It’s my birthday today! And even more significant, it’s my FIFTIETH birthday!
Yes, the big Five-Oh. I am a half-century old.
How does that feel?
Honestly, just sort of bizarre. How can I possibly be this old??
My husband and I were in Trader Joe’s last week, singing along to the 80s music they always play there, when he turned to me and said, “You know, 80s music is to us what 50s music was to our parents when we were teenagers.”
I mean, the 50s were ancient history to us! It’s weird to think that the years of my youth are ancient history to today’s teens.
So turning 50 is just… weird.
And at the same time, it’s awesome. In the actual dictionary definition of that word:
Causing or inducing awe; inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear.
I am awed by the fact that I’ve been around for 50 years. And even more by how much I love my life now, at 50, given how much I hated it at thirteen, how awkwardly and uncomfortably I occupied my self throughout my teens and 20s. Not to mention how old 50 used to seem back then!
But I don’t feel old. I feel… well-ripened.
It feels like it has taken 50 years to really come into my own. But as soon as I say that I realize it’s not really accurate…
It has taken 50 years to come to this moment.
At 40, I felt more fully me than I ever had before, and the same can be said at 30, 20, etc.
Even with all its ups and downs, my life has pretty much been on a general upward trend since 7th grade, which was hell.
What does all of this have to do with 6-pack abs?
Well, fourteen months ago, a couple of months before my 49th birthday, I started a workout program to get in better shape. (TurboFire, in case you’re interested.) My goal was simply to improve my general fitness, but there was also a little secret idea that maybe I’d ramp it up closer to my next birthday.
I imagined myself turning 50 in the best shape of my life. I imagined myself with six-pack abs, and that thought tickled and delighted me.
But then near the end of August, ten and a half weeks before my 50th birthday, when any fitness regime ramp-up would probably have to start if that six-pack had any hope of becoming real, another priority rose to the surface:
Get the book done!
Or, rather, get a book done. Any book.
I’d set the clear intention to write and publish a book back in January 2012 — almost five years ago! I’d worked on and off on that goal ever since, but never finished it.
Now, the reality of coming up fast on the half-century mark crystallized that intention into a diamond point.
Mortality as a Motivator
There’s nothing like a major milestone to remind you of your mortality. If I don’t do this now (I thought), when will I?
Suddenly, getting the book done felt beyond urgent. I contacted an editor I knew to see if she’d be available, and how much it would cost to work with her. (Brenda Peregrine, née Errichiello, of Forest North Books. Best decision ever.)
I looked at where my time was going, and realized that if I were to have any hope of finishing the book before my 50th birthday, things were going to have to change. So I got ruthless. I carved the time out on my calendar, and I got to work.
Sadly, my TurboFire workouts were one of the things that went on the chopping block (though I’ve been averaging an hour and 28 minutes a day of walking at my treadmill desk since September 1st! And I alternate between doing push-ups and rows every day, six days a week. So rest assured I’m still getting movement and exercise, just not the intense workouts I was doing before.)
Obviously, there will be no six-pack abs for my birthday.
But you know what? Being able to say I’m an author is a helluva lot more satisfying. Not to mention enduring! My book won’t go away once I stop working on it.
Looking Forward to Looking Back
A few years ago, in an attempt to exorcise some of my body dysmorphia demons, I wrote a satirical song, “The Last Five Pounds,” poking fun at our cultural obsession and hegemony with regard to women’s appearance. As I let go of my dream of six-pack abs in order to pursue my dream of publishing my book, I kept thinking of one of the (very satirical) lines from that song:
When I look back upon my life when I am older, who cares what I’ve accomplished, as long as I look good!
When I imagine myself looking back on turning 50 from the vantage point of 60, 70, or 80, which will make me more proud: six-pack abs, or coming out with my first book?
No contest, baby.
What’s the thing you want to be able to look back and say you did? What’s keeping you from doing it?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!