En español | Fifty is not the new 30, but the way some people act — and bravo! — it darned well might be the new 40.
I've spent time remonstrating with you, my peer and gentle reader, about what we oughtn't to do, now that we've attained double majority plus 10 or so. Beyond that, time is running out for at least one thing we ought to do. As Ella sang, it's to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative.
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What time there is, is prime time.
So use it well.
Don't forget, the proof is all around you, that you really can do your greatest work, and your greatest good, after age 50. Picasso did. William Styron and Ann Tyler did. Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence. George Bernard Shaw wrote Heartbreak House, his masterpiece. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the score of The Sound of Music. Jennifer Grey won on Dancing With the Stars.
- Learn to speak Italian, if not Mandarin, at least a little.
- Fall in love with a younger man, or an older woman, at least a little — if only in courtly fashion.
- Learn to sing, at least a little, and do it in front of someone.
- Write a novel. Write a play. Write letters to all your grandchildren, even those not yet born.
- Become a mentor, but to someone your own age.
- Slowly, but a little more each day, get in better shape than you were at 30. It's entirely possible.
- Tell the truth, every day. If nothing else, it will catch people off guard.
- Adopt an older child. If you have an empty nest, and don't feel finished, remember that if a child knows the love of one relatively sane adult before the age of 12, nothing else matters. If a child doesn't, nothing else matters.
- Give away something you love and that squeezes you to part with — even if it is your time.
- Commit to memory this phrase: "I'd love to, but I can't." Do not elaborate.
- Purge. Sell or give away the bread machine and Crock-Pot you've used once. Donate your unopened makeup, '80s outfits, and all your thick, embroidered Swiss sweaters (unless you live in Switzerland or even a chalet). Do it before your children or before your grandchildren know the definition of the word "hoarder."
- Dance outside, at night in a country where a Romance language is spoken.
- Skinny dip, outside, at night, in any place where romance is spoken.
- Scuba-dive, if it scares you. Zip-line, if it scares you. Do ropes, if it scares you. Try to master something that won't kill you, but that scares you.
- Collect great lines, and great moments, instead of owls, frogs or beautiful plates.
- Photo albums cost about $9. Take those photos out of the drawer and put them in chronological order. Start with your wedding. You will feel cleansed, virtuous. You may feel thinner.
- Have the courage to stick to what you believe to be true. Without losing your temper or your dignity, stand firm. It's not "unpleasantness." You've lived long enough to pick a side.
- Take care of your feet. No one wants rough, moldy oldies. Attractive, springy feet change your mood, and your life. Wear the best shoes you can afford. Get pedicures — as a couple (yes, guys do!).
- Honor sleep. It really does make you better looking.
- Earn enough to retire, then don't.
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Jacquelyn Mitchard is the best-selling author of 21 books. Her latest novel, Second Chances, comes out in September 2011.