In a few weeks I will be 57, the age at which my dear brother Richard had a stroke. This guy is a PhD nutritionist, and was out for his obligatory morning jog when he began having trouble completing sentences. Yes, he was on blood pressure medication which he took religiously, and if he wasn’t at his ideal body weight he was a few pounds below it.
In other words–the picture of health. Exercised regularly, watched his diet like a very well educated hawk, went to the docs and did what they told him to do. And if his wife hadn’t realized immediately what was going on, we would probably have lost him.
Since the stroke, Richard has written a book, become a master of foxhounds, ridden in competitive horse shows against people one fourth his age, and generally recovered in fine style.
The part of growing older nobody likes is that our health becomes unreliable; rather, our health is unreliable–always has been–but now we know it.
There’s an up-side to this.
In every other regard, my fifties have been a better time for dreams coming true than any other time in my life. Why? In part because I have a lot of resources I didn’t have earlier, though I’m certainly not at my wealthiest these days. I do, though, have more control over how I spend my time. The parenting demands have ebbed, the professional learning curve is very manageable.
I have a small group of true friends, people who’ve known me not since the start of the semester, but for decades. Friends who give it to me straight, and–better still–these friends are drawing on decades of their own life experience when they offer me advice.
I have wisdom, albeit nobody ever has too much of this resource. I grasp concepts like projection (when people accuse you of having their own faults); and blaming, shaming, minimizing and denying–other means by which responsibility is shifted from the person who ought to own up to it. I get how important it is to define a problem if it’s to be thoroughly solved; and I certainly don’t have much energy invested in my appearance.
If health were guaranteed for the first century of life, I might miss the advantages I have now–terrific, precious, no-short-cut advantages when it comes to living the life I was born to live. Health is not guaranteed. Never was, but as the day inches closer to sunset, I can see that, and decide what I want to do with the remaining light.
That’s a good thing. It makes my dreams more precious, my blog posts more precious, my dogs and cats and brownies and books more precious.It makes YOU more precious to me, too.
What about your life has become more beautiful as sunset approaches? What is better, more free, more peaceful? What dreams tempt you now, and why aren’t you going after them?
To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of The Virtuoso, a story about a guy who thought all his dreams were lost to him forever.
Grace, this is a beautifully written post. I will be 58 in a few weeks. I’ve come to terms with all of the things you’ve listed. I would add not being overly worried about having a perfectly clean house. My priorities have been rearranged out of necessity, some of that being to deal with stress. I have a daughter with one year of college left and my current plan is to teach for 4 more years. After that my husband I are going to travel. What that looks like we have yet to determine, but we will get there.
Isn’t it wonderful to see that freedom just up ahead? My daughter moved out when she turned seventeen. I missed her terribly (still do), and worried unendingly, often for good reason.
But that’s also when I began to write and write and write…
Hi Grace! I will be 59 this summer & I will be starting a new full-time Civil Service job in a week and 1/2. I have been working various part-time jobs since my son was a baby, 23 years ago, so I am kind of nervous, but excited. I am hoping to have a little more $ to work with & hopefully retire some day. Of course, my daughter will be going to college in 2017, so any extra $ will probably go that way, but it is all good! I love hearing about your trips & seeing the beautiful pictures!
Sharlene, best of luck on the new job, and I think you’ll be amazed at what all those part time gigs did for your commonsense and business experience. I’ll be paying off student loans for a long time, but I know what a benefit it was to me to have that college degree. I want my daughter to have the same options. No way I could have supported a child myself without it.
You’re making a wise move, and so is the civil service.
Aww! Thank you! I am hoping she will go to the same college I went to. Just far enough away, but close enough to come home for a week-end!
Absolutely beautiful post, Grace. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s so easy to lose sight of things. Then something happens that forces you to remember how important and precious your dreams and the people around you, truly are.
My parents are in their nineties… I have to plan on the party going on for a long while yet, and on making it was much of a party as I can.
I have more time to do what I want…mostly. The Kids are in their 30s (!), well educated but home for the time being while the economy gets healthier. Which means they cook once a week so I can get my weekly column written, go to rehearsals, teach and get to my meetings. We have come to an understanding about how the household should run, with laundry days assigned, and both the younger boys see the wisdom of having an organized household while working. FINALLY! When they were kids, and not so highly educated, they never realized what I did just to get their gym short washed AND have lesson plans for the month!
I write mostly non-fiction now–either about choral music/conducting or raising a child with autism–but have a romance novel begun and return to it when I need to get my non-fiction writer’s blocked cleared. I never seem to have time to devote to that…and only have two times a year when I don’t have obligations and I can work on it. So my dream is to get that romance novel done. Done. Done. But before that, my choral ethics project needs to get published…I hope this year, 2016!
I admire your writing style so much, Grace….the word choices, the flow of the stories. Wish I could get to Scotland with you this Fall…but I have two paying gigs during that time. And paying gigs are good!
Teenie, paying gigs are really good. Hats off to you for those, and for getting the offspring trained.
The romance novel is serving its purpose by being your frolic project, and maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be now. If there’s anything I can do to help, let me know (and do sign up for the writer’s newsletter, which is no more than monthly, and usually about 500 words. Grace Notes: http://graceburrowes.com/contact.php)
As for Scotland… as the first tour fills up, I’m already thinking of a second, and a third…
This book was so good. You take good care of yourself- you’re not allowed to go anywhere any time soon!
Not planning on going anywhere, anytime soon. I’m having more fun now than I have ever, ever had, which is saying a lot. My parents are in their nineties, and I’m in good health (knock wood).
I love The Virtuoso… my first profession was as a pianist, and I put myself through college accompanying dance classes. Then my back began to hurt, to really, really hurt…
In less than a month I turn 63. My goal the past year has been to spend more time with my 83 year old Mother. I live 360 miles from her and have to be deliberate in setting the in person times away from work. My New Year’s Resolution has been to call her every day. I figure I’ll have time for other things when she is gone. I get my 10,000 steps in daily and read voraciously now.
Martha’s hitting on all twelve cylinders! Your mom is probably thrilled to hear from you, to know somebody is checking and somebody cares. I’m going to call my parents today–thanks!
Life is a gift. We need to appreciate and use every minute we are given because it can change in an instant.
Beautiful! You are such an inspiration–a true example of someone defining and living her dreams. I love it!
Being true to myself and not trying to please everyone are two things that have become much easier as I’ve gotten older. I was horrified when I actually realized how much time I’ve wasted trying to make others like me or acquiescing to things I didn’t want. I simply do not have time to waste on that anymore. I became a much happier person once I realized that.
There are still many dreams I would like to achieve but always seem to use my young kids as an excuse. You’ve suddenly inspired me to find a way to make it work! Why not include the kids in some of the adventures, right?
P.S. LOVE the David Bowie cat picture. I’ve been fascinated with him for a long time and the cat picture just made my day.
He was a “cat person” among his many other gifts.
As for those dreams… even if you can’t include the kids directly, you will model to them that dreams matter, and persistence is worth cultivating. You’ll teach a lot by example–whether you pursue your dreams or let them slip away.
I will be 57 in April and I have been in a reflective mood, too.
I would love to retire in 6 years from the full time job and work part item for a bit. My daughter should be finished with her law degree and a few major house projects should be completed. It’s a daydream worthy plan.
My peace and quiet time is very important to me. I cherish my reading time and alone time with the dogs before my busy day begins. In the last few years, I have made a change to focus on myself. My daughter is 22 and very self reliant and doesn’t need me. I have made strides in dog training and showing and take time for myself. I have learned to let go of a few things…vacuuming and dusting. My house is comfortable, not perfect.
I would like to travel and can’t at this point in time. We have four years of law school (masters plus law degree), yard and inside house project and three corgi pensioners. I’d like to get to the place where my money from job #2 could be saved for a trip.
Having dreams is important….I am looking forward to achieving them.
Sounds like you have a plan, Sue, and some good company while you wait for the plan to bear fruit. I think we can put up with a lot if we know it’s not forever, we have company along the way, and our delayed gratification has some meaning.
My health issues were the wake up call to pursue my dreams…and permission for them to take longer than the “experts” recommend if that’s all my body or brain can manage right then.
I have yet to find anybody else’s formulas work for me. I don’t have writing goals, word count quotes, a business plan… none of that stuff. I have my dreams, and sometimes, all I can do is live to dream another day. The good news though, is nobody can steal your dream. If you lose it, then you can conjure another one in its place, free of charge, on your own time.
Fingers crossed that this is your year to make some big progress in the directions you want to go.
I wish I knew my neighbors better, now that you mention it.
i’m working on a book. i’m really finally pushing myself. i struggle with the confidence to see it through but i’ve also reach the point in my life where i’m saying oh just do it and grow up!!
Thea, if there’s anything I can do to help you get that sucker complete in draft, let me know. To make a goal out of completing a manuscript is consist with the advice I’ve heard from some really good writing coaches.
Finishing one manuscript, good, bad, all over the place, is a huge accomplishment. You can polish and revise later, but first, you need to at least once write, “The End.”
Best of luck!
A very timely post, Grace. And as always, very well said. While both David Bowie and Alan Rickman had time to prepare for their deaths, they took the rest of us by surprise. They were both only 69.
I turn 49 in just under a month. My kids are both in college – son will graduate in spring (then work on a PhD), daughter has 2 1/2 years left before she starts on graduate school. We told them we would pay for their first degree and while we won’t cut them off totally after that, we will have more money to put towards retirement – and travel – in a couple years.
We could have more in savings but we made the choice for me to not go back to a high stress demanding job when the kids were older – I’m very much a Type A person with work. So I work retail at a high end pet supply store. Less money but also less stress and knowing that my work does make a difference to some people and their pets. More importantly, I don’t bring my work home.
I joke that putting on makeup is a public service but I have reached a point in my life that I don’t worry too much about what other people think about me. I try not to offend others or judge them for their beliefs and hope that they will show me the same consideration.
There’s a theory among anthropologists that we owe what we call “culture” to the emergence of grandmothers–women who lived long enough to provide care for little ones, support daughters in the child bearing years, and turn memories into stories that both entertained and informed.
I think the elders also model tolerance more often than intolerance, and anchor a society in a sense of having survived much, and being able to handle more if need be.
That’s you, not putting on make-up unless you feel like it, but not criticizing anybody for their own choices regarding make up. I’m all for that approach!
I recently turned 56 and my life is so different than it was 10 years ago. In those 10 years, I went through a bad divorce, the kids graduated from college and left home and I had a couple of major surgeries. Nothing like lying on a couch for 6 months trying to recover from surgery, alone and scared. It was at that point that I realized I needed to do something for me now and not wait for some vague time in the future. So much of my life was focused on raising the kids, being a wife, taking care of the house. I found that I lost ” Me” and had no idea who I was anymore.
It’s scary to be in your mid 50’s and realize that you need to start all over but I did. I sold my home, quit my job and moved several hundred miles away to my dream city. I pounded the pavement for a few months and found a terrific job. I now live closer to my kids so I get to see them more often. I’ve made new friends. I go out and take advantage of all the wonderful things to do here.
It was a huge leap into the unknown and it has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. Every day I am making my dreams turn into reality and I am having fun finding “me” again!
For everyone in their 50’s, I say go for it! You aren’t too old to chase those dreams after all.
That’s a happily ever after if ever I read one. Figure out what matters toyou, gather your courage in one hand, and your posse in the other, then go for it!
Grace you are an inspiration to every late bloomer but particularly those of us that have found time finally found time to write. I am embarking on two new mid life careers so you have been a great inspiration. The Virtuoso is my favourite of your books and indeed one of my favourite books full stop. One of its great strengths is the Valetines struggle with physical limitations and having to come to terms with them. We all have to make bargains ourselves to have a good like. I particularly love the scene with the village piano I am in tears every time. It’s my birthday and the first day of a wonderful but scary contract tomorrow so this was good timing. Thanks.
Fionna, I love that scene too, where Valentine is reminded that he can still serve music, by an aging, humble little spinet, who yet rouses all of his protective instincts.
Best of luck with the new contract, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Grace, what wonderful words of wisdom. Last year I turned the big 6 – 0, and it hit me the morning of my birthday that I was now the age of my father when he died and I was twice as old as my mother when she died at age 30. I take nothing for granted and I am thankful for the health and family I still have. I have learned that a perfect house and make-up are both optional, and comfort is more important than being “in style”. Good friends are better than a new car, and joy truly does lie in the small things like family around the table, or a cuddle in a big chair on a cold night with a purring fur baby. I don’t rush through life so much now. I hope I have the wisdom to enjoy the colors in my sunset as I travel toward it.
My grandmother opened her first business at age sixty, and it will still supporting her twenty years later. My sister got her PhD at age sixty-five.
There’s plenty more daylight left. Glad you’ve given yourself permission to enjoy it!
Getting older has made me more comfortable with myself. I don’t feel the need to try to please people who will never be pleased. I also speak my mind more. I try not to be too unkind, but keeping everything inside only makes you unhappy. I have less regrets when I lay down to go to sleep.
Lovely summary, Rita. I’m always muttering under my breath, “Be kind. Tell the truth. Be kind. Tell the truth.” Sometimes, that balance feels nearly impossible to strike.
Happy New Year to You and everyone here!
Like many here I love to read what you write. Not just the novels… but your take in life.
I have been reflecting in life more lately – or I should say about end of life. I am working with hospice (getting authorization for home hospice and for residential hospice homes). I am learning that there are things that I don’t need to hang up on too tight but others I must not give up no matter how great the temptation or to do it. I must dream and have hope. I must not let my age limit my joy in the small things! I have been going to the gym and its so very hard to be there – so I go even if I feel like a fat hamster on a tread mill… I try to laugh at myself and stay one extra minute. I am using a fitbit so I can keep track of how many steps I am doing daily! I don’t find joy in that yet – but its for my health! you are so right. Can’t take it for granted!
Kassia, it’s very un-inclusive of me, but I think I’d get to the gym more often I knew I could be with my fellow hamsters when I got there.
I see the young peeps looking so buffy, and so worried, and I just want to turn around and be somewhere else.
So thank goodness for my tread desk.
Good luck with the fitbit, and the one-minute-hamster plan.
I am finding that, while there are still places I would like to travel, mostly, I am my happiest here, at home. Spending time with my husband. With my children and granddaughter. While I would love to see more of my mom, who lives a long way from me, frankly, I don’t want to be around the drama that seems to be so heavy there. I get pleasure from my volunteer time. Spending time with friends. Have come to enjoy going to the movies by myself sometimes. While the “clock” seems to constantly be running faster and faster, I am finding more and more moments of simple pleasure.
Drama can be a form of connection, but I’ve grown increasingly unwilling to participate in it. I agree with you–home is where the heart is.
I love traveling in Scotland, but my best, happiest, sweetest days are spent at home, writing among my animal companions. Hope I have decades more of same.
I broke my ankle about 2 years ago, and since then I’ve had to realize that nothing is certain (I’ve always known it, but this brought it to reality),and that this is alright.
I also live alone and have never been married nor have had children. I read romance novels not for the dream of one-day finding “true love,” but for the moments of connection between friends, lovers, and family members. I also like stories where women aren’t victimized, which seems to be necessary with what many consider “serious fiction.”
I’m becoming more secure in my idiosyncrasies, and therefore more unapologetic. But the thing that keeps me from living my true life is the fear of shame and the desire for admiration. I’ve been reading Thomas Keating lately – he writes of the temptations of Christ in parallel with everyday lives. The first is security/survival, the second is affection/esteem, and the third is control/power (from “The Mystery of Christ”).
In your books, the main characters are kind to one another (the villains on the other hand…). It makes sense with your background of family court. But the stories help me figure out how to treat others, how to not be afraid of my idiosyncrasies, how to be kind when I’m afraid or not treated nicely (the “how would I react in that situation”).
What dreams tempt me? At this stage (I’m 46), it’s little things that I’m afraid to do or ask for, for fear of being shut down or ridiculed.
What a lovely comment. When I’m casting around for how to start a book, one thing I know is that my heroes and heroines can be the grumpiest, snootiest (I’m looking at you, Lord Westhaven), loneliest people, but if I can show the reader that they’re kind people too–honorable and honest–then the reader will stick with them for 400 pages.
If your radar is tuned to sniff out the people who aren’t nice, who are judgmental, I think that’s for good reason. The devil, so to speak, can be revealed in what some might call a detail.
Here’s idiosyncrasies, loud and proud. They don’t hurt anybody, and they’re authentically us (which is why I still drive a truck).
Hallo there Grace. Just looked up your web site having read my way through most of the Lonely Lords series and now following Matthew in his wooeing of Thomas’s sister (just finished his story)
Reason for e-mail is in response to “Season of Dreams” – yet to read that one !!
I turned 70 in September and I am still living ‘my dream’ I left work early at 57 due to my husband who has mobility problems needing more care and our cottage with two acres of land proving too much to handle while working full time.
We sold the house and took ‘to the road’. We had a car, caravan, a dog a cat and no fixed abode. We travelled like this for one week short of 12 years. We now live on The Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) some miles off the west coast of Scotland where the community, scenery and surrounding are all wonderful. Alas the cat and dog have long left us but we still wander at times in a motorcaravan and have wonderful memories of a very full life. There is a book to tell of our adventures somewhere deep inside me but at the moment I am still enjoying life too much to take the time out to write it…. maybe one day.
My motto now is Live each day as if it was your last, treat each person you meet as you would like to be treated and care and love your family and friends.
Also I would add – Keep reading Grace Burrowes books, they are great. Thank you so much
Jeanette, oh, what a lovely perspective. Please give my regards to Carloway. Spent a wonderful week there last spring, and would love to get back soon. If you keep reading them, I’ll keep writing them!
I am more at peace now at 41 than I have ever been. I bought a house last year and got a divorce. I think it brought a new outlook on life for me. I vowed to not let little things get me down and move forward and live life to the fullest
I recall thinking as I turned forty, “You could not pay me to do my thirties again,” and I’d also felt the same way about my twenties. Forty was when the view began to improve, and the trend hasn’t stopped yet.
I think it was Maya Angelou who said, “Weak people give up and stay. Strong people give up and move on.”
I’m only 48 so sunset is approaching, but not too soon yet. My kids are teenagers now, and I’ve found that life does not slow down once they can choose their own activities and transport themselves! But I have started to do things for myself again – go out with friends, pursue new hobbies. One thing I’ve stopped dreaming and plan to do: go to Scotland! My sister and I will be spending our 49th birthday there this summer! I can’t tell you how excited we are!
I think we’d better warn Scotland there’s an invasion on the way. I’m excited too!
I just turned 59 in November and your blog struck a cord with me. I’m thinking about actually opening one of those AARP envelopes. I’m thinking about what I want to be when I grow up (still). And I’m thinking what I want to do with the next 20 years (Lord willing). More work? Nope. More responsibility? No, no, no. I want to have some fun. I want to kick loose and kick up my heels and see the places I’ve always wanted to see. In short, I want to pack a lot of living into the next few years (Lord willing, again) and I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how, and what, and when …perhaps the most important word in that sentence is when. No more putting it off—-I need to make decisions now! Thanks for a very thought-provoking and wow–timely–post!
I get a kick out of AARP. They are such a transparent blend of, “You going to get SICK and DIE, so buy insurance from us RIGHT NOW,” and, “These are the best years of your life, so spend ALL your money taking cruises with us!”
I just wish they were as effective at mobilizing the senior vote as they are at getting their hands on the senior dollar.
All of which is to say, that yes, absolutely, Carpe Diem!
Hmm… I am currently in the best health of my life at age 51. I am eating well and exercising. I appreciate friendships, my cats, and my husband on a level that is higher than in the past. I’m a little depressed I’m not taking a class this semester, but I might take two classes in the summer.
Wonderful, to have a sense of life being lived on your terms. Keep up the good work!
I appreciate my brain’s ability to complete a thought process. It has slowed a lot, and for awhile I thought I’d lost it. Now, instead of being the smartest, funniest person in the room, I am the quietest and the most easily irritated. My body reacts to overstimulation quickly, and moves me away from what it sees as danger. I used to work myself to death; now I sit back, and wait for the print command of my mind to unspool. So grateful that in time it always does.
My dad has often said, “We need to cultivate the life of the mind from little up, because after a certain point, the life of the body is denied us.”
Keep unspooling those commands. Keep backing away from the muggles.
Hi Grace: I will be 68 in another month and loved your post. I have learned over the years that “health” is “wealth” and as these ‘golden years’ continue on, I realize the Gift of Life and embrace it more so now than the young and foolish years of youth. Having lost parents at 16 and 17, I lost out on a lot of youthful endeavors while learning to survive – made mistakes – who hasn’t, but still feel good about myself. I’ve had two Open Heart Surgeries (while in the best physical condition of my life!) And totaled a car which showed a time bomb in my brain. But I am still alive and kicking and HAPPY each and every day I open my one good eye. (One lost during a simple cataract procedure – but that’s another story for another day! ) But you know what – LIFE IS GOOD! I have 4 dogs who adore me and the love is mutual; I have my books to escape in and travel to far away places and times. AND I just took up Crocheting just to prove I could (using an LED magnifying lamp!) – As I say – LIFE IS GOOD
Gratitude for what we have is always a wiser choice than chronic mourning for what’s lost. I bow your joy!
Heading into my 7th decade. I think of my 40s and 50s and early 60s as my best years. Mature enough to feel secure and not sweat the small stuff but still healthy enough to do anything I wanted to.
I hope when you’re 90, you’ll add more decades to that same list. I read that the first person to live to 150 has already been born, and I’m trying to pace myself and my expectations accordingly, because… what if it’s ME?
I am heading into my third decades and yes I know I am not vast in age but trust me I am vast in many other experiences . I have been sick, well I mean truly sick and been very near to the death’s door 2 or 3 times . So, yes I understand your reasoning that life and health is not guaranteed. I have dreams but my dreams are still very far away. I want to become a writer but I know not how to achieve this dream . Reading your blogs give me new hope and new aspirations again ! Thanks for sharing with us your life story grace 🙂
Aretha, please sign up for my writer’s newsletter, and email me with any questions you have about writing. NOBODY is born writing bestsellers, but everybody appreciates a well told story.
There has never been a better time to be a writer, whether your genre is short stories, poetry, fiction, or something in between. The ebook has made writing income possible for many more people, and the writing community is enormously supportive.
Just give yourself permission to start writing. Once Upon a Time, there was this duke….
Thanks for writing such an eayot-s-understand article on this topic.
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