Before age 50, I had a pretty good life. I loved my job teaching high school. I had discovered the joy of exercise, which eluded me before age 30. After a near-fatal automobile accident at 34, I turned life’s lemons into lemonade by morphing the fitness habit that had saved my life into new careers: writing magazine articles about health and fitness and teaching aerobic dance. By age 47, I had written a book.
I wasn’t so lucky in love. I had been married and unmarried to a very good man, who remains a close friend, then had a 25-year string (string? more like a giant ball of yarn!) of involvements – long-term, short-term, and casual. All warm and joyful, but not the love I sought.
At menopause, overheated and haggard from sleep deprivation, I switched from teaching sweaty aerobics at the crack of dawn to contemporary line dancing at dusk. That switch turned out to change my life… more about that in a moment.
Before age 50, I struggled to figure out who I was and wanted to be, and battled my way there. After age 50, that became easy. Rather than needing emotional kung fu to battle my way to authenticity, I could use a softer aikido approach and let what I didn’t want flow away.
After age 50, I understood that joy blossomed through living fully, whether I was single or coupled at the moment – learning new things, teaching (now in health clubs, dance halls and speaking engagements instead of high schools), keeping my own body fit and strong, interacting honestly and helpfully with others, and writing professionally. I wrote six more books after age 50!
I still hoped I’d find that special man to love, but I wasn’t putting my life on hold waiting. I realized I had to be the person I was looking for.
I also learned how fragile we are, even when we do everything possible to keep our bodies and minds strong. On June 20, I tripped, slammed to the floor, and shattered my shoulder in ten places. My new book, Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex, was due to Seal Press five weeks later. I had put the book on hold for a year after losing Robert, when grief was my day job. Then I had spent the next year writing it. Darned if I would blow off my deadline for a broken shoulder! I finished the book – on time! – typing with my arm in a sling, measuring out pain killers so that I could focus.
Resilience: that’s the major lesson I learned after 50 and continue to learn at age 66. Life continues to amaze me. What delights are next?
Note from Joan Price: I’m trying to blog my way to the AARP Orlando@50 conference. This blog post is an entry in their competition to find the official blogger to travel to and cover the event. Find out more about the conference here.