There is so much I did not understand in my life as it was happening. It is only in
hindsight, and with life experience, that things make more sense to me now. As a younger
person, I did not know what I did not know. In some ways, living in that state allows for more
bliss. As I passed the half-century mark, however, I strove to reclaim a new kind of bliss.
Mid-life is a reckoning point for most people. It certainly was for me. I got divorced and
sober. I lived alone for the first time in my life. I realized that I had been equating happiness only
with pleasure. Now, I seek a more lasting serenity…with some spice mixed in.
I am much more attuned to nature at this point in my life. A wise woman, paraphrasing
the poet Rumi, shared with me that we should consider the people we come into contact with in
life as trees—some trees receive the blessings of sunlight, water and good soil and therefore
grow tall and straight, while others do not and grow crooked and frail. This lens increased my
compassion for others, and for myself. We all get dealt an imperfect hand of cards in life. It is
our response to life's difficulties that counts.
Instead of bemoaning the trauma of my past, I consider it to have been a necessary
teacher. I now consider all people and situations potential teachers, if I allow them to be.
That being said, I also learned in my fifth decade the utility of boundaries. I was such a people-pleaser that I had difficulty ever saying no. I do not do that anymore. “No.” can be a complete sentence. I have learned that my time is more valuable than my money. It is the one commodity I cannot buy or get back if spent poorly.
A former nurse, Bronnie Ware, has written about the most commonly expressed five things her dying patients shared with her at the end of their lives:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
Note how making more money is conspicuously absent from the list. I believe that is because the most meaningful things in life are not things; they are experiences. What would you pay for more moments to hold close a loved one who left this world too early? If Armageddon were to come during your lifetime, would you be glad that you had amassed riches, or would you be more grateful to have certain people by your side?
I have told my loved ones that I no longer want any things for my birthday or other traditional gift-giving holidays. I value experiences and sentiments more than things now. My adult children write me beautiful cards; my significant other plans a special evening out. These are the things I value most now, post-50.
During this third-third of my life (actuarily speaking, those of us in our 50s have lived two-thirds of our lives), I am much more intentional about how I spent my time. When considering a project or outing, I think: Does this fulfill my needs? Does it move me closer to my goals or away from them? Will it deplete me in a way that makes me less available or equipped to do the things most important to me?
I try to live most days as if they were my last, though I concede that is impracticable. I do not let opportunities pass, though, to show and tell those I love how I feel. I seek every day to make the world better in some way because I was here.
It is my dream to make a huge impact on the world by alleviating suffering in a significant way. In the meantime, I am blooming where I am planted by doing good deeds. I consciously appreciate every day I am given on this earth. By doing this, I hope to leave this life with no regrets.