Tag Archives: fiftieth birthday

The Key

In less than two weeks, I’ll cross the threshold from 49 to 50. This year, and this blog, have flown by. I haven’t written much of late because I’ve been fervently and joyfully working night and day on the things I intended to do to make myself ready for this new decade!

To approach my fiftieth birthday with intention and attention has been a great gift to myself. I’ve shed both the limiting habit of self-doubt, and fifteen unwanted pounds. It’s been no secret to anyone but me that I’m exceptionally smart, but for the first time *I* am fully confident that my tremendous intellect, imperfect creativity and bold curiosity have an important place in this world.

In reflection, a few things have been key to this “training up” for turning toward my decade of power.

One has been recognizing the things that drive me, and putting them to work on my own behalf. I have always been someone who carefully calculates, then takes, profitable risks. Once I recognized this, I intentionally cultivated that risk-taking into entrepreneurial savvy, creating both a successful small business and a growing social history project, right in the middle of this economic recession.

Another  key has been learning to treat my self – especially my embodied self — with kindness. This has led to greater patience with pain, and more energy. It’s also had the unusual side-effect of putting my most serious illness, a fatal tendency to take myself too seriously, into remission.

But the key that matters most isn’t metaphorical; it’s a literal key. It’s the door key to a place called The Writer’s Mill, a co-working space for serious writers. It’s a place full of people who are, in the words of Mary Heaton Vorse, “applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” every day to write  articles, and blogs, stories and books. It’s a place for people who say without mumbling “writer” when asked who they are in the world. It’s the place I’ve been too afraid to say that I belong. Until now.

I plan to unlock my fiftieth year with the key to that front door.

The Birthday Question

Thursday was my 49th birthday: my  initiation for turning Intentionally Fifty has formally begun! I have spent much of the last week reflecting on how I want to spend this year. In particular, I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish before I turn fifty, what experiences and accomplishments I want to have under my belt before I finish my forties.

But first, I need to party. One can’t properly celebrate a birthday in the middle of a busy work week, so I plan to spend this weekend celebrating. Won’t you please celebrate with me?

A Birthday Tradition: A circle of dear women in Ohio taught me celebrate with this special birthday tradition, one that I invite you to share:

  • We make a semi-circle, in birth order. Those younger than the celebrant tell the group one thing they look forward to about achieving the age of the celebrant.  Those older than the celebrant tell the one thing they remember most about being the age of the celebrant. Then, the birthday celebrant answers The Birthday Question: What is the most significant thing you have learned during the last year of your life?

So, Dear Reader, please join the circle and tell me:

  • To what do you aspire  before you turn fifty?
  • What do you remember most about your forty-ninth year?

I promise to answer The Birthday Question in return!

The gift of a year

My friend Lisa’s husband started it.

For her fiftieth birthday, he gave her the gift of year. A year without the need to do paid work, or take on new family projects; a year in which to explore who she would like to become in the world for this next part of her life. Lisa’s family isn’t rich, so this offer was a gift made of sacrifice, one she accepted gratefully and took seriously.  I learned a lot about how to turn intentionally fifty as I watched as Lisa deliberately, confusedly, impatiently and enthusiastically trying on new identities like clothing and jewels.

Lisa has a great sense of adventure in the area of vocation: she’s a dancer, educator and artist by training, and once she told me that she learned to juggle when she was a cook for a clown camp. So I watched with fascination as she discarded some old work identities that she had outgrown, and handed down to others social roles that no longer fit her but still had lots of life in them.  She redefined the role of home and the meaning of work in her world.

Starting from scratch, she became a yoga teacher; then she started her own business, helping folks who are Not The Usual Suspects to gain strength and wellness through yoga. She refreshed an old love to become a masterful landscape gardener, and she brings home the bacon – OK, brings home the tomatoes – as a grower of food. She’s moved her time and attention from mothering a young adult daughter to daughter-ing an aging father from afar.  And all the while, she has let her sassy red hair grow out curly, silver and long.

Witnessing Lisa’s transformation makes me ask myself: What would I do with the gift of a year to decide how I want to spend the next passage of my life?

What would you do?

And what if we already have that year, starting now?

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