It's Just a Number

Wendy Porter-Ouellet By Wendy Porter-Ouellet, 31st May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

It was a bit difficult for me reaching that infamous number/age of 50, much more so than any other milestone birthday, and here I share some of those feelings about that time in my life.

The Build-Up

The countdown had begun. Only 50-some days to go until (gasp!) I would officially be half a century old. My mind struggled to wrap itself around such an alien concept. Me, that old? How could that possibly be? Where in the world had 50 years gone? It seemed like only yesterday I had viewed any person over the age of 40 as being ancient, over-the-hill, all-used-up. Imagine that. Now, there I was, on the brink of that frighteningly large number, right along with a few other people you may have heard of; Madonna, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sharon Stone, and Ellen DeGeneres. I wonder how they felt about reaching that infamous age.

Those Other Numbers

Other significant birthdays had come and gone; " the momentous 21", which seemed to magically transform me into a legitimate adult; the "I'm not quite so sure about this one, age 30, the one a friend of my mother's promised would be the start of my best decade ever; and let's not forget the "not so popular, yet not overwhelming age 40", the decade my older friends warned me about, to get ready to see all my parts head south.

Oh yes, each decade of my life had been unique, yet none had catapulted me into panic mode at their onset. Until I faced the big five oh. Why is that, I had asked myself. After all, it really is just a number isn't it? A few possible answers sprung to my mind. For starters, fifty meant I was that much closer to the end of my life than to the beginning. With my mortality peeking over the not-so-distant horizon, whispering reminders like "your youthfulness is gone, along with all those other limitless possibilities, I couldn't escape it. A slightly morbid thought isn't it? Perhaps.

The half-century mark also signified the highly probable end to the child-bearing years, for most women, including me, and also quite traumatic and sad for some. That particular time of our lives also marks the onset of "the change", a whole new ballgame for the female population. Depressing? Without a doubt. Add to this mix all the outward physical changes, like the once lovely deep auburn locks losing the battle to retain its striking colour against the mighty grays, or the wrinkles which seem to multiply overnight. The worst of those changes had to be the "muffin-top" mid-section that no amount of crunches, dieting, or prayers to the Almighty can diminish. And those changes only gained momentum with every tick of the clock.

As I gazed into the mirror I saw a stranger staring back at me, every single time, she wouldn't leave me alone! Who was that middle-aged, graying, wrinkled, thick-waisted woman? It couldn't possibly have been me because my insides didn't match. I did not feel that old on the inside, I still felt so young, well, most days. Why couldn't the outside and the inside match? It wasn't fair but alas, that is life, the way it had been since time began and the way it will stay until the end of time unless, of course, someone discovers that elusive fountain of youth.

More of the Downside

Another aspect that spoke volumes to me at that age, that truly hit me hard, was the number of family, friends and colleagues who were battling cancer, heart disease or any of the other horrid illnesses that existed and sadly, those who lost their battles, like my parents, my brother Jackie and my sister-in-law Marie. I also lost a friend named Margie who, at age 48, was stricken with bone cancer and only six short months after the diagnosis, she was gone, robbed of so much, never having a chance to experience life at 50. Sobering, frightening, heart-breaking, enough to cause me to stop and truly consider my own life, my mortality.

For some reason, fifty seemed to be a natural age for deeper contemplation. At forty, we tend to think of all the things we have yet to do in our lives, while at fifty, we may think of all the things we haven't done yet and aren't likely to ever do. That entire world of possibilities we once envisioned, all those different paths stretched out endlessly before us are now a much narrower corridor.

Turning Points

As I pondered all those nasty points on what arriving at midlife meant I recall feeling somewhat overwhelmed, a bit anxious, and definitely in need of a change in my thinking. How I was going to do that I didn't know. Could I do that I wondered, with all that I knew staring me down. With all the time and energy I had invested in dwelling on the negative aspects of ageing, I asked myself why I couldn't simply turn my thoughts in the opposite direction, to the positives. The answer that came resounded like a mighty clap of thunder...there was no reason, and from that point on I began focusing on only the positives in my life. Instead of bemoaning my entrance into the fifth decade of my life, otherwise known as middle-age-dom, I vowed to embrace it with joy, thanksgiving and a new plan or two.

That was my turning point, and it is amazing to me that once I consciously decided to veer my thoughts in a different direction, I could actually glimpse a new me, one that had been emerging slowly but steadily for a while. Placing so much effort into all the negatives of ageing had kept me from seeing a newer version of myself. Too much time wasted.

Glancing into my new "mirror of life", an image appeared of a woman who was less harried, more philosophical, who cared more about the things in life that really mattered, like good health, family and friends. Wiser to the ways of the world, content to do her own thing without worrying about other people's opinions or seeking their approval. Finally being able to wear clothes that work for her, not relying on the fashion magazines for advice and not feeling crushed because she wasn't a size six, or ten, or even fourteen, size simply would no longer matter as long as she was a healthy and happy size whatever.

That woman in the mirror was thankful for her older female friends and family, the women who had passed the fifty mark and were able to help her navigate the thornier parts of middle-age; the empty nest, suspicious mammograms, senior discounts and the trick to dealing with those wicked hot flashes. Those were the women she appreciated and cherished, the ones who stood by her side and held her hand or whatever else she needed because they were the ones who truly understood.

That new woman in the mirror had smiled as she thought of ways to celebrate her new decade, knowing she wanted and needed to mark the occasion in a special way. A decision had been made to embark on a fifty day countdown, one that would consist of trying something new each and every day until July 12th, the day she would officially enter the middle-age club. A list was made which included walking every day, dyeing her hair a different colour, signing up for volunteer work, reading a new magazine, attending a new church, buying a pair of heels in a funky colour and that had been just the beginning. When her birthday arrived she felt pretty good, no brooding or sadness for her. It was just a number.

It was thrilling to know that the woman in the mirror had been me, was me, is me, and that I had been ready to face whatever the future had in store for me. In spite of the regrets, despite all those things I may never accomplish or experience, or all the social changes I've witnessed in my lifetime, it is still, as Louis Armstrong sang, a wonderful world, one that I am very thankful to be a part of, at any age.

All these years I've been taking lessons from life experiences, not fully realizing it until I reached the age of fifty but knowing then that I'd been growing into myself all along. I may not have been fully grown at fifty, or even now, a few years later, but I have come a long way, and I decided then that I would be fabulous and feisty at fifty, fifty-four, and well beyond.....afterall, it is just a number.


Accepting Age, Ageing, Growing Older, Milestones, Numbers

Meet the author

author avatar Wendy Porter-Ouellet
Introducing, Wendy Ouellet, a young-at-heart woman who is a wife, a mother of four incredible kids, a former education assistant and now a stay-at-home writer. Many interests, skills and expertise.

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author avatar Retired
7th Jun 2013 (#)

looking carefully it is unless you do enough with your life

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author avatar Penny W-T
7th Jun 2013 (#)

Now that is a very inspiring piece Wendy, and let me just confirm for you that turning 50 is like opening the door to a new dimension - as you have discovered already, it is the BEING YOU dimension. I never went through 'the change' due to having cancer in my late 40s so i avoided all those traumas, and two decades later I am still finding new doors to peep through and things to try. Enjoy it - that way you will never have any regrets.

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author avatar Wendy Porter-Ouellet
7th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you Penny, and it is great to know from those who have already crossed that 50 yr. line that there are still great and wonderful things to come, and I look forward to them all.

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author avatar Oscar Crawford Media
8th Jun 2013 (#)

I am thankful for what you have shared.

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author avatar Wendy Porter-Ouellet
5th Mar 2014 (#)

Wow, I can't believe I have been absent from Wikinut for almost a year, give or take a few months. I have to admit that I went into a kind of slump, lost all interest in my writing, sort of gave up on myself but I am trying hard to bring it back to life, my writing, that is. So bear with me as I take some baby steps, and hopefully I will be posting some new material on here soon.

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