Tag Archives: Midlife

From 40 to 50 at the Speed of Life: Ten Midlife Lessons I learned the Hard Way

Listen long enough to any group of women who have celebrated their milestone 40th birthday and among all the commiseration over dull complexion, new wrinkles, gray hair, thickening waists, fatigue, insomnia and just plain feeling like our bodies have betrayed us, you will hear the big four-O question, “What have you learned that’s made your life better after forty?”

The question speaks to our expectation of a payback for aging. We’re looking for the promised, porverbial wisdom, the quality of grace under pressure, the unshakeable confidence that makes losing our youth and finding our way worth it all.

For me, the decade between 40 and 50 felt like being adrift at sea without a boat. Sometimes the water was calm but very often waves pummeled me, rolling me beneath the surface to murky depths where I struggled to find which way was up, which way would bring me back to light and air.

My marriage had been foundering for a while, but it was just after turning forty that I separated from my husband of 23 years. One month after being on my own, I was fired from my job. Homeless and unemployed I wound up living in the upstairs bedroom of my parent’s home for six months.

Not long after finding a menial job and an apartment I could afford, my oldest daughter suffered congestive heart failure as a complication of childbirth. She was air-lifted to the nearest cardiac intensive care facility where she laid in a coma for three days. She recovered but my marriage flat-lined; the divorce was final six months later.

About mid-decade, I lost my mother-in-law, my own mother and then my father, all in one year’s time. Though none of them had been sick or frail, their ages ranged from 79 to 87. I knew they couldn’t live forever and I thought I was emotionally prepared for their deaths. I was not. Part of me will never fully recover.

As hard as those loss were, it was nothing compared to losing my 27-year-old stepson in a car accident; yes, I answered that 2 a.m. call—the one every parent dreads. It was repeated six months later when my 31-year-old son-in-law (to be) hit a deer and rolled his car. After the second time, you realize there are no reprieves for previous losses; the number of children you still have living is the same number of chances you have to answer that call again. That fact continues to take its toll. I swear I lose a year of my life every time my phone rings after a certain hour.

Then cancer came calling. Leukemia took a brother-in-law the year he was to begin enjoying retirement. A brain tumor (stage 4 glioblastoma) claimed another son-in-law who was only 37-years-old, leaving his wive bankrupted by medical expenses.

Two months before my 50th birthday, my second husband was diagnosed with inoperable acute coronary artherosclerrosis and congestive heart failure. He was given five years to live. I began preparing (in practical ways, not emotionally, never emotionally) for his death. Twice I followed the ambulance that was carrying him to the same cardiac intensive care unit where my daughter had recovered and my mother had died, never knowing which fate would be his his.

Fortune has smiled on my husband. At precisely five years from his diagnosis, cardiac bypass surgery became less of a risk to his survival than doing nothing—without it he’d die in months, with it, he had at least a chance of recovery. I am happy to say he has passed the expiration date first given by his doctors and together we are relishing every moment of this second chance for a second half of life.

Here are 10 things I’ve learned after 40:

  1. Never miss an opportunity to tell family and friends they are loved and appreciated because you never know when they might be taken from this life.
  2. Lust just happens, but love takes work. Love isn’t just something you feel, it’s what you do. It takes commitment, sometimes sacrifice and sometimes compromise, but it’s always an active choice.
  3. I am not responsible to provide anybody’s happiness but my own. It follows, that nobody else is responsible for mine, either. Happiness comes from within.
  4. My worth is not defined by the success of my parents, spouse, children and/or friends. It is not determined by what I do for a living. My worth is defined by remaining true to my values and goals.
  5. Nobody places any higher value on me than I first place on myself.
  6. People who judge me unfairly say more about themselves than they do about me.
  7. Whenever I have difficulty expressing kindness, compassion or understanding to others, its always my own ego getting in the way.
  8. I am the only person I can improve. To be honest, I’m lucky if I can make the changes I want for myself—let alone trying to change others. Who has the time?
  9. Every family is dysfunctional at some level. Learn to live with it and tolerate it in doses, because your family loves you. They miss you when you remove yourself from the portrait.
  10. Age is inevitable (there’s only one way to stop it), but your attitude about aging will determine how you feel every day. Think young, act youthful, make friends in all age groups, stay current on social topics and trends, and most of all, embrace the world with an loving heart.

All Work and No Play Is Just Too Exhausting

Yesterday I attended what is popularly known as a Psychic Fair. There were a lot of psychics there. Also several, very talented artisans offering hand crafted jewelry, clothing and accessories. I chatted with vendors over crystals and gemstones, herbals and essential oils, organic honey and beeswax, and singing bowls.

Today marks the midpoint of National Novel Writers Month, or NaNoWriMo. Before midnight, I should have 25,000 words of 50k for the first draft of my novel completed if I’m going to stay on par. I’m a bit behind, and I have two deadlines coming up on freelance pieces; the freelance work takes priority because it brings in the checks. More so, I’ve made a commitment to the editors. I have never left an editor hanging, and I never will – short of my own flat-line being the cause.

It didn’t make sense to take the day off to meet up with a bunch of girlfriends, talk off things metaphysical, sit in on some interesting mini-seminars and shop.

Or did it?

The day before, I struggled with the chapter I was working on, though struggle doesn’t seem to convey the experience. It was more liked I’d spent the day wrestling with a much younger, much stronger opponent, fighting for the pin. I was exhausted, I ached, my eyes burned and my brain hurt, but I wasn’t going to shut my computer off until I’d finished the chapter and at least gotten close to the word count for the day.

I went to sleep, trying to work out plot turns in my head. I didn’t sleep very well. I didn’t resolve any of my novels scenes either, so that was a waste. I remember thinking I needed a good neck and shoulder massage.

Well, what do you know? At the psychic fair a local mind and body wellness center was offering chair massages at a bargain. I signed up for fifteen minutes. The second the practitioner laid hands on my shoulder blades, I felt the heat penetrating through the light vest and shirt I was wearing. I thought maybe he’d warmed them first, but the heat lasted through the entire massage and it wasn’t just a surface warmth; I could feel it, like a pleasant electric charge, going deep into my muscles. It was the best massage I’ve ever had and maybe the most needed. I felt lightened, unburdened, when I walked away.

Usually I buy handfuls of crystals and gemstone when I go to these fairs. Sometimes I buy jewelry. I bought my singing bowl at a similar fair five years ago. I have never purchased clothing, and if I did, I’d expect it would be some  renaissance wear like a cape or puffy blouse.

This time, I bought a pair of socks. I paid more than three times for this single pair of socks than I have paid for any socks ever to warm my feet. And that was the point. Two days earlier, I’d told my husband I had to find a pair of soft, thick wool socks to wear with my slipper clogs to keep my feet warm in the studio (the floor is always so cold).

It occurs to me now, that the two things I asked the universe for were put before me yesterday. Say what you will about psychic fairs, metaphysical mysteries and the unknown workings of the universe. I’m sitting here today with relaxed shoulders and warm feet.

I also have a rested body and brain, ready to bring my word count up to par and reach the halfway point of a completed novel (first draft) written in one month. So while wasting the day when I should have been writing maybe didn’t seem like such a good plan, it was what I needed after all.

All work and no play is just too exhausting these days.

. mid Get a  ^  life!

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Everything I Ever Wanted, Just For Today

Don’t you just love the feeling when you accomplish a chore that has been nagging at you to be done? I cleaned my studio (a big chore) and even rearranged the work spaces in deference to the wall mounted space heater we recently had installed so I can use the little workshop year round for writing and art. The huge oak writer’s desk that I’d dreamed of for twenty years, but never had a space for until I acquired my studio a few years ago, was blocking the air flow.

The day started with the studio in a mess, scattered with art supplies not stowed away in the cupboards, cubbies and other spaces I’d so carefully thought out when first equipping my little space. My plan was to swap positions of the mammoth desk and the art table, then turn the art table so that it fit up against the wall, rather than arranging it perpendicular the way the writing desk had been, cutting the room in half.

No point in putting the art supplies away when I would just be moving them to the opposite side of the studio once all the shifting around was done.

Yes, that means I moved everything in the studio from one place to another, in the midst of mounds of clutter. The room went quickly from a small mess to looking like a tornado when through it, as my mother used to say.

Eventually everything was in its place and all was right in my little world. As if to validate the sentiment, the sun chose that late hour of the day to finally shine through the cloud cover, angling in through the studio window to catch one of the many faceted prism hanging about. The room danced with rainbows.

Life plays out in much the same way. We keep accumulating psychic stuff, carrying it around with us, pushing it out of the way, stuffing it here or there until we can’t ignore the nagging mess any longer. That’s usually when we dig in, trying to get to the bottom of things, or to shake things loose, let them fall where they may and then begin picking up the pieces. We toss out what is no longer useful and then rearrange what we keep to better suit our needs. When we can finally, make some kind of order out of it all we feel better.

For a little while, at least. There is no such thing as getting all your ducks in a row and keeping them that way once and for all, and definitely not for happily ever after. There is just today and getting it right just for today can be a pretty big accomplishment.

So for today, my studio is clean, rearranged, efficient and full of rainbows. Just for today, it’s waiting for me to write the next great American novel. And for today, that’s enough.


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