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I read an MSN online article this morning. It was a list of 25 things every woman should do in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond. Many of you probably saw it. I thought it would be amusing to read, especially since I’m of the baby-boomer generation, a WASP, and very traditional. I was expecting to stop reading it before I made it through the ‘20s’ part, but I found it inspiring and less ‘out there’ than I expected. Well, the second one was to get a piercing! However, the suggestion was that it can be undone, unlike a tattoo. Taboo for the tattoo! Woo hoot! So I kept reading.

It took a while to get to my decade. And, I felt pretty good about myself through some of the suggestions for the 30s-40s. There were the traditionally obvious ones: buy property, commit to a long term relationship, hire a financial planner, pursue lifelong learning. I especially liked the suggestion to ‘Grow Up”! So some made me smile. Or even better, laugh.

Try a new haircolor. Check. (Never really new. Just variations of blonde. And now it’s called covering the gray.)

Develop your own signature style. Check. (Although I’m now beginning to understand why ‘older’ women like knit pants instead of blue jeans. I’m glad performance pants {yeah, interesting name, right?} are ‘in style’! Jeans are close to cramping mine…it you catch my drift…)

Go skinny dipping a least once.”Too late. No, don’t even suggest it.

Further down in the list are two gems:

Accept yourself. Check.

Look back fondly. Check. Sort of.

These are two of the greatest lessons I’ve learned since turning 50, now over 6 years ago.

Regardless of my seemingly endless list of tragedies, which include losing my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law, and my mother within 8 months in the late ‘90s while in my early 40s, the sudden deaths of my sons almost 12 years ago and less than 3 years after the loss of the first 3 losses (I was 44), and taking care of my dementia-ridden sister for 7 years before her death last September (through my late 40s-mid 50s), I have accepted who I am and I can still look back fondly.

But that’s not an easy feat. Not every moment evokes a warm fuzzy. Obviously. I have survived, which is such a sorry expression. But when I can write with earnest truth that all I’ve experienced, learned, gleaned…lived…has made me stronger and more sensitive and more real with myself and others, then I must be able to look back fondly. Life has produced a better me.

More importantly, I am looking ahead fondly. And it is a choice. I make it every day of my life. So when I read the next tidbit of what I’m supposed to do, I just laughed out loud:

Create a plan for the second half of your life
The first half of your life was planned out and filled with obligations and expectations: go to school, get a job, advance your career, start a family. But by the time you’re in your 40s, or nearing 50, there are fewer outside expectations and you’ve already checked a lot of those boxes, which means you’re free to decide what you want from the rest of your life—and to make the second half even better than the first.

I have a dear friend whose 31 year old daughter had strategically planned her life 7 or more years ago, not just the typical obligations and expectations. I’m not sure ‘where she is’ in her plan. Honestly, I hope she has altered her plan. She has time. I hope.

However, we never know.

The plan that I would have chosen for the second half of my life is nowhere close to what it was before Wes and Andy died. My peers are now becoming grandmothers; I am the mother of an 8 year old Chinese American daughter who is full of life and spunk and courage. And I am tired 90% of the time (the other 10%, well, I’m just plumb crazy), but I too am full of life and spunk and courage. And guess what? I don’t have a plan.

So I’m mostly winging it. Then the next one read:

What every woman should do . . .
. . . before she turns 60
Be a mentor
You’ve come a long way, but you didn’t do it alone. Now it’s time to give back by helping someone else by sharing your personal wisdom or professional knowledge.

So, I suppose parenting counts as mentoring, right? I find it ironic that we are considered wiser as we reach our senior years when we can’t remember why we went into the kitchen or where our glasses are or what we said an hour ago! And substituting words! I’ve done that once or twice. That was a shocker! So while I become old and wise, my daughter will have turned twelve less than two months before my 60th birthday. She will be too full of spunk and I will have as much if not more. Oh my, that is so scary.

So, perhaps that is why I’ve decided it best not to create a plan. I will probably have no control, neither with my sphincter nor the ripples that will wash over the stretch waistband of my performance pants. But I hope and pray that I will have control over the wisdom that it takes to parent. I hope I will continue to tell her no, set limits, ask her if she’s completed her chores (which include cooking our meals…she loves to cook so we can only hope she will want to feed her old parents), question her about her homework and school and friends and boys, and invade her privacy. I hope I will remember to do all that. And I’m sure I will also nag and yell and roll my eyes and sigh very, very deeply many, many times. And I know I will cry. A lot.

And then, not too many years down the road she will be in her 20s. I hope this list will remain with me so that I can share it with her. If I am still here.

Then, perhaps I will suggest that we go skinny dipping together. Oh, but first I’ll ask her to take us to Claire’s to get matching piercings.

And she will laugh and say, “Oh Mom, GROW UP!”