Two years ago, I sat curled up on my sofa thinking about Keith turning 50. “What. The. Hell. How can he be fifty?” I thought. I was stunned to realize how quickly we had gone from being the young ones… to what are we now? Our kids are the young ones. I am still floored to think of all the years that have flown by as we raised our kids, reached for new dreams, and you know, lived our lives. I became aware that winter of time running by very very quickly. My response was to do something! There isn’t anything I would do to change the years we’ve shared or the time we’ve spent raising our family and chasing our dreams, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things I still have left to do.
My list came from my determination not to count down the days before my 50th birthday as though it were the end, but to fill up the space with adventure and excitement. To push forward into the next season of my life rather than be pulled along by the calendar and the turn of the earth. So, I made a list of things I still want to do. Activities and challenges that would help propel me forward.
There were trips to plan, places to explore, and time to discover on that list. We spent a magical long weekend in New Orleans, enjoying my parents and my sister and her husband. We explored and enjoyed that beautiful city. I believe our trip to Key West may be my all-time favorite vacation ever. I’ve never had a vacation move me to upend my life in such profound ways, as that one did. We hit so many things on the list during that trip, and we also took time to be lazy and laugh long over cooling cups of coffee on the lanai. That house, those people, that moment in time overlooking the peaceful waters of the Keys, I will hold in my heart forever.
I went home to Oregon several times, marking off my need to spend time under the gray skies and breathe in the moss-covered pine. We made a quick, painful trip to Eastern Oregon to say goodbye. We spent time traveling the Oregon Coast, and we spent far too much time saying goodbye to my dad and granddad. That was never on this list, but we chose to make time the priority and the place, home, will always be Oregon for me. There were planned trips we didn’t get to take on this list. We will gather again for a trip to Hawaii in a couple years. Montreal, Acadia, and NY City are still awaiting time and attention. We simply decided that our people were more important than these places. Not even close.
We played hard! We zipped, laser tagged, made pottery, and painted. We toured libraries, took a duck tour around Boston, and spent an evening at a vintage arcade. We finished a 5k, went to theme parks, raced go-carts, and went to the theater. The best part of all these activities were the people I got to bring along. Although the list was mine, the fun was shared. My kids, my husband, my family, and many friends joined me to cross things off my list. What an amazing excuse to gather my people and plan… I have to, it’s on the list!
Many of the things on the list were activities I’d never taken the time to enjoy. If the list didn’t teach me anything else, it will always remind me to… do it, just do it! Take the zip line… be silly, adventurous, courageous, and daring. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal, it’s the real thing. So, I’m committed to embracing it even more fully as I move into the second half of my life.
I didn’t cross off everything on my list. I am still working on it. I have some projects to complete and some new adventures to mark off. I’ll give myself my 50th year to get to the end of this one. I think the act of making the list, sharing, and then marking the activities off one by one has been a great way to focus energy on the good things, the possible, and the positive in my life. It is easy to focus on what isn’t working, and the everyday annoyances that press in. Life continued to happen, twists and turns threatened to swamp us at times, but the list helped me focus on moving forward.
I found my list to be a great way to run toward a milestone birthday, to celebrate all the things I can do if I put some time and energy into it. It was also a great idea to take on some new challenges as I face the middle years. I may not always be able to zip line, finish a 5k, or jet ski around the Keys, but while I can, I will. This process reminded me that while I am older, there are still a lot of miles left in me. My body and life have changed, I can spend my days looking back at what is lost, or ahead to what is possible.
I once heard a beautiful middle-aged woman declare, “I am not ready to pass on my torch, but I am ready to light a few on my way by!” I think I will continue to look for ways to light the way for others, share my light in ways that are big and small, provide cover for those whose light is flickering, and occasionally, I hope to find a way to light some torches as I move into this next phase of my life. In this process, I learned again the joy of tending my own light and sharing it with others. Not a bad way to celebrate my birthday!
Click here for a complete list of my 50 before 50 adventures!