How a Facebook Post Changed My Perspective on Turning Fifty (When Gratitude is Not an Attitude)

I’ve been reflecting on my fiftieth for some time now. Taking stock of my life, going over what I have accomplished, grieving all that I have not, reflecting on time that has past that I will never get again. Some say age is just a number, but in the game of life where resources are limited, I say age is a barometer, a measure of how much time has gone by and what is still left. Besides which, the body has its own clock - and there are some things that change regardless of how you feel and whether or not you have youthful thoughts. I may feel (and act!) like a 15-year-old sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that my body follows my lead and functions in the same way (though the research says it certainly helps). Even in my best configuration of my healthiest self, I am at a halfway mark. A sobering thought. Which is how I was approaching my fiftieth - with a sense of somberness, significance, and seriousness.

Until a few months ago, when I read a childhood friend’s Facebook post about her own fiftieth. In it, Stephanie shared how fortunate she was to have reached fifty at all because of the health issues that she has withstood. Her post touched me somewhere that hadn’t been stirred before. It wasn’t the first time I had felt the importance of not sweating the small stuff or appreciating my life - but Stephanie’s post touched me at a time that I was ready to be touched, with the words that I was ready to hear.

It was a gift of gratitude bestowed upon me - with no obligation to force myself to be thankful when I wasn’t feeling it. Because some days the pain is greater than the gratitude, the loneliness too raw to feel the connections, the shame too deep to count my blessings. On those days, gratitude is not an attitude, it’s just another method of self-beratement. One more thing I’m not good enough at. One more way I am not being my best self.

Stephanie’s post, like Stephanie herself, was kind, generous and personal. In it, I could feel my ignorance, my innocence really: in the face of good annual check-ups, I am spoiled.

It reminded me that with all that I have lost, what I haven’t lost is my place at this table, my spot in this adventure, my time on Earth with its multitude of people and music and food and dancing and hugs and the scent of a baby’s head and the sight of a new bud.

I’m still here, riding the wave, sometimes high and sometimes knocked off my feet in a melange of water and rocks and sand up my nose.

But still. Here.

And from that place, my wrinkles are welcomed as are my opportunities lost, my stomach stretched, my hairs greyed, my heart scarred, my sleep shortened, my memory revised, my vitamin intake exponentially increased. Instead, my gaze has shifted to the long list of people I can call on at any time of the day and night and the relationships I have had throughout my life.

Like the one I shared with my dear friend Stephanie, with whom I haven’t spoken since high school, who somehow managed to work her way back into my heart and remind me of the importance of appreciating every day without ever making me feel bad about the days when I just can’t seem to do that.