The Golden Age of 58

On a girls’ getaway (“girls” may be a questionable description of us) with 3 of my oldest and closest friends, I confessed that I was feeling a little confused about my upcoming 58th birthday. We were on our umpteenth trip together and staying at one of my friend’s condo on the beach. These are my Golden Girls, the four of us fiercely committed to our friendship even though we can drive each other crazy. Sort of like Blanche and Dorothy and Rose and Sophia. And like the original Golden Girls, we know it’s easier to get older when good friends are doing it with you.

“58 is a weird number,” I said. I am the youngest of us, so the other three knew what I meant.

“You’re in a strange place. You’re not 59, which is almost 60, in which case you just embrace the new decade, but you’re still on the downside of your 50’s,” said one. The others nodded in agreement, all of us sitting in our pajamas at 11 am and sipping coffee while we gazed out the sliding doors at the Pacific Ocean. The day was dreary and cold, but we didn’t mind. We were cozy under blankets and allowing ourselves to just sit and talk. And talk. And talk.

When I turned 48, I was on the cusp of empty nesting. My youngest had one more semester of high school, and my oldest was going through sorority rush. They both still needed me a lot, and I still needed to be mom all the time. I didn’t feel old, and I didn’t worry about what I was going to do next when my son left for college. After 20 years as a stay-at-home mom, I was ready for some time to myself.

A lot has happened in 10 years.

My relationships with my Golden Girls and others who matter in my life have grown stronger and deeper in my 50’s. Where once there was resentment or anger or hurt feelings over things that didn’t matter, now there is support and laughter and kindness. We still annoy each other sometimes, but now we shrug off what bothers us instead of getting worked up over what always amounts to nothing.

“I don’t want to waste any time on people I don’t enjoy,” one of us said at dinner that night, sipping our Old Fashioneds and spicy Margaritas at a local restaurant. We skewed to the older side of the crowd, but we didn’t care.

That’s one of the best things about being in my late 50’s. I have given up on relationships that don’t work for me anymore. Whether it was my choice or theirs, or just how things turned out, there were people in my life in my 40’s when my world revolved around my kids, who are no longer in my orbit. The falling away of so many has made those who remain even more important to me. I won’t spend a minute pretending to be interested or connected or available if I’m not. There’s not enough time or a good enough reason to try that hard.

In my 40’s, I couldn’t imagine sitting back and letting things happen without reacting or emoting or expressing or raging. So much that occurred during that busy, emotional, selfless decade was about people around me. My kids were teenagers, and my husband and I were focused on them more than each other. It didn’t cross my mind that in my late 50’s my marriage would be wonderful, and I didn’t understand that my children would be independent and hardly need me anymore. My 40’s were about everyone else, but my 50’s have been much more about me, for better and for worse. I am calmer. Life is simpler. I can do what I want, and I do it – whatever it may be.

Turning 58 is weird, but it’s also kind of a relief. Life doesn’t have to be a whirlwind of activity to mean something anymore. Sometimes, sitting under a blanket, sipping coffee, and looking at the ocean is enough.

Especially if your friends are there with you.

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  • I just turned 48 and am in those high school years so your post really resonated with me. I work to not get caught up in the stress and drama. The 50s sound wonderful. Almost there!

  • It has, and maybe always will be, uncanny how much our lives seem to develop along the same lines. I could have written exactly the same things about 40s and 50s. How the parent role recedes enough to turn and return to the partner one. Yup, yup.

    My takeaway from this was the ever formidable nature of women’s friendships. It is really no less than a sisterhood, when you consider its strength and character grows in direct proportion to the years of existence.

    Like you, I find greater joy in fewer but ever more powerful relationships and more grateful for the luck in discovering those connections at all, ours among them.

    Great post.

  • judy Williamson

    You have been nothing but pure joy and pleasure to me for 58 years. (except when you were in high school)
    Happy Birthday to you, my dearest SHA.

  • I can’t remember now how I stumbled upon your writing Sharon….but I am so glad I did. I look forward to your posts, they ALWAYS speak to me, it’s as if you live in my brain and understand my life. thank you for writing with such open honesty, vulnerability and humor!

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