I recently turned 50 in Lockdown and shared these reflections on my private social media shortly after my birthday. Am sharing again – this time publicly – since attitudes on ageing are something we can all revisit, myself included:
Birthdays in quarantine can be a gift. Expectations of being able to hold any traditional birthday celebrations are null & void. And because the bar is so low, anything outside of mundane lockdown routine is met with huge gratitude.
Since where I live, only a handful of businesses are cautiously creaking open, gifts that make it through the post box from “the outside world” feel like contraband. Creativity to celebrate under restriction must and does reign.
The Russians have a beautiful tradition for every major life event, which my half-Russian children have grown to accept as a part of all our family celebrations. Beyond perfunctory one-word toasts, guests compose songs, recite poetry, perform skits, tell jokes or deliver speeches tailored specifically to your shared experience. If you’re at one of our dinner parties, you’re pretty much held hostage to get up and “be on.”
In lockdown, the people who participate, albeit only virtually, CHOSE to be there for you. So it is deeply humbling to see people from every stage of your past and present in a video montage congratulate you or talk about what you mean to them.
A friend who also recently turned 50 in lockdown said it was like being at your own memorial service except you’re not actually dead and you get to revisit memories long-forgotten or hear perspectives about yourself you never even knew! You get to see yourself through another person’s loving, warm, thoughtful eyes.
It is impossible not to gasp at that first moment of recognition as the face of each virtual guest comes up on-screen after all these years and then be seized to tears at the sacred place they hold in your life. Your notion of time and distance shatters and you love them with all your heart just hearing and seeing them again – speaking to you, just you.
You’re moved. You’re honored. You’re grateful.
On the eve of my husband’s 50th recently, he described turning 50 better than I ever could — lockdowns aside:
Benchmarks birthdays in general make you take stock but up until turning 50, it was mostly about looking back on the past, the people you’ve known, what you’ve achieved so far and there’s huge gratitude and humility in that.
When you turn 50, there’s a maturity and awareness you maybe didn’t have before about life’s fragility. So you pause and are just content and at peace with exactly where you are today and the fact that your filter is sharper than ever about who and what truly matters in life.
At 50, and because health and wellbeing are more of a priority, you have a renewed energy about potential. You’re already grateful for the unknown adventures that lie ahead and the fact that you’re still young enough to have dreams yet to realise. There’s a real excitement and enthusiasm about getting to pursue those dreams – not just achieving them.
There’s appreciation for being able to look at the whole picture – backwards, forwards– from where you stand right now. And that is the joy.