Last weekend was birthday weekend, and as all things related to birthdays go, it was preceded by a couple of weeks of such acute glumness that chin had reacquainted itself with my toes and tissue manufacturers were sending me most preferred customer badges. Seriously though, at the fag end of the forties and realizing the fifth decade of one’s life is done and dealt with is terribly sobering a thought.
I’d been here before. At the hump of the thirties going into the forties had been a terrifying week of realising I would now be officially middle aged and I had absolutely nothing to show for myself, except one squalling offspring, who was, of course, the light of my life, the grey in my hair, the tenor in my yell, etc as I would write much later. In terms of what I had done with my life, and the talents the good Lord had gifted me, I had absolutely nothing much to show at that point. And that was the terrifying thing, had I really lived, had I left any sort of legacy behind. If I were to keel over and die the very next day, I would be erased from the planet just like that. Or deleted, as they now say in the age of living one’s life online.
I needn’t have worried, as it turned out. The forties were perhaps the best decade I’ve had so far. The fifties, I should think, going by past precedence, should only get better, right? But self-doubt doesn’t work that way. For one, menopause is no longer that looming bogeyman on the horizon, it was right here, right now, and can one use hot flashes to generate electricity, you think?
We are speaking up and speaking louder about aging, brands are bringing in older, real models for their beauty products, fashion bloggers and Instagrammers are boldly reclaiming visual and cultural currency, and, hell, Madonna is topping the Billboard charts at 60 setting goals for every woman out there. But these women remain a minuscule niche in a society that is unsparing about those who have their ovaries shutting shop. The cultural trajectory continues to remain in place. While there is the conflict, the relief at the freedom from being the subject of the male gaze, there is paradoxically also the consternation of the realization that one is no longer considered present even when one is present.
I needn’t have worried, as it turned out. The forties were perhaps the best decade I’ve had so far. The fifties, I should think, going by past precedence, should only get better, right?
Getting older is not easy. Getting older is also easier now than it has ever been.
Here then, is a manifesto I have drafted for myself in the wake of the fifties looming large. I hope it will see me through the next few decades.
1] Don’t resist the changes that you see in yourself, in your life. Go with the flow. What you resist, persists.
2] Don’t resent aging, you have lived your years and earned those wrinkles. They are what make you who you are. And yes, make sure you slather on that sunscreen and that retinoid. (after consulting a dermat, of course!)
3] Push yourself out of your comfort zone, because if not now, then when. If not you, then who.
4] Allow yourself to grieve for what you have lost on the path. Youth. Beauty. Agility. Flexibility. Health. Friends. Family. Careers. Accept it. Move on.
5] Relish the finiteness of the years ahead. The finiteness hits you when a friend from school or college passes away. The scythe seems to be a whisper away from your own neck. It gives you a fresh perspective on why you need to stop sweating the small things.
6] Celebrate moments. It isn’t always about the big, overwhelming event. It is the little, heart fluttering moments that will all add up in the end to how happy or fulfilled your life was.
7] Live your own truth and own it. You don’t owe anyone any reasons or explanations.
Don’t resent aging, you have lived your years and earned those wrinkles. They are what make you who you are. And yes, make sure you slather on that sunscreen.
8] Call out crap when it looks you in the face. You should be done with letting things pass by now. Distance yourself from toxicity and toxic people. Ditch the drama. Do it with grace and dignity. It isn’t worth the bandwidth you will expend on them.
9] Look after your body. The body starts showing its wear and tear now, and you need to make sure all its parts are in as best a working condition as you can maintain them. Get serious about skin care now, if you haven’t already.
10] Stick with your tribe. You will need your tribe as the kids grow up and move on into their own busy lives.
11] You no longer have to fill every space in your life. Enjoy the spaces that are empty. In their emptiness is where you will find what you truly want to fill them with. Or decide whether you want to fill them at all.
12] Be a champion. Champion causes, people, anything you believe needs championing.
13] Start something new. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. A hobby. A class. A career. A business. It will give you renewed purpose and determination.
14] This is the age when the kids grow up and get sucked up in the whirl of college and friends and their independent lives. See it as a release to let you learn to reconnect with yourself.
15] Stop being a good girl. You are allowed to be as bad as you wish. And what others think of you is none of your business, as a wiser person than me said.
16] Get back to that education you always regretted not completed. If physical distances and travelling is a problem, online courses are a lifesaver. Get that degree, that certificate, that Ph.D.
17] Pick up the talents you had given up on. Remember Grandma Moses began painting in her 80s. Write that book you always had in you. I wrote my first one at 40. Train in a talent you put aside to take on the mantles of wife, mother, career woman. Rediscover your creative soul now and nurture it.
18] Give yourself permission to say no. Without apology. Without excuses. Looking the person straight in the eye.
19] Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made. You were a different person. You’ve learnt since and moved on.
20] Stop being overly bothered about your appearance. You will realise now, if you haven’t already, that there is much more to you that what you look like. And that no one really cares.
21] It is okay to not have an opinion on everything. It is okay to not be on top of the news cycle and the trends. It is okay to just absorb information and not volunteer any unasked.
You no longer have to fill every space in your life. Enjoy the spaces that are empty. In their emptiness is where you will find what you truly want to fill them with.
22] Slowing down can be releasing, not just relaxing. Appreciate what life makes you realise the importance of when you slow down.
23] Do more things on the spur of the moment. There’s still a lot to be said about the sheer joy of spontaneity.
24] If you haven’t a bucket list already, write one down. Start ticking off things on it as quick as you can. Learn a new language. Go bungee jumping. Buy something extravagant for yourself. Whatever is important for you.
25] Become selfish. Put yourself first. Put what pleases you first. We spend enough of our lives putting everyone except ourselves first.
26] Give up grudges if they’re trifling. If they’re momentous, hold onto them for dear life and let no rapprochement be prised out from your dead fingers. Build bridges with your past. Reach out. Forgive.
27] Write yourself a fresh new resume. You will realise that so much of what you thought was momentous at the time means nothing in retrospect. See what you want added to it and work towards it.
28] Travel to those places you’ve always wanted to. Even those you never wanted to.
29] Start giving back. Whether through donations, or volunteering or activism. Do your bit for the world and the people on it.
30] And finally, be the grace your life needs to go through the coming years. You are all you will ever need.
Picture Credit: Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash
Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.