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Life in My 50s: Reclaim your joy, your truth, your life

Monarch

I find this whole midlife, midcentury thing to be more interesting than I originally expected when I hit the big 5-0 last fall. What I’m finding is that it’s not so much a rebirth but a birth, plain and simple. I’m being born into the second half of my life, or what I hope will be the second half of my life if I have genes even remotely like my paternal grandmother, who is 100. This birth is difficult and exciting and painful, as any birth might be. At every turn I find myself up against an “old” or current version of myself. Is this where I want to be? Where should I go next, and how do I get there? I find myself wanting to redirect the path and reclaim various parts of my life — my time, my style, my joy,  my truth. But, in the words of Pilate, what is truth?

Every time I think I’ve  finally emerged from the dark tunnel of introspection, doubt, and fear, I realize it’s only a momentary reprieve. There’s another tunnel ahead, maybe even a little narrower than the one before. That’s where I’ve been on and off for the past six months or maybe even a little longer. In tunnels. Dark tunnels with no windows. Think Lincoln Tunnel during Friday afternoon rush hour.

And while that may sound overly dramatic, I really don’t mind being in these tunnels, the birth canals of midlife. It seems like a necessary path to take at this point, if I want to step out of my own shadow and become who I was always meant to be but who has gotten lost amid all the stresses and responsibilities of daily life.

Here’s what I’ve discovered and dug up while on my tunnel journey:

Ask anyone who knows me if I am an optimist or a pessimist and they would most likely choose the latter. But they’re wrong because only an optimist would pack up and move to a strange city (Austin) with no job and no prospects but with the firm belief that it would all work out. Because only an optimist would walk out of a failed marriage and a failed job with the belief that life was meant to be more than unhappiness day after day. Because only an optimist would decide to get pregnant at 42 years old, knowing full well all the risks but choosing to focus on the benefits. Because only an optimist would sign book contract after book contract, sometimes two at once, with the belief that the books will get written, they will sell, they will matter to someone. So guess what? Turns out I’m an optimist after all.

I’ve always been teased over the fact that I talk too much, so much so that I am very much aware of how much people don’t like my talking, even as the words are coming out of my mouth and I am mentally scolding myself. Ask anyone who knows me if I can’t shut up, and they would answer with a resounding, Yes! But the truth is, I love silence, more and more as I get older. I want quiet, solitude, peace. I could easily go away for a weeklong silent retreat and not bat an eye. Two days of silence is not nearly enough. Silence lets your heart speak. Silence lets your heart listen. Silence could probably cure a whole lot of this world’s ills if people would just take the time to retreat for a few minutes and listen for the whisper of the Spirit around them.

God is my center, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with God on a regular — almost daily — basis. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’d probably say I am a holy roller. After all, I’ve worked for the Church for almost 30 years. I write prayers and reflections, articles and books, all of it revolving around faith and prayer and spirituality. But no one knows the inner workings of the relationship I have with my Creator or what I believe in my heart of hearts, something that is constantly evolving, probably more edgy than what anyone assumes of me, and totally mine. I often say my books take me to where I need to go on my journey, and that is the truth. I write my books for me, because I find spiritual life and faith to be an ongoing series of questions, confusion, doubt, and movement, and writing about it helps me deal with all that. Lately those feelings have been swarming around my dark tunnel with a vengeance. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be in a dark spiritual place and to maybe come out of that place somewhere totally unexpected. No matter where I end up, I know one thing: God remains. God alone. And that is enough.

Although I’m starting to feel the first signs of the physical diminishment of midlife — achy joints, minor ailments that never go away — in every other way this time of life is a time of growing. I can look at twenty-somethings and envy what’s ahead of them, but then I remember that they don’t know what I know and so they don’t even know that where they are right now is something to treasure and embrace. Wisdom, the gift of midlife and old age. What’s that cliche? Youth is wasted on the young. In many ways, that’s so true. What would you have done in your 20s if you could have known then what you know now? Well, what’s stopping you? Do it now, no matter how old you are. Take up belly dancing (done it), go to a foreign country alone (done it), buy something totally outrageous but 100 percent you, even if no one else gets it (done it, done it, done it), sky dive (never happening). Whatever you wish you had done then, if it’s at all possible, try to do it — or some version of it — now. It’s never too late. Take chances.

Every day there’s another discovery. Sometimes I battle with these feelings and with this movement in new directions. I resist. I shake my head no. I scream. I worry. Sounds a lot like childbirth to me. But, you know what? When it’s over and I’m finally out of that last tunnel, I have a feeling I’ll forget all of these labor pains and see only the end result — joy, and my true self dancing in the light once and for all.

 

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Honest, refreshing, clear, transforming. God bless you Mary, you are a true gift.

    March 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thanks, Fran! I’m working my way through that tunnel at a snail’s pace. :-)

      March 7, 2013
  2. I’ll be turning 50 in 6 months – and I can totally relate to everything you’re saying! (and BTW, you say it so beautifully!).

    March 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Cindy — It’s scary and exciting all at once, isn’t it? We have to stick together! :-)

      March 7, 2013
  3. Within an hour of turning 50, I called an 0lder friend and said, “This is the age I was always meant to be!” Her response, “Fifties are the best kept secret on the planet.” I loved my fifties and I identify with everything you write about and more.

    My sixties seem to have ushered in yet another deep shift. Never a patient person, I could at least muster or feign attentiveness during my fifties. Six months into my 60s I mentioned my permanent shift to impatient eye rolling for just about everyone and everything to two women in their 70s. They laughed and said, “it only gets worse!”

    I’ll be 62 on Saturday. They were right!

    March 7, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you, Meredith, for confirming my suspicions: My 50s are going to be a special time. However, if my impatience and eye-rolling are going to increase when I hit my 60s, I think everyone is in trouble!

      March 7, 2013
  4. For my cousin Mary’s 60th birthday, she scheduled and accomplished a ski dive. This was especially brave for her (in my opinion) because she’d done this in her early 20s and fallen the wrong way upon landing &spent weeks in hospital afterward. It seems they now have “beginners” fly w/an expert attached to their back, at least where she did 60th bday jump in Florida. Imagine my surprise when we received a video of whole experience! She turned 65 last year. Says for 70, she might like to try hang-glidiing. These are not things I’d even contemplate, but they make me smile &believe there are adventures to seek &knowledge to gain at every age.

    March 9, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Marilyn,
      Thanks for starting my day off with a smile. Your cousin Mary is an inspiration!
      Peace,
      Mary

      March 9, 2013
  5. Mary Ellen #

    Hi Mary,

    I love your blog. Thanks for being brave enough to show your humanity and vulnerabilitiy. I identified with your articles about Pope Francis. I am cautiously optimistic but feel so hopeful. I am praying for him and our church.
    For my fithieth birthday my husband (14 years older than I am) climbed Croagh Patrick in Ireland. It was one of the most physically demanding things I ever did. When we reached the top it was late, foggy and we were soaked to the skin. Imagine our surprise to find a group from North Carolina whose priest invited us to the Mass they were celebrating in the open wind and mist! The best gift I ever received.
    In November I turned 60. I enjoy going to Zumba, watching my grandchildren and working in Religious Education. Life is good no matter the age.

    I look forward to reading more of your articles, I am at the beginning of Everyday Divine which led me to your blog. Thanks again. God bless.

    April 2, 2013
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Hi Mary Ellen,

      Thank you so much for commenting here. What an awesome 50th birthday celebration! Sounds amazing.
      I’d love to hear back from you after you finish Everyday Divine. I hope it helps you on your journey.

      Peace,
      Mary

      April 2, 2013

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