Positive Aging: Flip-Flops After 50
Most of us can fondly remember what it felt like to turn 50. And now that we've celebrated and survived additional landmark birthdays, it's easy to dismiss the anxiety and surprise that can accompany reaching a half-century of life. When I first picked up "Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts on Aging I Remembered to Write Down" by Cindy Eastman, I couldn't help but remember how I'd felt back when I reached that all-important birthday.
This small book is a collection of columns divided into four sections: Fifty, Family, Holidays and All Grown Up. Luckily for us, Eastman has that enviable gift of sharing her own psyche with strangers and then reminding her readers that we have more in common than we could have ever imagined. For example, as her 50th birthday approached, she realized that she was fortunate enough to neither feel nor look old but that there are other age-related consequences that cannot be ignored. She says: "there are intrinsic elements to turning fifty that have to be addressed. It is certainly a time for reflection and stocktaking. ... the stock-taking part ... I'm having the teeniest bit of trouble with. The part where I look back on my life and check to see if I've gotten most of the things done that I've always wanted to do. The answer is no. And when you're fifty and the answer is no, a new time frame is suddenly in place....Turning fifty is like stopping at a travel center to check the map and maybe get a cup of coffee."
For those of us who have already met the big 65 milestone, it's hard not to think of most 50-year-olds as being lucky enough to be mature without all the unwelcome post-retirement medical complications that can surface during that decade. Eastman openly shares her personal experiences -- from life in a blended family to her dreams of being a published author to the joys of being a grandmother -- with her readers. And for those of us who remember what it's like to have been worried about insurance premiums or delayed paychecks, it's almost impossible to not identify with this gifted columnist's life story.
There's something very comforting about a writer who recognizes that gratitude can transform -- in the nicest possible way -- almost any complicated experience. I was particularly charmed when she wrote: "The really nice thing about being fifty-something is that I can look around at the places I've been, look back down the road I've traveled, and be pretty okay with it all. I am grateful that I can get up each morning somewhat achy but still able to plant both feet on the floor and greet a brand-new day. ... as I ruminated about where I was in my life, I realized that ... I had a little more maturity (okay, a lot more maturity), a little more confidence, and the tiniest bit more wisdom. But not all the wisdom. I'm defiantly still working on that one."
For those of us nearing 70, Eastman's essay about taking a road trip with her parents is pitch perfect. She combines insights, observations and sensitivity in a way that we can only hope our own children will, writing: "Most importantly, though, the trip reminded me that life, and all it entails, is far different for a couple in their seventies than it is for a woman in her fifties. The culture is different, your expectations are different, and your sense of self draws on a whole different set of abilities and responsibilities. When you get older, any amount of 'help' must feel like a little bit of your independence is being taken away -- and independence is a gift not to be taken lightly, because it is the difference between having control of your own life or not. A good lesson to learn, whether one is a stubborn parent or a helpful child."
Maybe this is the book we should all be buying -- not for ourselves but for our adult children.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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