Even as a child, I wasn’t crazy about my birthday. Unlike most kids, I was never wild with anticipation as THE day got closer and closer. Not even the prospect of gifts particularly excited me. Or parties. Or cake and ice cream. I have no clue why. Ridiculous, I know.
Maybe even at three years old I wasn’t crazy about the idea of time marching on. Who knows. Bet a therapist would have a field day with this one. All I know is, nothing’s changed.
Unlike my mother, who celebrated each and every birthday she had. Yes, she celebrated each and every year she was blessed with ‘living’. Not that she liked getting old. Staring her mortality square in the eye. She just didn’t dwell on it. What I’m about to say may sound like a fragrance commercial or a Hallmark card, but I’m saying it anyway. Because, in my mother’s case, it’s absolutely true (as anyone who knew her can confirm). It defined her and all she stood for:
She defied it. When she looked in the mirror she saw a woman much younger than she really was. She saw a woman with the spirit of a forty year old. And the energy. And the enthusiasm. A woman filled with the joyful anticipation of what each new day could bring. Would bring. Because she willed it so. She’d tell you how old she was, before you asked. To her it was an accomplishment to be proud of.
Vain as she was (and I don’t mean this in a bad way), she NEVER shied away from saying “I’m 75”. Or 80, or 84. I think she
enjoyed seeing the shocked expressions on the faces of those she told. Because she didn’t look her age. Not even close. Without Botox. Or collagen. Or surgery. In her case it was a combination of good genes, a youthful outlook, an unstoppable, unquenchable, contagious zest for life. Because to the day she died, she never left the house without a full face of make-up. She simply refused to let herself get ‘old’. You can see for yourself, in this photo from a blog post I wrote on her birthday. She was 82 when it was taken.
For the first time in my life, as I put myself under the microscope while writing yesterday’s post, I realized she was on to something. Each year that passes is to be enjoyed. Celebrated. Appreciated. Valued. The little lines, and the wrinkles, and the grey hairs are all well-earned. They bring with them some amazing gifts, if you choose to ‘see’ them. They are the marks of a life lived. Well lived. With more to come.
Yes. These ‘battle scars’ bring with them the wisdom from years of experience. Self assurance, from years of trial and error. A comfort level, an appreciation you develop when you finally learn to accept yourself, like yourself, for what and who you are. Warts and all. Which takes time.
The confidence, you get from years of surviving your successes and failures. When you finally say “To Hell with it! I don’t give a shit what anybody thinks.” When you give yourself permission to think what you want, say what you want, do what you want, live the way you want. To be you, in all your glory. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
Okay. I buy into it now. Even as the clock ticks away, it’s possible to remain ‘young’. To look good. Keep current. Have fun. Be fit. Live life to the fullest.
But, the passage of time, the ‘number’ of years you’ve lived can’t be denied. Not forever. And there comes a point when even someone like my mother is forced to acknowledge what the ‘number’ represents. When you see more of your life when you look behind you, then when you look ahead. That’s the maddening part. The scary part. The part that creeps up on you, and one day blindsides you. The day you wake up and it hits you. Holy shit, I’m 50. Or 60. Or 70. Or 82.
And that’s what drives me crazy. Frustrates me. Makes me unhappy. Annoys me. I’ve never thought one lifetime was enough for me to do everything I’d like to do. To see everything I want to see. To experience everything I can. To share everything I know. And suddenly, there’s this new wrinkle. A sense of urgency I wasn’t aware of before. And I don’t like it.
But now I know that even this, isn’t a bad thing. It is making me appreciate ‘time’ in a whole different way. It’s making me realize that all of us, even the young, have been allotted just so much time; and none of us should fritter any of it away. It’s taught me the importance of just doing it (thank you Nike). Getting on with it. To stop procrastinating. To get off my ass and make it happen. Which is a great philosophy to live by, regardless of age.
Like my mother before me, I think I’m ready to celebrate my birthday. When it comes along, next year, I may just throw myself a party. Complete with a cake; and one mother load of candles. Yes, you’re invited.