lessons at mid lifeLast month, I turned 58. As in “years old.” Fifty. Eight.

I don’t care who you are, 58 is no longer “young.” Body parts have shifted downwards. Skin has lost its memory yarn. Thighs ripple when we’re standing still. Once-defined triceps now flap like sheets on a clothesline. Weight has moved into our hips and bellies with the tenacity of squatters on the back 40 of the Ponderosa. I’ve reached the age where apparently the only way to get gravity working in my favor is to walk on my hands with my feet in the air.

But today, I got to thinking about the beauty of aging. Yes, I’m aware that my boobs are no longer up around my clavicles (frankly, they haven’t been within Howdy-neighbor proximity for several years), but honestly, would you be 23 again?? Yep, all perky boobs and flawless skin, but often in exchange for angst and uncertainty. Middle age brings with it a certain peace about ourselves and our bodies, which is ultimatelyliberating.

So for my birthday, to balance the scales of the eight billion of articles and blog posts (including my own) about the Seriously?? side of menopause and the sudden tsunami of AARP applications in our mailbox, I decided to write about the 10 Best Lessons I’ve Learned from my Middle-Age Body.

1. Humility. I’ve come to realize that there are certain things I can’t control. While it’s true that we can go to the gym, watch what we eat, and otherwise stop beating the crap out of our temples, and we can even choose to refresh God’s handiwork with a little nip/tuck along the way, the fact remains that we cannot stop the aging process.  In a society that worships youth and firm thighs, it is no longer our turn. Let it go, and let the next generation have their day. They will be us someday.

2. Compassion. I’m less judgmental. About myself and about other women in my age bracket. If I have a second piece of cheesecake, I’m not a weak, pathetic behemoth who’ll be fat forever because she has absolutely no self-discipline. And if I see another women who’s overweight (by today’s ridiculous standards), I don’t automatically conclude that she’s a sloth who just needs to put down the damn fork. Maybe she’s genetically curvy and has other, higher priorities than the exhausting pursuit of flat abs at age 60. I like her already.

3. The importance of a sense of humor. Iif we haven’t learned to laugh at ourselves by now, we need to take a class. It’s time to find the funny in this whole process (God knows, we have enough material). Otherwise we end up looking like that Cat Woman (or half of Hollywood), with too many surgeries and too many diets that end up making us look creepy and desperate. I’d rather my kids say “She was a hilarious old broad when she died” than “We lost Mom on her last face lift, but our children no longer have nightmares.”

4. Patience. When you’re young, if you want to lose five pounds by Saturday, you can start on Thursday and hit your goal. By 50+, five pounds can be a month’s work. And if your last workout was in 2010, you’re a good six months away from firm thighs. But I’ve decided that’s okay, and I’m resetting my bar.

5. Exercise should be fun. It’s like sex. If you’re not having a good time, you’re doing it wrong. Do what you like. You’ll do it more often, and get better results. (True on both counts.)

6. Comparisons are pointless. There will always be somebody thinner, prettier, and younger than you. And if you look for it, you can always find someone fatter, homelier, and older than you. Who cares? When I meet the woman who cures cancer, then I’ll be intimidated.

7. Listen to my body.  I’ve stopped trying to tell it what it needs, what’s it supposed to be doing, and what it should look like. If it says I’m tired, I take a nap. If it feels stiff, I do some stretching. If it craves something sweet, I have a cookie (okay, four…don’t judge. See #2). My body is no longer the enemy, needing to be beat into submission for daily infractions of not being tall enough, pretty enough, or thin enough. It is what it is, and now it tells me what to do.

8. When God taketh away, He giveth something better. When we stop mourning the loss of smooth skin, lear-jet-level metabolism, and any body parts that could be even loosely described as “perky,” we discover an increased sex drive, the end of periods or pregnancy scares, more confidence, and less anxious self-absorption about how we look, leaving us free to reinvent ourselves in whatever way we choose. I’m thinking we came out ahead on this deal.

9. If Hubs buys me something sexy, I wear it. Even if I think I’m too old, too fat, too soft, too…just too 58. I’ve learned that how he sees me and how I see me are vastly different. He doesn’t want a 20-year-old beach volleyball player. He wants me. So I dim the lights and strut my stuff, in all its goofy, middle-aged glory.

10. Time will always win. ‘Nuf said.

So my advice for the middle-age blahs? Grab your iPod, find your best boogie song, turn it up LOUD, and do your naked happy dance in the bathroom mirror. Bust all your worst moves (the ones that make your kids want to move to another state and disclaim all relation to you). All those body parts a-flying and butts jiggling are guaranteed to get you laughing and put the yippy back in your skippy.

Try it. You know you want to. We’ll wait.

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