Sunday, December 29, 2013

When We Were Fifty

I suppose you could say this post was a year in the making. I started studying the subject of turning 50 in January, when Scarlet hit her milestone. I continued throughout the year as my other friends, classmates and acquaintances celebrated theirs. 

My 50th birthday was a far cry from my 40th. I started celebrating over the summer.  My first gift was a trip to Florida to visit Kitty. It seems I haven't stopped since. I received many fabulous gifts; concert tickets, bottles of liquor (even a collectible one), and an iPad.  Oh, and I can't forget my calendar of witty quotes--something I look forward to every year!! I had the most wonderful little party at home on the day of my birthday, with my little family and a couple of close friends. I drank champagne and ate pizza!  Right up my alley!  And as I mentioned with the work party on Main Street, for the first time in a long time, drama did not get in the way of my celebration. That meant more to me than anything. No drama!! It truly was a fun and exciting birthday that I celebrated half the year!

I'm wearing cute dresses and make up again. I get my nails and hair done regularly. I feel good about myself. I did not reach my goal for weight loss. My weight is too high, and I and not in good physical condition. And while I have somehow managed to stay healthy, I can tell a difference in my strength and endurance. My lazy lifestyle and my weight are definitely catching up with me. Luckily, it's not too late to make a change. 

My children are 16 and 14 years old now. They are happy, good kids. Very well-adjusted and beautiful. My son just got his driving permit.  My daughter has channeled her intensity into music, volleyball, and other positive things.  Matters of the heart are still a source of trouble for me, but I feel I have made big progress in this area in the last 2 1/2 years since I began counseling with Kate. Anxiety, depression, and codependence are still issues that must be dealt with. But again, major progress has been made since I got on the proper medication and started counseling. 

I'm happy with who I am right now. I like myself. I'm proud of my accomplishments and I'm blessed to have many wonderful friends. I still love music. I still love traveling, and spending time with my family and friends.

The world has changed a lot in 50 years. Not only is Michael Jackson no longer making hits--he is dead. So is Whitney Houston. Michael Jordan is retired. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp seem to be thriving.  So much like the real world, and the other people born in 1963. Some are doing well, some are not.  

I went to a small high school. There were only about 80 of us in our graduating class. Thanks to social networking, I keep up with many of them. Roughly half of our graduating class is on Facebook. Out of those 40, about 20 people post things regularly. The rest rarely post anything. That means I know what's going on with about one fourth of the people who graduated high school with me, and turned 50 this year.   Out of those 20 people, one suffered a stroke this year. Luckily, he recognized the warning signs early, and got care almost immediately. With speech therapy and physical therapy he is progressing well. One has had serious heart problems, but is currently doing alright.  Four classmates found out they had cancer this year. Three of them are now cancer free, one is just starting his chemotherapy. I have another friend who recently went for a checkup and was told by her doctor that due to her weight, she now has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and is pre-diabetic. Even though she was devastated at this news, she is one of the very lucky ones. She is able to attack these conditions, which are all treatable, before she had a heart attack, stroke, or complications from diabetes. If I were to factor in people from the two classes before and after me, there would be many more who have recently had some pretty serious health problems. A very close family friend of ours died in his sleep a few weeks ago. He was 44 years old. He was at least 100 pounds overweight, and a big drinker. As the doctor once told my husband, a little high blood pressure mixed with a lot of alcohol is a lethal cocktail. It is possible our friend had a heart attack or stroke. It is also possible he died from sleep apnea.

I have a specific reason for talking about all this gloom and doom. Throughout the year, as I interviewed my friends, there was one thing I heard over and over. "50 is just a number". After a year of observation, I disagree. I believe 50 is the day of reckoning. If you have eaten right, exercised, and taken good care of yourself, yes – 50 may be just a number. But for those of us who are 20, 40, 60, or more pounds overweight, and get little or no exercise, who eat and drink too much, this is when our lifestyles are catching up with us.  Many of us have said for years "One day I will start exercising and eating better. One day I will take better care of myself".  I believe 50 is the day we may be forced to do that, or suffer the consequences.

Some health factors have nothing to do with weight or an unhealthy lifestyle. Some have suffered cancer and stroke through genetics, or other medical reasons. To that, I say 50 is the year we must stop ignoring our bodies. It is the year we must pay attention to anything out of the ordinary, and be on the lookout for warning signs. We must get regular checkups and preventative healthcare. It's no longer an option.  Ignoring health-care can now mean the difference between life and death. Undetected and untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and sleep apnea can kill us in an instant.

So after a year of observation, I have come up with this… When we are 10, 20, 30, and maybe even 40 years old, time and youth are on our side. Our body might overlook a little abuse. But 50 is definitely NOT just a number. 50 is the day of reckoning. It's the day our bodies become not so forgiving.

So much for that. Now…on to 60!

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