“My name’s Sally O’Malley and I’m proud to say I’m 50 years old. I’m not one of those gals whose afraid to tell her real age. And I like to kick, stretch, and kick! I’m fifty. Fifty years old.” -Molly Shannon from Saturday Night Live
A year ago, as I turned forty-nine, the panic set in. How did fifty years fly by so soon? I was dealing with rolling hot flashes (among other pre-menopausal symptoms), degenerative disks in my spine, aching knees, and painful bone spurs in my feet. The vanity in me started to notice every gray hair, the appearance of crepey skin on my neck, and every crows foot and laugh line on my face. Fifty and beyond was not looking like a whole lot of fun and I started to really feel depressed about it. My sister-in-law is a year older than me and as I wished her a happy 50th she confessed, “Maurisa, I pretty much cried all day.” Ugh. Are the best years of my life already behind me? What do I have to look forward to other than a continual downward slide and a rebelling body? And to be frankly honest with you, I was truly afraid of getting old and of death itself.
While I knew I couldn’t do anything about getting older, I knew I could mitigate some of the more negative aspects. The depressing conversation with my dear sister-in-law became my motivator. I did not want to spend my fiftieth birthday in tears. Under the guidance of a Nutritional Therapist I changed my eating habits—cutting out processed sugars and grains; boosting my protein, fats, and veggies; and introducing some supplements. This was all focused upon alleviating the hot flashes, irritability, lethargy, and joint pain, but a wonderful side benefit was that I dropped 25 pounds, something that becomes increasingly difficult as we age. As energy levels began increasing I started exercising more and by my birthday I was in the best shape I’d been in since we began our family.
As for the gray hair, crepey neck skin, and crows feet; I came to accept and look upon them as hallmarks of a life well lived. I found myself looking about and seeing the beauty in those already far into their golden years. At every stage of life we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We should give God thanks for each day he has graced us with and not be afraid. As my 23 year old son observed,”Mom, you shouldn’t feel bad about getting older. You’re at that age when people actually respect you.” It was probably the nicest and most comforting thing he’s ever said to me.
It wasn’t just my body which needed attention. I knew the fear and depression about getting older had a spiritual aspect to it as well. I handed my worries over to God and started using Lectio Divina to enrich my prayer life. Looking back over this past year I recognized the amazing graces I’d been given and for the first time in a long while I saw substantial spiritual growth. So much so, that when the actual day arrived it ended up being one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had. In His Providence, my birthday fell on a Sunday—and not just any Sunday, but the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. It felt like a birthday gift from heaven! I enjoyed Mass, a lovely late lunch with my husband and two youngest boys. We then took a nice long nap. It was lovely. No panic. No tears. Just peace, happiness, and gratitude for the wonderful life I’ve been given so far and joyful anticipation for the years to come.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon, planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”-Psalm 92: 12-15
This coming year holds so much promise. Our oldest will be getting married and our youngest will receive his First Holy Communion. How awesome is that? Fifty years may have flown by, but I have so much more to look forward to in the future. Every season of life can seem daunting and may fill us with trepidation. That is why these words from Saint John Paul II really resonate with me:
“Have no fear moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing I am with you, therefore, no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
My name’s Maurisa Mayerle and I’m proud to say I’m 50 years old.