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You’re Never too Old to Follow Your Dreams, But you May have Lost Your Nerve

August 13, 2010

Just about the time I turned fifty all hell broke loose and continued for five or six years. My father died, my mother, almost ninety, needed more of my time and attention, my kids were leaving the nest, 9/11 happened and our business tanked as a result.  My husband had a heart attack and while he survived mostly unscathed it left me acutely aware of his humanity and my own. I began to have health issues, mostly a result of stress.  In retrospect I was simply riding the midlife wave and like all waves they crest and fall and then things level out.

Surviving that ride taught me a few things about life and more importantly about myself. Sometimes you have to hang on for dear life and sometimes you just have to let go and follow where it leads. We all know that fighting the wave can be a death knell. For a time I put up an awful fight, hence my health issues and ongoing angst. I was angry and sad and above all terrified. Losing our loved ones is probably the most painful experience many of us will ever live through and I felt it coming at me from all sides. At times I wanted to curl up in a ball or run away. I didn’t like what life had become or my response to it.

The good news is that going through this ring of fire made me realize how precious life is and how short. We don’t get forever to do the things we want to do and there comes a moment when it is time to make the most of each day we still have.  I woke up on the other side of fifty to the realization that I had not even come close to achieving my dreams ~ my personal dreams. I had dreamed of having a husband that loved me and healthy, happy children and I did have some colorful shadow of what I had expected, but I had not done for myself the things I had hoped. I always thought there would be time for me later. As the dust began to settle I also discovered that in the process I had lost my youthful enthusiasm for life and as a result was deathly afraid of taking risks.

The landscape after midlife looks very different from the way it did when we were young but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of time to live the life we know we were meant to live and to do those things that are most important to us to do.  Even when fear is nipping at your heels we can move forward by taking one tiny step at a time.  Before long we are running with the wind at your back straight into a new phase of your life.  Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  1. Write down one dream you want to achieve.
  2. Next write down everything you can think of that you need to do, or need to know, in order to achieve that dream.
  3. If you come across a step that seems overwhelming, break it into smaller steps until you find one that you can manage.
  4. Then take that small step, and then the next and the next.
  5. Whenever you run into an obstacle ask yourself what I need to do or learn in order to get through the obstacle. Break it down until you find one thing you are absolutely sure you can do and then do it.

You are never too old to follow your dreams.

D Sander

24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 5:16 pm

    Dorothy, that sounds like a really tough time. Thank goodness you found your way to the other side of all that. Love your message that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

  2. August 17, 2010 11:11 pm

    Those were some dark days, I bet. I can understand the array of feelings you mention above … and will be watching for your memoir! It could be wonderful, I think. In the meantime, thank you for the wise and lovely words of advice. We do become hesitant to take risks after 50 or so … but then life often forces change upon us anyway, so one way or another, we must stay friendly with the idea of risk and uncertainty. I will remember to work on those dreams!

  3. SallyAnn McKinnon permalink
    September 2, 2010 4:06 am

    I have been ill for the past five years. I really started getting sick a number of years ago, but the doctors really didn’t know what was going on. Now they have diagnosed a number of things wrong with a good many of my organs. But anyway, my deal now is that I try to make myself get up everyday & get dressed, because I refuse to give in & feel sorry for myself. Things could be worse. There are people who are worse off than I am in many different ways. Either they are physically worse off, emotionally worse off, financially worse off, spiritually worse off and it goes on & on. I find myself listening to friends, relatives, & sometimes perfect strangers tell me their tale of woe. I always try to give a word of encouragement but also try to prod them to get up & not give in. I may be struggling that day in my physical difficulties to keep my own spirits up, but there they are needing someone. But you can’t give up or give in. You can always find someone to touch with a kind word, a gentle nudge, a good listening ear or whatever that person may need. Just listen to your heart. Put yourself in that person’s shoes, but don’t wallow in it with them. Find the best way of being there for that person. Make yourself a survivor. Keep the faith in tomorrow. I know that is my intention. To rely on my Lord, keep the faith, love my family & friends, be there to touch someone’s life even if I don’t know them. Because to do otherwise I find it selfish & not helpful to me at all. Thanks.

    • September 2, 2010 12:22 pm

      You are so right SallyAnn! We can always find someone better off or worse off than we are ourselves. We are each given our share of woes, it is how we view them that makes the difference in our lives. It’s a recorded phenomenon that people who focus on the positive, laugh often and love much have good things come to them ~ such a focus can actually heal us physically.

      I’m sorry to hear of your woes and you are a very strong woman indeed! I admire your courage, your strength and your compassion. We all have much to learn from you.

    • moxie permalink
      September 3, 2010 4:06 am

      SallyAnn, yours is the best piece I’ve read in a very long time. Somehow suffering has a way of either marring or polishing us, and you are polished to a warm glow. Thank you for encouraging me.

  4. September 3, 2010 9:24 pm

    Dorothy, What a lot of terrible things you had to cope with one after another. And yet, as you say, ” The landscape after midlife looks very different from the way it did when we were younger but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of time to live the life you know you were meant to live and to do those things that are most important to you to do.”

    I agree completely. For some people, the most important thing is to keep doing work that they love. For me, it’s sharing some of the realities and dispelling some of the myths about aging.

  5. September 4, 2010 1:17 pm

    LOVE this, Dorothy. The simple truth is that no matter how old or young we are, none of us know how much time we have left, so the time to start living our dreams is now (or preferably, yesterday) 😉

  6. September 4, 2010 9:47 pm

    Dramatic transitions of life happened to me too when I was in my fifties. I kept waking little step by little step on the path of my dreams… after many years (12) I’m proud of myself and .. I’m keeping walking a step after another to fulfill my dreams… the life challenging but beautiful if we have dreams to fulfill.

  7. March 28, 2011 1:00 pm

    Thanks Dorothy for your words of wisdom. Life after 50 has never been better. Similar to your experience, it took pain and grief to wake me up to this wonderful gift of life. I had no idea that life gets better with age…just because I chose to be grateful, to live more in the present moment, and to surrender to ‘what is’.

    • March 28, 2011 1:21 pm

      Thanks Holly. Your acceptance of your life is an inspiration to me. I can’t imagine anything more difficult and yet you move forward reaching out to others along the way, not without pain and struggle, but in spite of it. You are a warrior and an incredible inspiration to everyone around you. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment.

  8. April 23, 2011 4:16 pm

    Midlife really is that time of transitions with family and health. My mottos have become “things could be worse” “enjoy something or explore someplace new as often as possible” and “life is a race”… To pursue the most adventurous of my dreams before I lose the desire or ability. Opportunities can be fleeting. Thanks for the reminders and the inspiration!

    • April 23, 2011 8:35 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to leave your insightful comment Carol. Opportunities are in deed fleeting and when we become aware of this it becomes just a bit easier to live in the moment. D

  9. Laura Nyce permalink
    April 23, 2011 7:48 pm

    Thanks for the great article. I can relate to a lot of things you said. I work in the field of health administration in a nursing home and see more and more patients less than 60 coming in with diseases like diabetes, mental illness, renal failure, morbid obesity. Some are even around my age of 50. So if we can ride the storm and not fall prey to addictions or behaviors that ruin our health, then we should be grateful. Thanks again

    • April 23, 2011 8:34 pm

      You are so right Laura! Those of us who are active and engaged in life beyond fifty are very fortunate. It is not always possible to rise above the wave of personal and social influence and take the steps necessary to keep ourselves healthy and at home. Your work is so important and I admire your commitment to making life better for those serve. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to learning more about what you do. Come back again! D

  10. April 23, 2011 9:14 pm

    I just spent the last hour Skyping with my daughter who is living her dream, and many others’ for that matter. She is 30 and touring the world on a wing and a prayer, making it by taking odd jobs here and there, and doing what she needs to stay afloat. I admire her go do it attitude and that she just went and did it. But, she is lonely. She doesn’t have a significant other or family. Sometimes are dreams aren’t what we really dream of. The grass of our dreams isn’t always greener. The greatest lesson I have learned in my old age is to be happy with the present. And enjoy it for all it’s worth. It is the best gift.

  11. April 24, 2011 1:02 pm

    What a beautiful message in and through the pain you experienced. A lot looks different as we get older but knowing that there is still life out there (future) keeps our heads up and keeps us ever onward. Thanks for sharing Dorothy, simply beautiful.

  12. April 27, 2011 2:59 pm

    I never lost my nerve Dorothy because I never had it. It took phases in my life of loss and dramatic change before I even dared to reach for the dreams I held in my heart. I thank God for showing me the way- as I reached this “senior” phase of my life I discovered the nerve that was missing. I believe the “nerve” was a belief in myself. Perhaps I was too busy the first seven decades to see it through the blur of years passing but I am very grateful for the clarity when the fog lifted. Please continue your passion of shouting it out – you are never too old to follow your dreams. Don’t waste another second.

    • April 27, 2011 5:05 pm

      Thanks for your comment Elizabeth. Even if we only get to live a few years living our dreams, it makes the whole journey worthwhile. Chances are we needed what went before to make it possible for us to do those things we were meant to do. It was all preparation. 🙂 D

  13. May 23, 2014 12:04 pm

    What a wonderful piece Dorothy! Thank you. I can relate! I have been through a few of these ‘waves’ in my mid-years, family crisis, aging parents, a kid in trouble, my own health issues…. and now I’m 68 and loving life! I’ve coined a term for those of us who are riding or coming off of the wave: INDY Women! INDY = I’M. NOT. DONE. YET!! Yes, I may have lost my way, lost my nerve, feel lost and aimless, but the main thing is I know I’M. NOT. DONE. YET! This whole process of going through the wave and then moving into the transition to the next phase waiting for us is so important for me and the women I work with that I’ve written an ebook about it! It’s called **How to Tell If You’re An INDY Woman, and What to Do About It!** and it’s available for free at

    Thanks again Dorothy for shining your light! xxoo Jan


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