this is 57

Those of you who know me in real life know I have issues with aging—as in I couldn’t possibly be this old; this is my mother’s age. Resisting the truth is not making me any more comfortable in my crinkling skin. So, time to try something new—acknowledging, embracing. Because I’ve never written anything like this before, this first in a series will be a broad sweep, but my plan is to pause, like this, every year from now on. My appreciation to Lindsey Mead for the idea.

Besides, I was born in 1957 and now I’m 57. This is my year.

 

This is fifty-seven.

cynthia newberry martin

 

57 is way more freedom than I had at 17 or 27 or 37 or 47. These days, each month I spend a week where I want to live—in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on the very tip of Cape Cod, as far as you can go without falling into the sea. I had thought my place would be Nantucket—an island. But it turns out I would like to stay connected. In Provincetown, I feel at home in my skin. I let the bridge down rather than pull it up. I spread out rather than gather in.

57 is old—the number that is—but, like my grandmother before me, I don’t feel old. I feel just the same.

57 is not old—I’m not yet in my 60’s or 70’s or 80’s or 90’s. I’m not yet 100.

57 is 11 little bundles of sticks with 1 across the middle. It’s 2 sticks already in the next bundle. IMG_4889

57 is having lived 20,818 days. Which doesn’t seem like so many.

57 is having not as many days as I have lived still to live.

57 is beginning to run again. I want to see if I can learn to enjoy running. And to see if I can run 3 miles 3 times a week by the end of this year.

57 is walking at least 30 minutes every day.

57 is dry eyes and eye drops and reading glasses and distance glasses when I used to have twenty-twenty vision.

57 is 4 adult children—all off on their own. It’s realizing that for 31 of those 57 years, I had children at home. I had 23 years to myself before I had children. I’ve had 2 years to myself since they left.

57 is liking each of my children.

57 is 2 grandchildren. But I’m way way way too young to be a grandmother. I don’t think I look like a grandmother. My grandmother had gray hair and baked. I try to stay as far from the kitchen as I can. I get color on my hair every four weeks so that it will look the same as it’s always looked. The first thing Mack says to me when he gets to our house is, “CC, you want to go in your study and play?” Lily, in some karmic connection, waited to be born until after I finished my week in Provincetown.

57 is 29 years of marriage. It’s finding out we still like each other after the kids have gone. Actually, we like each other more.cynthia newberry martin

57 is choosing an iPhone case that is not black.

57 is figuring out that shoes will never be my thing and to stop trying—after recently being talked into buying a pair of Valentino shoes one day and taking them back the next because I will never wear them. Purses and suitcases, yes. Shoes, no.

57 is adding the year to my birthday on my Facebook page.

57 is remembering seeing John Glenn orbit the earth on February 20, 1962, on a black and white plastic-shelled TV with rabbit ears. It’s remembering where I was a year and a half later when John Kennedy was shot—home from 1st grade, answering the phone in the room off the kitchen to hear my great aunt give me the news, then looking down the empty hallway for a grown-up.

57 is being a baby boomer and turning 57 this year along with Princess Caroline of Monaco, Caroline Kennedy (I had a Caroline Kennedy doll with a pink flowered playsuit), Martin Luther King, III (in my class at Spring Street Elementary School), B.K. Loren, Ray Romano, Katie Couric (with whom my husband once had a date), Vanna White, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Ethan Coen. Random.

57 is going back and forth between using, in this piece, the numeral 57 or the word fifty-seven and choosing 57 because it was more in my face, and if I kept repeating it, maybe I could make friends with it.

57 is going from black exercise pants to black pajama pants and back again—happily.

57 is spending my days doing what I want to.

57 is writing.

57 is never giving up.

57 is realizing I was never as smart as I thought I was.

57 is still trying to be the good girl and not understanding why. Really, why?

57 is having missed The Talking Heads the first time around. It’s loving music almost more than ever. Music can take me back so fast. Letting the days go by…

  • “Daydream Believer” to Mobile, Alabama, the summer after 6th gradeArt+Garfunkel+-+Breakaway+-+LP+RECORD-543549
  • “Colour My World” to Atlanta, Georgia, the 8th grade Christmas dance
  • “I Feel the Earth Move” to Ferrisburg, Vermont, the summer after 8th grade
  • “I Believe When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever” to Davidson, North Carolina, freshman year

57 is 5 decades, almost 6.

57 is gratitude for each of those days in each of those years.

57 is taking baby steps, and next year maybe big steps or more little steps, toward acknowledging all the different strands that swirl together into me–like for example I’m so judgmental that on a silent meditation walk at a spa I found myself judging the way the other people walked. OMG.

57 is judging myself just as harshly.

57 is wanting to know who I was all those other years. It’s inviting all my different selves to show themselves—lining them up and trying to figure out what ties us together.

57 is being excited about the year ahead and the rest of the journey…which belongs to me.

~

She sees that she has before her an important task: to understand that all the things that happened in her life happened to her. That she is the same person who was born, was a child, a girl, a young woman, and now she is old. That there is some line running through her body like a wick.

–Mary Gordon, The Rest of Life

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THIS IS 57

80 thoughts on “this is 57

    • Thanks so much, Teresa. I think I told you this already, but it was fun to catch a glimpse of you at AWP at that great panel. Missing being at Sirenland right now!

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  1. Cynthia, we had the same ’80s haircut! But then I think every woman had that cut in the ’80s. What a lovely post. It made me happy to read it. And remember: 57 is being a fearless writer.

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  2. What a lovely blog post. You are a very beautiful woman and more so in accepting your age. Go talk to an eithy year old woman and ask her if 57 is old. 🙂 You’re as young as you feel…age is just a number…Don’t count the years but count the joys.
    Have a Happy Day. 🙂

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  3. Girl. I just wrote this. I am watching you–women like you, for joyful signs of life. There has to be a way for us to continue to swim against the current in our culture that looks down on aging as if it ought to or possibly could be avoided or held off. We need to walk our walk proudly at any age and show those girls behind us that God will never forsake us and there are, as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, “Greater things which lie ahead than any we leave behind.” Bless you at 57.

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    • Loretta! I love what you wrote. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. It does feel like a current we’re swimming against, and it ought to be carrying us forward! So nice to know you!

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  4. Damn, I hope I’m as true to myself as you are at 57! Liking all four children…writing…and “actually, we like each other more.” Thanks for this, C.

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  5. Thanks for this. I’m right behind you at 52. Hope my life is as settled and lovely as yours. Love the line, “going from black exercise pants to black pajama pants and back again—happily.” I spend my days in the same wardrobe as you!

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  6. Nice stroll through 57 years and life and living. We are always learning. In the moments. In the milestones. Enjoyed the slideshow pics very much, too.

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  7. I love the hope and the promise contained in this. I remember as a twenty-something, belonging to a women poets group as its very youngest member, and attending a number of 50th birthday parties. Those women set such a great example for me that I began to look forward to getting older, feeling as if my life would really begin somewhere past 40, get interesting somewhere past 50, and get fabulous somewhere past 60.

    In my 50’s that prediction has turned out, so far, to be correct.

    Happy Birthday!! I love the idea of “my year,” something like a golden birthday, which I didn’t celebrate until I was 31. I’m going to celebrate “my year” with gusto when it arrives. No–wait, I’m going to celebrate every year with gusto! Starting right now! (You’re inspiring!)

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    • Tracy, wonderful to read that the younger you met women who caused you to look forward to getting older. I don’t believe I ever thought about aging at all until it happened to me, and then it was like it happened over night. Let’s do celebrate every year with gusto. Many thanks for your kind words. I’m happy to know you.

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  8. Beautiful essay. Such a great thing to do. I also find it interesting that you look most like yourself (or what I think of as yourself) in your teens and in the last decade…the real Cindy smile.

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  9. Love this essay, especially the photos at the end. It’s been years since I was in Provincetown, but knowing how much my mother loved vacationing there, I’d say you picked the perfect spot.

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  10. Cynthia, as you know, I’ll be turning 57 this year too *sigh* From your first word in this post, I related and continued to relate with nearly everything you said. I realized that much more so how much we have in common. Certainly a love of The Monkees! I still listen to that music. I can remember when “I’m a Believer” was first released, I had gotten a small transistor radio for Xmas and would bring it to bed and listen until I finally heard it play before I’d go to sleep lol My childhood crushes were Davy Jones, Burt Ward and David Cassidy 🙂

    Anyway, I never gave much thought to my age until I saw the first fine lines around my eyes. I was in my late 40s when that happened, and since then I’ve been watching them slowly multiply. That’s the problem—once we have a daily reminder of the process when we look in the mirror each morning, it brings it to the forefront daily, too.

    For me, it’s more of an issue than it would’ve been simply because I have a boyfriend who’s much younger than I am. It’s not easy and it adds certain stresses, but…it’s the way it is. One thing I truly hate is that it takes more time and effort to try to restore things that are changing, including the hair dye, etc. Ugh!

    I know that when my aunt died last year, it hit me harder because it brought the issue of mortality front and center. Yes, it’s been working its way up in my mind for quite a few years, but now it tends to nag more.

    Most of us love life. Not the periods when it gets too difficult or painful, but the moments of joy, the people we love, the beauty of nature, the ability to create and be productive in (hopefully) valuable ways. Most of us don’t want that to end. We don’t want to lose people we love; we don’t want to leave people we love. I know that if I and my loved ones could stay young and healthy forever, I’d want to live forever. I can’t imagine a day I would think, let alone say “I’m satisfied, I’ve had enough, I’ve done enough, I’ve loved enough, I’m ready to go.” (Though I’ve heard there are people who have said it.)

    Typically, it’s not ‘til we get to a certain age when people who’ve been in our lives all our lives are passing away, that we pay close enough attention to “how we spend our days.” I know I feel more strongly about wasted time, knowing so much of mine has been wasted on the wrong people and the wrong things, and just as you said: there’s less time ahead than behind. My chronic health problems have stood in my way many times, but have never held me down. For as long as I’m living, breathing, can still think and can still use my hands, I’ll be productive and grateful.

    Thank you for bringing me down memory lane with the events you highlighted and the songs you mentioned. I remember them, too 🙂 And how wonderful sharing your year-to-year slideshow. That was SO enjoyable! It’s also something I’m sure your family will always treasure 🙂

    Barring things unforeseen, it IS up to us—at this age—how we choose to “spend our days.” With the desire to live fully, gratefully and as joyously as we can, I think we have a lot to look forward to 😀

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    • Oh, yes, Donna–Davy Jones. When I was going through the early photos, I found two from the time my parents took me to visit Davy’s boutique in Greenwich Village. Ha. I was also remembering my grandfather taking me to my first concert–August 12, 1967. The Monkees performing in the Municipal Auditorium in Mobile, Alabama.

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  11. Happy 57! I love this post, all the details and the pride that was well earned. The slide show was fun too. A happy family, a strong marriage and time to write in your favorite place: it’s a wonderful life!

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  12. I turned 57 twenty-six years ago. It’s been an interesting and stimulating twenty-six years that I couldn’t possibly have foreseen in 1988. You have many new adventures to look forward to. And with your approach to “aging” (which is, after all, just a number until you invest it with content, good or bad) — I’m sure you’re going to enjoy all the good things still ahead. 😀

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  13. Glad you found it inspiring. What you have to do at some point in your life — and it might as well be now — is realize that (1) as long as you’re alive, you’re alive; (2) you’re never going to be any younger; and (3) if there’s anything you want to do, just go do it, without worrying about what anyone else is going to think. Most likely they’ll think you’re great — and much younger than you really are!!!

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    • lol, Nina, I can tell you that, for me, I’ve rarely cared what other people think of what I’m doing and when they voice what they have trouble with, I stand strong—unless, of course, they’re right lol What I do feel, though, is that over the past few years with the obvious changes and the mirror itself forcing me to notice my aging (along with increased physical nonsense), plus the people I love of the previous generation (aunts, uncles, etc.) starting to pass away, mortality demands my attention much more.

      Now that my life is in a place where I have no outside projects demanding my attention, my son’s married, etc., over the past year I’ve caught up with a lot of things at home (cleaning, organizing, etc.) and am focusing—for the most part—on getting things done that I want and need to do for me in my life. As the clock seems to tick faster, the sense of urgency to make the most of the minutes increases. At least for me. I’m feeling good about the positive changes and what’s to come, at least in that respect 🙂

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