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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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just relax. take it all in. and live life unti...

Image by Casey David via Flick

“just relax. take it all in. and live life until you burst at the seams.”  Casey Taylor

Life’s perspective changes on a bicycle, especially after age 50 as I rediscover the joys of pedaling. It used to be my transportation as a kid, a way to  see girlfriends who lived near by, or to the dreaded piano lessons (after a quick stop at the grocery to snatch the Tastykake 3 pack of chocolate cupcakes.  They were my favorite and eased the pain of an hour of scales at Mrs. Heston’s house).  I also rode my bike to the community pool down the street to see if the cute boy I adored was there that day.

A typical Mobil gas station. This one is locat...

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But all that seemed to stop when I got my license because then I could drive to all those places (except the pool, now the cute boy I adored worked at the gas station a couple miles away).

These days I experience freedom on my bike and I feel youthful and vibrant. The rides are no longer destination oriented, they’re experiential and offer a slice of life in the slower lane.  There’s plenty to see by moving more slowly; just like the freedom of the road offered by RV travel (which we also do) pedaling along greenways and through parks is like entering a world on the other side of a key hole.  Just step through the door, out of the to-do list mode and into the to-be-here mode instead.

There are wildflowers growing, creatures scurrying and children playing, each to their individual rhythms.

It’s a world that exists whether I ride by or not. And that’s what’s so magical about discovering it by bike.  Pedaling through the keyhole and landing here makes me realize there are hosts of other worlds just waiting to be explored. They’re invisible to cars and to planes.  But when life slows down they pop into view.

I started riding a bike, regularly, a little more than a year ago when I borrowed my sister-in-law’s up in Boston last summer.  It’s the perfect town; all thruways accommodate cyclists.  There are bike lanes on all the roads and a pathway that stretches along the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides. Because the area is flat just about everywhere, it’s a rider’s paradise.  Taking my bike out was as easy as going out the back door and down the Mass Ave bridge ramp onto the esplanade.  I was hooked.

A summer day on the Charles River Esplanade, B...

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In Tennessee I hook the bike to the back of my car and then take off to a number of greenways nearby.  And those I discovered because I had to find places to ride, away from the roads and steep hills in my neighborhood.  It offers a wonderful form of exercise and opportunities to be with friends.  Knoxville looks like a completely different city from the seat of a bicycle.

But the best part of all?

All of it.  Riding my bike makes me happy.  Seeing people and creatures live life reminds me what living is all about.  That we all have a finite number of years in this human form, and  one shot at it.  I don’t want to “wish I had.”  I want to do.

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Contribution to society always meant paycheck to me.  I fell into a profession that had the power to influence people:  their activities and their impressions.  And that always felt like my noble calling.  The shows I created and produced touched people’s lives, not always in a good way (I’m not proud to admit), but usually so.  We had the privilege of being public advocates for current affairs, offering up ideas for consideration and inspiration, creating community activities and entertaining people in their spare time.  I loved playing to a mass audience; it felt like an important public service and provided me years of meaningful work and an increasingly healthy livelihood.

Then I stopped working.  No more public platform to exercise my creative juices and throw hours and hours into devising concepts.  Every morning offered a blank canvas with a glaringly empty “to-do” list.  Nobody relied on me, no deadlines existed, no emergencies reared their heads, no more constantly ringing phone…  Now what?

Now… began to mean living each day its own way and reflecting on the kinds of things that offered me meaning, joy, independence, and stimulation.  So far, today is a life that includes playing with my pets, some travel, reading, yoga, meditation, exercise, yard work, cooking, friends, writing and volunteering.

Volunteering?  I never offered my services for free during my “job” years.  First, where would the time come from?  The few hours of weekend I had to myself were devoted to errands and stuff like laundry and bill paying.  Volunteering was what homemakers did.  (Sorry if that offends anyone, no offense intended – just some truth telling.)  It didn’t feel big to me or influential or important.  And then I saw some listings in the local paper that started to resonate.

Tennessee’s largest horse rescue was holding an open house, a chance to visit their rehabilitated horses now available for adoption.  I’ve always loved horses, use to ride them and have even yearned for my own.  When I went for a visit I was overwhelmed with admiration for the volunteers’ selfless devotion to helping such magnificent creatures.  I’d only experienced healthy, loved horses that were well taken care of.  I had no idea that people starved their animals or left them to die on mountains.  So now I’m among those who nurse these horses back to health.  It’s hard to articulate how these animals make me feel and how their recoveries, both physically and emotionally, offer such satisfaction and meaning.  They need us.  For them, it’s a question of life or death.  What’s more important than that?  And the fact that this organization can’t subsist without our unpaid help makes my contribution all that more necessary.  It’s a feeling I never had when I got my paychecks.

Passion for me has always included animals.  I find their vulnerability encourages the same from me.  There are no facades when communicating with animals, only genuine interaction that teases my heart wide open.  Authentic relationships are the only kinds that matter to me.  Anything else is a waste of time and energy in this short life span we’re offered.

It’s that kind of genuine relationship that also attracted me to hospice work.  If there’s ever a time when a human being needs an attentive presence, it’s during one’s countdown to the end of life.  And so I’m also, now, a hospice companion volunteer.  My patients meet me when they’ve chosen to stop medical intervention for their diseases and, instead, to face death with palliative care.  Hospice is a gift to the human species; their nurses and aides are among the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.  I consider them heroes.  My role is as the patient’s friend, an empathetic ear with no familial baggage or preconceived assumptions.  We talk … we cry… we tell stories…  I listen.

With an elderly woman whose passion for reading was pre-empted by deteriorating eyes, I read aloud.  With an intellectually disabled man, my age – we assembled children’s puzzles, I read him picture books and offered encouragement for the days when he’d “be better;” he didn’t understand the extent of his disease.  With a senior gentleman who would not live to mentor his young grandson into manhood, I listened to his sorrow that went unexpressed with his family.  Does that sound like time meaningfully spent?  I find it incredibly humbling and an un-paralleled learning experience.

Volunteering is a mundane phrase for a mammoth job.  It’s influential, inspiring, meaningful and vital.  And the fact that I don’t get paid makes it that much richer.

What offers meaning to your life?  And how have impressions about satisfying that charge changed over the years?  I’d love to hear about it.

And if Tennessee’s horse rescue intrigues you, please visit their website at horsehaventn.org.    And you can see their video story on You Tube athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-DLMKETHFY

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