F— the Fifties

Twelve “F” Words to Welcome My Fifties

“So, fifty, huh,” a younger colleague of mine asked, while sipping on her coffee.

“Oh yeah. Well, f—the Fifties,” I responded back, suddenly taking an internal inventory of my years passed and the decade ahead.

unnamedI went home that night, “F— the Fifties” playing over again in my head. I sat down at my desk, and soon had generated a lengthy list of “F” words. The words came fast and furious, shooting out of my fingertips, whizzing out of my printer. I wanted words that could define a decade. Words I had, and could, live by.

Fight. My mother’s comedic skills lay somewhat latent beneath her gifted culinary talents. She snapped a photo of me, at age 16 months, having written the slogan of an old cigarette ad, “I’d rather fight than switch,” on a placard and then placed the card in my lap and snapped a photo. Later, I found the Polaroid stuck in my baby book, as if the moment had been a proud parenting one.

Her action and that photo was my first understanding that fighting would always exist beneath my cheery, dimpled exterior. However, I don’t physically fight. I verbally spar on paper, in my head, and occasionally with my husband. I write some of my best stuff when I am “fighting.” If I am no longer fighting, I am not alive.

Fierceness: In my thirties, I wrote an essay about running hurdles for the junior high track team. Mr. Lesner was our seventh-grade history teacher, but also the track coach. After school, after we were dressed, he would call out, “Man in the locker room.” His voice and that phrase symbolized a certain fierceness within me, as Mr. Lesner once laughed when I told him of plan to run the hurdles, all five feet of me. I responded to him with a fierceness that still resides in me today, when I am told I cannot do something.

Faith. Faith has been, is, and always will be a question. My past experiences tell me, in the questioning lies the answer. That is my faith. That is where I place my trust. I will question, not with the petulance of a two-year-old, but with the wisdom of a fifty-year-old who knows that faith, like some questions, does not come packaged with answers, only with a resolution to march on.

Flamenco. I am going to Cuba. The location surprised even me. I often plan excursions that will make me jump out of my chair or luxuriate in my ancestors’ lands or in the pines. Instead, I said, “Cuba.” They dance the flamenco in Cuba. The dancers are not expected to carry long, lithe silhouettes, but to boast only of curves and attitudes. I’m in luck, that’s just my size.

Forays. My morning walks have solved a lot of personal battles, sometimes negotiating peace treaties before I can get the issue on paper or in front of my husband. While my husband is my erstwhile walking partner on weekends, I cherish my solo time in the early morning, as the city stretches its limbs, opens it eyes, and mine, to the surprises that await.

Focus. Looking into a stranger’s eyes has become an important practice. In writing circles with men in transition, I put this practice this action. I ask myself, “What if I was someone’s last witness, his only hope of being noticed before giving up? Wouldn’t that be worth the second it takes to lock eyes with someone and really mean it?”

Focal point – In yoga, I have stopped looking around the room, to see how far other other yoginis are stretching. Also, I use blocks. I know my edges, after ten years, I should. Yoga is not where I go to push myself. Yoga is where I go to push that other self back inside of me.

Funny. I want to be funny. I want to be funny in my writing. I signed up for an Erma Bombeck workshop in the spring. It would be so like Erma to sign up for a workshop and think that would inevitably make her funny. My goal is to hear, “That’s reads like something Erma would write.”

Forge bonds. I want to use my time living in the city wisely. Only a fraction of my work involves connecting across races, divides, but there is more work I can do. The business of all humans is to forge bonds and find common ground.

Forgiveness The little f in forgiveness tell me, stop saying, “Sorry.” A few weeks ago, I had been working at home. The rain was pouring down. I wanted to get to a new restaurant. I knew a short cut. But my husband, who was driving, got caught in two traffic jams. I repeated to him, “Sorry.” I’m not going apologize anymore. The big F in Forgiveness tells me the past has been cast, to embrace what is ahead of me and mold the future in the shape of my wants.

Forage within myself. I have made homes several times over, in two marriages, two states, two environments, the city and suburbs. But I am digging deeper than the couch cushion to make a home within. A home where dirty dishes in the dishwasher or unmade beds can reside. A home for my choices, and I don’t mean paint color.

Fruitful. I have to remind myself that I am enough. All women do. What we give, is enough. What we are, is enough. I have learned that time spent tutoring is not really tutoring. It is building trust. It is building excitement in a young woman’s life. It is building a bridge to her family. It is only an hour. But it is enough.

In the end, as I wrote this blog and thought about various forms of “F” words, I just couldn’t locate the right word to encompass all I want to be, in the decade ahead. So, like any good writer, I made up my own.

“Fiercity” / noun / a display of or state of intense vitality and creativity when in community with others. 




  1. Great post. Makes me aware that I have three more years to live out “f” words and three more years to start thinking about “s” words. I’m thinking the next decade might be very different from this one. It’s amazing how the birthdays that end with zero make us think a little more than the others.

  2. Bravo! What a fun list. I like the “fight” and “fierce” bits the most! It’s so interesting how you were attracted to what would probably be the most challenging track event for you — the hurdles! Also, the sign your mother put on you is hysterical! You’re right, it is ironic that she would save this photo as if it was a “proud parenting moment.” Haha!

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