“12 things to do before you’re 50 – where did that come from?” you’re thinking. Well you see after a disappointing start, we had a surprisingly lovely Bank Holiday weekend. As the weather turned bad, all plans were cancelled but instead we had a series of spontaneous get togethers with close friends and family. They’re always the best ones. Of course with it being the first weekend in May, conversations soon turned to my approaching birthday – the last one of my 40s and then, very swiftly, to the big one that will follow next year. In our youth revering culture, the automatic reaction is to shriek when someone mentions the big 5-0 and throw your hands in the air in a gesture of denial which I did – but actually it didn’t feel right. Since then I’ve been thinking it through and I’ve come to a different conclusion.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will be familiar with my belief that the late 40s is a time of introspection for many women. It is rooted in the sessions that I had with a bereavement counsellor after my parents’ death. She compared the late forties to the interval between two acts of a play, seeing it as the time when a woman refocuses and prepares for the second half of her life. I think I’ve been doing that. In fact it is where Midlifechic began, in preparation for part two.
Earlier this year we talked a lot about the root of what brings us joy in Project Happier. For most of us, the primary source of joy was found among family and friends and having time to spend with them. Following closely behind was the notion of ‘choice’ – being able to choose what we do with our lives is fundamentally important. I’ve realised that there is an important choice to make about the way that I approach the next 12 months. I can either be gloomy about the irascible advance of middle age or rejoice in it and the golden splendour that lies ahead.
Actually it isn’t a difficult choice for me to make, life has already taught me how lucky I am to be reaching this point. I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with my parents on their final journey and I learned about ‘how to live’ from them in their final months. If you’ve been with someone in their dying days you’ll understand that the experience is very intense. Time seems to slow right down and space turns into a vacuum where nothing matters apart from the life that burning fiercely at its end. My parents were both in their eighties and could have been said to have fulfilled their time but even so, they both fought on and on for one more day.
However I’ve also lost other people I’ve loved at an early age and writing about them on my blog helps to keep them close. First of all there was my niece Jess who died from leukaemia just a month after her first birthday.
Then my niece Kay who also died from leukaemia shortly after her thirtieth birthday.
I talked about my best friend Tess in this post; she died from lupus just after her 40th birthday. Lastly you might remember me talking about my old friend John who died this time last year, just before he was 50 and far too soon to see his wonderful son grow up.
With them the sense of loss was palpable… the things they wouldn’t do and the times they wouldn’t have. I saw them travel through the anger, the sadness and the resignation and I vowed never to take my time for granted. This is the gift that they each bequeathed to me.
So – I am choosing to approach 50 with joy, intent and maximum energy. I realise how lucky I am to have a second act in my play when so many don’t and I’m going to squeeze the juice out of this life of mine. To do otherwise would be an insult to those I have loved and lost. When people start to mention the ‘big one next year’ as they inevitably will, I vow not to grimace but to smile. The first ‘act’ of my life certainly hasn’t been dull with its ups and downs and in most good plays, the second act makes sense of the first so I will even look forward to the denouement!
In the meantime, I’m intending to make the most of the last year of my 40s and as part of that I have a little project ahead. Because I have 12 months before I’m 50, I’ve chosen 12 achievable things that I’d like to do. I’m linking this to Project Happier and I’m urging you to create one too – it doesn’t have to be 12, pick a number that means something to you. But make a plan to live your life. Mine of course involves spending as much time as possible with my four favourite men having fun times like these…
…but there are also some personal challenges that I’ll take on my own. So it’s rather eclectic but this is the gauntlet that I’m throwing to Nikki Garnett.
12 things to do before you’re 50
1. Eat chicken
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a phobia of birds. Just a few weeks ago I missed a jackdaw falling down one of our chimneys by minutes. I’m sure I would have survived had I been in the room but I don’t know how. Although I cook chicken for the boys, I can’t eat it which means the poor souls have never been to Nandos. Apparently this is a cultural deprivation too far. Before I am 50 I will do whatever it takes to make myself eat chicken and introduce it into my regular diet. We will go to Nandos and see what all the fuss is about.
2. Go underwater
This is another fear I need to overcome – when I was 4 I nearly drowned and since then I have hated going underwater. Whilst Mr MC and the boys leap fearlessly off cliffs into the sea on holiday, I edge slowly into the water. Before I am 50 I am going to take a leap of faith and ‘just do it’
3. Do The Teaser
This begins with the need to maintain my health and fitness but at the same time do it in a way that is right for my body. I’m reluctantly (very reluctantly) accepting that extreme weight bearing or impact of any kind gives me weeks of pain with my shoulder. So I am waving a sad goodbye to my beloved kettlebell sessions and committing to taking Pilates seriously. Rather than seeing it as an opportunity for a bit of a stretch and a roll around, I am going to go 3 times a week and by my 50th birthday I will be able to do The Teaser with ease!
4. Get a really good haircut
If there is one thing that changes your whole appearance on a daily basis it is great hair. I am going to go to one of the best hairdressers in the UK to see what they do… very soon…watch this space
5. Have singing lessons
I love singing and I look forward to my village choir sessions but they only happen at Christmas. When the boys were little we used to sing a lot but now I hardly ever do and my voice is fading to an old lady quaver. I’d like to have some singing lessons to help me to find it again – just for myself… or maybe I’ll become a demon karaoke lover!
6. Get ‘into’ photography
For me my beloved blog is all about the words and the midlife community we’re building but I know I need to work harder on its visual appeal. I’m going to say something really uncool now and admit that I find Instagram narcissistic and it bores the pants off me. That’s just me though – my number 1 choice of activity has always been to bury my head in a book full of brilliant words and the reason I did a degree in languages was to collect more of them. So, I’m challenging myself to do a photography course and improve my skills in the hope that it will inspire me to work on the ‘pictures’ side more.
7. Be shortlisted for an award
I’ve never won anything. This will be a tough one for me – as a grammar school girl I was drilled only to take part in something if I was likely to win – such a 1980s way of thinking but it’s there deep inside me. There are millions of blogs now and so many are better than mine but I would like at least to get through to the finals of something…before I am 50…I might be calling on you for help with this one.
8. Have dinner on the Ile St Louis
I’ll talk more about this next week when I explain why we’re going to Paris but I have a longstanding promise to myself to have dinner in the shadow of Notre Dame before I’m 50
9. Spend a day at sea on a speedboat
Two of the happiest days of my life have been spent with Mr MC and the boys renting a speedboat and escaping reality for a day. I suspect our holidays as a whole family are drawing to an end so before I’m 50, I’d like to have one more speedboat day – and preferably not in Morecambe Bay.
10. Have afternoon tea at The Ritz
During my corporate London days I ticked off all of the well known restaurants I wanted to go to by having business lunches there. However I always turned down offers of afternoon tea at The Ritz because in my mind, I wanted to go there with a handsome young man that I was in love with. Good job I married a toyboy – Mr MC, I’m looking at you, your ‘young man’ days are numbered…
11. Go on a road trip with the boys to the far North of Scotland
I imagined we’d do this in a Campervan with the boys when they were little but it isn’t easy with a family of five. It will probably now just be the four of us but I want to see just how far North we can get.
12. Return to Valencia
As part of my degree, I spent 6 life-changing months living in Valencia in 1988. I’ve always wanted to go back with the boys and revisit my old haunts with them. I can feel my precious firstborn well and truly fledging now that he is at university. Hopefully I can squeeze one last trip in with him to show him the road I travelled before he fully sets off on his own.
Will you make a plan for your part two?
So fellow midlifers do we have a pact? Are we going to embrace this second half of our lives with gusto and just go for it? Let me know if you’re on board, there are so many good times ahead for us all if we make them happen. I found coming up with a list of 12 things to do before you’re 50 quite difficult – certainly 12 achievable things but it kept everyone I saw entertained over the weekend (and some of the ideas they came up with were definitely not suitable for Midifechic). I haven’t chosen to do anything world changing but I know each idea would make Jess, Kay, Tess and John smile. The one they would all say I’ll never achieve is the first, all my life people have been trying to get me to eat chicken!
Given the subject of my post, my weekend’s activities feel appropriate. I’ve just come back from the funeral of one of the lovely old ladies in the village and listening to the stories of her life has made me even more determined to make my next years count.
On Sunday we’re going to one of the events that we booked as part of Project Happier – the Hacienda Classical Concert. It’s outside in a spectacular location so hopefully we’ll be dancing in the moonlight and waving our hands in the air. I’ll tell you all about it next week.
To finish off, I’m going to leave you with something from Kay. When she decided she couldn’t face any more chemo, she put as much energy as she could into planning a funeral that would mean something to us all. This is the song she asked us to listen to at the end. It doesn’t say it perfectly but her message is clear and appropriately it is sung by someone else who died too soon. Thank you for reading this post, it’s been one that’s been close to my heart – I hope it’s made you think. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to keep in touch.