Back when I turned 40 - way back, before Larry and I were even done having kids, back when I thought 40 was the end of life as we know it - I cheered myself up with the thought that, hey, I had 10 years to save up money and plan for a really neat bicycle trip with my friends the year we would all turn 50. A woman's bicycle trip, that is, complete with nice hotels at night, chocolates on the pillow, etc. None of that camping in tents and showering in cold water nonsense that the menfolk think is fun - oh no, I was going to turn 50 in style.
Well, the next 10 years went by in a blur - another baby (at age 42), adorable children turning into grumpy teens, a delightful (not!) journey through the ups and downs of menopause - until I was washed up, as it were, panting and exhausted on the beach of 50 wondering how the heck I got there, and relieved that I would never have to relive my 40's. Because, even as discombobulated as I was at that point, I knew that 50 meant freedom - the freedom to be myself again, after almost 4 decades of having my life ruled by cyclical hormonal changes that all too often resulted in an emotional roller coaster ride.
Christiane Northrup has theorized that it is not life after menopause that creates personality changes in women; rather, the years between the first onset of menses and menopause represent the aberration from our true selves. So now here I was, lying on the (relatively) hormone-free post-menopausal beach, getting re-acquainted with myself. At first it felt weird, not having my life ruled by the great goddess Estrogen. I felt so...stable. Unemotional. I couldn't manage to take ANYTHING personally. True, I seemed to have lost my waistline somewhere along the way; otherwise, though, things felt pretty cool. Best of all, I realized I finally had time to exercise and feel better, physically speaking, than I had in years.
|I had to shake the dust off these|
Truth to tell, my 40's had left me in sort of bad shape. I staggered up to 50, as it were, with painful sciatica and minimal aerobic capacity. I wasn't at all ready for that bicycling trip I had planned 10 years before. All those years of caring for others had resulted in my neglecting myself, and my own body was telling me that that had to change.
I realized that, if I couldn't stand up from the couch without groaning in pain, I wasn't going to have much fun after 50. And what's the point of reaching the magical land of post-menopause if you aren't ready for some fun? So, for me, this year of being 50 has been a year of learning to exercise again, a year of learning to prioritize my physical fitness above the house, the kids, everything. It's meant a lot of pizza dinners for the family because I had a yoga class. It's meant some weekends focused just on me, as I prepared with a friend to tackle a bike-a-thon or two (that is, once I relearned riding a bike). It has meant retraining my brain to think "Me first" - just like they advise you to do with those oxygen masks on airplanes.
|My new best friend|
Exercise videos that alleviate back pain by strengthening my core muscles, a faithful friend who believes I can ride a bicycle 56 miles, a spouse who supports my taking the time to make doctor and physical therapy appointments, a wonderful local yoga center that welcomed me back after my 4-year absence - all these factors together created for me an open door to a healthier life. I am so grateful to all of them, and I am proud of myself for taking advantage of these opportunities. I still can't find my waistline, but I don't even care (much) - I am growing more flexible and stronger by the day, which means that I will be able to take advantage of any fun opportunities that come my way in this new stage of my life.
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