I can't remember my 16th or 21st birthdays. I do remember my 30th. I woke up 9 months pregnant and had a burst blood vessel in my eye. My iris appeared to be swimming in bright red blood. It was hideous. All salt in the wound of turning 30, which I saw as the gateway to moth balls, short, tight perms and snap-up cotton housecoats. To the 30 year-old me: You have no idea how young you are. I am rolling my 50 year-old eyes at you right now.
Fifty has been looming in the back of my mind for a few months. I knew there was no escaping it unless I died, which I'm relieved to report I did not. So I decided to mark the inevitable by doing something different on that day.
I made a list. Following are the details of my day, in case a great-great-grandchild someday gives a tiny care or needs a document like this for school or whatever they do for learning in the future.
Woke up. (Admirable start.)
Had absolute sneezing fit due to allergies before I could get out of bed. Was afraid to look in mirror in case I had burst another blood vessel in my eye from the pressure of sneezing, but I didn't. I did note that my dark circles are darker than ever, though. Benadryl for breakfast.
Met Crystal at my bedroom door as I was leaving. She was holding the 10 month-old twins and a sign, "Happy Birthday Nana." I loved it, even though I realized that this is the first birthday I'm actually "Nana" to someone. Last year I was still in my 40s. This year I'm a 50 year-old Nana.
I headed out the door with my new Nathan belt, which is a glorified fanny pack, but don't say that to runners.
I began my long, long journey toward my first goal: Run my own personal half marathon on my 50th birthday, just to prove that I can. I called it the "Poking 50 in the Eye Half Marathon."
The weather was perfect. The autumnal scenery was perfect, minus roadkill. In fact, I even stopped to take pictures. Look at Indiana:
I felt invincible. I even dared to take this pic of me sans makeup at 50 years old and post it on Facebook.
In fact, I'm 50, and I eat ragweed for breakfast--not cowering before the "weed of rag" anymore.
By mile 8 or 9, I was experiencing pain in my right hip which subsided and then reared its head in my right knee. Then that pain then migrated to my left knee, which began to holler. I stopped at Westside Park, locally famous for various bad things have happened to people throughout the years. I sat on a bench for 5 minutes. I hated to sit because I do not like to walk during a run, let alone sit. But I told myself that this run was about endurance and longevity, not speed or beauty as far as form (Which was very smart of me because if it had been about speed or beauty, I would have called for a ride at that point. You have to know how to
I resumed running but couldn't resist stopping for a small Coke from a Burger King. ?? I know, I know. Bad form! But I was thirsty, and it was my birthday, and I had money in my Nathan belt ....
So I drank that while jogging. Picture that.
Here are the bricks down the middle of the campus of my alma matre, Ball State University, at about mile 11. If you had told me in 1985 that I'd be running down McKinley Avenue when I was 50, I would have died of embarrassment. As it was, I was dying of exhaustion.
When I stood, I realized that if I insisted on running the rest of the way, I could damage the knee. So I decided to run 100 steps then walk 100 for the rest of the way home.
No, I will not tell you how long the run took me. It was about endurance, remember??
I showered and soon George was home from work. We ate at a locally owned restaurant called Kacy J's. This is here where I met my second goal: To drink my very first beer. Yes, you read that correctly. While I have enjoyed various wines and flavors of margs in the past, somehow I have missed beer. I could not decide which one to order because I had nothing to go on, except that Rachel Ray says Sam Adams is the #2 choice for domestic beers. So that is what I ordered. What did I think of it? Just OK. I'm not a huge iced tea drinker, have to be in just the right mood. That is how it would be with beer. Right mood, icy cold, maybe.
Goal three of my plan was go downtown to the free Art Walk where various vendors had booths and America's Hometown Band played many patriotic tunes, or the same patriotic tunes different ways, and set off a couple of fire works. It was at the art walk where I had what I would call my birthday cake: a chocolate cupcake frosted with peanut butter frosting. Goal four: Decadence. Satisfied by cupcake.
When we returned home, I proceeded with my fifth and final goal, to re-watch an Oprah show that I recorded February 4, 2011, called Supermodel Legends. I saved this episode for a year and half just to watch on my 50th. Oprah's guests were four former supermodels who were there to talk about aging: Cheryl Tiegs, Beverly Johnson, Christie Brinkley and Stephanie Seymour. There were also short spots, one featuring Paulina Porizkova, which I particularly enjoyed. I've seen her speak about aging elsewhere and have come to really like her. I found this Oprah episode to be VERY inspiring and uplifting; I highly recommend it. And it is from this show that I lifted Ms. Porizkova's line, "Aging is not a right; it is a privilege."
She's right. I'm privileged to have more time here than did my friend, Diane. I'm privileged to spend more time with my beloved and see my children grow up, graduate college, get jobs, get married and have children (All of this is happening right now in my kids' lives). I'm privileged to know my parents in their old age, to share memories with my brothers. I'm privileged to share life with some amazing female friends. I'm privileged to have a body that still works pretty well and can accommodate requests like, "OK, Half-Century Old Body: Get up and run 13.1 miles!" I'm privileged to breathe in and out, to sit, to stand, to hold a cup of coffee, kiss a baby's sweet face.
I made it to 50. I'm here for a reason. I'm not invincible, but I am strong. I know that the year ahead holds many joys and many sorrows. But I'm privileged to wake up each morning and just be here, for other people, for the joy of being, just because of the love of my Creator. And that is what I want to remember throughout this next year. Waking up is not a right; it is a privilege. No whining about creaking and wrinkling. Just do it.