There are many life events that are associated with different ages. Early on it is Bar Mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteen parties. In the twenties, it’s graduating college, marriage and having kids . In your fifties the kids graduate, become independent, and parents become elderly. I am not a glass half empty kind of guy, but there is a lot of change in the fifties that creates a new reality, a new norm.
And it happens quickly. I’m now playing in old guy softball and basketball leagues. My kids routinely beat me in hoop and as they celebrate, I’m taking Advil. When I auditioned for Survivor, my son suggested that if I got picked that I’d be the old guy on the show. The problem is, I don’t see myself that way. Thinning hair notwithstanding. I still slide in softball and dive on the basketball court, although the next day it takes me longer to get out of bed. It’s all good, I now am OK with this new norm.
What’s important is that I have learned is not just to memorize every line from Pulp Fiction, but to also look at new things and not be overwhelmed because they are different, and to embrace the positive aspects and revel in whatever comes next.
My Mom had a long slow battle with cancer that she lost three years ago; something that many of us unfortunately experience as we age. I was incredibly sad, of course, and, it created a lot of apprehension in other areas of my life. Would I keep in touch with my sisters when she was gone? Would I know what’s going on in my niece and nephews lives, and they with my kids? A new reality was scary to think about, but. here I am three years later, and my sisters and I do keep in touch, probably even more so now. We spend holidays together and the kids remain in contact. Rather than dwelling on past conflicts, we have embraced the new norm, and I appreciate them more than ever. Out of sadness came positivity.
I am fortunate to have a solid group of friends that each enrich my life in different ways. As I have gotten older, many of those friendships have changed for one reason or another and I am OK with the change. I have a buddy with whom I played cards, trained for the marathons and spoke to all the time. Now we talk and see each other much less frequently. When we do talk, we fall into the same routines, same stupid jokes. Instead of lamenting that we don’t see each other much, we simply drink martinis and try to take each other’s money at the poker table and it is all good. The new norm.
I also have two very close childhood friends who are like brothers. Even those friendships have changed and evolved, and our conversations have a new tone. Don’t get me wrong, we still have heated debates about which movie was better – 48 Hours or Trading Places, but, the new norm is that we listen to each other, and try to help navigate through things like relationships, finances, health, fitness goals, etc. We offer advice and input, usually over a plate of nachos and it is therapeutic. Of course, we still discuss which Charlie’s Angel was the hottest. After all, it can’t all be new all the time.
In the book, Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom talks about his relationship with his professor who was dying. Mitch writes that even though Morrie could no longer even walk or stand, and couldn’t do all the things he loved anymore, he appreciated learning new things more than ever before. He was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t dance, but cherished listening to music. Morrie could no longer take his regular hikes, but spent hours staring at the leaves changing colors from his window. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He embraced his new norm. This is a good lesson for all of us.
Being divorced created a lot of change in my life. It was very hard not to be with my kids 24/7 and not to feel guilty. My kids were also growing up, and didn’t necessarily need me as much as they once did. I lamented their becoming capable, independent young men. Last week, my youngest texted me that he was in TJ Maxx shopping for clothes. This from a kid who six months earlier modeled his fashion choices after Bill Belichick on the sideline. But, I digress….
It’s not always easy, but it’s important to embrace change. Instead of being bummed that my son is away at college in the Midwest, I am happy for him and proud. I know he is spreading his wings and learning and thriving. Rather than being upset that my youngest is driving and independent, I make plans to try to meet him so he can beat me at basketball when he’s going to be at the gym.
Pick whatever cliché works best for you – seeing the forest through the trees, waking up to smell the roses, whatever you prefer. In our fifties there are a lot of changes and adjustments, and you know what? While it may not be a piece of cake to establish a new norm we can do and flourish. After all, I wouldn’t blow smoke up your ass…,(sorry, couldn’t resist one more cliché).