Countdown to Graytness

By Lori Welch Brown

Not sure how it happened, but I have officially started the countdown to fifty. My days in my forties are literally numbered as this time next year my cake will be afire with candles to commemorate a half a century of life on this planet, God willing. Yikes-a-rama! I’ve enjoyed my forties, so I’ll be sad to say goodbye. I’m old enough that I don’t really remember most of my twenties except that I had a lot of fun. My thirties weren’t bad, but they were a lot of work. Oh yeah—and a lot of heartache. Frankly, I wasn’t sad to say goodbye to my third decade – I was excited to turn forty. Maybe it is all about attitude, because in my thirties, I couldn’t seem to get out of my own way. I was somewhat successful in my professional life, but if the saying “work smarter, not harder” holds any water, I must have been an idiot because it sure felt like a lot of hard work. For certain I was a confirmed dating idiot, and that’s all I need to say about that. For you single ladies reading this, my only advice to you would be to treasure yourself and others will too. Stop directing your energy at finding another person and focus all your time and energy on strengthening your inner beauty and emotional, physical and mental health.

I’ve read a few articles (2,582 today) about middle age and turning fifty, i.e., you know you’re middle aged when naps ARE happy hour and forgetfulness is the new sexy. Could someone call my phone, please? Has anyone seen my keys? Personally speaking, daily aches and pains aside, mentally I still feel like I’m 22. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Actually, that’s not quite true. I work with a lot of twenty-somethings, and while they’re a smart/sharp bunch, they don’t know what they don’t know. They’ve yet to experience a lot of the life stuff that builds character and fortitude. That’s what makes us older people wiser—at least that’s what I’m telling myself. When that really cute, hip twenty-something guy from Accounting says, “thanks, ma’am” as I drop off my expenses, it’s a bit unnerving, but he must think I know stuff. And, I do. I know that no matter how icky today is, tomorrow is a new day filled with new opportunities. I know that family trumps everything and good friends are worth their weight in gold. I know that the only thing that really matters is your health—no job or cute guy is worth getting upset over. Stress is a four-letter word. Every decision you make impacts your life in some way—make good ones. If you didn’t make a good one today, make tomorrow’s better. You’re in charge of your own energy—make it positive and spend it wisely. Grief is the ultimate bitch, but time does heal all wounds. Mean people suck. The high you get from an act of kindness is better than any drug. There are a lot of metaphors for life in running—it all starts with one simple step. When you think you can’t go any farther, you can. Slow and steady wins the race…which is good news since I’m not as fast as I used to be.

I’ve watched a few of my friends turn fifty in the past few years, and they’ve done it with such grace, style, poise and beauty that I feel blessed to join them in this new chapter. Aging is a natural, beautiful process, and as they say, it sure beats the alternative. Sure, you can fight it with surgery and/or botox, but I don’t even buy fruit with chemicals, why am I going to inject them into my face? If I’m eating organic, I should probably try to age naturally as well. Somehow I feel better giving my paycheck to Whole Foods vs. The Plastic Surgery Wellness Center. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to be said for youth—mostly the great, elastic-y skin, but youth is for the young. I’ve heard from a lot of middle aged women who are frustrated that men their own age want to be with younger women. I say that those men are the wrong men, and it’s unfair to lump all men into that category. It’s like saying that all men want tall women with blonde hair. Not true. Confident, sexy middle aged men want partners not playmates. Dating is the same at any age. The same men who were insecure in their twenties and thirties are still gonna be insecure in their sixties. On the flip side, I know plenty of older women who are still eyeing the charming snake when the nice, ‘mature’ guy is right next to them. That nice guy is worth a second look so put on your bi-focals and give it a try. One of my friends rejected a great guy because of his middle-aged spread. Seriously? I wear my Buddha belly with pride. The only way I’m going to have a flat belly at this stage in my life is if I lie down and turn off the lights. It’s time to let go of the double standards. All I’m saying is that if you’re middle aged, there are still plenty of awesome men/women out there. Enjoy the journey.

I want to walk excitedly into my fifties feeling vibrant, healthy, sexy and beautiful—inside and out—gray hair be damned. Disclaimer: While I’m anti-botox/surgery at this writing (subject to change as is my prerogative as a woman), I am 100% on board with coloring my hair well into my eighties. This next chapter is bound to be the best ever, but I’m going to enjoy every last minute of my forties. Of that, you can be sure.

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