Today’s my birthday. I was going to do a big reflective post like I did last year. Turns out, last year I was full of gratitude for my life.
I still am.
But I don’t feel quite as reflective. I’m good. It’s February, and I am tired, and I’m still recovering from the flu. But… I’m good.
I got home at 7 pm last night, and was super tired, but I went out for a short run and pondered what it means to be 54. And I realized that 54 is really mid-life. The things I’ve been working toward for decades — intentionally and just by wandering through my life — have come together. I am known for what I do, and I’m doing harder, better, more challenging and far-reaching work than ever before. I’m on the edge of seeing the end of a volunteer development project with kids in Uganda I’ve been working on for 12 years. I have the resources to have a home I love and to do all the travel I want. I got serious about saving for my future a few years ago and don’t feel quite as panicked as I once did. I have the perfect cats. I have community and family I know and trust and care for. My body moves the way I want it to, most of the time. I like my shoulder and calf muscles. I can do 108 sun salutations and ride 100 km. I have history and experience, and I’m living the fruits of that.
And the middle means… being stretched by aging and waning on one end, aging that just is, isn’t mindset or a construct, but just is. My fingers are knobbled with arthritis that wasn’t there two years ago — I catch sight of my finger poking at my phone sometimes and am taken aback. How is that my finger? That is an old person finger! I’m fatigued, often — by unrelenting menopause, and disrupted sleep, and just less physical resilience than I used to have. I had the flu in January and briefly caught sight of what it means to be frail and to live alone and to have your sink back up when you’re fighting a fever of more than 39. I can feel hints of fragility and physical limits — and these are new.
And at the same time — 54 means still being tugged at by novelty, and adventure, and possibilities. I still haven’t written all of the things that are in me, or learned swahili, and I know there are stories of who I am that haven’t unfolded yet. There are chapters to be lived I haven’t even imagined yet, people to be loved and known I haven’t met yet, oceans to bob in and coasts to walk and roads to ride on.
54 is knowing myself. Knowing that even though I was tired when I got home last night, what my body and soul needed was a run from home to Coxwell and back. It’s knowing that I’ll sleep better and feel more satisfied in my soul if I scrub the kitchen before bed. It’s having a trusted spidey sense about what’s the right thing to do for myself — whether that’s yep, I need to do this work right now, there’s no other time to do it, or yep, yoga is what my body needs right now, not a spinning class, or yep, this is the right person to go on this date with, or yep, this is a good time to have a glass of wine. Or knowing that I am going to have a complete sugar crash that will mess with my life if I eat this brownie at this moment in time — and I don’t eat the brownie. It’s a knowing that comes with deep listening to myself, to what has unfolded because of the choices I’ve made in my life.
At 54, some pathways are off the table. I’m not going to go to med school, or have a baby, or a 25th wedding anniversary, or, with this body and its various aches and vulnerabilities, run another marathon. Some things, you just time out of. And part of being 54 is being okay with that, in a way I wouldn’t have been five years ago.
For me, 54 is more about stretching myself more fully into the spaces I already know I love — rather than taking big leaps in new directions. It’s getting better at the work I already do, and stretching into new niches. It’s embracing my role as Auntie Cate, for my own nieces and with various other people who wander into my life. It’s knowing that traveling alone truly feeds me in ways nothing else does — and finding every possible option to do that. It’s going deep into yoga and shaping myself into forms I’ve never even seen before.
Like this one, from my Iyengar class on Wednesday.
I don’t even know what that’s called — some kind of advanced fish pose. It was… exhilarating, opening in new ways. We spent about 45 minutes of that class in various forms of trikonasana. It was intense, and hard, and focused. And my body found new alignment, new edges.
That’s what 54 is. Joy in going deep and full into the self I already am.
I’ll take it.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who lives, works and practices yoga in Toronto. She likes to count things, and notes that this is her 90th post for Fit is a Feminist Issue.