“Loving Life at Fifty”

I had no idea that this part of my life was going to be so rewarding.

Growing up, I was taught that, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  Over the past fifty years, that expression has run through my mind more times than I’d like to count.  That’s exactly what I focused on each and every day, for more than 50 years, as I applied a thick layer of makeup to my face to hide a disfiguring birthmark.  When my first husband left me, stranded and alone with two kids in a foreign country, I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  When I couldn’t pay my rent for three months and had nothing to feed my children, I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”  And when years later the love of my life passed away and left me alone, again I thought, “You’re only given the challenges that you can handle.”

During those low moments, I had no choice but to take a deep breath.  I needed change and the only thing that any of us can really change is ourselves, so I knew that I had to find a place to gain control of my life.  I needed professional help.  I needed to assess who I was, what I was doing, what I wanted for me.  Some days I didn’t think I’d ever come out from below zero.  When I finally did, I decided that just making it wasn’t enough for me.  I was going to really live.

There’s a point at which we need to put away our baggage and learn to live despite it.  We can spend our days feeling badly about the cards we were dealt and making excuses for why our life is the way it is, or we can move on.  What you do with a challenge is entirely up to you.  You can take it as an opportunity to make yourself better, to grow and move forward, or you can let it tear you down.  Never let it tear you down.

Rid yourself of negativity and stand tall.  Feel good about who you are because no one else is going to do that for you.  If you’re waiting for somebody else to give you permission to love yourself, you could wait a lifetime.  Don’t wait any longer.

I’ve worked with women for most of my life, developing support groups.  I spent much of my life feeling that I was alone, and that I was the only person going through the hardships I was experiencing.  But the more I looked, the more I found other women who were exactly like me struggling with the same challenges I was.  When I decided that I needed to go to court to get my children’s father to support them financially, I didn’t know that there was an estimated 6.1 million women who were mired in the same system, and millions still who hadn’t yet begun their fight.  So I started a support group for women going through divorce.

In sharing stories with other women, it became obvious to me that so many of us are held back by thoughts that other people put in our heads.  People tell us that we are worthless, that we are weak, and that we aren’t deserving of love or consideration or support.  These people aren’t worth having in our lives.  We need to keep telling ourselves, “I deserve to have a good life.  I am good person.  I can have a successful career.  I am a good mother.”  And we need to listen to ourselves.

You know you’ve done a good job.  You can feel it all the way down to your toes.  You should not doubt yourself.  When someone tells you that you did not do a good job, you need to pause before internalizing that.  Why is this person saying that?  Are they insecure about themselves?  Does the negative comment they’re making towards me make them feel better by putting me down?  Oftentimes, the answer is yes, and so we need to throw that negative comment right out the window.

Believing in yourself brings you somewhere special in the middle of your heart, in your soul.  When you feel good about yourself, you attract people who are like you.  You have a bounce in your step and people notice you because there’s an energy that you bring, an aura around you.  You laugh more.  You start doing things that you never thought you could.  You treat your body well.  You eat right and you enjoy eating and you exercise because it feels good.  You have the courage to speak up, to take on new and exciting adventures like travel or tennis or art.  You find yourself able to reach farther than you ever thought you could.  You’re finally able to create the life you want, and to enjoy that life.

Maybe this – the years following fifty – is the period of our lives that is our best.  I’ve had a lot of challenges, but I’ve also had a lot of opportunities, because I realized early on that there’s no perfect way of doing anything.  For me, fifty marked the beginning of appreciating who I turned out to be.  I’m a late bloomer, but I’ve learned that it’s never too late to start feeling good about who you are and what you have achieved.  Fifty is an opportunity for all of us to finally become who we were meant to be, to break through the reins that others have placed on us and go after what we really want.  I know I have an exciting future ahead of me and I’m lucky to be fifty.

About Susanne:
Susanne Veder is an author, educator, business executive and mother, who recently moved to Aventura, Florida from New York City's Upper West Side. Susanne has held a variety of executive positions in the field of marketing for CitiGroup, the U.S. Tennis Association and a number of other companies and organizations. Over the years, Susanne has been working with inner city high school students in helping them develop self-esteem, prepare for college and secure internships – extra curricular activities and the development of student-run journalism programs.

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