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I am rooted in reality. That is a double-edged sword.

There is a certain peace, security and self-confidence that comes with understanding and accepting how, where and why your life is anchored. Becoming rooted in who you are and are not, who you were and were not, what is and is not, what will and will not be, what is and is not possible, is empowering because it is no longer necessary to engage in the soul-searching, questioning and experimenting that characterizes our lives when we are in our 20’s, 30’s and, for some of us, even our 40’s.

By the time most of us achieve the milestone I did this past December, we have survived the traumas and confusion of young adulthood — the struggles of acquisition — and become rooted in a career, home, family, hobbies and all the other things that make us who we are.

I’ve meditated a lot upon that milestone, both as it approached and since. I’ve concluded that from those foundations or anchors of our lives spring the luxury of tinkering with the lives we have built in smaller but, for many of us, no less meaningful ways.

In other words, at this point, it’s “all in the details” because we are on a career path that has a particular trajectory, and we have established a home and are finished with moving from place to place, at least until the children are grown and we start thinking about scaling down into smaller homes with fewer responsibilities.

Now the focus has shifted from acquiring to maintaining and enjoying the things we worked so hard for. One of those things we took for granted when we were younger: Good health.So while the diets and work-out routines committed to in earlier years were fueled by the desire to improve our exterior appearance and, perhaps, attract a potential life partner, those endeavors have now turned inward.For me, at this point in my life, my weight loss goals are related not to the long-ago abandoned fantasy of being a “hottie” and are rooted purely in self-preservation and comfort. I set out to eliminate the health problems I was experiencing because I simply did not enjoy the way I felt. My problems were and are relatively minor in the overall scope of things, but were serious enough to impact my daily functioning and inspire me to take any steps necessary to feel better. My goal is akin to that of my peers: To stick around for a long time to enjoy my children and, hopefully, grandchildren. I am horrified by the number of folks my age who already have faced or are struggling with major health crises — or worse. All too often I read the local newspaper and discover the name of another classmate among the obituaries. I am determined to keep my name out of that section for as long as possible.Consider this claim by author Gail Sheehy: “A woman who reaches age 50 today – and remains free of cancer and heart disease – can expect to see her ninety-second birthday.” There’s an incentive to finish writing this post and then hop in the pool to swim a few laps.

That I look better is merely an incidental benefit because at this point in my life I know all too well that it just isn’t about appearances. The other night we were watching Ron “Tater Salad” White (one of our favorite comics) and found ourselves laughing hysterically when he did a bit about relationships. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), you can get the fat liposuctioned off your rear end or stomach, you can have your breasts moved back to their original location, you can get a new nose . . . but you can’t get rid of stupid. As funny as it is when he says “stooooooooooooopid” with that Texas twang, there is a fundamental wisdom underlying the joke. I commend White for acknowledging the attractiveness of being married to a woman in his own age range with whom he can have a meaningful conversation.

Sheehy told us in the 1970’s about the Passages that would mark our lives. Indeed, that book was so influential that reading it was itself a rite of passage. But in 1996, she published New Passages after her ongoing research revealed that “[p]eople are taking longer to grow up and much longer to die – thereby shifting forward all the stages of adulthood by up to 10 years.” So that means that 50 really is the new 40! Based upon my own observations and experiences, Sheehy correctly opines that “baby boomers in the Flourishing Forties [are] rejecting the whole notion of middle age.” Regret is a useless emotion because it has the power only to drain and depress you, but changes nothing.

She claims that fact leaves many of us feeling “lost” and that may be the case for some folks because of an actual or perceived failure to achieve goals established in younger days, ill health, an inability to keep pace with technology as it changes the workplace and job market . . . there could be myriad reasons. Shifting expectations can throw an individual off course for substantial periods of time or, sadly, forever.

And today professional success is measured as much by flexibility and adaptation to an ever-changing world marketplace as it is by skills acquired or knowledge gained — those attributes become obsolete virtually as soon as they are acquired. Those realities can be daunting.

I prefer to see the glass encompassing challenges as “half full,” however. Sure, there are aspects of my life that are over or lost forever and that sometimes makes me feel sad. I still feel a little twinge when I see a newborn baby . . . I remember how happy I was when I was pregnant with my kids, how I loved it when they kicked me (and they were both little mules so I got beat up regularly), and how I used to talk to them during those months when the two of us were in own little space that every woman who has ever been pregnant understands.

But I would feel a lot worse now if I had chosen to forego those experiences, as do several of my childless friends. I shake off that momentary “oh, maybe I should have had one more” feeling by reminding myself that pregnancy is not an end, but a beginning, and 18 years (at least) is a long, expensive, angst-ridden time to be responsible for another human being. I made choices and I live with them. Regret is a useless emotion because it has the power only to drain and depress you, but changes nothing.

Rather, I choose to focus upon what lies ahead. Having successfully argued a high-profile, precedential case before the California Supreme Court and performed at Carnegie Hall, I have now achieved two major life goals. I have had “mountaintop” experiences related to both my professional and personal endeavors. That prompted BigBob to ask me the other day, “What next?” He knows that I am goal-driven and always my happiest when I am striving to achieve something in particular.

Aside from my ongoing fitness and weight loss program, I haven’t yet formulated my next major goal. I’m still pondering what it will be, considering my options while continuing to bask for a little while longer in the satisfaction of having played extremely well at Carnegie Hall.

The beauty of that statement, of course, is the fact that I have options for which I am extremely grateful and am looking to the future. As I do so, I am firmly rooted in not just the past, but also what is realistic and achievable. Overall, this stage of my life is not a bad place to be.


  1. I on the other hand am far from being rooted in reality. This year marks the 10th anniversary of my high school graduating class (though I skipped my senior year to attend college early) and I’m mostly in denial of the fact that I’m getting older. One and a half years and I
    ll be 30. I’m not so excited about the prospect. So I find my mind aimlessly wondering about things that might have been and spending too much time focused on t.v. shows and movies surrounding high school. I haven’t even begun to achieve what I’d like to most get out of life. Procrastination is my excuse and best friend. I’m so glad you’ve achieved some of your best goals! My biggest would be to graduate first with a bachelors degree even if it takes me until I’m 90!

  2. Janie Hickok Siess, Esq.

    Hi Cheryl:

    I went back to school and completed my degrees “later” in life. I was 32 when I started law school and had a two-year-old. I was 36 when I finished and had a six-year-old and an 18-month-old. No, it wasn’t easy! 🙂 But I did it. And the only way to do it is through perseverance once you decided on a goal. You will get there. I always say that it is “never too late until they are shoveling dirt over the box they put you in.” 🙂 There were plenty of people in my law school class who were much older than I was at the time.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope you will be back.

  3. Excellent post! Like the topical musical theme as well. Happy BYB Sunday!

  4. Mardougrrl

    I really enjoyed this post, as being rooted to reality is something I am constantly working on. Thanks for sharing your law school information–that inspires me, as I have an almost two year old and I am dying to go back to school!

  5. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog today!

  6. Herb Urban

    Excellent post, as always. I can relate to the sense of rootedness you describe having become a parent recently. Your priorities change overnight. It gives you such a strong sense of purpose, everything else seems trivial in comparison. The waist line might expand a pants size, and a few more hairs flow down the shower drain each morning, but the myopic vanity of youth is replaced by a unwavering commitment to be a better person, father and husband.

  7. I’m with janie on this one. Rootedness is fine if you’re happy with where you are in life, but I’m not ready to stay put just yet.

  8. You said..”Regret is a useless emotion because it has the power only to drain and depress you, but changes nothing.” I love this! It’s so true and something worth quoting and remembering! Thanks for stopping by, have a blessed week!

  9. being rooted in reality & yet having the ability to dream (such as you have demonstrated in your goals & wonderful mountaintop achievements) is something that few have achieved & definitely something you should be proud of

    especially more so that you have made peace with yourself and the world

    now… to go look after my health as well! 😉

  10. Blue Panther

    Great Post and I completely agree with what you say.

    Have a great week ahead!

  11. Crafty Green Poet

    very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Anthony (val)

    I agree with you, beeing rooted, is paramount to a happy and fulfiled life, and to be rooted in the truth is surely what we all want and need.
    Thanks for your comments on my poem.
    You can download songs I have written from http://www.amariah.co.nr

  13. gautami tripathy

    Very interesting,thoughtful and insightful post. Made excellent reading. Thanks.

  14. ian russell

    you sure seem rooted to me, janie. great piece!

    interesting that you see a shift in the age group milestones up by 10 years – I thought it was due to increased affluence and I suppose I assumed the US was always more affluent than europe. possibly it is a global cultural revolution too.

  15. Interesting post. Having reached the beginning of my 4th decade I have achieved some goals and have others which I’ve yet to properly take aim for. But I agree reality is an important thing. To know what you want needs to be balanced by knowing what is actually possible, and the journey you need to take to achieve it.

  16. AscenderRisesAbove

    interesting post on roots; thanks for sharing it.

  17. Great SS! I really like reading that 50 is the new 40. I am 34, and just now going back to grad school, and sometimes I feel like I won’t have enough time to “catch up”, in my goals, after staying homw with kids. I like to think I have lots of time and health ahead of me to experience a full life.

    Thank you for your kind words on my SS. 😉


  18. I agree with you that now that I’m in my mid-40’s I feel much more rooted in myself which is where it counts. There are some good points to ageing.

  19. World Directory

    thank you for a lovely post! to be rooted and to allow yourself to be exactly where you are is something great. our lives always changes of course but to let each moment be simply what it is, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves, at least from my point of view. love and light to all

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