Five After Fifty

Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve. – Coco Chanel

Five years ago when I started this blog, at the age of 50, I was a mess.

My mother had just died, my father’s Parkinson’s was getting worse, Jake was away at college, and my baby Ben was about to leave the nest as well.

The future looked like a wasteland to me, and my own mortality was looming large. I was stuck in a psychological funk of epic proportions.

I was 50, and I was a mess, but I looked a hell of a lot better than I do today.

Ben and me-1

Dropping Ben off for freshman year of college, 2011

What does five years do to a person?

Let me clarify. What does five years AFTER FIFTY do to a woman?

While working through that funk, I didn’t treat myself that well.

I didn’t take great care of my body.

I worked too hard.

I stressed too much about my job. I had no boundaries. I allowed certain people to punch my hot buttons on a regular basis.

I worried too much about the boys, making all their twenty-something failures and mistakes my problems to solve.

I pondered the future of my marriage, critically examined its state, and wondered how we would ever make a life together after the boys.

While watching my parents waste away, I thought about death and dying a lot, and how much time was left to make a difference.

Those lines of worry and stress and turmoil – those 5 years of personal internal struggle – are all right there when I look in the mirror today.

And it kind of bums me out.

Surely there must have been a simpler and gentler way to make it to 55?

I don’t know. I’m pretty sure there was, but I didn’t take it.


Mimi and grandpuppy Bear, 2015

While at the beach this past July, my son Ben grabbed the camera and snapped this picture of me and my beloved grand puppy Bear.

I generally hate looking at photographs of myself. I am much more comfortable behind the camera. But I like this picture.

Five years have passed. I am older now. There is no getting around that.

There are more wrinkles around my eyes and my mouth; there is more gray in my hair. I am heavier, and stuff has settled, a lot of the elasticity of youth is gone.

But there is also more wisdom in the eyes. And there’s a fresh joy in my countenance now.

Frankly, I worked damn hard for that joy.

Photography, writing, yoga, travel. My version of therapy.

It was a not a simple or painless journey, but I found the artist inside me.

I am not the woman I was 5 years ago. Wrinkles and gray hair aside, I think that is a good thing.

So much has changed even in the short span of six months since this photo was taken. My father passed away, my sons are now in graduate school, and I left my corporate job of 33 years. I have no idea yet what I’m going to do next.

Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

I wonder, who will look back in the mirror at me when I am 60? Will I like that face? What will she have to tell me? I don’t really know.

But here’s something I do know at FIVE AFTER FIFTY.

The days of your life draw their inexorable map on your face and body. So let’s make them really good ones.

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