Photo Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

I thought I would hate typing the title to this post. I didn’t.

I have what many people call a “big birthday” coming up this year. I know a lot of people who are bothered by the big birthdays. I’m bothered by a lot of things as I grow older, especially given the situation the world finds itself in these days. Celebrating another birthday is not one of those things mainly because I know what the alternative is.

My mother became ill when she was around fifty-seven. She died about five very short years later. Her mother and father both died way too young, as well. As did two of her siblings and one of her nephews (possibly from the same illness that plagued my mom).

That kind of knowledge of health problems with your close family members changes a person. At least it should.

Knowing that there’s a potential for you to fall ill early in life can make you take a hard look at choices you make regarding our long-term health. It will also inspire you to have very honest conversations with your doctor every year. And it will make you a bit of a hypochondriac at times. (Maybe that’s just me.) But it also inspires you to make good choices regarding your health—give yourself a great shot of living a long, healthy, and pain-free life.

But knowing that you have a family history of dying way too early should also inspire you to live your lives intentionally and in search of contentment.

Losing my mother early certainly impacted my life in many ways. While introducing me to an intense sadness that I had never known before (I was 40 when my mom died), it also made me continuously ask myself what I can do to live my life fully going forward.

Questions like:

  • Am I surrounding myself with people who lift me and others up?
  • Am I lifting others up?
  • Am I spending what little time I have on this earth contributing to meaningful pursuits?
  • Am I putting more importance on accumulating experiences rather than accumulating material possessions?
  • Am I being intentional with how I spend my time? Saying ‘yes’ to things I truly want to spend time on, and saying ‘no’ to things that are not worth my time?
  • Am I being a good mother?
  • Am I being a good wife?
  • Am I being a good daughter, sister, friend, etc.?
  • Am I being good to myself?
  • Am I surrounding myself with beauty, kindness, and positivity?
  • Am I feeding my spiritual and emotional needs as much as my physical needs?

I don’t always answer the above questions with a resounding ‘YES!’ But I strive to. And I make decisions based on being able to one day answer each of those questions with clear affirmation of how I wish to continue living.

So… to everyone who has asked and will continue to ask as I approach turning fifty, “Are you bothered to be turning fifty?”: No, I am not bothered by turning fifty. Instead, I’m determined more than ever to keep living.

I expect this won’t be the last time I write about turning fifty, but these are just a few thoughts this lovely (and hot) August morning.

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