I never experience birthdays neutrally. And this year, I resisted 50 for quite a long time. No big party plans because I didn’t feel like celebrating. I wrote about my unhappiness about 50 here.
Early on Saturday morning Sam, Nat, Mallory and I went out for a leisurely ride on the bike path. I left my house at about 7:20 a.m. The morning air felt September crisp. I encountered Natalie on the way to the meeting place at the Forks of the Thames (yes, we have our own Thames in this London).
Sam and Mallory were there. The four of us set off at an easy pace, chatting as we rode along the path beside the river. We fell into pairs, Natalie and Sam riding up ahead, Mal and I behind. Happy group.
Towards the end of the ride, a feeling of perfect peace washed over me. I had an experience of total contentment that went beyond the impeccable weather, the splendid company, the feeling of connection and camaraderie, and the creamy decaf soy latte at the Black Walnut after our ride.
September can be like that. I had a similar and most unforgettable thing happen twenty years ago, when Mallory was 2 years old. Sam and Mallory and I spent an afternoon on a picnic blanket on “the hill” on campus, as spectators at a kite flying contest. Nothing dramatic that I can relate here. I don’t remember the kites or what we had as our picnic. But time felt like it opened up that day and became endless. Peace and contentment just fell into my lap.
I don’t know if this has something to do with decade birthdays. The kite contest day was just before I turned 30. No doubt, I had anxieties about that milestone as well. But the experience this weekend was bigger than before. Everything seemed okay. Being 50. Doing what I’m doing with my life. All the choices I’ve ever made up to this point.
All of it settled into place as I pedaled along on Saturday morning. The feeling lingered through the day. I squeezed in the most effortless errand to Costco (on a Saturday morning!) and still got back with plenty of time to make it to the first hot yoga class I’d attended in months. On a different day, I’d have been rushing around and probably wouldn’t have made it to yoga at all.
As I did the class, I had more power in my practice than I had when I last did yoga. A testament to the gains I’ve made through weight training and triathlon training over the past couple of years.
After class, things just sort of flowed right out of the studio and down the street, ending me and a friend up at Veg Out (my absolute favorite restaurant — they are catering my cake party later this afernoon!). I told him about how peaceful I felt about the looming birthday. It didn’t even feel looming anymore.
And so the day went. The peace brought with it an immense sense of gratitude.
What corner did I turn that’s made me feel this way? I think it all just sunk in. I have had an amazing time over the past couple of years, seizing onto the fittest by 50 challenge that Sam and I set for ourselves. “Seizing” may even be too strong a word for the modest but consistent effort I’ve put in. I just showed up and did what was in front of me, day after day, allowing for mistakes and missteps, letting every little thing add up to a big moment.
I’m 50. I’ve done not one but TWO Olympic distance triathlons in less than two months. I’m training for the Toronto Half Marathon. I’m committing to the road bike, even signed up for a winter indoor trainer class that starts November 1.
I saw the Grand Canyon and went to Burning Man.
I’ve ridden bicycles in Zurich, Madrid, along the South Rim, Las Vegas, and the Nevada desert.
My swimming is getting faster!
Sam and I have an awesome and exciting book proposal (stay tuned) and an agent to help us find a home for it. We are working on a research grant for a project that, whatever the research council decides, we believe in and think is worthy.
Renald and I are downsizing to a simpler, more manageable lifestyle (condo!) and that’s kind of exciting.
My step-daughter is a talented artist who is following her dreams. AND she says her positive body image has a lot to do with my example.
My parents are coming for the weekend to celebrate with me. In South African tradition, it’s appropriate to wish them a “happy birthday” today too.
I have wonderful, solid friends in my life–the kind that would go to the wall for me. And lots of them want to take me out for dinner and lunch to celebrate my birthday! Like, we’re booking birthday meals into October, okay. How amazing is that?
I’m satisfied with where I’m at today and I feel good about who I am. There’s a sort of joyful exuberance bubbling up inside of me these days. Feeling several shades of fabulous, actually.
It bodes well for life after 50.
Happy birthday to me: fit, feminist, 50, and fine with that!