Though fact-checking season four of The Crown keeps me pretty occupied, I’ve made a few passes at writing about turning 50; here’s one:
I am drawing up to the close of a half century and the beginning of what will likely not be another but, if I’m lucky, won’t be over yet. Not only have I not done what I thought I would by 50, I have not done what I thought I would by 30. That has to be some sort of record, and may actually be what is meant by “50 is the new 30.”
Fun huh? Here’s another:
I called my bank and the automated teller asked my age because if I was over 50 I was supposed to hit a different number. I was morbidly curious, and pressed it. A recorded voice tried to offer me an alert system that I could use if I fell down. I was insulted, and damned intrigued. I fall all the time, and that’s all I had to do to win a portal to visits from handsome EMTs? So I just push the button, right? Wow, I thought, maybe these really will be golden years.
You get the idea.
As is often the case in this historical moment, it’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. I usually choose to laugh, but as a result, I have a ground swell of dammed up tears. Suffice it to say I’m not entirely at ease with aging and its attendant loss of mental and physical dexterity. Like my parents before me, I have given up entirely on calling my daughters anything from their birth certificates. I do this: “You! You with the hair! Sugar Pie! Get the other one! The one who lives in the other bedroom!”
About six weeks ago I was loping along with my running partner when, two miles in, I felt (and as the story grows in the retelling, heard) a pop in my left calf. Instantly, my gait resembled that of a car with a flat tire.
As my physical therapist (who should just give in and move in with me) explained, my plantaris muscle and tendon are torn. This happens to runners at about age…50. “Oh like a timing belt on a car,” said my husband. Yes, but think less Toyota, more trussed-together go-cart. It just takes time, the therapist said. On the verge of this momentous birthday I thought, I haven’t got any time! I tried to run anyway (once!) but because I am old and middling wise, I got the message after that.
Running has been a refuge for me this past year and the thought of giving it up left me panicky. I need to zip though the wet, ferny woods, navigating tree roots, dodging branches. Can I outrun my thoughts? Can I outrun myself? Always at the end, there we are in a dead heat.
I dutifully rested my errant limb, slowly but surely descending into madness. But recently: excellent news! I have been able to take up running again. As it ends up, I did have more time. I still haven’t outrun myself and leapt ahead in time to look back and see if I did the right thing, any of the right things. All these converging paths in the forest and I’m trying not to take the same one over and over.
I do think that time and circumstance will expose our flaws and failings, and most of us won’t age entirely gracefully. I certainly won’t/haven’t. But perhaps it’s best not to dwell there, wringing hands over old blueprints and to-do lists. Because after all, along with the undone, there is the unexpected. There are the places I never thought I would see, but I saw them, and loved them. And there are things I never thought I would wear (what my children refer to as the Yeti sweater, for one) but hey – too late! – I wore them. And hopefully, there will be miles I never thought I would run, but I will. That’s a more interesting list, and it makes a better story.
Things are beautiful, if you love them – Jean Anouilh