A week from today, I'm also having a birthday. I'll be turning 50.
I always celebrate my birthday in some way. I'm glad to be here! In the past, I've sometimes been surrounded by friends, dancing to a band. Or touring The Art of Star Wars exhibit in 1995 in San Francisco as only a geek girl can (yes, I teared up). Maybe seeing a play with friends - but not telling them it's my birthday, because I'm enjoying friends just being friends, for no special reason. Maybe it sitting in an ancient Roman amphitheater listening to an Arab man play the bagpipes in Jerash, Jordan. For 50, if all goes as planned, Stefan and I will be in the Carribean, though a month after my birthday (long story why it's been delayed). But it still counts: I will be somewhere fabulous in honor of my birthday. More on that trip later...
I've never feared a birthday. 30? Wahoo! 40? Bring it on! I didn't care if, at 30, I didn't look like someone in her 20s, or if at 40, I looked 40. Age - who cares?!?
But I'm having a big problem with 50.
I'm not thinking, oh, what have I done with half a century?! I'm quite pleased at what I've done with my life up to this point. I've been to more 35 countries, I've worked in a conflict zone, I've met movie stars, I've been quoted in lots of major news outlets because of my work, for a few years I was the only person on Earth with a particular area of expertise - I've had amazing times. And so many of the great things I've experienced have just dropped right into my lap, with little or not pursuit by me. I've done enough for a 100 year lifetime, and given modern living standards and my family history, I may have another 50 years to make more memories: 50 was the age of my material grandmother when I was born, and she's turning 100 a week after me - and I hope for the life she has at 100 if and when I make it there.
So, wahoo, more great things to come, right?
But at 50, my knees are shot. I can still hike long distances, but I can't run. Watch me get up off the floor - it's sad. I can't use a ladder at all. It feels like there are tiny, razor sharp pebbles under my knee caps when I bend them with any weight on them at all. It's half the reason I've gained so much weight - the other half are my damn genes (shakes fist at Beasley genes in particular). It snows and I'm immediately scared of falling and breaking a hip. Four different doctors have had no help for me regarding my knees - just take some ibuprofen and hope for the best. I eat less than I did at university, when I was a size 8 by the time I graduated - yet, here I am, at a size I won't even say. I also have chronic acid reflux, and if I don't have my meds with me, my motorcycle ride or night of camping or night out with friends is ruined - I have to go home immediately or spend hours in agony.
At 50, there are sags and lines all over my pudgy face. There are times I look in the mirror and think, I look like my Dad in drag. That's not a good look. My gray hair isn't coming in gorgeous white or Emmy Lou Harris fabulous - it's dishwater dingy dirty, and ages me by 20 years if I don't get it covered up. I look frumpy most of the time, even when I try to look nice.
At 50, I'm not working full-time, or regularly part-time. Men my age, with the same experience, are enjoying the height of their careers in senior management positions. I'm floundering. Type finding a job at 50 into Google - yikes. I feel like I am at the pinnacle of my professional abilities, with so much more to do - but the struggle in trying to find someone to pay me to apply those skills and experience is tiresome and, I fear, hopeless.
In my 20s, 30s and the start of my 40s, I charged ahead, throwing myself into my career and life in general. I had plenty of outlets for my many passions. And it was great. But now, it's like I'm charging ahead in an endless, empty desert landscape, at least professionally. There's nowhere to put all this passion, all this experience. I still get up early, I write, I research, I reach out, I still get oh-so-excited and inspired - but it just doesn't get me anywhere anymore. Neither jobs nor awesome experiences just fall into my lap anymore. My inspirations die away more often than anything comes of such. Everything I want to do, even on just a daily basis, seems to take so much more planning, so much more work, and even after all that planning and work, the job doesn't materialize, the big plans fall through, the goal is completely out of reach... I've lost my mojo.
It really shouldn't matter what I see when I look in a mirror - it's totally normal to look this way at 50, right? We can't all look like Helen Mirren at 50. Or Susan Sarandon or Oprah Winfrey or Jamie Lee Curtis at 50. I need to channel some Carrie Fisher attitude. My cholesterol and blood pressure are terrific, I don't smoke and I eat so much less meat now than I did early in life. - except for my weight, both my lifestyle and my genes greatly reduce my risk for cancer. That's great news. And unlike many Kentuckians, I have all of my teeth (except for four that were taken out when I got braces, and my wisdom teeth - you think I have a big mouth but, in fact, literally, I don't).
Also, I have a future that includes a rather wonderful person - we have more plans for travel and adventures than we could possibly undertake in TWO lifetimes, and the financial means to do many of them. Stefan will support me in any life endeavor - I just have to pick the endeavor, and be ready to work much, much harder than I've ever worked before to get it.
Maybe I've been spoiled up to this point, and I'm only now realizing my loss in privilege. There are millions of people that would love to have my life right now - how dare me complain?!
But, even so, I'm stumped. And stagnant. And scared. And restless. I wish I was the moon tonight.
This is usually the kind of diatribe I save for my personal, paper diary. Why am I sharing it so publicly? I'm so tempted not to. I guess because I'm hoping for some meaningful advice. But looking for wisdom via the Internet is, me thinks, really dumb. The people who feel fabulous at 50, that share it online, are happy that their kids are grown (no kids) and they can now start pursuing life - otherwise known as the things I've been pursuing since long before I approached 50.
Like it or not, I'm about to be 50. I just wish it didn't feel all downhill from here.
Okay, on that downer note: if you'd like to honor the birth of me, please
- register to vote, and if you are registered, make sure you are registered to vote
- put primary voting days and election day on your calendar
- make a donation to your LOCAL nonprofit animal shelter/local humane society, and/or
- donate to Nowzad Afghanistan, rescuing stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan, and getting them spayed and neutered, and/or
- donate to Mayhew International, which not only rescues stray and abanded animals and gets them spayed and neutered, but also trains vet techs locally and helps teach compassion and responsible pet ownership all over the world, including in Afghanistan, Romania and Russia - three places that really need it.