I write this as I sit in a quiet house with two cats chirping at a catnip toy. No death metal playing in the background. No toddlers whining because it's bedtime. No tattling. No "I'm starving!" Just me and the click-clack of computer keys.
Having raised four children, helped with five stepchildren and embraced 45 foster children, the quiet is a nice break. Most nights I don't mind so much. Some nights I do.
There's a trade-off that occurs between the first half of your life and the second half. The noise makes way for solitude. We are able to slow down and catch our breath. Usually. The annoying monthly visitor bows to the hot flashes. The treadmill acquiesces to the slower walk in the park. A busy stove passes the baton to the microwave.
Just as you used to buy school supplies and unpack the winter coats for the kids, there are a few things you'll need to acquire for the fall and winter of your own life.
A greater ability to laugh
You might as well. There are a few tricks your changing body has up its sleeve that may cause you to break down and want to cash in your chips, but learn to laugh about them. They are inevitable and you are not alone.
A note pad
This goes along with one of those things that wanes a bit - your memory. It comes and goes and can leave you feeling a little frustrated. Learn to laugh and then write it down. Everything. That appointment. That ATM withdrawal. The name of that new neighbor you just met. That meal you probably should stop and eat.
Higher wattage light bulbs
Three syllables. Ca-ta-racts. As our eyes get older, the vitreous fluid gets gunkier and the lens gets more brittle and, well, just get some brighter bulbs. Unless, of course, you don't really care to see the nonsense going on around you. Then, stick with the 40-watters.
There is no shame in having a few pairs around. I get mine at the dollar store so I can have a pair in my purse, at my desk, on my nightstand, in the kitchen to read recipes and in the glove box. Go ahead and have fun with them. Make them a fashionable accessory! I have a lovely pair of horn-rimmed with sequins on them. Find your inner Tim Gunn and "make it work."
A map of where every restroom is everywhere you go
Always know where the nearest restroom is. Enough said.
Remember springing out of bed in the morning ready to conquer the world? Yea. Me, neither. Now, with the help of that lovely wintergreen scented grease, I do, however, manage to eventually get to my feet.
This is what I'm talking about. I'm 56. Well, in two weeks, I'll be 57. I started this article last night by making the list. I made number 7 on the list a PDF. I got tired and went to bed, thinking I'd get up this morning and expound on my list. Which I did, until I got to this #7. I have absolutely no idea why I put down PDF. Why on earth would someone need a PDF over 50 in particular? Can someone help me out here? What did I mean? What was I thinking? I should have put AMC. Additional Memory Chip.
You may never leave the country, but having a passport is empowering. It means that now, for possibly the first time in your life, if you want to go somewhere exotic, you can. Have an overnight bag packed and live with the spontaneity you've been denied while all the kids were home.
Tissues or handkerchiefs
I know it's true for me - and I've talked to many women who tell me the same - women feel more over 50. Things are more meaningful. Music is richer. Poetry is deeper. Talks with old friends are more intimate. I laugh more, but I also cry more. It's not that "my life stinks" kind of cry. It's more "can life get any more beautiful" weeping.
You know the ones you've been hoarding for a time when things might slow down enough to read more than a line or two before crashing. Dig them out of their boxes or off the shelves and enjoy them. You've waited long enough.
There are probably a half-dozen things you've told yourself, "Someday, when I have time, I'd like to try my hand at that." Now's the time. Make a quilt. Write a book. Take a hike. Scuba dive. Learn to speak another language. Tai chi. Chai tea. Feng shui. Enchilada.
Games and puzzles
They say that working puzzles and playing games keeps your brain young. It improves memory. Try something new, like Sudoku or logic puzzles. Work a jigsaw. Take on the New York Times crossword puzzle. Did I mention it improves memory? Oh, and it improves memory. What is a PDF?
I love my age. I miss the kids constantly being underfoot, but I've exchanged that commotion for some things on my bucket list and it all works out. Learn to accept and laugh and we'll all be just fine. If I could just figure out #7!