As someone who is always organized and prepared, I bought a gift for my husband well before it was needed and yesterday I was looking for it and I simply forgot where I hid it. It made me wonder if I was the only one who was "going crazy" or if other women in their 50s were experiencing slight modifications of their memory and other changes.
To begin my search for answers, I called a prominent physician and asked him about the symptoms of forgetfulness and the blanks in conversations that were becoming all too common in women in their 50s and his response was a quick and dry response, "Don't worry, they are not signs of imminent madness. You are just getting old." Imminent madness? Old? I made an immediate To-Do note that I would find a female physician going forward.
I realized what was needed was the opinion of experts, so I asked my girlfriends to share their feelings about the changes they were experiencing. The words gushed out of them: "I'm losing it." "I'm just not myself." "I don't know what's wrong with me." "I think I have beginning Alzheimer's." I was in disbelief at seeing these successful, intelligent and prominent women doubt and question themselves. I laughed when one woman said she had lost her "super powers." But in reality, it was a nervous laugh.
When faced with changes in areas that use to define us, some women choose to fight and maintain the same status they have come to depend on and identify themselves with. I know women who have successfully fought the changes associated with menopause and aging through herbs, hormones, diet changes, more exercise and vitamins. They absolutely refuse to allow aging to change their mind, body and future. Believe it or not, these women seem to be winning the fight; they look terrific, feel good and think fast. They admit to having spent more time and money to maintain this level, but the rewards for them are worth it -- it's fortitude in action.
Other women allow the aging process to naturally occur. When I talked to these women, they explained the choice to let their hair go gray, allow their bodies to "relax" and create a less demanding life. They laugh when they can't remember their passwords to the computer, phone, alarm system and shopping sites. One friend told me the other day she was calling for her dog Lucky and instead yelled out "Come Liam!"-- Liam is the name of her son in college. She thought it was really funny; that's acceptance and humor.
I did encounter one woman who was in complete denial that changes were upon her. She did not seek answers to her mood swings, sleepless nights and hot flashes. She blamed her husband, gave in to hysterical rantings, raged on the servers at restaurants and drove her children to spend spring break elsewhere. She looked outward for blame instead of realizing she had an opportunity to look inward for answers; choices have consequences.
My friend who lost her "super powers" is no longer the CEO of a major advertising firm and has chosen instead to relinquish the jaw-clenching lifestyle she excelled at for a new, softer approach to herself and her life. She is comfortable fighting some of the changes and OK with accepting others. Looking for role models on how to "be" in her 50s remains a challenge. My friend admits that some change is necessary and is searching for ways to navigate those changes; that's peace and acceptance.
However we choose to live our lives in our 50s, whether through true grit, humor or acceptance, it seems to me that it is a personal lifestyle choice. Knowing there is no right or wrong choice would allow a wave a relief and acceptance to wash over us. This can be a time for all women in their 50s to gently reevaluate, rethink and reengage with life on their own terms.