This week marks seven years since the passing of my husband M. He left me two weeks shy of my 50th birthday. I often think about the words my bereavement coach S said during our class: "The heart never mends after losing a spouse—the hole just gets smaller."
"Are you really a different person since turning 50?" asked R at a boomer girls' gathering last weekend. "What's different, how are you different?" R wanted to know.
My answer was quick: "Yes, I am a different person." I proceeded to list several ways I have positively changed during the past seven years.
Questions like this remind me to review my accomplishments—big and small. In fact, this December marks a symbolic moment in my life after 50. My relationship with myself is quite the opposite of the seven-year-itch.
Unlike a potential wandering spouse, I don't want to be unfaithful to myself. The person I was before 50 and the person I am becoming after 50 are evolving into one authentic relationship that I plan to keep improving, growing and moving forward. Yes, there is a constant push and pull between the two, but lately the Judy after 50 seems to win out and make the right choices.
How Am I Different?
I could go on and on, but I'll save that for my book (if I ever motivate myself to get past the first few chapters and finish it). In honor of my seven-year-itch, I've listed seven ways I've changed for the better:
- I'm braver than I was before 50. A brave person went and bought a "condo on the corner" at the Jersey shore all by herself seven years ago. At the time, I was afraid that I might not be able to financially manage the payments. I still own my condo and have paid the mortgage each month. I even secured a landscaper to cut the bushes, a contractor to fix the deck and a tree trimmer to trim the trees. I love walks on the beach, sitting by the ocean and riding a bicycle around the island.
- I have a new identity. I'm no longer a corporate executive. I'm JudiBoomergirl, a blogger. I enjoy when I say "I'm a blogger" at gatherings like the one last weekend. People often respond, "Really? Ooh, how interesting." (OK, so the next question usually asked is, "Can you make a living at it?" And I say: "You can make money but few make a lot of money unless you make it your full-time job 24/7." That leads me to my next change.)
I've given up the weekly paycheck to pursue my passions. Yes, I worked hard the past 30-plus years, invested wisely and saved to have the financial resources to take the road that few are able to take at my age. It's getting easier to give myself permission to say, "I've earned this privilege." (That's a BIG CHANGE too!)
- I take time to stop, breathe and be. A student of mindfulness meditation and yoga, I've learned that the present is the place where everything is happening. As Patty Chang Anker, author of Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, said at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, "You can't create your future when you are so attached to the past." Jon Kabit-Zinn, author of many books, including Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life, also advises not to go too far into the future. "There are a lot of different ways to talk about mindfulness, but what it really means is awareness," said Jon during his interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes last Sunday.
- I take care of my body by exercising. I ride my stationary bicycle every morning for 30 minutes. I go to yoga class five times a week because I love how yoga balances my mind, body and spirit. I'm not flexible and cannot do every pose perfectly, but that's OK. I use blocks so my hands can touch the earth and a yoga strap to help me stretch my legs. I can balance on one foot and then on the other foot. Sometimes I fall down and then I pick myself up again.
I have a new man in my life and I cherish his love. It was difficult to venture into the world of online dating after a 24-year marriage. I was lucky not to have to venture for too long until I met my boyfriend L. At first, he didn't want to date me because I was a widow. I didn't give up or give in. "Let's have dinner," I said to L as we left the Starbucks after our first meeting in 2009. He was hesitant but agreed. The rest, as they say, is history. We make each other laugh and we're a good match.
- I believe "less is more." I enjoyed reading Arthur C. Brooks article "Abundance Without Attachment" in the recent The New York Times Sunday Review. My goal during my life after 50 is to do as he says: "Collect experiences. Distrust usefulness. Know your center."
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.