Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Phase of Fabulous

When I launched this blog three years ago, my first post was an essay titled "Coolest So Far" in which I described the many ways women are cooler in their forties than at any other time of life. When I wrote it I was 44, and honey, I was feeling fine. I'd discovered - why, hello there - ME again. And this middle aged version of me was fantastic!

Since then, FortyFabulous has been a celebration of a time of life that - in contrast to its frumpy image - has turned out to be surprisingly delicious.

I've addressed many topics that reflect what interests me in real life - sex, relationships, parenting, style, aging, technology, culture, and the arts. My goal has been to portray middle-aged women as the vibrant and vital hotties I know they are, so I've chosen upbeat topics and addressed them from a humorous and positive (even silly) point of view.

You won't find any discussion of serious illness, financial ruin, depression or disfunction here. There are plenty of other websites devoted to those weightier subjects, and god knows, the media makes aging out to be bad enough without my help.  I prefer to have fun and leave the angsty whining to someone else.


Three years have passed, my 48th birthday looms, and the prospect of approaching a new decade is making me squirm. I know I should embrace life at any age and yes, my fifties could be every bit as fabulous as my forties. But a little bit of darkness is beginning to seep into my sunny perspective, and it too starts with an "F." It's Fear.

What am I afraid of? Well, death of course. But not just dying - I'm afraid of dying without purpose or without ever really daring to live. I'm afraid of not taking my shot. When you're looking at 50, you can no longer pretend that you've got all the time in the world to fulfill your dreams.

The evidence is everywhere. My body is changing and it's not just cosmetic. I've been as hale as a plough horse all my life, but this year I've developed high cholesterol, hot flashes, and a vitamin D deficiency. I can't keep weight off, I can't sleep, and - unless I have two pair of glasses and a flashlight handy - I can't see a fucking thing.

I look at my family and it's growing up around me. My 14 year-old daughter is blossoming into a young woman and my 17 year-old son is looking at colleges. They aren't going to need a lot of mothering for very much longer. My parents, thankfully healthy and active, are getting older too. They have full lives and meaningful pursuits, but they aren't shaking things up much. On the big stuff, they're living out the  decisions they made years back.

I did some significant reinvention in my 40s - went to grad school, started a new career, etc. - but I've also been lolling about enjoying myself. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate my life; I know I have it good. But now I've realized that I want more!  I want to arrive at 50 living the life I've always envisioned for myself, not sighing over lost chances or buried in regrets.

Much of what I'm feeling is characteristic of a midlife crisis. In her book, The Breaking Point, How Female Midlife Crisis is Transforming Today's Women, Sue Shellenbarger writes that for many women in their late 40s/early 50s,
"A feeling of urgency arises: Now is either the time to fulfill your dreams or give them up."
Realizing that time is limited is scary, but it's also motivating. Shellenbarger says a midlife crises can be cataclysmic or gradual, but either way it's transformative, bringing about change at a crucial time of life. While often typified as a sort of breakdown, it can actually be an incredibly creative experience and bring great growth. 

"The single biggest mistake people make is in not having a midlife crisis," says psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, "It's a signal that you want more out of life. What a great thing."

OK then, I'm up for the challenge. It may mean a bit of a shift for this blog, but I'm going to face my snaky fears head on and create my own crisis. I'm going to make room for a new me - the best me - while accepting who I am and appreciating what I have. It's my project for 2011!

I do realize I'm not endlessly fascinating, so I don't intend to write only about my personal experiences. I'm going to consult the experts and the women who have gone before to uncover common wisdom, new perspectives, and alternate approaches to making a meaningful transformation at this age.

So come along with me for the next phase of fabulous, you amazing women and men that love us (thankfully, my husband is behind me on this one.) There's so much material to explore and many moons to be howled at. It's sure to be an interesting journey!


Chrissy said...

This post reminds me of a book i've recently finished by Sondra Wright called, 40+ and Fabulous. It's all about feeling fabulous for 40+ women. I find there are so many books out there for woment 50+ but not too many starting at 40 and up.
Anyways, I had to mention this book because your post totally reminded me of it!
Take care!

Marjie Killeen said...

Chrissy - Thanks for the recommendation, I am definitely going to check this book out!

Caitlin Kelly said...

I turn 54 in June....having survived dark side of 50. My one consolation is that many people (20-something girls) still think I'm in my early 40s, so something's working!

The only way to handle all the annoying bodily changes and new feelings of vulnerability, for me, is to accept them and enjoy the hell out of your life while we have our health and strength. My mom, at 76, is now in truly terrible shape and it inspires me to stay as strong as possible.

Marjie Killeen said...

Caitlin, I think I'm working my way to that place too. Screw age, as long as we can do what we want! And I'm sorry about your mother's poor health.