As many of you know Cathy and I just got back from celebrating our 65th birthdays in the Napa Valley.
Home for less than a week Bill and I went out by ourselves to dinner at Hamilton’s Grill Room, one of our local favorites.
Walking in I noticed the front table by the window was filled with 6 great looking young (a relative term as you know) women and one chair completely filled with presents and balloons labeled 50! Naturally (to Bill’s discomfort) I had to stop and tell the “birthday girl” how great it is to be 50!!
On cue, they asked my age and appropriately gasped in surprise when I said 65.
It was sweet and just good manners for them to say how good I looked. But in reality, my bet is these kind, sophisticated women were thinking about themselves in the sense of wondering how great (or not) they looked, felt and were doing for 50. At milestone times all sensible and sensitive people long to have some confirmation that they are “doing OK” or “more than OK” and “going in the right direction.” Since I asked their permission to write about them in a blog, let me tell you what I hope I communicated to these women from Hamilton’s. Am sending it to them as well – so here’s to each and all of them.
1.) Yes, they each looked great. BUT NO, you did not look 40. You do not and will not look and/or feel as young and healthy at 50 as you did at 40. We age – slowly if we are smart, blessed with health and discipline to keep exercising and eating right, and paying for all those lotions and procedures/surgery our budgets will allow. Trust that you will look as good at 60/70 or 80 as you can – but only if you work on it in your 50s. The work in your 50s is the foundation for your looks and health for the remainder of your life.
2.) While 50 is not the new 40, it is closer to 40 than to being 60 in terms of work-life. At 50 one is still essentially in the game – still the protagonist of the story (a shocker for many of us at 60 is that we are, with some exceptions, no longer the protagonist of the story at 60 and beyond) – this is true at home, at an office, in a school, or a hospital. One’s 50s are about work, achievement and helping raise a family or live comfortably alone or with others. It is not generally a good time to stop contributing and become a taker or semi retired. 50 year old women have it all: experience, savvy, and if still healthy, some genuine stamina. It is the time to figure out your strengths and play to them professionally and personally. Dreams can no longer wait: write the book, launch the business, run for office, go for the promotion, or get back to work, and use the entire decade to focus tightly on what you really want to achieve financially and professionally. Some women keep going into their 80s – but not all – or even most. Surely one’s 50s is too young not to be focused on accomplishment.
3.) Set personal and professional goals for yourself – new ones every year or every 5 – but have goals. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t achieve them all – the goal police will not arrest you (the women said they absolutely LOVED this line – so enjoy it too). But without goals, focus, and some strategy to get somewhere your life can too easily become mediocre, boring, safe but stale. Take some smart risks both personally and professionally. It is your time – you know what you want or MUST find out, so execute and make it happen. Though it can be said “it is never too late” my experience says at some point it really is too late to achieve what you want to achieve – don’t let yourself off the hook now.
4.) Rather than resent the losses and inevitable changes of life, encourage and accept changes/losses – with grace, charm (underrated now but a great skill) and strength of character. Yes, Jason is off to school, or Ali is in love with someone you don’t like, or your husband is losing his job, or you have to move out from your current situation or your father is dying – WHATEVER. Things are going to happen – remember this – you are not a victim because all your dreams did not come true — use the changes around you to keep reinventing yourself into a better person. And please, act in ways that model adulthood – that is, self-awareness, self-responsibility and self-control. Trying to fight against, stop or control everything in your life is simply impossible and will age and exhaust you faster than some appropriate acceptance. Accept change as part of life – as part of your particular journey. Not easy but essential for mental and physical health.
5.) Choose a great life coach. Only kidding (for those of you who know that I am one). Of course a life coach can be a great help if you are the type of person who likes that kind of support – but my final message is not to sell you something, but to remind you to trust yourself. At 50, you know you. You love you. You know what you want and need — or are going to do what it takes to find out. Now go make it happen. Your girlfriends are right there beside you! And if you have no friends at 50 probably a life coach isn’t going to be able to help you figure out what you should know by 50 – love and good healthy relationships shape the quality of your life at every stage and age of your life.
Happy Birthday to all 50 and 50-something women out there – fifty can be fabulous too. Cathy and I certainly were – but way too busy to write a blog about it.