Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

The joy of aging gratefully

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I just read about CNN’S 50 women turning 50 in 2014.

One of the most notable ones, pictured looking proud and unapologetic happened to have attended Princeton, Harvard, is an accomplished lawyer and married a future president.

Others had unparalleled athletic accomplishments like 6’3” Cheryl Miller who is a hall of famer and led the US Olympic basketball team to a gold medal in 1984 and is an NBA commentator and reporter. I won’t start the litany about Sarah Palin who is also on the list, although becoming the first female and youngest governor of Alaska should count for something. Founders of organizations for sexual abuse, television journalists, authors, prominent politicians, Emmy award winning writers, comedians, actors, founders of charter schools, astronomers, physicists….you name it, these women have done it.

Check out this website to read about these inspiring women.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/16/living/michelle-obama-turns-50-parents/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

It’s very easy to feel like an underachiever when reading about these women’s accomplishments.

When asked how they felt about turning 50, many said they felt free as they no longer needed to care for children and they could focus on themselves. Some were dreading this birthday because they were beginning to feel the effects of age, and the fact that they didn’t look as good and function as well as they once did.

I found it telling that many of the chemists, politicians and educators were embracing middle age, while the actors and models were dreading the half-century mark.

Daniel Gilbert, in his book, “Stumbling on Happiness” made many astute observations.  One was that people who were unhappy with their present situations felt that way because they’re fixated on past losses or regrets. For example, many of us feel bad because we remember the vitality and pain-free days of our youth. This begs the question- would we be happier if we had always felt our knees, had age spots, needed reading glasses and took Pepcid AC on a regular basis? Gilbert uses the example of a pay cut. An experiment revealed that people would choose a lower salary if it were stable, over a higher salary that was subject to reduction over time.

While reading about the achievements of these women, in the past I would have asked myself, “Well, did they have children?”- Yes, most have. “Did they have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps?”- the most successful ones usually did. Why do I need to compare myself to them? When I used to ride my bike the eight miles to work and other cyclists would speed past me, I would mumble to myself, “I bet they haven’t just had 3 kids in 4 years”.  But now, I think “Who cares?” Periodically, I look back on my 53 years, and ask myself what would I do differently?  Usually, the answer is almost nothing. Would I trade my hard earned wisdom about how to run a household, raise three boys, or manage my career trajectory? Nope!  One of the liberating things about turning 50 is the end of second guessing yourself. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, but I chose him, had them and decided to do this and live here– NO regrets!  The grass has virtually stopped looking greener, our neighbors’ kids probably aren’t much better behaved then mine, and I sincerely feel happy when so-and-so’s kids get into Harvard, Yale and who knows where else. One of my friends has a sticker on her car’s rear window that says “A college somewhere in the USA.” When is enough, enough? NOW! Enjoy your life’s blessings, and just as the adage goes,  “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.”

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