Letting Go Of All Those “Shoulds” Before Turning 50

Michelle Cox

Turning 50 in 50 days, I remembered the art of gratitude & forgiveness

I found my “Fiftiness” this morning folded into child’s pose on a dog-hair covered area rug on my family room floor. It was in the dark quiet stillness of those moments before the sun peaks into the front windows and the shower starts upstairs, signaling that within 30 minutes, my house will be buzzing with sound, people, needs, work, writing, cooking, eating, exercise, paperwork and should’s, . . . oh so many should’s.

It was 50 days until my 50th birthday. I knew that because I have a countdown app on my phone.

When I saw the number, I felt overwhelmed because I thought I should probably do something – lots of something’s in fact.

  • I should figure out how/if I will mark the occasion in any way.
  • I should buckle down tighter on my nutrition and my commitment to lose 10 pounds.
  • I should schedule my runs on my calendar and do them.
  • I should return to regular yoga classes to improve my flexibility.
  • I should work on being more productive and organized.
  • I should get better about my daily writing goals and complete my novel manuscript.
  • I should get more work done on this website and more work done at work.
  • I should spend more one-on-one time with my son who will graduate from high school in a few months and head off to college in the fall.
  • I should have more patience with my 9-year-old.
  • I should spend more time with my adult daughter.
  • I should be more grateful for my husband and find more “couple” time.
  • I should be kinder and gentler in all things.

All those should’s went to bed with me the previous night. They knotted themselves together into a tight unmanageable ball while I slept, just like my headphones twist into relentless knots in my purse when left unattended for just a few minutes.

In an effort to untangle the knot in my stomach on the next morning, I decided that some slow, deep breathing in child’s pose was in order.

On the floor, muscles groaning because it had been at least two weeks since I did anything resembling yoga or stretching, peace eluded me as my mental to-do list grew. The slow breathing was helping a little, but it wasn’t the answer for my plague of should’s.

So amid the breath, I prayed. (Shamefully, this is often my last resort).

And it came to me: My 50th birthday falls on Easter Sunday. I’m a Christian, and this is our holiest of Holy days. What better message than for me to realize that my pending birthday – the source of my sense of “should” — falls on the day when we celebrate His greatest of gifts. It’s a day of promise and hope. And I felt grateful.

I know that our website speaks to women of multiple faiths, backgrounds and political leanings. But gratitude and its power is a universal truth.

Life and hope and renewal are available to everyone who is still drawing breath, to anyone who can choose to be grateful. Should’s steal our joy. Should’s are rooted in comparison and guilt and feelings of not being enough, having enough and doing enough. But the practice of gratitude completely changes the perspective.

All of my should’s fell away when I remembered Easter and my blessings that come with it. That helped me turn “should’s” into “can’s” and “get to’s.”

That’s what I mean about finding my Fiftiness: it’s going to be an age of opportunity for me.

My anxiety lessened at the thought. I’d be lying if I said that I was cured of my “should’s”. The truth is that some of them have already crept back into my thought processes. I believe we have to be intentional about keeping them at bay, intentional about returning to a place of gratitude. I intentionally got down on my knees in that pre-dawn hour 50 days out from my 50th, partly because I didn’t know what else to do. For me, gratitude has to be a daily choice, sometimes a minute-by-minute choice.

I re-started my gratitude journal, and I know I should  get to write it in everyday as I race toward my 50th birthday and the start of my Fiftiness.


About Michelle Cox

Michelle Cox is a wife, mother and professional freelance writer/communications specialist. She’s a regular contributor to stlouismag.com, parent.co and New You inside & Out Magazine and is a word slinger for a handful of corporate clients, as well. A former crime and courts newspaper reporter, she knows truth is stranger than fiction, but she still enjoys crafting short stories, and in 2016 was named a finalist in the Atlantis Short Story Contest. Now she is working on her first novel. She also writes about writing on her website, michellecoxwriter.com, where she encourages other midlifers (not young, never “old") to pick up a pen or keyboard. Michelle lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband and their three children (ages 21, 18 and 8).

2 thoughts on “Letting Go Of All Those “Shoulds” Before Turning 50”

  1. Jerry Moon says:

    Dear Michelle,
    You always have the best article.
    I can identify with many of your SHOULDS.
    Don’t beat yourself up too much, you cover a lot of ground young lady.
    I was 32 when you were born. WOW.


    Just like you three years ago …now it is my turn. I will turn fifty on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020. I enjoyed your post very much. Here’s to my anticipated fiftiness.

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