You were all excited when you turned 50, right? You had all of Act Two in front of you. Any mistakes of the past could be forgotten in the knowledge that you’d learned your lessons (Sure, you did) and could sail on into the next 50 years. Well, okay, maybe not 50—I mean, who wants to live to be 100? (Actually, I do)—but a good, say, 35 years before you said your fond farewells.
All was well on the western front. At least, that’s what you thought. But then one morning you woke up, stumbled into the bathroom, took a look at your sleep-deprived reflection in the mirror and couldn’t believe what you saw. What the hell was that line in between your eyebrows that stayed put no matter how hard you tried not to squint? What was with the laugh lines when there was nothing funny? And those lines on your chest (I’m talking to my sisters out there) that conjured up visions of leather-skinned women from Miami Beach who turned sunbathing into a profession? It’s a challenge to accept these physical changes as badges of experience and wisdom and not flashing neon signs that scream out, “You ain’t no spring chicken!”
I like to call these moments “age jumps”—the moments when you are despondent about a new line or sag or permanent something or other that wasn’t there just 12 hours before. You want to put a bag on your head, stay in bed all day, bite the bullet or, if it’s a really bad age jump, schedule an appointment with a plastic surgeon.
Here’s what I say: go ahead and feel real sorry for yourself. Cry. Scream. (The Primal Screamers don’t have a corner on the market.) Get “smashed” after work. Sit by yourself on a park bench and feed the pigeons. Isn’t that what old people do?
Miraculously, the next day, after all the histrionics, you’ll feel so much better. It’s like any other disappointment/tragedy in life—if you don’t process the loss, you’ll never get over it. (Need I remind you of your first breakup when your whole life crashed and burned?) Age jumps are part of the downhill slide we all take. Let’s join our collective hands and all moan together. A one, a two, a three . . .
Disclaimer: This process is not guaranteed. The success rate ranges from 0% to 100%. If feeling sorry for yourself with age jumps does not improve your mental health, stop moaning right away and call your doctor—in this case, a behavioral therapist is recommended.