Dumbbells in the gym

The milestone birthday – celebrations and reflections

In recent years I’ve always promoted the message that all birthdays are worth being celebrated, especially when we get older.

I so often hear from older people that “I’m so old, it’s nothing to celebrate“. And I can understand how they’re thinking. But I don’t agree.

Before I moved to Ireland, I was a nurse – I left my profession for a variety of reasons. But before that, I worked a good number of years in respiratory care, and the last 4-5 years in specialised palliative care.

One thing I learned was that anything can happen at any age, that we should never take life or health for granted, and that we should appreciate every year we live. I formed the opinion that we should celebrate every birthday, especially when we get older. Every birthday means we’ve been blessed to live another year, and if we’re blessed to be healthy, there’s even more to celebrate.

Still, when I turned 50 recently I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t feel like doing anything in particular to celebrate, but maybe especially because February is such a useless month to celebrate a birthday! All I wanted was a nice hike in some beautiful place where we don’t go often, but hiking in February can mean wading in mud up to your knees (yes I know I’m exaggerating) and that’s simply not my idea of fun.

So we went for a hike

The weather was very promising on the Sunday before my birthday so we DID go for a nice hike. And mud was involved!

Gougane Barra is a stunning place in the northern part of West Cork and it is probably mostly known for the little island with an oratory which is the site where it’s said that St Finbarr built a monastery during the 6th century. There is a ruin still in place on the island. (Read more here)

But the area also has a national park with walking trails of different difficulty levels. We only knew about one of those trails, which starts just opposite the entrance to the island. To access the other trails you need to pay an entrance fee to the car park.

This trail goes up the mountain, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be anything else than a hill! Instead, this was a LOT more challenging than that “fitness trail” in Italy.

The first part was a nice grass trail with some very muddy areas, but then it quickly went uphill, steeper and steeper. I thought we would soon reach the top, and we walked on. The views were stunning. I didn’t manage so well with the photos, but here we go!

After we had climbed higher and higher for some time and the trail didn’t seem to reach any plateau, we decided that maybe we should turn back – because what goes up must come down, and if it got steeper I wasn’t sure it would be safe enough for myself to get down (because of my higher fracture risk if I fall), and we had no idea if the difficulty level would get any worse.

It’s possible I overrate my injury risk, or what is perhaps more relevant, underrate my strength and ability to climb this kind of trail. It’s not like we’re in the alps! But we decided my husband would go up over the ridge and see what it looked like.

He then came back still not knowing how the trail would proceed, so we decided to go back down, and that my husband would go back another time to do the whole distance (which is about 10 km) and then we’ll go back together when we know more about what to expect.

Our total distance this day was 4 km, and even if we didn’t continue all the way, I really enjoyed it. Going down turned out to be much easier than I thought, particularly equipped with walking poles.

There was some company along the way too!

Turning 50 sparked some reflections

The 50th birthday is a milestone and it sparked a lot of reflection, about my life, things I’ve been through, experiences, people I’ve met. And I could see that even if I’ve made some bad choices in life, I mostly didn’t have other options at the time, and what I’ve done has shaped me and given me extra experiences and opportunities to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have known. And I could see and appreciate what I’ve learned and accomplished, instead of what I should have done differently.

I was massively celebrated. On the day of the hike, we had dinner in a restaurant and my husband had secretly invited friends of ours.

On the Monday, my actual birthday, the same friends came over for drinks (because I had invited them over, knowing nothing about the dinner), and before that I had lovely video calls with friends and family in Sweden.

On The Tuesday we went to the music session in town, and my husband had organised with gluten-free cake, and the pub owner offered sausages to everyone (including gluten-free). Good songs and tunes were of course enjoyed!

My 50th birthday with its celebrations, suddenly made me feel loved, blessed and appreciated by people. Hadn’t I thought of that before? Yes, but perhaps I was too busy struggling with myself to realise. Now it filled me with an almost overwhelming gratitude. It was like I was awakened from a slumber.

Most of my life has been ruled by self-doubt and fear of failure, and I’ve been feeding myself negative self-talk for as long as I can remember.

But now I’m too old for this shit.

Turning 50 didn’t suddenly make me confident and brilliant at everything, but it made me set priorities. I’ve lived half of my life being fearful and wasting time on self-doubt and other BS, and now is the time to truly start enjoying life.

My focus of the year is also JOY and to ENJOY.

This is midlife. It means the middle of life, right? So let’s rock the second half of it!

I’m entering my 50s being stronger than ever

Strength training has always been the most appealing exercise form to me, but I could never do it consistently until now.

I started seeing a personal trainer. In the beginning it was mostly about doing some regular exercise and getting help with shoulder pain.

After a while I started noticing how much it boosted my energy level and mood. A few months later I started seeing muscle gain, clothes fit better, and aches and pains slowly started disappearing.

Now I’ve been lifting weights regularly for two years. My stress fracture last year and being diagnosed with osteoporosis was a huge bump in the road, but it was also an eye-opener that made me focus even more on training, nutrition and health. And I decided that I’m going to get strong and live a good life anyway!

Since last summer I train three times a week, still with the same coach. Particularly in the last few months, I’ve seen some amazing development in strength and muscle gains, and I’m entering my 50s being stronger than I’ve ever been.

And this is about so much more than physical strength. It’s about seeing I’m able to create good habits, push myself, believe in myself and make a positive change. This has given me a higher level of self-confidence and self-respect. It was about time.

It’s bye-bye to trying to fit in or be “good enough”

I’ve always tried to hide in a corner because I didn’t think inferior people like me were allowed to show up.

But all that is over now. There will be no more trying to fit in or struggle to be good enough. Life is too short and it’s time to enjoy the things I love doing without thinking about whether people like it or not.

Now, it’s normal to want people to like what we do, especially when we’re out there as musicians to entertain people. But it’s not ok if we let this rule what we do, how we do it or whether we enjoy it!

What is good enough anyway? And compared to what? It’s subjective. My priority now is to keep doing what I love doing, keep learning and improving, become the best version of me, and enjoy life while I can. I’ve always been an oddball and will never fit in anyway so I should just show up, be myself and enjoy the ride.

In music this means being ok with putting myself out there to sing even if I’m not perfect. It means appreciating how far I’ve come with my musical skills – it’s ok to be happy about my achievements even if I don’t play the guitar like Norman Blake (I’m working on it though!).

In photography, it means to stop listening to the opinionated guys with big lenses, and just do my thing, keep learning and having fun with the camera (small enough to put in my handbag and bring anywhere, ha!).

In the gym I still have a lot of insecurities and don’t totally trust what my body can do. But it’s just to continue doing what I’m doing. A year ago I didn’t think I would be able to squat 50 kgs either but now I do! And every PB kicks my self-doubt in the butt.

Will this mindset be easy? Of course not! It will be hard and continuous work to keep it up. But life will be so much better if I do.

Let’s do the work and rock the 50s!

9 responses to “The milestone birthday – celebrations and reflections”

  1. Denyse Whelan avatar

    Happy Half Century! It’s been wonderful to read this post and celebrate with you! Just knowing how far you have come and now you are into the life you are choosing is a GIFT!
    Well done Susanne!
    Denyse x

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thank you, Denyse!!
      I’m surprised how much my 50th birthday affected my thinking and mindset, particularly how I started thinking about those “should have dones” and how everything shapes us to who we become, and the acceptance that comes with it. While there are a lot of things I wish I wouldn’t have had to go through in life, perhaps I wouldn’t have the jävlaranamma either if life had been too smooth.
      Now I’m looking forward to the next decade and within the boundaries of what I can control, I’ll make it a good one.

  2. Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au avatar

    Happy 50th birthday Susanne, and welcome to being officially in Midlife! So much of what you wrote mirrors the journey I went on in my 50’s. Finally being okay with being “enough” – being less worried about the opinions of others, and realizing life is short and we need to live it on our own terms. It’s a fabulous time of life and I’m so glad you’re embracing it and that you’re off to a flying start! Happy belated birthday!!

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thanks, Leanne! Yes, when I read your posts about these topics I recognise myself so much in them. Isn’t it just sad that we don’t start truly living earlier? But I also think (and I believe I wrote this in a comment on your blog) realising we need to live life on our own terms requires a level of maturity that many people don’t have in their 30s. Or maybe it’s simply because earlier in life we’re too busy with trying to figure ourselves out, and on top of that career, family and whatnot.
      Better late than never, however. And 50 is the new 30, as they say!

  3. Darlene S. Cardillo avatar

    Happy Birthday.

    Age is just a number.

    I feel better at 70 than at 50.

    But I didn’t start running until 55. I attribute that to feeling healthier more confident and the amazing people I’ve met both virtually and in person.

    Still I have lost friends from illnesses. Everyday is a gift.

    Carpe Diem. Do what you love.

    1. Susanne avatar

      And I feel better at 50 than I did at 30! Life is truly a gift and I’m now enjoying it more and appreciating it more than I used to.

  4. Camilla Markus avatar
  5. Anne avatar

    Susanne, happiest of belated birthdays. I love that you were celebrated all week! You more than deserve it. 🙂

    You are so strong – physically and emotionally – and it’s really coming through in this post. Life really is too short to worry about what others think. And, as someone who turns 50 sooner than she would like to admit… I will be keeping you front of mind as a primary example of how aging can lead to a *better* me, not a more diminished me. (I will probably save this post and reference it when I – eventually – write my own midlife post… :>)

    1. Susanne avatar

      Thank you so much!
      It’s very hard to change mindset and fight self-doubt but it’s necessary to feel good and having courage to do things that require putting yourself out there. One statement that really resonated with me has been “The only difference between me and people who succeeded (with the same thing as I want to do) is that they believed in themselves”. That has triggered me to make a change in how I look at myself. Even if it means “fake it til you make it”! I have decided that I’ll believe in myself… regardless of my feelings.
      This will require constant work from my side but life will be so much better if I can keep this thinking going. I hope you can do the same!

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