It’s September and everyone around here is knee high in ripe tomatoes. My friend and I got a jumpstart a few weeks ago and already canned 40 pounds of Early Girls. Lovely little jars of sweet/tart red juicy goodness. I’m planning on picking a bunch more now that the local heirlooms are down to 85 cents a pound. One night this week I’ll be steaming up my glasses and cooking up a big batch of spicy salsa!
All kinds of ripe deliciousness is happening, and for some reason that reminded me of a book I read a couple of years ago called “Juicy Tomatoes – Ripe Living after 50”. Since I’m well past 50 and it is my plan to live juicy well into ripe old age, this book called to me from the shelves of Barnes and Noble. It’s filled with stories of women in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond who have discovered their own juice later in life and are changing the landscape for the rest of us.
Sometime in my mid-50’s I started asking myself “What’s Next?” Not so long ago most women my age would have been putting on their support hose and sturdy shoes and settling in to retirement. Shrinking into a smaller life. Instead, like so many other women I know, I’m enthusiastically searching for new adventures. I’ve been auditioning Second Acts for the past ten years. I read a great blog post a couple of weeks ago about the joy of being a “flitter”. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, but I’ve decided to see myself more like a pollinator. I’m learning from each endeavor and sprinkling my new-found knowledge as I go. For many of us, somewhere around 50, our lives begin to transition. We become restless and some of us feel a deep yearning. (I’m talking to the women here. Men, you’ll have to speak for yourselves.) We know that there is something more; we’re just not sure what that looks like for us. We need time to explore, to learn, to look closer, to test the waters, and of this can be a wee bit scary. Treading into uncharted territory doesn’t feel safe and let’s be honest, most of us (me for sure) spent our lives building safety and security for ourselves and our loved ones. Why rock the boat now? I’ll tell you why. Because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Because Life is short. Because there is still so much left that we want to try, to do and to become. We’re not done yet, dammit! As for my own flitting – some of you know that at 57 I decided to become a certified personal fitness trainer. This, after years of being a certified professional couch potato. I joined a gym, was inspired, and wanted to share what I learned with other women. From there I moved on to creating an organization for mid-life women to connect and learn and share in a fun social environment – in short to flourish. Flourish grew into a great network enjoyed by hundreds of women each month. I loved every minute of that time and all the amazing women I connected with. Then one day I woke up and I was done. Time to flit on. Lately, I’ve been researching retirement and travel on a limited income and I’m trying my hand at blogging. Who knows what’s next? I don’t. And I’ve stopped worrying about it. With each new endeavor, I’m discovering “juice” I didn’t know I had. I’m keeping my mind active. I’m feeding my creative spirit. I’m becoming the ME I always wanted to be but didn’t know it when I was so busy being what I thought I needed to be or who everyone else wanted me to be.
Tomatoes are hardy. They don’t require a lot of pampering. Give them a little water and encouragement and they always deliver, even in bad dirt. If you add a dash of salt and a pinch of pepper, they really come alive. The longer they’re on the vine – the sweeter, saucier and tastier they become. All the green tomatoes want to become them. That’s my definition of a Juicy Tomato. I ought to know. I’ve spent enough time on the vine.