The year my mom turned 50, my dad rented a limousine to commemorate the occasion. I was 26 at the time and my sister and I travelled home to join them for a cruise around the small town where we grew up.
This was a BIG deal for us. If my memory serves me correctly, we only had 1 limo for rent and 1 driver (a friend of my dads) in the entire Gananoque area. We settled inside and dad poured champagne, but just as we raised our glasses in a toast my mom said- I’m not sure why we are even doing this. This birthday is nothing to celebrate.
I have no idea what else we did that night. I don’t remember riding around or any plans that followed. All these years later, the only thing I can recall is my mother’s ominous statement.
To be fair, she could have been joking. It might have been an offhand comment or maybe she’d had a crappy day and was feeling grumpy. I am also fully aware that the negative messaging around women and aging is not a modern day construct and would likely have been weighing heavily on her at the time. I’ve asked her about it since and she doesn’t even remember saying it.
Obviously her words resonated deeply with me, but I filed them away under – TO WORRY ABOUT LATER.
Well this week, I turned 49 and LATER is finally upon me. Later is now. 50 is bearing down like a runaway train on a downhill track and I’ve been chewing over the sentiment “nothing to celebrate” like a dog with a friggin’ bone.
I don’t remember feeling particularly ruffled by 30 or 40. In hindsight, I was so wrapped up in motherhood that I didn’t have the time or energy to fret about my age. My first child was born the month after I turned 30 and the last just before my 39th birthday.
But now, the kids are growing up and I am feeling the full impact of getting older. The physical changes. The lingering aches and pains. The heaviness of life’s inevitable shocking twists and turns. And the weight of unfulfilled dreams and cancelled plans.
Basically I’ve been rolling around in the stark reality of my mortality like a pig in poop. Plus we are in the middle of a goddamn pandemic so leave me to my self pity thank you very much.
It took a conversation with my daughter to make me question my current approach to aging (aka the patented Lori Wilson trifecta of coping skills: worrying, fixating and middle of the night freak-outs). In the course of a casual chat, she asked how I was feeling about turning 50 next year and the only response I could muster was- Well it’s better than the alternative.
What alternative? Better than being dead you mean? she said. That’s pretty grim mom.
Yah. What the heck?! I most certainly can do better than dead.
I like to consider myself an optimistic person, but it’s obvious I still have a long way to go in the pursuit of self-love and acceptance. And I’m as guilty as anyone of drinking the media-spiked Kool Aid that paints the aging process as the ultimate cosmic failing, especially for women. A fruitless battle to be waged against wrinkles, middle-aged spread, grey hair and ultimately- irrelevance. Well screw that!
I am determined to come at this from a more positive angle. What does that look like? Honestly I’m not totally sure. But I’m taking baby steps towards a much-needed shift in perspective. To start with, I am studying women who are not only embracing the aging process but also thriving well into their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond (including my own mother). I also started therapy this past winter and I’m learning to calm the worry and anxiety that has dogged me for years.
As I rocket towards my 50th birthday, this is going be a year of introspection. A reckoning. An opportunity to chart a new course for the next phase of my life, to foster appreciation and gratitude and to truly embrace the journey. I already know I’m going to need tons of help…and lots of advice over glasses of Prosecco if anyone wants to weigh in!
It’s difficult to make plans in our current situation but I do have one thing mapped out for the big 5-0. Next June I will be turning 50 and my mom will be 74. We are going to book the coolest stretch limo we can find and cruise around town like a couple of bad-asses blaring music and drinking glasses of champagne…perhaps even with our heads sticking out of the sunroof. Because I’m coming to realize that getting older, being present and being together is a privilege. And that’s not just better than being dead. It’s something to celebrate.