Are the 50s when we start to live fully? Since starting on my book project (I was 40 at the time), I’ve been consistently dismayed by how challenging the ageing process actually is.
The book was my way of seizing control over what I thought was my loss of youth and all the fun that went with it.
It certainly helped with my health status, but the ageing process opened a Pandora’s box of other things I wasn’t prepared for.
As I faced getting older, I came to the realisation that the life I thought I was living was actually an illusion. It was depressing.
I had been in a frenzied kind of remote pilot for most of the time. For a long time I wondered how I got where I was—I felt like I was in the wrong life! (Feel free to pepper this with the expletives of your choice.)
I felt like I was stuck in that movie Groundhog Day, where the main character has to keep repeating all the same stupid stuff day in and day out.
I couldn’t figure out how to get back to my real, purposeful life for many years. In fact, the pennies only dropped relatively recently after a considerable amount of personal development work.
Have you heard that expression “I’ve been sold a pup”? In this scenario, you were after a pedigree dog, but you ended up with a mutt. It means you’ve been swindled, and that’s how I felt.
Not that I’m calling my children mutts! It wasn’t that I didn’t love them, or that I wasn’t grateful for the many opportunities I’d been lucky enough to receive. It’s just that I realised that I’d been pursuing what I thought were the important things in life for all the wrong reasons.
Deal with your demons
If your heart is closed from fear of being hurt, then you are not really living. You might achieve your goals, but you’ll still feel empty and alone. I now know that real connection in life comes from the heart and living a life of purpose.
I’ve watched many of my girlfriends go through sea changes and exit completely from the life they had before their 50s. The causes are many and varied. For example, many of us are in jobs we wouldn’t really have chosen before we had the kids, but now we can finally pursue that passion full time.
Then there are the demons. Many of us have successfully buried these under our emotional floorboards for the whole of our lives. If we haven’t dealt with them earlier, then the 50s is when they start jumping out and causing a ruckus.
I believe that the 50s and beyond is the time we must dig in and work on ourselves. If I’d kept drinking down the pain of unrequited passion for the life I should’ve had, then my life would never have become as productive as it thankfully it now is. The constant frustration of not being your true self is a stressor, and any stressor in large doses will cause debilitating illness—it did in my case.
Dealing with the disconnect between who we have become and who we feel we should be is where successful ageing starts.
The real me got buried under the layers of early childhood abuse, duties, responsibilities and toxic relationships. It got damaged from the unhealthy coping strategies I deployed so I could deal with my inauthentic life choices.
Solutions for the challenges
There are so many barriers, and we’ve set up all sorts of complicated systems that serve everyone but us. If you’ve built an elaborate structure around you: work, mortgages, family commitments, credit card debt— the proverbial rat wheel—then you believe you have to keep it all together and keep furiously peddling.
Your first step is to get very healthy and rid your body of toxic food and thoughts. Get rid of any toxic relationships as well.
Find a way to love yourself at any cost. If you need therapy for any damage or post-traumatic stress disorder, then get it. Clear the decks and find others that feel the same way and join forces. Find a way to reduce anything that dumbs you down, whether that be socially endorsed alcohol, illegal drugs, or a sugary comfort food habit.
Push back against those who tell you to stay in your box. You’ll recognise them because they say things like “don’t be silly” and “you’re too old to buy a B and B in the Greek Islands” or “you can’t just sell quit your job and move to Bali.”
Ignore them. Do whatever it is you feel you want to do.
You know how quickly your 50s came around. Now, just as quickly you’ll be laid out on your back in your death bed nighty! You’ll be gone in a blip and only be someone’s fond memory.
So, be brave! The time to move forward in your life is now.
About the author:
Kate Marie is the founder of the Slow Ageing movement which aims to support women to embrace the beyond- fifties as a time to optimise personal health and wellbeing and to live a life of purpose and contribution. She is the co-author of the Slow Ageing Guide to Skin Rejuvenation and the best-selling book Fast Living Slow Ageing. Both books are available where all good books are sold. For more information visit www.slowaging.org