a young, vibrant woman. However, a quick glance in the mirror (especially in fluorescent light) shatters any hope of an ageless beauty with a dewy face.
But the fear is not only about appearance, but also about getting closer to death. I heard people say from time to time that life is not a dress rehearsal. But that’s exactly how I lived my life, always waiting for something to happen, and until then, I stayed safe and cozy in my comfort zone. “One day I’m going to take those piano lessons,” he said. “I know I’ll be traveling soon.” “I’d love to learn Spanish, but I’ll do that later.”
You get the idea. These things don’t come unless you make them happen. And I’m taking action now, cultivating my passions and hobbies. For example, today I rode my bike 20 times, recently planted a garden, and am in the process of signing up for tennis and singing lessons. These are things I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t say “tomorrow” anymore – it’s “now.”
The beauty of turning half a century old is that you no longer have to deny it. Time is running out. You no longer have time to waste!
The first step is to practice acceptance. Once you’ve done that, you can move on and really start living – maybe for the first time in your life. You can make it a wild, vibrant, exciting adventure. The trick is not to get hung up on wishing things were different.
So what is acceptance? You know the Serenity Prayer: God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. This is a very wise verse used in Twelve Step programs around the world.
These words from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous sum it up beautifully:
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I cannot find serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly as it should be at that moment.
This is so true when it comes to the aging process. By going off and giving yourself Botox injections, cosmetic procedures, and body makeovers, you are only denying what will one day confront you: an aging body that will begrudgingly die. Until then, you cling to the compliments you get when people say you don’t look your age; long for those moments when people ask you what your secret is. But those comments only delay time, time you don’t have if you want to move forward. You accept where you are in life, and then the miracles can begin. You begin to build on a firm foundation that will carry you through the second chapter of your life.
As I gain more acceptance, I experience that I am in the moment and not in the past or future. I do what I can in this second, a fresh, creative time to explore and express what is inside me. You don’t have to worry about what people think about you. Your job is to live the rest of your life as fully, sincerely and courageously as you can.