I will be 55 at the beginning of March. I’ve noticed I feel a bit odd about it. I’m usually good with the odd numbers, prefer them to the even, but not this one. It feels very MIDDLE. Perhaps the middle of the middle, or the beginning of the end of middle-aged, something like that.
I’m not hating the idea of being 55, I’ve had (as we all have) tricky birthdays in the past – my 20th was weirdly difficult (having only just started enjoying my teens I didn’t want to let them go!), and the morning of my 37th brought a grade 3 cancer diagnosis, with a chemo recommendation that was to make me infertile – 55 certainly doesn’t feel like either of those!, and having had two cancers it is a fine thing to be getting older, but still, it feels a bit odd. So, I have a plan …
For the year between turning 55 and turning 56 I’m going to find, experience, practice, discover, uncover, enjoy 55 joys.
Aware that there will be things I don’t know I might enjoy, I’m crowd-sourcing these joys. I’d welcome suggestions for things that might bring me joy to do, see, hear, watch, experience, practice, try, dare.
I have a few stipulations …
I’ll make a list of everything people suggest and it would be nice if that list could be as accessible as possible in case anyone else wants to have a go, so that means :
– free to do or very cheap
– ideally not much time needed (30 mins sounds about right – I doubt I would EVER find more than 2 hours spare in a week)
– things that can be done alone or without inconveniencing anyone else
I’ll come up with some suggestions of my own and I welcome yours.
I don’t promise to do them all, I’ll only choose to do things I think might bring me joy (and maybe joy for other people too), but I will give a lot of them a go.
In return, I will document that joy with a blog or picture or comment or poem or short story and share them here. I’ll share this with #55Joys and maybe you’ll join me. If it works out, by the time I turn 56, there will be 55 joys to look back on. Which feels like a good way to mark a middle.
I also turned 55 this year and feel a bit weird about it (not helped by my GP surgery inviting me to an Age UK event about keeping warm and active this winter!) but one of my joys since 2016 has been learning the stories of common plants (call them weeds or wildflowers if you will) that plant you see so regularly you’ve never bothered to learn its name. Take a picture, identify it via google ( there are also now apps to help). Then find out its folklore, plantlore, other names. For example Tormentil (a little four petalled yellow plant you might see in grass) when brewed and drunk as a tea protects mediums going into trances from being taken over completely by the spirits they are channelling…
This is what immediately sprung to mind for me: go on a very early morning walk in summer. I’m not an early morning person at all, but several times last year in May/June I had to catch a 5.13am train to get to work. I found, to my surprise, that I loved my 15 minute walk to the station – everything was so quiet and beautifully lit. So, I’d recommend 5am-ish on a good-weather morning, ideally, perhaps, somewhere there will be natural beauty. And, probably, when you’ve got chance later in the day to rest, though I found the early mornings actually energised me and I lasted all day working without a problem – doubt that would have been the same on a winter morning!
Here are some of my joys: Reading on the cushioned staircase in the reading room of the Wellcome Collection, hearing free acoustic music at the Union Chapel on Saturdays (Daylight Music) with a cup of tea and piece of cake, listening to my fave old Desert Island Discs (Sandi Toksvig one amongst others), walking across the Heath and ending up on a bench by the ladies pond with a coffee and pain au raisin – alone or with company, getting hold of a giant bubble wand and running down a hill.
What a lovely idea Stella :). I am 52 next week and i’m afraid the 2 in my number is not masking my real dislike for odd numbers and the feeling that the whole of my 50’s is dominated by odds and therefore doomed from the start! One of the most profound joys for me is the sea – I love the sound, smell, look and feel. It never fails to fill me with awe…I could go on and on! I would suggest a day of joy…go early so you catch the light coming up on the sea, dependent on the time of year make sure you have blankets to keep you warm, a flask of really good coffee, something to read, something to eat, a camera, and perhaps a small sketchbook and pencils. Make your nest in the sand or in the pebbles and just sit…the whole day. Have a day filled with sea! For myself I would probably not end up doing any of the things I had taken with me, but just look, think, dream, and be. That would be my joy.
I’m working up to 50 this year, and so I’m doing my own version of appropriate figure-related things (in my case those ‘things’ are lbs – I have too many friends who have already hit that marker telling me ‘if it’s not gone by 50, it’ll never go….’)
For a thing of joy for *your* 55, I offer you a choice. Both are aural and both result in a physical response. A soprano, a succession of beautifully reached high notes – hairs on my arms rise, and tears come to my eyes, and I shiver. The culmination of a firework show, the deep THUD-THUD-THUD of the big ones, the huge ones, that feel like a fist has thumped me in the sternum. And again tears, and utter glee. And I laugh like a child.
Hi Stella It doesn’t hurt too much, trust me! For a recent ‘significant’ birthday my husband’s lovely son and his girlfriend gave me the gift of a day’s painting in Richmond Park complete with painting materials and picnic. They bought all the materials from Tiger but if budgets don’t stretch to canvasses and paints, paper and pencil would work just as well. Just add people you love. Have a wonderful year x
I love this! Certainly your work has brought lots of joy and comfort to my life at times it was needed and I wish plenty for you this year.
Cheekily this is not a half-hour suggestion, more a Sunday morning out with sandwiches and a flask of tea suggestion, but I highly recommend walking some of the south east London Green Chain: http://www.greenchain.com/greenchainsite/info/5/walking – a great mix of local history and surprising green spaces. You can order the full set of route guide cards for £4.50 and they have extra information about the history of what you’re passing.
Also, on the topic of south east London, Chislehurst Caves are totally fascinating (albeit not caves) and someone has to write a novel inspired by them one day : http://www.chislehurst-caves.co.uk/
Walking in the pouring rain on a warmish day with no rain gear, enjoying the sensation of being thoroughly soaked, and singing at the top of your voice. Arriving home dripping wet and having a hot bath and something lovely to drink to warm you up again. I used to walk down the canal in Edinburgh on rainy summer days like that – it’s a blissfully freeing feeling.
Walking in the pouring rain without rain gear on a warmish summer day, enjoying the sensation of being thoroughly soaked, singing at the top of your voice. Going home dripping and having a hot bath and something lovely to drink to warm you up. It’s blissfully freeing.
One of my joys, at any age, is to sit in a library with a book I’ve never heard of or seen before, (usually history!), and enjoy the absolute peace and mostly quiet surroundings. I have only done this in the North of England and Wales, e.g. Picton Library in Liverpool, Ryland’s in Manchester, Gladstone’s Library in North Wales , my favourite, but there must be quite a number in the London area.
You are so so busy, but a little bit of calm goes a long way!
oh I’m not at all worried about the age, I’ve ever worried about that, as I say in the blog. it’s the number that isn’t sitting right, hence trying to find something interesting to do with it. thank you for the suggestion!
Emma, love the early morning walk! thank you.
thank you Gemma!! x
thank you Deb, x
that’s also an entire joy for me too, Sarah. xx
these are gorgeous Aine, thank you. x
thank you Lisa – green chain walk is a GREAT idea!
thank you Ali, rain walking is indeed a joy. x
it’s def a joy to do at Gladstone’s!
Stroll through Colombia Road flower market…
Take a dip in the Ladies Pond…
Set your alarm and watch the dawn…
Witness a meteor shower…
Borrow a bike and see where it takes you…
Reread your favourite novel…
Watch your favourite film…
Walk through a bluebell wood in April…
Pick blackberries in September…
Call up your oldest friend…
Browse an old bookshop…
Remember your 55th birthday heralds your 56th year 😉
Going for walks up hills are very joyful when I can manage it and I have profound joy, and feel suitably rewarded, whenever I find one of those markers on the top of a hill which helps make sense of and appreciate the view below. Memorable and favourite ones are the one of the top of Lickey in South Birmingham, the one of top of Clent Hill; and there’s one on the edge of the hill overlooking Norwich on Mousehold Heath.
thank you Sally! great list!
thank you Torry x
I’m 65 this year and I’m doing some serious bucket list things!
Joys are mostly for me, nature:-
Dark clear skies looking at our universe.
A full moon without light pollution, watching her beautiful light cast tree shadows and make still water a mirror.
Dawn, in Spring/summer for the bird song and to see the majestic light which warms us.
Dawn in winter, sparling on frost.
Find somewhere you can light a big bonfire using fallen wood, keep stoking then watch it go down.
Finally, in London free lunchtime concerts eg St Lawrence Jewry in August or mudlarking.
thank you Jakki, x
5 is my favourite number, even though having a favourite number is not a very grown-up thing to admit. That’s why I like it, being a grown-up is mostly serious and best avoided…..! So I look out for number 5 things, and give them a silly meaning. So 55 to me is immediately joyful and wonderful. But that’s just me, because I gave it some silly magic in my head!
So my suggestion for your 55 Joys project, is to pick a thing, any thing, and decide it’s meaningful. (Even though it’s not really.) It can be anything, crocodiles, coathangers, cherry buns, yellow candles, seven spots in a line, stripy jumpers, or the exact colour of your favourite coffee mug… Those are just the random things that came to me. Do discard these and come up with your own randomness, the point is that random is good for this project. 🙂 Then spend some time looking out for your random thing, maybe just for a day, it doesn’t have to be all year.
It’s always lifted my mood to do this, so I look out for bees, number 5, and the colour orange. I don’t admit this publically very often, for obvious reasons… But seeing as you were talking about 5s it was clearly a meaningful sign that I had to share this. 😉
Have a lovely special 55 year. Jo x
How about taking a flying lesson?
Well, I am well beyond 55 Stella and into a series of ‘try something new’ – about to discover the joys of cooking (and eating) Persian rice chelow with saffron from Norfolk. https://www.norfolksaffron.co.uk
30 minutes should just about work.
For sheer unadulterated joy I do not think anything can surpass the smell of a freshly bathed baby, though this is a little trickier as it does require access!
Whatever you do, may your year bring unexpected delights and opportunities
On a hot,cloudless day, walk into the middle of a corn/hay field and lie down. No one will ever know you are there and you will be cocooned by the butter-milky corn stalks and the bluest sky above. Listen. Notice. Be. Sun on your face. Shielded from the world. Heaven.
Go and watch fabulous indigo cloth being woven on old clicketty-clacketty looms at London Cloth Company’s mill in East London. A friend told me about it and I went along to one of their open days, and was mesmerised. There is something about the robust mechanical rhythm of the machines, the noise and the swinging motion of the loom, and then this beautiful cloth of the bluest blue spooling out of the other end, that I found properly joyful.
Darling. Offering to teach my heart piece to you. xmx
well, it’s def not (as stipulated!!) free or cheap!! and I could never allow myself to spend that kind of money even if I had it. maybe I can imagine flying instead.
Jo, I love this! making something special that is not – inherently – ‘special’, is all special actually is! brilliant. x
I have nieces and nephews who reproduce at an alarming rate so babies are surprisingly easy to come by! and my in-laws’ Indian/Iraqi pilau is def worth trying, thank you.
love this Sara, thank you.
brilliant, thank you!
Mary, YES PLEASE!!!
A couple of things that always give me joy: – lying on the ground in a bluebell wood and looking up. Even better if you can see the bells at sunset, which turns them pink
– spending the month of May (or June) making a point of noting the light half an hour before sunset. When you can see it’s going to be a good one, chase it – in a car, to a field, to the woods, however far you can get til you find the perfect spot to stay still and watch those last five minutes in quiet awe. Trespassing is often indicated for this one.
– It requires more than half an hour, but choose a holiday destination where the water is clear, and snorkel. It’s mind blowing, and reduces all to childlike wonder
Have a happy year. Looking forward to reading about it!
Kate (blue hair, put in with a toothbrush)
Hey Stella, this is a great idea – funnily enough I was thinking about something similar: for my 50th year I’m planning to go to 50 gigs, have totally missed doing this in recent years. Anyway, back to YOU, I know you already do yoga but what about working towards one of the more challenging poses? One you’ve always wanted to achieve? Obviously yoga is not a race(!) or a competition(!) but in our class we spend a bit of time each week working towards the splits. One of us got there the other day after three months training and the joy in the room was palpable! We had to stop the class and take photos 😂 (she’s even on Instagram, check out @yogasocialsuffolk 😂). Whatever you decide to do, you’ll find your joy for sure. Have a wonderful 55th year and don’t get hung up on the numbers, you’re amazing whatever your age x
Dawn at the beach hut.
Dusk at the beach hut.
Kissing at the beach hut (for a whole 30 mins!)
Yoga at the beach hut.
Writing a letter at the beach hut.
Writing a letter TO the beach hut.
Standing in the sea looking back at the beach hut.
Standing in the beach hut looking out to the sea.
Riding a bike from the beach hut along the sea front to Herne Bay and back.
Beach hut = joy.
hah, I love all these and realise that no-one knows when I’m thanking them, because my replies aren’t directly beneath their comment.
so – Kate, I have never been in a bluebell wood. must rectify!
Ann – a new pose is a great idea. splits and bendy things are good for me, but balances are tough. great call.
Amy – LOVE all of those (and have done most of them!) but not yet dawn. good call.
Tub of favourite ice cream plus a beach, or favourite film.
Water exercise class, there’s something about being in water up to your neck pedalling and punching like fury to beat music that releases joy endorphins (and no need to be able to swim).
Sit in the quietest glade of a wood, beech is best, and listen and look in silence for at least 15 minutes.
Rescue a dog, you will be loved and loved and loved and get fit.
Go horse riding with hot bath after for the muscles you have awoken.
Stroke a cat until it purrs.
Walk in a wild flower meadow
Dig up home grown potatoes (if not yours ask if you can at allotment harvest time). It is as exciting as finding jewels. Better still, plant you own in a perforated bucket or sack in anticipation of the harvesting.
Go blackberry gathering in autumn and make a pie. Freeze some to eat when snow comes in winter and remember summer.
Ditto homemade pea and mint soup. In deepest winter it will recall hot days.
Climb a small mountain and be queen of all you survey
Ride a bike hands free (down hill if you dare) OFF ROAD
Wear a silly hat and enjoy the smiles
Give a homeless person a meal
Know that five is the number that means mankind so you have reached a pinnacle of humanness
Swing like a child in a park. Ditto the slide.
Wonderful idea Stell
I love this ..
Thinking of suggestions… here’s one:
You could make a list of 55 of your most favourite songs/ tunes and treat yourself to playing one each week & preferably while you’re in the kitchen or front room – space you can dance & sing along freely with no ties – a break – purely doing that so you’re not jogging, yoga, cooking, cleaning – dance & sing to one of your favourite tunes while doing no other thing especially x
Gillian, thank you – I love knowing that about 5. that’s great. and yes, giving 9to a homeless person, to anyone) is also a real joy.
that’s gorgeous Giovanna, x
Book a dawn chorus walk (or do one of your own).
Find a local butterfly hotspot and go there for a walk or a picnic on a sunny day.
Buy a cheap canvas and some cheap paint and make a splatter canvas.
Make cookies and give (most!) of them away.
Walk barefoot in the grass.
Buy a copy of your favourite book/s, wrap them and leave them for strangers to find.
Such a brilliant idea. The world needs more joy!
Birds. Going outside or sitting by a window and watching the birds. Such a simple joy and totally free. Beware though, I’ve found I lose HOURS out of my day by doing this! Happy birthday in advance. Fifty-five and FABULOUS!
Decorate hard boiled eggs for Easter.
Send a postcard to someone you haven’t been in contact with for ages.
Get/Give a foot massage/pedicure from a loved one.
Freezing cold shower.
Try a new recipe you’ve been meaning to try for ages.
An A-Z photo scavenger hunt – take a photo of something in your neighbourhood that starts with each letter.
Leave kindness notes for strangers in unexpected places.
Camp out in the lounge.
thank you Jeanette.
camping in the lounge!!!!
A few daily joys for me include time in the garden. Calms me down. I love it so and enjoy watching it grow and develop znd growing my own veg. Stroking my cat and having her on my knee gives me great joy. I know you have a cat. Always great to remember the joy our pets give us. Going for a walk locally and being aware of all the plants around. Smelling any favourites. Gardner’s really do not not mind. I did this a lot at my last place in London. This is a wonderful idea Stella.
Go to Choral evensong at St Paul’s or another cathedral, about 35 mins, spiritual uplift, transcendent music, free apart from collection.
you wanna sing dah ‘awpwah lady? I gots a lesson(s) for ya 🙂
hah!! LOVE this. xxx
I found the hardest birthday was 45, because on marketing questionnaires you enter the 45-64 category. I love some of the ideas in Keri Smith’s Wander Society, especially to look for anything purple in the area around where you live.
Firstly – a note to second the person who said digging up potatoes. It’s truly like panning for gold. And then some of mine:
1. Buy sparklers. Keep them in a pot by your door and sparkle whenever you need a boost. They never fail to make me happy.
2. Buy a bunch of flowers, and put them on your bedside table. Feels inexplicably luxurious, and a lovely start to each day.
3. An outdoor swim (or dip) – exhilarating fun!
4. A night-time picnic, with candles.
5. Borrow a camping stove, drive somewhere with a gorgeous view, and fry up something delicious for breakfast. One of the nicest moments of last year was bacon rolls overlooking the sea in Applecross.
Happy birthday in advance! What a gorgeous project; I’m going to borrow lots of these ideas.
Have a gaming evening with friends – or even a tabletop role play game evening with me and a bunch of us. I’ll scribe us an adventure and off we go. We could potluck some dinner too.
Have a hand massage. It doesn’t take long, isn’t hugely expensive, and is just delicious. Get Shelley to do it for free, or find a pro you want to go to, and I will come with you and treat us both!
Do some life laundry: go through a cupboard / a drawer / a box and free yourself of anything unnecessary, (Just do one cupboard or one drawer or one box. After that it stops being joyful.)
darling Jen, if you could get me to enjoy paying any game/role play game that would indeed be a wonder as well as a joy! (suspect ‘games’ are to me what orange balloons are to you).
hand massage on the other hand, mmm,
Walk through a rose garden in full bloom. It’s even better if it’s walled so you can enjoy the scent. Can deffinitely recomnend the bluebell woods – magical. Both have limited time frames so don’t miss out or you will have to wait until 56.
Go up to the Ting Restaurant/hotel lounge (floor 35 the Shard) and sit in the swivel chairs below the mezzanine floor, looking out over the amazing view. Completely free, no booking, nice coffee if you want it.
1. Walking through Dulwich Woods.
2. Having a coffee at newly (newish) opened Bridge Theatre.
3. Having a swim/sauna/steam at the newly opened Thames Lido.
I realise the last suggestion doesn’t meet the stipulations but…
I too didn’t like turning 20, in fact I didn’t like my early 20s at all.
Here’s to a wonderful joyous time for your 55th and 56th and beyond.
Make some fat-balls for garden birds. Poke a hole in a yoghurt pot (or 4) and thread some string through. Melt 250g lard. Add twice the amount of birdseed. Add raisins, suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds if you like. Get your hands in a knead it (this is lovely). Push it into the yoghurt pots. Refrigerate. Remove from pots. Hang on a tree. Enjoy watching the birds! X
Stella, your lovely challenge keeps popping into my head! So 2 more for you…
1) Try a food you’ve never tried before. It doesn’t have to be fancy – try wandering the spice section in the supermarket until you find something that you have *no idea* what it tastes like.
2) Buy a pack of postcards, and spend an evening sending kind notes to people you’ve not spoken to for a while. It’s nice to do, and you get a kick-back of happiness when they get in touch to say how nice it was to receive one!
thank you Kathryn, these are great. x
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and this is what I’ve come up with. Go to a park or garden and make a paint chart out of all the colours you can find (leaves, petals etc.). By make a paint chart, I mean cut little squares or rectangles from the leaf and paste it onto a sheet of paper or card, But they all need to be the same size and perfectly aligned, just like Dulux do…
Or you can make a colour scale from jasmine to peat just out of dead leaves.
Or a mosaic from petals.
Or you might have fun naming the colours you can find.
The joy is in really looking at the colours you can find and how different they are, and then treating nature’s cast-offs as if they were precious. Which they are.
this is a GREAT joy-gift for someone who is terrified of ‘fine art’ – it’s a challenge as well as (hopefully) a joy! thank you Francois. x
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This is such a fabulous idea and sparked off a wonderful dinnertime conversation about what brings us joy. I am late to the party but will add mine anyway. You already have a fabulous list and many of the suggestions I thought of are already there.
1. Play with an animal or child and let them determine exactly what you do and for how long. When they’ve had enough of one thing ask “what next?”
2. Walk to a waterfall and scramble close enough so that the spray hits you. Or – if possible – swim in the pool under the waterfall.
3. Lie on grass and gaze at clouds for a luxurious length of time.
4. Get outside and soak up the light from a full moon (it seems this idea is already popular).
What a year you’re going to have xxx
Oh and also…I knew there were more (there’s always a PS with me!)
5. Dancing in a way which is unfamiliar (going to a class/joining a flashmob/teaching yourself/learning via YouTube…)
6. Going for a walk or run in the bush just after the rain. Greens are greener and shinier, the birds are ecstatic, everything smells lush.
I love the idea I might find some bush in London!!!
7. find some bush in London …
thank you! xx
Yes I did wonder that about the waterfalls too but you do leave London sometimes!
Blow out a dandelion clock … Can’t do it 55 times! but you can have fun trying! got to wait a while, yet. Youcan walk through a bluebell wood smelling their scent though very soon. Have a lovely 55 year
haven’t blown out a dandelion clock for years! what a lovely idea.