Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughts on Turning 50

Not Enough Fingers to Say "50"
Ready to go trout fishing in my new hip waders!
  The great American Philosopher Oprah Winfrey once said “Life Begins at 50.” But she was not talking about age, she was talking about United States Dollars—in Billions. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who have net worths of, say, less than Oprah’s? How are we to deal with such a milestone anniversary?

One’s 50th birthday is a time of reflection and contemplation—the reflection in the mirror triggers contemplation of plastic surgery. But instead of turning to the scalpel, I’ve turned to the pen; a catharsis of sorts I suppose.

But why write a blog post about turning 50 on a blog that’s supposed to be humorous? After all, nothing about turning 50 is funny. But then everything about turning 50 is funny. If  it’s not, then you’ve taken yourself way too seriously over the last 49 years and 364 days.

When you’re 50 and you’ve been diagnosed with a shoulder “impingement,” and it’s excruciatingly painful to throw a curve ball or hit your son on a deep (or even shallow) post pattern, it’s easy to reminisce about how great you used to be and how the years have robbed you of all your glory. But it’s the seasoning and maturity of 50 that tells you and shows you that your curveball always hung anyway, and any guy hitting below the Mendoza Line could “take you yard.” It seems that 50 releases you from pretension. At 50 you must come clean.

Fifty graciously reveals to you your mortality. It shows you that you’ve trusted, like Ponce De Leon, in your youthful vitality, that you’ve often foolishly relied on a strength that rested inside you and that was of your own manufacture. Fifty (and Jerry Seinfeld) teaches you that you are actually well passed mid-life, unless of course you plan on living to be a centurion. Fifty reminds you that true strength comes from outside of you.

But most of all 50 gently reminds you that this temporal life is not all there is. It shows you the folly of your self-sufficiency and, divested of your youthful vigor, that an eternity awaits which is not tainted with insulin resistance or wrinkled skin or shoulder impingements. It frees you to joyfully and hopefully acknowledge with absolute certainty that which should have been realized and practiced and reveled in at 25, 35, and 43—that we live amidst a fallen world and that aging and death, although a consequence of the Fall, point to a future glory which is infinitely superior to even that of catching a deep post for a touchdown.

I’m embarrassed to admit that 50 once dogged me. It hunted me down and loomed large on the horizon. It was a giant boulder tethered to my ankles and pulling me downward toward the ocean floor, further and further into the suffocating abyss. But as with any disoriented thinking, down seems up and up seems down. As I awoke this morning I was given a transformed perspective. I was surprised that the boulder that was 50, instead of dragging me deeper into the darkness, was actually pulling me to the surface where I gasped a fresh breath of air that is the rest of my life.

In Psalm 90 Moses asks the Lord: “So teach us to number our days, that we should gain a heart of wisdom.” In the same Psalm he talks of the brevity of our lives and that the years “are soon gone and we fly away.” I’m hoping my 50th birthday will begin a time where I go beyond lip service and genuinely embrace these truths not as a consolation prize, but as the focus and goal and expectancy of all I say and do.

Now that will be something to celebrate.


  1. Well, well. Wisdom at 50, after all. Who knew? Love everything in this post!

    You musn't tell anyone but I doubt its going to be a significant milestone for me. I tend to reflect and pray on regular, old ordinary days, these days, more often than I probably will on that one. Ceratinly glad you - my wise and aged friend - stepped up. Karen

  2. The enlightened 50 year old, my friend, have hit the nail on the head. It is a freeing time that reminds us that life is short, small issues unimportant and that true friends the ones that matter. I'd like to think we could earn that freedom earlier, but most of us struggle with that "boulder" way too long. Thanks for reminding all of us...there is life after 50 and it is "All Good"!!

    Hugs to your lovely wife....I'm sure she and the children are keeping you younger than your age, anyway!! :)


  3. Interesting thoughts on turning 50. 50 was a good time and so have been every year since. Enjoy middle age.

  4. I'm trying to remember what it felt like to turn 50.