I saw my friend Muriel the other day, she stopped by The Scrap Exchange with her sister and I was talking to her and she mentioned that it was her birthday AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT that a Facebook alert popped up on my computer screen telling me that it was Muriel’s birthday. Which was very weird. Especially since I do not have a Facebook account. (I was on someone else’s computer who is Facebook friends with Muriel.)

It was a strange meta Facebook reality convergence moment.

We discussed turning 50 and I shared with her the story of my 50th birthday lunch last year, at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, at which a friend who is 60 told us that the past decade has been the best 10 years of her life. The rest of my friends who were with me at lunch — all of whom were my age or younger — found that statement inspiring.

This morning I was reading through things on my computer and came across a quote I pulled recently when I re-read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea, which is a book I saw on every bookshelf in the world when I was growing up and which I assumed was schlocky, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a book I hated so much it made me angry that I had spent time reading it, but which is actually a great book, beautifully written and insightful and poetic.

Here is the quote:

For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood. Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence — discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing — are interpreted falsely as signs of decay. In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead. One is afraid. Naturally. Who is not afraid of pure space — that breath-taking empty space of an open door? But despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond.

But in middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death. Instead of facing them, one runs away; one escapes — into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork. Anything rather than face them. Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them. One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.

Angels of annunciation of what? Of a new stage in living when, having shed many of the physical struggles, of worldly ambitions, the material encumbrances of active life, one might be free to fulfill the neglected side of one’s self. One might be free for growth of mind, heart, and talent; free at last for spiritual growth; free of the clamping sunrise shell. Beautiful as it was, it was still a closed world one had to outgrow.

So this is for Muriel, and for everyone else who is about to turn 50, or has recently turned 50, or who is dreading turning 50.

May the next 10 years be the best years of your life.