51. 51! 51?  How am I 51?  Am I supposed to feel 51? I don’t.  Sometimes I feel younger, silly and carefree.  There are somedays where I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and just want to go to sleep.  I always thought the teen years were the “awkward” years but no one warns you about your 50’s!

Like how am I supposed to dress?  Sophisticated? That just isn’t me.  Are my jeans too high or too low? 

Too skinny to wide? Who can keep up with this stuff?

What about my hair? Do I dye it or let the gray grow out naturally?  What length should I cut it?  Why is it so thin?  

And the skin.  What the hell is happening here?!  It is so stretchy!!!!  And if it is dry, it looks like there are hundreds of little lines trying to pry their way off my face.  Why doesn’t skin come with a warning label?  They are so busy teaching sex ed in school that they should replace it with skin education!

There are just so many things to think about every day.  I think about a lot of topics…. randomly.  (My husband will verify that.) My brain just goes from one subject to the next.  It is a little madness mixed with a lot of humor. One moment I am picking up after my dog and the next I’m using a different bag as a hand puppet.  Is this normal?

I’ve been spending a lot of time remembering my life in the 1980’s in preparation for a speech I’m doing for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.  There are two ways I can view my life.  The first (and maybe the most obvious) is that the 1980’s were a rough time to be a sick kid.  It was incredibly lonely and peppered with embarrassing bathroom issues that no one talks about without a punchline or using the word gross.

There were people in our school systems who were downright cruel and outnumbered those who really cared. The kids were mean and were not accountable.  I’m “friends” with some of those people. Some because I truly enjoy seeing how well they are doing in life and there are some I want to see me as a reminder that they can be better than they were in their youth.  

There are feelings I have pushed aside for years because I loved carrying the title of brave and strong when I was actually petrified and wanted to die.  No one wants to think of those feelings.  I’m proud that I can admit that I’ve had weak moments because they are part of me.  I’m 51 and have spent more years than I can count feeling like I have the stomach flu. If I never had a down moment, it wouldn’t be real.  

I’ll try to make this relatable.  Think about this past year.  The isolation.  The dreams of vaccines.  The constant banter of COVID.  Now imagine if you’ve been doing this lifestyle for 44 years of your life?  It’s going to change you, define you and at times make you angry. This has been my life for Crohn’s.  I have wanted to be “fixed” but it hasn’t happened.  I want people to understand but there are people in my life who still make the bad jokes and lack compassion.  If this past year has taught me something it is that their attitude says a lot more about them as humans than about me. 

Don’t say aging has made me bitter, it hasn’t.  I believe I’m actually finding my real voice.  I’m generally happy but do have my moments where I struggle to find the “glad” moments. It is hard to explain so I’ll go with what the young people say these days “It makes me feel some kind of way.”

All in all, I am THRILLED to celebrate another birthday.  With each passing year, I celebrate my achievements.  There are little ones that people don’t see like taking a shower on a day I can’t even see straight after a night of being sick or a simple walk around the block. 

There are the big ones like running agility with my dog, Scout, and getting her first title, the absolute joy I have creating food in my kitchen and my ability to learn so much from others.

It is a constant seesaw but at 51 I embrace all of it.  I am lucky to be embraced by a devoted loving husband who is always challenging me in the ways to make all moments positive. I have family who knows where I’ve been and gets where I’m going.  I have friends from all decades of my life who are huge parts of my foundation.  And whether you are a dog person or not, my dog is my everything and I’d be lost without her by side day and night.

I have a lot of things to look forward to this next year like hopefully some version of Chicago Gourmet, safe visits with friends and lot of hugs.  I realized this last year….I need hugs.

So, I’m “toasting” myself at 51. I keep on keeping on. (This year’s theme song!)

PS The featured picture is my favorite breakfast, Avocado toast with an overeasy egg and some sautéed birthday ramps. This picture is my humorous reaction to an emergency bathroom remodel.