Today is my birthday, a fact that I can’t escape, a truth that I can’t deny. I should be celebrating, kicking up my heels. After all, there will probably be a few well wishes, a little attention and, if I’m lucky, a small slice of something heavenly that is devoid of all nutritional value, laden with sweet, sweet sugar and slathered in oh-so-decadent chocolate. (Oh, God, I hope so!)
And I survived last year’s birthday–the “bad one,” the one with black balloons littering my office, colleagues joyfully spouting insults on my behalf, and an AARP membership invitation waiting in the mailbox. After all that, this birthday should be easy, right?
So why do I feel such an overwhelming urge to throw myself a big ol’ pity party and wallow in misery and despair? Could it be that I have suddenly come to the harsh realization that I am (it pains me to even say it) OLD?
Yeah, I think that might be it.
Old. I don’t want to believe it; I don’t want to accept it. How is it even possible? Wasn’t I thirty just a few years ago? When I go to sleep at night and dream beautiful dreams about someday walking the beaches of Cabo San Lucas (with Brad and George–Clooney, not Costanza–vying for my attention), I don’t see myself as old. In fact, this is the me I see in my dreams:
Okay, I’ll admit that I have quite a vivid imagination (I know, I know, my legs will never be that long), but a girl can dream, right? Unfortunately, the next morning when I wake from those beautiful dreams and grudgingly glance in the bathroom mirror, this is the reality staring back at me:
WHERE THE HECK DID SHE COME FROM?!
Who is this old woman–this impostor–masquerading as me? I swear she wasn’t in my mirror last year at this time, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t even there last summer. In fact, I don’t think I noticed her until a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve been doing everything I can to make her go away–eating her recommended daily allowance of oatmeal and fruits and veggies, crunching her abs and biking her buns off, coloring her gray hairs back to their almost-original blonde state, exchanging her old lady shoes and droopy socks for black leather boots and leggings–and yet, this morning when I looked in the mirror, dadgummit, she was still there.
Okay, that’s quite enough. It’s time to call off the pity party (no one else showed up anyway). SUCK IT UP (that’s what you always tell your kids to do), and count your blessings.
You’re still alive and kicking, right? So get over it and be grateful–growing older is a privilege denied to many.
You’re only as old as you feel, and since you don’t feel a day over 45, that’s how old you can be now (because I say so, and I am the boss of you). So what if you’ve already been 45 once before? It’s just a number, and if you keep crunching those abs and eating those veggies, it might someday even be a believable number (and if you, sweet reader, find that laughable, keep your chuckles to yourself–it’s my birthday, remember? At least for this day, let me have my fantasy!).
You’re lucky, really. You actually like the smell of Ben Gay and the taste of oatmeal. You still have your memory and your teeth, and your knees and hips are the ones God gave you. What more do you want?
One of your favorite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, had some pretty cool things to say about aging (he must have known you would someday need his sage advice):
- “The years teach much which the days never knew.” Would you really want to be young again and forfeit all the hard-earned wisdom the years have provided? No, no, no (well, probably not).
- “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.” Whatever your face and body have lost over the years, your compassionate heart has found ten-fold. (And no one can prove otherwise.)
- “The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.” Now, that’s sweet music to my ears, Ralphie dear.
So throw on your sweater dress, strap on your leather boots, slap on a great big smile, and greet this day–this year–with enthusiasm and delight. After all, it’s your 45th birthday (and somewhere, there’s a piece of chocolate waiting to help you celebrate!).