Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.

 

 

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The Thing About Middle Age…

For some reason, middle age has been nagging at me.  I have no idea why.  I am certainly not middle-aged.  That’s what I thought anyway.  And then a couple years ago, my husband said something to me about being middle-aged, and I was highly insulted.  Because I had already embarked on my forties, my husband asked me the logical question:  Just how long do you expect to live?  Hmmm….He had a point.  I just don’t feel like I am in mid-life yet.  I am healthier and in better shape than I have ever been.  I still like to stay active.   I guess I always pictured middle age according to the previous generation’s version of middle age.

When my mother was in her forties and fifties, she just didn’t seem to have much fun.  She spent her days cleaning (every single centimeter of our house – not a dustball in sight), and (despite hating it) feeding her family. She was fortunate that she did not have to work outside the home, but I also think that for her, that wasn’t necessarily best for her.  She might have been happier had she gotten out amongst people.  She didn’t do a lot with my sister, brother, or me.  She rarely attended my sporting events or band contests.  I love my mother, but, Lord, she was boring.  I don’t want to be boring.  I will try just about anything – except rides that spin.  That would make me puke.

Now my  <older> friends are beginning to turn 50…50?  When I was in my twenties, I thought 50 was old.  Now I look around at those embracing mid-life, and I am so impressed.  Our generation is in the gym, both taking advantage of classes, and leading groups and teaching classes.  We’re out running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons.  We’re biking an incredible number of miles, swimming, and dancing.  Most of my friends are also in the best shape of their lives.  My friend Debbie just turned 50.  Over the past year I have observed as she has worked her tail off to get in shape and lose weight.  She looks absolutely incredible.  She has always been beautiful, but now she has confidence, and radiates grace and contentment.  She not only rocks the classes at the gym, but she is also a runner!   What an inspiration.

My friend Jackie will turn 50 in January.  She has been one of my running partners and best friends for years.  She, too, is in amazing shape, and one would never suspect her being near 50.   She is a strong runner, who usually drags her sister and me along, and we are both younger.  She is setting such a great example for her sons by showing them that she is worth the time she takes to be healthy.  Our kids might not buy into this yet, but someday they most certainly will.

I have also seen a few people who are around my age who seem to be caught in their parents’ mindset.  They move slowly, avoid much activity, and just seem older than their years.  I suppose that is the life they choose, and it’s their business, but it makes me sad.  We only have one shot at this life; I don’t want to waste it being unhappy or boring.  In all I do, I try to live without regrets.  When I am at the end of my days, I want to bask in the memories of all I did, not regret all I didn’t do becauses I thought I was too old.

As for me, if someone had told me even five years ago that I would be able to run over 13 miles, I would have cackled.  And teach fitness classes?  Heck, no.  I didn’t even like to exercise.  Don’t get me wrong; I was never lazy.  I ran a business with my good friend while raising three daughters, and then returned to college full-time, while still working.  During my thirties I earned a bachelor’s degree, changed careers, and got remarried.  In my early forties I earned my master’s degree (and stayed married).  Exercise never fit into that schedule.  I did well to shower daily and make sure the kids were fed.  Take time for myself?  There was none to spare.  I couldn’t even pee without a little girl’s voice screeching, “MOM!”

Then the girls got old enough to stay by themselves, and I began to take some time for myself.  What began as wanting to get some exercise and lose a little weight, became a whole new life.  As I was driving to the gym last night, I thought about how much time I would have if I didn’t exercise.  Seriously.  We do some type of workout five to six nights a week.  Last night we were at the gym from 6:00 until 9:00.  And I loved every second of it.  I was with my husband and daughter; I was with my friends; and I was working my butt off.  I am sore today, but as I tell my friends, it’s a good sore.  I don’t want to imagine my life without exercise.  It is a part of the middle-aged me, and I rather like that part.

Middle age?  It’s what you make of it.  As far as I am concerned, these are the best years of my life.  I love the relationships I have with the girls; I love being a nana; I love my marriage to a pretty terrific man, and I love the person I have become.  I am comfortable enough in my skin that when someone speaks badly of me (imagine that!), I can let it go (okay, sometimes I dwell on it, but I eventually let it go), and I know what I stand for and whom I want to spend my time with.  I know now that the trials in my life have made me a stronger person, as well as given me more compassion toward those going through their own trials.  I am not afraid to take risks, knowing that sometimes I will fail.  I know it’s okay to fail.  Am I perfect?  No way.  Far from it.  I make mistakes (almost daily), and I make bad decisions.  I am – and always will be – a work in progress.  If we stop growing, we stop living.  Why would I want to do that?

Of course, middle age brings some friends:  gray hair (that’s what hair color is for), wrinkles (earned every one of them), saggy skin (no amount of exercise can make my skin look good during a plank.  When in a plank position, don’t EVER look at your legs or belly.), aches (Ibuprofen in bulk), hot flashes (avoided those thus far), and out-of-control eyebrows (no one bothered to warm me about those).  It’s part of the process, so there is no sense getting my panties in a wad over them.  The only alternative to aging is dying, and I surely am not ready to check out just yet.  I have more races to run….more Zumba to teach….more friends  to make….more kids to teach………more life to live!  Now get out their and live yours!  What have you always wanted to do?  Do it!  Live with no regrets.