The Mid-Century Pause Button: Turning 50 in Lockdown

I recently turned 50 in Lockdown and shared these reflections on my private social media shortly after my birthday. Am sharing again –  this time publicly –  since attitudes on ageing are something we can all revisit, myself included: 

Birthdays in quarantine can be a gift. Expectations of being able to hold any traditional birthday celebrations are null & void. And because the bar is so low, anything outside of mundane lockdown routine is met with huge gratitude.

Since where I live, only a handful of businesses are cautiously creaking open, gifts that make it through the post box from “the outside world” feel like contraband. Creativity to celebrate under restriction must and does reign.

The Russians have a beautiful tradition for every major life event, which my half-Russian children have grown to accept as a part of all our family celebrations. Beyond perfunctory one-word toasts, guests compose songs, recite poetry, perform skits, tell jokes or deliver speeches tailored specifically to your shared experience. If you’re at one of our dinner parties, you’re pretty much held hostage to get up and “be on.”

In lockdown, the people who participate, albeit only virtually, CHOSE to be there for you. So it is deeply humbling to see people from every stage of your past and present in a video montage congratulate you or talk about what you mean to them.

A friend who also recently turned 50 in lockdown said it was like being at your own memorial service except you’re not actually dead and you get to revisit memories long-forgotten or hear perspectives about yourself you never even knew! You get to see yourself through another person’s loving, warm, thoughtful eyes.

It is impossible not to gasp at that first moment of recognition as the face of each virtual guest comes up on-screen after all these years and then be seized to tears at the sacred place they hold in your life. Your notion of time and distance shatters and you love them with all your heart just hearing and seeing them again – speaking to you, just you.

You’re moved. You’re honored. You’re grateful.

On the eve of my husband’s 50th recently, he described turning 50 better than I ever could — lockdowns aside:

Benchmarks birthdays in general make you take stock but up until turning 50, it was mostly about looking back on the past, the people you’ve known, what you’ve achieved so far and there’s huge gratitude and humility in that.

When you turn 50, there’s a maturity and awareness you maybe didn’t have before about life’s fragility.  So you pause and are just content and at peace with exactly where you are today and the fact that your filter is sharper than ever about who and what truly matters in life.

At 50, and because health and wellbeing are more of a priority, you have a renewed energy about potential. You’re already grateful for the unknown adventures that lie ahead and the fact that you’re still young enough to have dreams yet to realise. There’s a real excitement and enthusiasm about getting to pursue those dreams – not just achieving them.

There’s appreciation for being able to look at the whole picture – backwards, forwards– from where you stand right now. And that is the joy.

7 responses to “The Mid-Century Pause Button: Turning 50 in Lockdown”

  1. You look amazing at 50! I love reading your blog posts. We haven’t connected in a very long time but I want you to know that I think back on our Blanc & Otus days fondly. I loved working with you. You were always good for a laugh or to commiserate with. My best memory of you is when you and Simon had Tracy and I over for dinner. I remember it being super delicious and so much fun! Happy 50th! xoxo

    • Oh my gracious goodness me, Kristin! How amazingly wonderful to hear from you after all these years! I think back to our time in SF too. I still hear Judy’s sing-songy “Blanc & OOOOOOOOttttussss!”, and remember piling into each other’s offices to shoot the shit about our clients. What incredibly formative years…. I love that you have that memory of coming over for dinner with Tracy! Just know that wherever we’re based in the world, you and your family will always have a place at our table. For life. Thank you so much for reading my “stuff”. Thank you for being so kind and supportive and for taking the time to write me. Sending huge love your way! XOXOX

  2. I love to read your blog, as it is great to see a view of my home country through an expats eyes. I am also an expat but out in the Middle East. I too reached the grand age of 50, during lockdown, which my husband tells me is a privilege. Which I suppose is a great way to look at it. However the extra pounds and wrinkles are not a welcome addition to ones body but a reminder of those years. You look amazing Catherine and I think we are all a lot younger than our parents generation. Here’s to the next decade, a very Happy Birthday Catherine! Much love Melissa xx

    • Dearest Melissa, What a warm, wonderful message! Thank you! Aaaaaah. Fifty. It really isn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. I feel like there might be a few camps around this benchmark – those who feel seized by where they feel they *should* be in life, and those who embrace the idea of still feeling young enough for the adventures yet to come. The very fact that you feel younger than our parents’ generation means the dial has moved in the right direction and you’re aware of your youthful energy. Very great. Congrats yourself (!!) on turning 50 and thank you, truly, for reaching out to me with your encouraging words. I look so forward to hearing about what adventures you’re embracing in this next phase of life. XOXO, C.

  3. Hi there, Catherine! Congratulations on reaching *that* mark. I taking a course to discover more ways for my students to collaborate online (during this HyFlex teaching era) and blogging is the first module. I’ve turned to you and yours for inspiration. And et voila! what a lovely post to find and read! As someone who hit that mark a few years ago, it’s certainly good to hear and read that others who are in their 50s continue to feel as energised as ever. I’m going to check out your podcasts soon! Thanks so much.

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