5 Things I Have Done in My 50s…so far
Content by Eve Toomey
Leaning back, finding joy in new places
I might have overdone it in my forties moving the family halfway across the world, buying a house, and going freelance. Since turning 50 I have definitely slowed down to smell the roses and find joy in the small things in life. I never used to take the time to appreciate the little things; I was always in too much of a rush to achieve things and just too busy (and self-important?) to find joy in anything that wasn’t a huge achievement.
One day I discovered that I was really tired from all that rushing around. All I wanted to do was to have a big lie down and see the world close-up for a change. So, I did.
Developing a pickling obsession was the apple tree’s fault
I have always loved cooking and love having a well-stocked larder. One never knows when one will need a preserved lemon, capers, sushi rice, quinoa, dried sour cherries, harissa paste, zhoug, inari skins, ponzu soy sauce, vegetarian fish sauce, or coke flavour essence to name just a few things that are squashed into my larder right now.
The one thing I have long wished I understood was how to preserve food - jams, pickles, that sort of thing. It all started with the bounty of apples that were falling from the tree at the bottom of the garden. My Mum is a great cook and an expert jam maker, but I never really paid attention to making jam - it always seemed to take forever (patience has never been a core competency). Now that I was in possession of a mass-producing apple tree I started to do the research. Experimentation with making apple jams and compotes over the last five years has been a great creative outlet. I subject many friends and relations to my jam-making efforts by pressing jars of homemade jam on them at every opportunity.
It turns out that jam-making is a gateway to pickling which is very addictive to an impatient person. You can pickle something in under an hour, you say? Why did nobody tell me this before?
I had heard over the years that pickling was easy, but I still reached for the jars on the supermarket shelves thinking that it must be beyond my culinary skills. One of the best birthday presents the kids ever bought me was the cookbook The Modern Preserver by Kylee Newton. Within a few days I had learned to pickle all sorts of things and now had a cupboard shelf (the coolest, darkest place in our lovely teeny house) bursting with pickled jalapenos, cauliflower with zatar, cucumbers in sweet Japanese pickle, and Vietnamese pickled carrots and radishes. It turns out that one family of four doesn’t really get through all that much pickled food in a year….So, gifting now includes random pickled items too!
I started a book club by accident
One thing I have long wanted to do but never made the time for was to be in a book club. I love stories, storytelling, ideas, books of all kinds and I love talking about it all. By chance, the friendly woman sitting next to me on this particular morning train into London a few of years ago struck up a conversation about books. We both lamented being new-ish transplants to Cambridge and not knowing enough people to join a book club.
An idea formed…. “We could start a book club, you and I”, I said tentatively. <Long pause> “We could....couldn’t we”, she said. So, dear reader, we did.
Three and a half years and six members later, we're still reading and meeting. Long may it continue!
Simultaneously survived the global pandemic and perimenopause
Going through a global pandemic wasn’t how anyone planned to spend 2020-2021. But there’s nothing like a lockdown to make you appreciate the little things in life and how lucky you might really be.
Going through perimenopause wasn’t the plan for 2020-2021 either, but it was an inevitability that I thought I was prepared for. How wrong I was. It was at times a painful, depressing, alarming, and isolating experience despite support from family and friends.
None of us talk openly enough about menopause and its effects, but we need to. For me, Davina McCall came along at just the right moment. I can’t thank her enough for making documentaries like Sex, Myths and The Menopause and Sex, Mind and The Menopause, It really helped. More honest discussion is starting to happen; long may it also continue.
Oh, and going on HRT was life-changing. Run, don't walk, to the doctor's office to discuss what might work for you. Don't suffer like I did thinking it would pass or that other people were suffering more or that I was strong enough to endure it. The combination of physical pain and slow-motion emotional unraveling was, in retrospect, debilitating in every way and the most un-like myself I have ever felt. I would rate that experience zero stars, "do not recommend".
Discovered that dog walking isn’t entirely boring
I grew up with dogs and, as a child, I thought that walking the dog was the most boring thing possible. It was a chore to be endured and done in the shortest amount of time possible.
There is no more powerful drug than nostalgia and no more powerful lobbyists than two children who really want a dog. Enter Phoenix, the best dog ever. She may be the best dog ever, but no prizes for guessing who has to walk her most of the time…. Well, my husband does the majority, to be fair, but I do my fair share too. The point is that the kids don't!
At first, I justified it that it would be good exercise for her to go on long rambling country walks (always with a ditch or a river for her to have a little swim in, she can never resist). Then I justified it that it was good exercise for me to go on these long rambling country walks.
Where I once thought tramping around fields or through woods was the biggest waste of time, I eventually realized that I had started to look forward to these walks as much as she did although I can easily resist any desire to swim in deep ditches or murky rivers.
I now enjoy watching the little changes to the landscape that come with each slow transition between the seasons that I see on each of these walks and have learned to be (somewhat) patient that a good walk takes as long as it takes. I still can’t resist taking calls, sending texts or reading urgent emails while out in the middle of a field…it’s a work in progress.