As I approached my 50th birthday, part of me couldn't quite grasp that concept (what! me, fifty? impossible!), the other part was looking forward to that day as a rite of passage, as a milestone in my life. Just as 13 years of age marks adolescence, 21 marks adulthood (at least officially), 50 seems to me to herald a reaching of maturity -- a certain "je ne sais quoi" of "I've done it!" "I've made it through my 20s, 30s and 40s and have now attained the crowning glory of 50! Well, I may not be sure about the "crowning glory", but 50 is an important milestone in life.
I found myself looking at my life as BF (before 50) and AF (after 50), and questioning my goals, my priorities, and what I really want to be doing with my life (when I grow up). I found myself redefining how I want to be living my life, what is important to me, what I "really" want to be doing with my time. Approaching fifty helped me see my life through a different perspective -- rather as a "new start", or somewhat as people sometimes feel at the beginning of a new year -- a chance to start fresh.
Happy Birthday, Sweet Fifty
We usually think of gifts as being given and received on special occasions -- birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baby-showers, Christmas, etc. Yet, each day, life brings us amazing gifts, as well as small, simple, yet awesome ones. I was reminded of this while I was online buying a gift for my brother's birthday.
As I found something for him, I also found something I would like. So to "justify" spending the money on myself (after all I was "supposed to" be buying a gift for him, not myself), I decided it would be a gift for my 50th birthday. So on the message line, when I placed my order, I wrote in: Happy 50th Birthday, Marie.
The package arrived exactly one month, to the day, before my birthday. Part of me thought I "should" wait till my birthday to open it, and of course the other part wanted to open it now. Well, being very good at finding reasons to do the things I want to do, I decided that since 50th birthdays are milestones in life, that they needed to be celebrated not just on one day, but for a longer time. And, since the gift arrived exactly one month to the day before my birthday, I then decided to make that the first day of a 30 day celebration of my fiftieth birthday. I decided that I would receive or give myself a gift each day of the whole month before to my birthday.
So, yes I opened the gift right away and enjoyed it (some CDs of Golden Oldies). And then my quest started -- I needed to receive a gift each day for the following month. Well, the Universe seemed to have been right in with me on this one, because the next morning when I got to my desk at the office, there were three "chocolate kisses" sitting by my keyboard. Lisa, who works with us, had put them there for me (she knows of my appreciation of chocolate). So that took care of the gift for that day (hey, gifts don't have to be big -- they simply have to be gifts!)
Recognizing The Blessings of the Universe
The next day, my brother and his wife, who were visiting from Canada, brought me back some chocolate from a chocolate manufacturer they had visited in Lilitz, PA (oh, yum, more chocolate!) Then the day after that, they brought me a gift from a store they had visited -- a beautiful small hand-carved angel.
On the days that no one brought me a gift, or that I didn't give myself a gift, I found myself looking around to see what gift the Universe has brought me that day. This opened my eyes (once again) to the gifts that are handed to us each day, and that we sometimes take for granted.
Of course there's the "amazing ones" like the sun rising each day, the gift of life each morning when we awake, and the miracle of our body and mind functioning as a "well-oiled machine". But there's also the small gifts: finding a parking spot right in front of the building where you're going on a busy day, finding the perfect card for that special friend, having someone give you a compliment, receiving a letter, email, or phone call from a friend you haven't heard from in ages, taking the time to sit in the sun and smell the roses! All of these are gifts that are there "for the appreciating" each and every day.
I found that as each day passed as I approached my fiftieth birthday, I discovered more and more gifts in my life. The ability to write this article and reach you, "my reader", is a great gift. The ability to make a difference is a great gift (one which we all have). The blessing of computers and internet connectivity is also a great blessing. The technology that allows me to record my favorite TV shows (like The Daily Show on Comedy Central) and watch them whenever I choose is another blessing. The gifts are there, abounding around us! We simply need to start noticing them!
The Benefits of Appreciation and Gratitude
The wonderful thing about being grateful for the gifts in life is that you feel so good when you're in a state of appreciation and gratitude. It's hard to be grumpy and depressed when you're noticing the wonderful things that are showing up in your life. And of course, the greatest blessing in that scenario is since "like attracts like", the more you express and feel gratitude and joy for those blessings and gifts, the more they keep coming! It's a wonderful circle! Gratitude begets gratitude, joy begets joy, and blessings beget blessings.
So, to remember (and paraphrase) one of my favorite songs: "We are the children. Let's start living, let's start giving"-- and let's start being grateful and appreciative for the wonderful things in our life, and set about to create more of them, for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the planet and future generations as well.
On Women Turning Fifty: Celebrating Mid-Life Discoveries
by Cathleen Rountree.
On Women Turning Fifty honors the new faces of aging with powerful, positive images of fifty-something women who share stories of mid-life discovery. Accomplished by beautiful photographs, these candid and engaging interviews reveal women whose challenges, conflicts, and triumphs are reshaping our attitudes toward work, relationships, and personal growth. From Gloria Steinem, Isabel Allende, Ellen Burstyn, and Mary Ellen Mark to single-parent school teacher Deanne Burke and breast cancer survivor Barbara Eddy, the diverse voices in On Women Turning Fifty offer exhilarating models of confidence, courage, and celebration.
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