There’s a surreal quality to the idea of turning 50.
Remember that line from King Lear:
Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise?
For those of us not yet wise, they really shouldn’t let us be old. It’s an untimely five-oh.
Still, as I face this milestone I want to make it a positive thing, turn it into an exciting Phase 2 of my life. There are things I want to be different, things I want to leave behind.
1. (False) Modesty
We all have our strengths. I for one am astonishingly good at dishwasher stacking, flawlessly lip-syncing to 80s hits, and keeping my chocolate stash meticulously organised.
But the truth is most of us are good at many things. Yet when they come up we’re dismissive, self-effacing, boringly modest.
Nobody wants to be smug or arrogant, or to stuff their social media with humble-bragging or virtue signalling. But there’s a sweet spot between self-effacing and obnoxious, a middle ground where we can say thank you to compliments, and speak well of ourselves even when we stuff up, and graciously own up to our skills and talents.
In my Phase 2, that’s what I’ll be aiming for.
2. Feeling Guilty For Not Being A Phone Person
Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but I dislike talking on the phone, especially chatting. And I always feel bad to ask if we can email or text instead.
But enough! I’m gonna be FIFTY for the love of Pete! It’s time to grow up and be mature and simply hold my head high and say, I don’t wanna! Foot stamp optional.
3. Getting Caught In Ruminative Loops
These cerebral Möbius strips are the worst! It feels like you’ll ultimately get somewhere as you go over and over what you should have said or what your friend’s comment really meant or what you should do about that thing.
But you never do! How do you break out of these seductive circuits? You have to recognise when you’re doing it. Once you start seeing the same mental scenery go by you have to call time. Then move it offline, or off-brain, I guess. Do your thinking on paper, or talk it out with a friend, or even deliberately turn your attention to something else. Break the loop!
As a pathological over-thinker I’ll find this the hardest thing to leave behind. But I think it will add the most to my ‘new’ life.
4. Complaining If I’m Not Willing To Do Anything About It
It’s so easy to get caught in a round of ain’t it awful. Sometimes you just need to let off steam and have a rant.
But sometimes you get yourself into a rut complaining about the same things over and over. I’ve noticed there are certain topics I keep ranting about – and I want to stop.
In my Phase 2 I need to decide how important something is. If I can forget it, I will. And if not, I’ll tell someone who cares, literally. If I’m not prepared to do something about it then I have to let it go. From now, those are my options.
5. Ridiculously High Heels
Last week I tried on a stunning but towering pair of heels. When I heard myself tell the sales assistant they were ‘too high’ I nearly fell over.
I mean I was still wearing the heels. But it felt emblematic of another relevant line, from Desiderata, of ‘gracefully surrendering the things of youth’. It’s not that you shouldn’t wear those heels, or anything else that might be considered youthful, any more.
Rather it’s a lovely letting go of the pressure to hold on to things that no longer make you happy, that no longer feel right. And graceful surrender is a lot easier when you aren’t teetering on stilettos.
6. Trying To Be Logical With Petty Tyrants
We’ve all had the experience of a perfectly reasonable request being denied by someone determined to wreak every vestige of power from their tiny realm of authority. It’s maddening!
But I’ve realised a simple truth: you will never win.
Every restatement of logic or appeal to rationality will give the minuscule despot another chance to wield their power. All that changes is the level of your own blood pressure. I’m now simply going to say thank you and hang up, or leave the store, or end the conversation.
Then I’ll call back or visit another time or find another person to help me. It’s rare to get two petty tyrants in a row so the second approach should get better results. But even if not, it will still save pointless stress.
7. Feeling Guilty About Eating Chocolate
How many of us deny ourselves simple pleasures, or give in but then guilt ourselves over our nchoices? In my new life I say, No more! When it comes to treats and indulgences I’ll do what I call ‘splurging strategically’.
Here’s how it works. If you love something, have it and enjoy. Buy the best you can afford. Express how delicious it is: mmmmm! Let yourself register the pleasure.
For me this category includes chocolate, red wine and cheese. But if you don’t absolutely love something, then leave it. If it’s only so-so then say no-no. For me this includes ice cream and cake and even cocktails.
They’re good, but if I want to stay svelte in my Phase 2 then I’m going to have to pick my calorie battles. The great thing about the splurge strategically approach is that it means you don’t have to worry about the splurges you do have. They’re worth it, and you can enjoy them thoroughly, without guilt. Hmmm… guilt-free chocolate.
Suddenly 50 doesn’t seem so bad. I feel wiser already.
About the author: Michele Connolly is a psychologist and author of the new book How to Be Thin in a World of Chocolate (Finch Publishing, $19.95). After years of research into the fields of personality and happiness, Michelle is keen to share the secret to being both happy and healthy.