I am quickly approaching the big five-oh.

Yes, my 50th birthday is just a few short months away. And as it gets closer I’ve been noticing some unexpected emotional changes within. I have found myself acting a bit more withdrawn, a bit quieter, a bit more complacent, less full of my usual fire and exuberance. I’ve been hanging back a bit, unintentionally allowing life to happen TO me instead of going after every day with my usual enthusiasm and positive energy.

What’s going on here? Am I getting bored with my work? (No.)

Am I feeling weary from the demands of raising three daughters, two of whom are teens prone to the daily mood swings and melodrama of adolescence? (Sometimes.)

Is it the increasing number of fine lines and wrinkles I see in the mirror? (Yeah that’s definitely no fun.) Or the body that doesn’t seem to have as much energy as it used to? (Maybe.)

Does 50 mark the beginning of a long, slow decline? (Oh God I hope not.)

Turning 40, by contrast, felt exciting and full of hope. You see, I was beginning a new chapter in my life.

The year before, I had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, Liza. But instead of the usual happy baby story, ours was tense, scary and tragic, as I almost lost my life in childbirth and our precious baby daughter passed away a few hours after she was born.

That year I went through all the stages of grief that come with loss – shock, denial, anger, and excruciating sadness. But at the same time I felt extreme gratitude for having lived. And the deepest love for life you can imagine.

When you honestly think it’s your time to go – that this may very well be your last day on earth – to be given a second chance at this thing called life is the most beautiful, amazing miracle.

Everything suddenly looks breathtakingly gorgeous. Every little experience – from being able to walk in the sunshine, to hugging my best friend, to drinking a hot cup of coffee – feels like such an incredible, joyous gift.

That difficult experience, as painful as it was, began a decade of renewal and rebirth for me.

The day Liza died I made a promise to her – and to myself – that from then on I would live my life FULL OUT!

I promised Liza that her short but beautiful life would not be in vain. I would make every single day matter. I would live with passion, purpose, gratitude, courage faith and love.

So while knew I still had some healing to do, I made a decision to really live. Instead of merely surviving, I decided to thrive. This, I believe, was Liza’s Divine gift to me.

I got very clear on my passions, my priorities, my values and what I want to feel on a regular basis, and I wrote it all down in endless streams of consciousness. I went back to school, changed careers, rekindled old friendships, discovered new passions and reconnected with parts of me that had been hibernating for a long, long time. It wasn’t always easy, but it was so liberating and eye-opening!

So, fast forward to today… what’s up with this weird new mindset that has recently decided to come hang around like an unwelcome guest ever since 50 appeared around the corner? What is she doing here? She’s not very nice or pleasant to be with (she says things like “you look old” and “you feel tired”.) She certainly wasn’t invited. And she’s definitely not FUN.

As soon as I ask who she is and what she’s doing here, I know the answer.

She is fear.

Although I thought I conquered fear ten years ago, I recognize her. She is wearing different clothes and singing a different song now, because this time there was no tragedy, no loss, no new life to figure out.

This kind of fear doesn’t come with loss. It is the fear of loss. Loss of youth, loss of outer beauty, loss of physical energy, loss of time, loss of potential & possibilities, loss of the younger person we know to be our self.

But wait. Hang on a minute! Why mourn things I haven’t lost yet? Why encourage those thoughts about aging to become self-fulfilling prophecies by allowing them into my mind? They’re only fears, after all. They’re not real unless I give them to power to be so. They don’t become truths unless I allow them to!

The losses we experience with age are both real and imagined. They can make us stronger, braver and more resilient. Or they can make us weaker, needlessly fearful and far less than we’re capable of being.

So as I approach 50, here’s what I’ve decided:

I’m only as old as I feel, and it’s up to me to do things that make me feel good (happy, proud, sexy, smart, fabulous!)

I’m only as beautiful as I see myself, and it’s up to me to love who I see in the mirror. (Click to Tweet!)

I’m only as active and energetic as I choose to be, and every time I run on the beach or dance around the kitchen, I’m reminded of how grateful I am to be alive and what a miracle the human body is.

So for my birthday this year – and every year from now on – I’m renewing my vow to Liza: to live FULL OUT. To make every day matter. To seek adventure and fun. To live with passion and purpose. To love more, laugh more and stoke the fire daily, whether I’m 50, 70 or 100.

RenaRena Hedeman is a certified career and life coach, author, and award-winning speaker with a degree from Yale and certification from the International Coaching Federation. As founder and director of Your Big Fun Life, she specializes in teaching women & men how to find work they truly love, reignite their spark, and live big, while still maintaining life balance and a sense of fun. Rena has successfully coached Ivy League professors, business executives, entrepreneurs, and countless busy parents. From the stay-at-home mom to the empty-nester, the corporate career maven to the business-owner babe, the newly divorced to the newly in love – Rena helps people gain clarity on exactly what they want, get unstuck and create a big, fun life that sparks their soul. You can connect with Rena on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or her website,YourBigFunLife.com

*A Note from Christina:
I’m so excited to debut the Life Starter’s Blog Series. I have had the greatest honor and fortune of hearing your powerful stories of personal transformation and I wanted to share them all. Because I know that together we can help support, inspire and lift one another. Every Tuesday, we will proudly feature your stories. If you’d like to submit a post, please go here for guidelines and more info. Happy reading!

Image courtesy of Dominik Martin via Unsplash.com