In T minus 11 days I turn 50. Until two weeks ago I had relished the idea, excited to enter a new “club,” to be distinguished in a way that the 50s appear to offer to those of us in younger decades. Throughout my 49th year, I’ve told people that I was entering my crone years, becoming a wise woman who has been there, done that, and will now be in a position to guide others. With 50, I saw a new vision for my coaching practice, bravely donning the cape of life coaching, adopting what I think is a horrible title as a work practice and carving it into my own version of something noble and beautiful and necessary in the world.
But then my back went out—and went out in a big way. Not just a tweaked shoulder from reaching for my purse that I had tossed casually into the back seat of the car. No, I don’t know what triggered this, but I’ve had acute pain in my left lower back that radiates through my hip, and ends in a tight noose around my left knee. I want to saw off that entire section of my body and order a new one on Amazon.
The pain has brought me to my knees, squatting on the floor in the yoga pose malasana, crying soulful tears of fear, frustration, and pain. According to Google, “malasana is a grounding pose that stimulates the apana vayu, or the downward-flowing eliminating prana energy. By tapping into this energy, the yogi can deal with whatever physical, spiritual, or emotional issues are holding him/her back.”
I find myself crying for my loss of control. I can’t walk my dog. I can’t exercise. I can’t be helpful around the house. I can’t handle all my social and work commitments. I can’t be any of the things I need to be in this world for the role I have crafted in this life. My controlling nature is completely at the mercy of the pain. The pain is my master, and I must give it ice, heat, and a bevy of drugs (none of which I want in my system, mind you). I stress over the damage these drugs are doing to my liver and my overall digestive system.
My astrologer, Eric Meyers, told me this fall was going to be hard—like an epic, once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime hard. He warned me that it was going to be a face-your-karma, soul-wound trauma kind of fall. He wasn’t wrong.
Before the pain came a trip to Colorado that brought up unprocessed emotions around my spiritual tether to Boulder. It’s still my home in so many ways and my soul yearns to be there, even though my ego is very content in Chicago. My writing retreat on that trip was swept in a tide of energetic misaligns and stirred up shit for most of us. It was a hard trip. I came home and my back went out. Go figure.
Before Colorado, I had to have an infected tooth extracted, the most violent assault on my body I’ve experienced apart from a C-section. Having a tooth literally ripped from my body was something I was completely unprepared for. When the oral surgeon finished, I collapsed into a hysterical ball of tears. Everyone in the office was surprised. I was surprised that every patient didn’t respond the same way I did.
This fall has been hard, to say the least. Thanks for the heads up, Eric. I hope I’m crying out the trauma because I’d really like to excise this from my body.
So my original excitement for my 50s has now been consumed by dread. I’m turning 50 and my body is falling apart. I find myself in a foreign mindset—mildly depressed and anxious—somewhere I never tend to go. I got an invitation in the mail from AARP and I wanted to crawl backwards, to peel back a couple years, go back to 47, and park there. Can’t we just loop in our late 40s? Maybe go back to 45, then up to 49, and loop back to 45? Perpetually?
But 50 is coming.
The hours tick by and whether I’m ready or not, 50 is happening in less than two weeks.
Yesterday a dear friend and I were chatting and realized that we’re exactly a decade apart. He turns 60 this year. He shared a notion that he and his partner had come to realize, that the 60s must be the travel years because when the 70s arrive, you have no guarantee of physical health to maintain your travel lifestyle. So he and his partner have a decade to see all the things. Be in all the places. Milk the life out of life.
I panicked. There is so much travel I have not done. Why have I not been to Italy? Will I ever commit the funds to venture to the Maldives? Where do I need to be on this Earth before I cannot go?
Part of me already knew that the time to travel is nigh. I will turn 50 in the Caribbean, on a beach in the Dominican Republic, surrounded by girlfriends, my daughter, and my niece. The ocean calls to me like nothing else and I’ve only experienced the awe-inspiring beauty of the Caribbean once, during a family vacation when I was 14. I’ve been dreaming about getting back ever since.
With a spouse who doesn’t have the call of the ocean in him, our travel has been oriented toward cities, which has led to bucket-list experiences I never thought possible.
I’ve visited Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. The Doors’ movie came out when I was 20 and I fell madly in love with Jim, his poetry, music, and essence. I climbed to the top of Mont-Saint-Michel, the French monastery on a strange berth of land surrounded by the ocean, depending on the tide. I’ve been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the seen the lodge and waterfall from “Twin Peaks” in Snoqualmie Falls Washington. I’ve experienced so much and yet there is so much more yet to explore. I crave seeing all the things.
Fifty also brings the existential dread of time and death. My husband and I have been married for 22 years. In 22 years, I’ll be 72. Those time differentials don’t seem even; 72 can’t be that close, can it?
Fifty also means I’m inching closer to those years when friends and family will succumb to illness and death, and I will begin goodbyes that will continue in all the decades to come. That “Everyone you know someday will die” Flaming Lips lyric haunts me.
Fifty is power. Fifty has a “Don’t fuck with me” vibe. Fifty is “I know things and you should listen to me.” Fifty is strength and no bullshit and “There’s no time to waste.” Fifty isn’t uncertain of its place in the world. Fifty is solid. I’m excited for 50—except when I’m not.
Fifty is menopause and grey hair and wrinkles and sags and weight gain and slower metabolism and an urgency to exercise, not to be cute and fit but to be strong for my back and muscles. To have the strength to head into the aging years. To be fit is now a medical directive, not a lifestyle choice.
Fifty terrifies me and excites me. And 50 could be fabulous. Fifty will be fabulous.
Happy birthday to me.