Relationships

The Birthday Experiment That Changed Everything

Youngna Park balloons

In the months leading up to my 50th birthday, I fantasized about how I might celebrate it…

On Sundays, while chopping onions for dinner, I allowed my daydreams to go rogue, admittedly fueled by a little white wine and the blasting soundtrack of my 80s adolescence. I envisioned a tour across Japan. A tangle of chunky necklaces. A choreographed flash mob in which I danced with everyone I’d ever known, in chronological order.

But as the big day approached, I realized I didn’t want any of that. To be honest, I’d spent the past few years navigating the challenges of raising teenaged boys in a turbulent world. We were living on a land mine of uncertainty, where the brutal days outnumbered the peaceful ones and we were often a family in crisis.

Crisis has a funny way of pulling at the loose threads in your life. People tend to either take a few steps closer or a couple steps back, while others, some of whom you’d least expect, run for the hills. Frankly, I can’t say I blame them but it can be terrifically lonely. As my birthday approached, I mostly wanted to hibernate. Sometimes I fantasized about running away to Japan in my chunky necklaces, but that wasn’t really in the cards.

My husband kept asking me how I wanted to celebrate and I kept putting him off. I wanted to stay 49 for at least a few more years.

Let me back up a moment to say that fifty is a gasp-inducing, Twilight Zone age. Aren’t my parents that age? I had no problem with my husband and friends turning 50, but how was this happening to me? If you knew me, you would know that I am a very childlike person. My personal style is Toddler Who Dressed Herself. I have intentional bed head. If Bjork and Mr. Rogers had a child, it might as well be me.

As ambivalent as I felt about this birthday, however, I knew I wanted to mark it in some meaningful way. What did I want for my birthday? What did I need? In digging in as deeply and authentically as I could, I woke up one morning and typed this email:

I am turning 50 on Jan 2. I am 12 on the inside so I am not even sure how this is possible. I’ve given a lot of thought as to how I want to spend this day. I’ve decided I’m not in the mood for a party. And there is nothing material I need.

What I could use right now is a little booster of love. So that is why I’m writing you today.

I’m not sending this to everyone I know. In fact, I’m sending to just a handful of you. If you are getting this, it means you make my heart beat with fondness and joy. Some of you I know better than others and some of you maybe I’ve lost a little touch with but I am grateful for all of you.

What I’m asking for is a little written something — email me something like a story or a memory or how we met or maybe something you want me to know? A photo even? I don’t want this to feel like work. It doesn’t have to be long or literary. You don’t even have to do it!

I’m going to print these and put them in a box and read them on my birthday and maybe reread them on days I need them. And I’m going to write you back with my own love letter to you.

OK that’s it. Thank you in advance.
x Lisa

I read it and immediately deleted it, snapping my computer shut. My inner critic hissed: How narcissistic of you! Why would anyone want homework over the holidays? Everyone is so busy and overbooked as it is! Who do you think you are exactly?

If there’s one thing I learned by 50, it’s to give this mean voice a juicy middle finger. So I rewrote it and emailed it to my husband who told me to go for it. I quickly came up with a list of people and sent it off before I changed my mind.

If I had had a party, the list would have looked very different. A party means people in your current city, demographic and social orbit. The Birthday Project recipients ranged in ages from eight to eighty and spanned the globe from New Jersey to Australia. Every chapter in my life was represented.

I was stunned when my inbox blew up. People wrote back to say they were honored. Some said they were in tears. One friend said he was exploding. My heart started beating really hard.

The letters started trickling in over the next month; each response as varied as the person writing it. Every arrival in my inbox filled me with stomach-dropping anticipation, the way only a love letter could. Wherever I was at the time, I dropped everything to read. There were poems and photos and secrets and drawings and memories and first impressions.

Sometimes the intimacy was so overwhelming, I had to put the paper down for a moment to catch my breath. The tears were triggered almost every time, not because the content was heavy or sad, but because I have never felt so understood. It wasn’t just that people took the time to say thoughtful and kind things about me, it was that each email laid bare my soul in snapshots that connected the dots to my whole beautiful life, coming at a time when I so desperately needed it.

A former colleague from my first job out of college, a brother really, sent me a photograph of us in our early twenties, posed on a staircase in full 90s glamour with our beloved third work sibling we lost last year to cancer. It contained only two words, which held an ocean of meaning for me: “Everything, everything.”

My youngest son wrote how he feels comfort in my presence. How although I am “female, black-haired and rounder-headed” in comparison to him, we might as well be the same exact person. “We’re more than mother and son,” he said in conclusion. “We’re soul mates.”

Some of my friends wrote about their own complicated feelings about turning 50. There’s a stigma, a feeling of shame that comes with 50, particularly being female I think. But each friend promised me that the idea of 50 gets more comfortable over time. One said, “You will make marks and be marked. The wear and tear will add both polish and patina.” Another shared this quote by Anne Lamott: “Our true person is outside of time and space. My inside self is outside of time and space. It doesn’t have any age. I’m every age I’ve ever been and so are you.”

One friend confided that her dearest friend passed away shortly after turning 50. She ended her letter with one of my favorite lines from the Birthday Project: “So, any moment you might feel 50 is not a blessing, please, please look at what you have and not what you have not.”

I have not quite figured out how to be 50. I can tell you that I am comfortable and happy in my skin, more than ever. I’ve noticed an ambitious fire recently lit inside me; an urgent, everyday sense of Why Not? And especially: Why Not Me? I have learned how to ask for what I need. And that life is far from over.

I still might choreograph that flash mob one day. I’m still working on my moves.


Lisa Rubisch started her career at MTV and now directs commercials and music videos for major brands at Park Pictures in New York. She also contributes writing to websites, anthologies and books, and has written five other essays for Cup of Jo.

P.S. A small kindness I’ll never forget, and the nutty thing Joanna did at her 40th birthday party.

(Photo by Youngna Park.)

  1. Julie says...

    Thank you for sharing this. I love your idea and am going to borrow it for a big day I have coming up. Happy belated birthday to you!

  2. Ela Aktay says...

    I love this idea so much! What a beautiful way to celebrate your birthday–at any age. For my 50th, I didn’t want any presents. At this point in my life, I don’t need anymore things. I asked friends to share with me their favorite quote, poem, book recommendations, or any story/memory they wanted to share. It was so lovely. My friends got creative–one made me a collage of quotes that she thought would inspire me and another one made a small booklet of her book recommendations with her notes about why she chose each book. Lots of tears and laughter and inspiration that I treasure to this day.

    When my niece and nephews were in high school and college and were on tight budgets, for a Christmas gift, I asked them to share with me a list of their favorite songs or a favorite poem and then tell me what they loved about those songs or poem. Priceless!

    One other idea . . . we now have a family tradition for milestone birthdays to give as a birthday gift a list of things we love about the birthday person. The number corresponds to the age, e.g., 30 Things We Love About You. Everyone contributes and it’s so sweet to see what each family member has written. My niece is the inspiration for this tradition ever since one Christmas when she gave each person in the family a personal list of 10 Things I Love About You.

    These are the kind of gifts I love the most!

  3. Erin says...

    I am so very moved by your idea and experience. thank you, thank you for being brave enough to try this out!

  4. Laurel says...

    Floored. I’m just floored.

    My favourite part is how you rewrote it and sent it to your husband first, and how he straight away said to send it. My husband would say the same thing.

    I’m glad you took the chance to be that vulnerable. What a treasure those emails must be.

  5. Kelly P says...

    This is, quite literally, the best idea I’ve ever heard for a birthday gift. Also, I think it’s my favorite C of J post ever, which is really saying something. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, Lisa.

  6. I’ve been a reader here for a while and enjoy these posts immensely, however, i’ve never been moved enough to write a comment. It’s not my consumption style, usually it seems like a lot of work… but this post triggered such lovely feelings I felt compelled to give a formal thank you to Lisa for laying herself bare for us.

    This is without a doubt one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard. We are celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday this year and I can’t think of a better present we could all give her on that milestone birthday.

    Thanks again :) with love and heart,
    Cris

  7. Charlotte says...

    This brought tears to my eyes. What a vulnerable thing to do, and so sweetly met in the responses you received. A reminder that just reaching out is nearly always appreciated.

  8. I feel like I’m reading my own story! I built Boombox Gifts from the ground up over the past 5 years, after making boxes like these for each of my college friends as we turned 40, and then for my Dad at 70. We’d love to help you take the messages and print them inside one of our beautiful boxes to last forever…! I turn 45 next week. I believe your life is measured in your relationships, not your accomplishments. It’s beautiful to find others who agree. – xocg

    • Mo Moeller says...

      What a lovely “yes” to what is! When we accept our truth (including age) and open to all its possibilities we will find what we really want. ♥️

      I’d love to hear more about those Boombox gifts by Christina!

      Mo Moeller

  9. Nicole says...

    Such a beautiful essay. Makes me look forward to 50 – so inspired by this idea! Thank you for this.

  10. Heidi says...

    I am 51 years old and I am the happiest I have ever been :)

  11. Caraline says...

    <3<3<3

  12. Krista says...

    Oh my. Those lines from her youngest son … I’m a teary mess. I would read that every day of my life if he were mine. What a beautiful sentiment to come from your child.

  13. Tricia says...

    I love this idea! We did something along these lines for my father’s 75th – 75 bottles of PBR (for his Wisconsin roots) with notes from 75 people from throughout his life.
    I celebrated my 50th last April. I did do a trip and a small party and I’m glad I did. I had dreaded 50 for a very long time and it was good to celebrate. There’s just something about that number – most likely you don’t have another 50 years, 50 in our society signifies the beginning of old, and 50 is just honestly a lot of years.
    Then I realized that I can say I’m 50 with pride. I’m fit, I did the splits on my 50th birthday, I take care of myself, I wanted to play the flute so I started taking lessons at 50. I’m thinking of going back to school or running for office. I’m still growing at 50 and I work on being even more.
    As J Lo reminded us last week – we can keep proving we are relevant at any age!

  14. Y says...

    This was a beautiful gift Lisa, thank you. 50 was difficult, but 55 is next and feels much harder for me! I totally felt “aren’t my parents that age?” I did lose a friend to cancer at the age I am now, so that resonated with me and should be a constant reminder of how lucky/blessed I am to be here raising my 16 year old and taking care of my husband. I am the oldest mom among my “mom friends”, (whom I adore and cherish), so it so nice to hear from women my own age about all these feelings we share.

    Also, can I add some advice? Don’t cut your hair because “you shouldn’t have long hair at your age”. Don’t dress “age appropriate”. Dress in what makes you happy, even if that is “Toddler Who Dressed Herself”! Thanks again Lisa!

  15. Oh wow, I LOVED this post. Thank you so much for writing it. I felt exactly the same way before I turned 50 and I SO wish that I had thought of this brilliant idea. In fact, I might still use it sometime in future. x

  16. Jessie says...

    For my mom’s 65th, I sent out 65 postcards (numbered 1-65), mailed them to 65 of her family, friends & coworkers & asked them to write their favorite memory of my mom. The postcards started trickling in right before her birthday & for 3 weeks she received every postcard back! Her 65th birthday was 2 years after she beat bilateral breast cancer, so it was so special for her to read the touching (or funny) memories people shared.

  17. Lucy says...

    Yesterday was my birthday. I received a package from 3 friends out of town. The box contained a card from each, plush socks, poop bags for walks with my dog, chocolate, a pen with a dog on it, and a few other knickknacks. Most people would look at this box of things and scoff, but I was speechless. My boyfriend, whom I’ve known a fraction of the time these friends have known me, said “wow, your friends know you so well.” Yes they do, and I feel so special to call them mine. It feels so good to know and be known and seen and accepted.

  18. This is everything. It’s everything about how to tune in to our inner clarity and ask for what we want and need—not what others think we should want and need. It’s about how—when you sift through it all—what we really need is to feel connected and understood. It’s about sharing with others how connected we feel to them before we’re saying it in a eulogy. I love this so much.

  19. Alice says...

    “People tend to either take a few steps closer or a couple steps back, while others, some of whom you’d least expect, run for the hills. ”

    so true, so unexpected

  20. cathyMA says...

    what a beautiful project. Happy Birthday!
    and “rounder headed,” only a kid would notice that :) Loved that!

  21. Vicky Montgomery Bowler says...

    This is absolutely beautiful. I am turning 60 in April. I never wanted to be a child. When I was 9, I wanted to be 19 and go to Woodstock. I can’t explain it. It certainly did not come from my very conservative, blue-collar Appalachian parents. Now that I’m turning 60, I definitely would like to just stay there. I am not much a crier these days but this did bring tears to my eyes. I don’t know that I would feel comfortable doing this but there’s a part of me that wishes I could. Thank you & enjoy being 50ish.

  22. Jenna says...

    This is beautiful and such a wonderful idea. I lost a baby this year and it made me reflect on all the amazing friends that are surrounding me with love while I navigate this tricky life stage. Even though it feels all-consuming right now, it will become just one piece of my life story and I hope I remember the support and love I received.

    • Kim says...

      Jenna,
      I’m so sorry for your loss. I have also lost a baby and I can say that it did become quite defining for me, but not necessarily in a bad way. Getting through it made me stronger, although I don’t think you ever get over it. I wish you the space and room to grieve. And I wish you peace and happiness.

  23. Peggy says...

    I am 63 and still feel like a twenty-something in my mind. That’s the thing we learn as we age. Our physical appearance might age, but in our minds we see ourselves as younger. Embrace your age! Don’t we all want to get into the “old-age club”. After all, we certainly don’t want the alternative. Happy birthday to all regardless of the number!

  24. Theresa says...

    I’m 47 and many of my friends, and my husband, have already turned 50. I teared up reading this. I also have a 5 year old and having my child later in life, makes me think of turning 50 in a different way (i.e. “I’m too tired to be a mom, I can’t relate to young moms”, etc. etc.)…really loved this post. Thanks!

  25. Roberta says...

    Happy Birthday !

  26. L says...

    Moved to tears by this. I’m 47, with a grown daughter, and we have also been in crisis these past 5 years. Even though I do not know you personally, I felt so immediately understood. Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  27. sarah says...

    ooph…yep, this got me. Turning 50 in March, 2021 and just starting to feel it.

  28. Sarah says...

    I will chime in with the rest about how touching this essay is. I especially teared up when I read the part about your son and how he said you were his soul mate. Thank you.

  29. Len says...

    I always looked forward to 40 and last year, I did turn forty. Reading this today, I can’t wait to be 50. Thank you for sharing. :D

  30. Jeanne says...

    Oh, this. Thank you. Thank you.

  31. Kristin says...

    This is so incredibly beautiful. I am going to print this and keep it with me. I turned 50 last year and this is exactly how I felt. Thank you so much.

  32. I love this. My husband recently turned 40 and I reached out to old friends, family members, coworkers etc. to write letters to him stating what they loved/admired most about him. The idea kept coming back to me that above all else I wanted him to feel loved on his special day. And that is exactly how he ended up feeling.

  33. Viktorija says...

    I love this so so much. Thank you!

  34. Ange says...

    My tears are falling into my morning cup of jo.
    Bloody loved that.
    Thanks lovely lady.
    I felt known reading your work.

  35. Lori says...

    Beautiful post! Yesterday was my 60th birthday (how can that possibly be?). My daughter made a memory book with pictures and letters from family and friends: everyone from my college roommate, to a friend I taught with at my first school, to my 3 year old grandson’s painting of me “in a pretty dress. ” It is so special and a wonderful reminder that these years have not just passed, they’ve been marked by love.

  36. Cynthia Miller says...

    I will be 50 in March, and it is so strange to say this. I remember celebrating my Mother’s 50th with birthday pancakes, and how very old that felt when I was a teenager.
    I’m not 12- but I’m in my late 20s, early 30s, still, although my body doesn’t know it.
    I have dreamed of a huge party- I love those- but I don’t have the energy for that right now. I am going to a women’s retreat by myself the next weekend. But this idea is a good one. Perhaps I’ll borrow it. Thank you.

  37. Amelia says...

    This is definitely my favorite Cup of Jo post of all time. I’m 46, but felt this so hard. Thank you thank you thank you for writing it.

  38. Randi says...

    I love love love this.

  39. OK, so now tears are streaming down my almost 48 year old face.
    ” I’m every age I’ve ever been.” This is everything.

  40. Shannon McQuilkin says...

    I absolutely love this.

  41. Jilleun says...

    LOVE. THIS.

    I just turned 30 and a wonderful friend complied a book of 30 love notes (some are memories, some are letters) from friends and family. It’s such a cherished possession.

    We all deserve to feel that love!

  42. Marty H says...

    If Bjork and Mr. Rogers had a child, it might as well be me….dying over here, and feeling a kinship with you. :)

  43. Tara Ilsley says...

    We did this for my mom’s 70th birthday. Let’s start each birthday with this. thank you all xoxo

  44. This is genius and I think I will do this for my birthday this year! I turned 50 and freaked out. I didn’t want a party (because I was so freaked out and didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of 50). I went to South Africa with my family but really that was a family vacation and not something to mark the occasion. But a year after my husband and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and pulled out all the stops for a party. I hesitated because I had so many things going on in my life but when college friends came from afar to celebrate us – many I had not seen or even talked to in a long time – I was so touched. It meant the world to me to know how much we were loved and turns out, just the thing I needed. So sometimes, I say, have the party :).

  45. hannah says...

    Yeah, just crying at work. No big deal. Especially since I work as a sign language interpreter and interpret calls by video phone which means my face is clearly visible to the deaf caller. (Good thing we’re on hold or the non-deaf party would hear me sniffling!) Thank you for this. So lovely and vital.

  46. Annie says...

    This is such a wonderfully meaningful way to celebrate. I cried when I read the post. It kind of reminds me of when you go to funerals and hear all the wonderful things people say about the person who’s died and how sad it is that they, too, couldn’t have heard it all while living. We all need this. Thank you!

  47. Lindsay says...

    This is so beautiful and moving❤️

  48. Britt says...

    This is absolutely beautiful. For my 30th birthday, I wrote and mailed thirty letters to people who have impacted my life. It was such a meaningful way for me to reflect on my most formative years and mentors, and it left me full of gratitude. I want to reverse this idea next time like the author; what an astoundingly beautiful lens to reflect on life!

  49. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I was APPALLED to turn 50, APPALLED.
    I stayed at home by myself and did not acknowledge it in any way, no cake, no get together, no nothing.
    6 yrs later, I am thoroughly over myself and now look for lovely things to do to mark it retrospectively, like a sewing retreat on the south coast of England.
    Not looking forward to 60, but it will not be ignored.

  50. Jennifer says...

    Lisa, thank you for sharing this. What a lovely idea! I also want to tell you that every essay you have written on this site has resonated with me. You have a beautiful heart and a gift for sharing it in meaningful ways through your writing. Thank you for inspiring us!

  51. Melissa Gammon says...

    I love this so much! Thank you for this wonderful post. I’m turning 40 this year and I’m honestly dreading it. But this brings so much joy to a landmark age.

  52. Karen says...

    I love this! It seems like those sentiments and memories rarely have a chance to be shared…until a funeral…when it is too late!
    My family and I did something similar for my Dad’s 70th. We sent out a note to family and friends from all stages of his life to send along memories, birthday wishes and pictures. My sister and I collected the mail- reading and crying and pouring over every memory , many of which we hadn’t known about! We put them into an album, which we presented to my very humbled Dad on his Birthday. I feel so luck to have that album, and my father was so touched. SHARE YOUR LOVE! And funny stories, and admiration for people. It means the world.

  53. Isa says...

    This is so beautiful. Happy birthday!!

  54. Jodie Resendiz says...

    Thank you for this. I was struggling with what to do for my brother who will turn 50 in May. I doubt he wants a party or anything material. I will write him a letter and tell him what he has meant to me in my life. How he is the only one that knows exactly how I felt when we lost our Mother. How grateful I am that he looked out for me in high school when I was a Freshman and he was a Senior. How I love his son so much. I will tell him ALL of the things. This is perfect.

  55. Alison says...

    Lisa, thank you for sharing this beautiful way to celebrate! I turned 46 in December and cried myself to sleep the night before because I didn’t want to face the “downhill slide” to 50. But maybe now I will equate birthdays with a lifetime of friends, years of meaningful experiences, a truckload of memories and more time to love and be loved. Happiest of birthdays to you!

  56. Allison says...

    This is beautiful.
    I’m 31 and love seeing in the comments how broad this community is. <3

  57. Tricia says...

    Goodness, this made me cry. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful idea. I am not one for birthday parties (for myself, anyway) but I adore this.

  58. Julie says...

    Amazing. Thank you!

  59. Laura Senger says...

    As I turned 40 this year I had much the same though process. Imagining huge parties and out of character sequin dresses. My family was up to it. In the end I just wanted a time with my few very favorite people. You had me crying as you and your friends hit all the feelings that come with aging. You also have given me the outline of the shape I want the next decade to roll into. Loving others well, giving of self, loving self as is. Always enjoy your contributions Lisa.

  60. Ronda says...

    I love this! I think the world needs more letter writing (fun personal emails included). This is perfect. I’m turning 40 this year so I’m writing 40 letters to people who I love, influenced, mentored, encouraged me to thank them for being an important part of my life.

  61. Meg says...

    this is SO good!!! <3

  62. Angie says...

    I love this post and the thoughtful comments from this beautiful community. Thank you.

  63. Jen K says...

    My husband saves every birthday card he has ever received. So when my husband was going to turn 40, I emailed all of our friends and told them this little hoarding detail and asked them to help me celebrate him by sending him a birthday card via snail mail. It was going to be a surprise…little by little cards trickled in…but as the actual day approached he received 25 in 1 day (some friends felt the need to send more than 1 card) and more and more. He quickly realized something was up – and asked me what I did. He loved it! (and still has all the cards!). Thinking I will do it again when he turns 50!

  64. Cynthia says...

    Beautiful post. A long time reader, I will be 70 this year. Seventy is quite a bit different emotionally as I begin to confront my own mortality. I am blessed to have friends of the same age or even older role models who are vibrant volunteers, grandmothers (which is the best gig ever), and contributors to a better world; aging fiercely with grace. We may not look 50 anymore, but in our minds we are still 50 (smarter than 30, more experienced and sure of ourselves than 40). For those turning 50, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised as you really come into your own.

    • Alice Barnes says...

      I’d love to give you a fierce hug from the UK. How amazing!

    • Jodi says...

      Thank you, Lisa, for this beautiful post, and Cynthia for this wonderful response. I am turning 50 this summer, and while I agree with Lisa that I am still kind of a 12-year-old on the inside, I am also as you describe, Cynthia – smarter, more experienced and sure of myself than I have been at any other age. I am not dreading turning 50, in fact I’m looking forward to it. I went back to grad school last fall, so rather than feeling like I am on the decline, I feel an expansion as I continue to learn and grow. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, a new career, and being gentle with myself as I change with each passing year. I do not, however, want a party! I know my friends are going to try and put me up to it, but your post has inspired me to come up with something else that resonates with what I really want and need. I also want to mention that reading through the comments has been so heartening for me! I have always assumed that I was one of the “older” readers of this blog and it was so interesting to learn that there are others of all ages here. How wonderful. Here’s to this community and all that we share, and as the quote says, “I’m every age I’ve ever been and so are you.”

  65. Laura says...

    This is why I read Cup of Jo faithfully. Just so heart-warming in the depths of winter in tumultuous times.

  66. Sue Harris says...

    I love this idea and will consider it for my next birthday–65! How did that happen?

    For my oldest and dearest friend’s 50th birthday, I made her a little book and filled it with 50 things I love about her. I added photos and wrote notes and sketched some favorite memories. She loved it. We don’t live near each other any more, but we are where we’ve always been, right next to each other.

  67. Lauren says...

    I have never posted a comment before, but this may be my favorite blog post of all time. Maybe it’s because I am about to turn 40….but I think it’s because the author’s son called his mother his soul mate. All the feels.

    • alison says...

      That really got me too. The absolute ultimate compliment. Swoon.

  68. Kim says...

    Beautiful. Absolutely frigging beautiful.
    It’s all about love and people – that’s all that matters.
    Happy birthday Lisa!

  69. Poppy says...

    ha i went to hawaii. get it? hawaii 5-0

    • Bonnie says...

      I didn’t get it at first….hahaha.. Love it, Poppy! I wish I had been that clever.

  70. This made my heart swell big time – love is infinite. <3

  71. Elise says...

    Beautiful reflection for anyone at any age.

  72. Kim says...

    I love this so much.

  73. Audrey says...

    This had me crying this morning. I don’t have a big birthday coming up or anything, but thinking about telling the people that we love how we really feel about them anytime stuck with me. I wrote my mom a little email this morning, just because :)

  74. cg says...

    I forgot to mention that when I was 39 and staring at 40, I was very much taken by the fact that I wasn’t as young as I thought I was. In fact, I was a mother of a young child, working full time, juggling what seemed like too many balls. Like my impending 50 (this year), folks were asking if I’d been already planning my 40. I thought about it a while and decided i wanted to do something special after all.

    I saved for nearly a whole year, every month putting away about $100 aside for my 40th. When it was time to celebrate, I invited six of my mom friends of young children. Some were very close to me, some were coworker close, some were newly close, but for various reasons I wanted them all to be moms of young children. I treated them and myself to a facial or massage of choice at a day spa, afterwards, soaking in their warmed outdoor swimming pool, and then we had high tea after. It was just so awesome, and the perfect thing for me turning 40.

    With 50, I want something much much smaller, maybe just me. Something quieter, and something personally fulfilling. I’ve got three months to figure it out.

  75. Marnie says...

    Wow, this post really resonated with me. I recently hosted at 50th for my sis-in-law. While it was fun, I kept thinking to myself “this is not what I want”. This post has really encouraged me to ponder a little more deeply and creatively about what a “celebration of me” could look like.

  76. April says...

    So lovely

  77. Marissa Keenan says...

    This brought tears for me of just how beautiful people can be to one another if we only ask. Happy Birthday!

  78. cg says...

    OMG!!!! This truly couldn’t have come at a better time because my friends and I are also turning 50 this year. I will in May but I have a few friends who are the first in my group this February. I made a card for the first friend and came to a block, I didn’t know what to paint. I did some leaves, but was very unsatisfied as I sent it off and texted her to tell her how strange it was that I came upon a mental block for making a card for someone my age turning 50. Suddenly every idea I had was either too young or too matronly. I’m going to borrow this idea and write her, and everyone else a note. I’ll ask them to do the same for me. Thanks so much for sharing.

  79. Leslie says...

    all the feels. love it!

  80. Laura says...

    This is BEAUTIFUL.

  81. I needed this today. I’m turning 48 soon and so 50 is on the horizon. This was so perfect I loved it. How amazing to be able to relate so closely to a stranger…and what wonderful writing. Thank you.

  82. Jen says...

    Today is my 50th birthday. I had no idea how I could mark this day in some way that might be a bit different. This is the first thing I read today – and it is exactly the way I feel myself. So thank you for pointing me in the right direction. :)

    • Sue says...

      Happy Birthday!

    • Cindy says...

      happy birthday, Jen!

    • Summer says...

      Happy birthday, Jen!

  83. MN Hazel says...

    Holy expletives!!!! I have been reading for years. I am 30 and have a young child and always think the posts about this time of life will be most relevant to me and hit me hardest. But this post is my favorite of ALL TIME. I cried (of course), but more importantly my heart BEAT FASTER and dropped into my basement. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Age means so much and so little. Thank you for encouraging us all to celebrate who we are outside of time and to relish in the connections we have with others… those connections that also Pierce time and space.

    • MN Hazel,
      You said what is in my heart so perfectly, and I have long left 50 behind. And Lisa Rubisch, your post was such a boost for me. Last fall I had a very big surgery. The recovery has been much longer than I had expected. I find myself counting all of the things that I will no longer be able to do. But because of your post and the comments in response, I am encouraged to count what I can STILL do. Thank you.

    • Katie says...

      This is such a beautiful reminder that we are so much more to others than we often realize or even forget, especially when one is dealing with times of stress and challenges. Such a lovely way to mark a special birthday. Thank you for sharing!

  84. SEVDI says...

    I guess I didn’t realize how many CoJ readers are close to 50 from either side. At 50, I had always felt like I’m older than most of the writers and the readers. This wonderful post had so many commenters mention their age and each time I read about a recent or upcoming 50th birthday I felt like I met a sister. What a sweet sub-community! And happy belated birthday, Lisa. Here’s hoping for both of our sakes that it gets easier from here on out.

  85. I am on the verge of 50 and find myself in a similar position. In the end, I think I just want to gather my friends and plant my veggie garden. No trips. No giant glasses of champagne. Feet on the ground, hands in the soil, heart full. Love your articles- please keep them coming!

    • Hillary F. says...

      Love this so much.

  86. Katie H says...

    I was holding back the tears until her son called Lisa his soul mate! What a wonderful birthday gift.

    • Samantha says...

      Is there anything better to hear from your child?! Oh my heart.

  87. Monica says...

    This was super sweet. Thanks for sharing it. I think I’ll hold on to this idea for my next “big” birthday.

  88. Amanda says...

    Why not? Why not me? Beautiful words for those of us in our middle age. Love hearing from women in their 40s, 50s and beyond on CoJ! ❤️

  89. Shilpi says...

    Wow — this may be my favorite post on this site, ever. So moving, and such an incredible idea, and one i’ve never heard before.

    • Em says...

      That was my thought, too. A really extraordinary post! Thank you all.

  90. Sandra says...

    Thank you so much for sharing!!! I’m printing this out & saving it for my upcoming #65 : )

  91. Caprice says...

    This is perfect! I am closing in on 50. I wish I wrote this myself and I can completely relate! Thank you for sharing! Happy Birthday, you have a gift of filling hearts!