A New Year’s Musing: Fifty and Happy
We thought this would be a great time to rerun one of our favorite articles about being Fifty and happy at New Years. Enjoy!
BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL
Everyone wants me to be different.
A friend invited me to a seminar she was running on “How to Change Your Life NOW!” News stories are reaching out to me to transform my appearance by changing the way I eat, wear my hair, and choose my make up; except for the segment with the priest who said I should change my character for a genuine life-altering experience.
All the magazines suggest pretty much the same. They offer pages of exercises I can do to change the shape of my thighs and size of my hips. And if I change my mind enough times, it will keep my man guessing so he will find me alluring.
I also just read about a new book that claims you can change your life by listening to certain songs. Apparently, “Brown Sugar” is a real spirit booster.
This is all helpful I’m sure to those who want it, but I don’t want things to change. I like everything the way it is. I’ve waited half a century to say that, and I’m stickin’ to it.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want things to be different.
In my twenties, all I wanted was to change from struggling career gal to successful ad exec; living at home to getting my own apartment; and switching my marital status from single to married. In my thirties I wanted to change from middle management to honcho, and from married to married with children.
I spent my forties waiting for my children to change from babies to toddlers to kids and so on. Each stage seemed so trying, until the next came along and it was even more stressful. I was always a nervous wreck: Would they do well in school? Would this group of friends be nice? Would they make the team? I figured that if I worried enough, they wouldn’t have to.
And then I turned 50.
By then I had changed careers. The advertising honcho thing never happened. My son was born, and I left my 9-to-5 for freelance, which was a good gig for quite a while until the economy tanked and all my clients kept the work in-house. Theirs not mine.
A dumb luck/talent combo—as opposed to calculated risk-taking/strategic planning—brought about an opportunity to reinvent myself as a journalist/novelist. (Considering I wrote a novel called “Fat Chick” you can guess that I have spent most my life trying to get the numbers on the scale to change from high to low.) Don’t think I’m not grateful for that every minute of every day.
Around that time, my son and daughter changed into middle and high schoolers. I won’t pretend that’s not a challenging stage, but with their independence and ability to do more for themselves came a refreshing change for me as well: more time to myself; something I hadn’t had in a very long while.
And as far as how I look, well, I’m me. I changed from anxious to accepting a while ago, when I will finally realized I’d never be as tall as Elle Macpherson or skinny as Kate Moss. I do have J.Lo curves, although mine are not the cellulite-free kind. Peace of mind set in when it became clear that even if you have the perfect face and body with a money/fame chaser like Jen, Demi and Candace Bushnell (throw in a pedigree like Maria Shriver,) it is no guarantee that you will keep your husband.
And so for the first time, my New Year’s resolution does not involve the “c” word, as in change, but the “t” word as in thankful. Fifty years in the making, but worth the wait.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novel “Fat Chick” and a columnist in NYC.