Margaret (Meg) Crane lived most of her life in St. Louis, was associate editor of the Jewish Light in the early 70s and from 2001-2012, was senior writer for Jewish Federation. Two years ago, she moved to New York City to be closer to family living there. Barbara Ballinger, originally from New York, lived in St. Louis for 23 years and worked at the St. Louis Post Dispatch. She now lives in upstate New York.
More than six years ago, we started to write a blog called Life Lessons at 50 Plus. At 50-plus years—and proud of it—and as reporters who have researched and written about a variety of topics through the decades, and experienced a great deal, both wonderful, sad, and even tragic, we thought we had much to share.
Doesn’t everyone who writes a blog?
We were also proud of our long-term friendship and writing partnership of then 27 years. We led parallel lives–raised five children collectively to be independent young adults while we became self-supporting single women, who back then found time to help our aging moms who were in their 90s. At the same time, we pursued our writing and speaking careers, squeezed in time to travel, read, cook, exercise, and entertain. And after the huge heartache of losing our respective spouses to divorce and death, we each slowly began to carve out new lives, something we both never expected to do or at least not then.
Doing so meant redoing our lives, jumbling up the puzzle pieces, and putting them together in a new configuration. Barbara’s happened first, almost 22 years ago, after she was married for 31 years, then dumped, as she likes to describe the upheaval. Margaret, “Meg,” was married longer–42 years. With their children grown, Meg and her husband planned to spend time together as a twosome. She called it the payoff years—time to pay themselves back for raising three kids and all their hard work. Then, the fates intervened. Her husband got sick, almost out of the blue, then sicker and sicker. Five years after his diagnosis, consulting different types of physicians and undergoing myriad treatments that succeeded at first, then failed, he died in a St. Louis hospital.
We Each Cried
We each cried as our lives unraveled like balls of yarn, consoled one another, and were fortunate to have our children, other relatives, and close friends to cheer us on. We tried hard to stop the scripts that kept running in our heads: We’ll be alone forever, life is almost over, we’ll never smile and laugh again. It was a huge challenge without the guarantee of a happy Hollywood ending.
Gradually, we felt we made progress, then were surprised when we backpedaled. But we kept at it, determined to move forward. We wanted desperately to knit new lives, which we knew would be very different than our prior ones, yet still could be joyous, exciting and even romantic (or so we hoped). We had read and met role models to offer suggestions, found therapists and support groups for more ideas,
We have each done this over the last six years while continuing to write our weekly blog and subsequently two books: Suddenly Single after 50: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Navigating Loss, Restoring Hope, and Rebuilding Your Life(2016), and Not Dead Yet: Rebooting Your Life after 50 (2021).
Learning New Ways
In each case, the blogs and books contain many nuggets of information and help from us, other women and men and experts, as well as real-life poignant stories and lots of humor. In addition to making new friends and testing new experiences–investing funds, selling a home and a car, throwing a dinner party solo for the first time or going up in a small plane when fearful of all flight, we each started to date. We tried different ways to meet men that felt comfortable. We each have our different styles, dissimilar escapades to share, and found romance, intimacy, and companionship again. It’s definitely a new game when your dates are more than 50 years of age.
In fact, everything about life at this stage seems so fresh and different, and sometimes even uncomfortable. Soon dating even faded into the background, becoming just one part of our new busy lives. Many facets represented big challenges such as when to let go of a platonic friendship or toxic relationship that no longer works, or how to lose those unwanted pounds when our metabolism has drastically slowed yet appetites are still robust.
What It’s All About
Our reporter/writer DNA, our curiosity, passion for asking questions and storytelling, have given us many worthwhile sagas, experiences and humorous anecdotes to share. And this is what the blogs that will follow are all about—a relatable, conversational way to help many of you who walk in similar shoes. You also may have grown children who still need parenting occasionally but also want desperately to be listened to and tell you what to do when they put away their cells. We are at an age where many of us are dealing with aging parents, if you’re so lucky to still have them alive or at least one. You also may still work or be retired and volunteer. We’re probably more similar than dissimilar as we age and face multiple health problems—replacing knees and hips, having cataracts, buying hearing aids and so on.
So, come along with us on our shared journeys, read the blogs that are honest and straightforward about an array of topics, all germane to living well @50 plus. We welcome your feedback, tweets and suggestions for topics. We’re here to help you as we’ve helped one another. Life keeps offering lessons, thank goodness for those like us who always love to learn for we’re “Not Dead Yet.”
Learn more about Barbara Ballinger and Margaret Crane at their website: LifeLessonsat50Plus.com