Another year has whizzed by. Another year of disappointments, heartaches, and unbelievably ridiculous news events. Another year of sunshine, successes, and unbelievably wonderful adventures. I could easily lament—or celebrate—the passage of that year with all its ups, downs, and turn-arounds, but I would rather focus on the years ahead and all the crazy goodness still to come.
One of those good things is that I’m another year older today. I’ve been given another day to eat cupcakes and drink wine, another day to laugh with friends and snuggle with my husband, another day to remind the wrinkly, old lady squinting back at me from the mirror that I’m not giving up without some serious butt-kicking. And even though this birthday isn’t one of the “big” ones, I have reached the age when I think every birthday is a milestone—a chance to rejoice that I’m still breathing and a time to reflect on where I’m headed, where I’ve been, and all the truths I’ve learned along the way.
And here are a few of those truths . . .
- I have learned to drink at least two glasses of wine (and to remove my contacts) before carrying swimsuits into a dressing room. I have also learned that wearing old, stretched-out swimsuits from five seasons past is less ego-shattering than attempting to cram an abundance of flabby flesh into a few inches of unforgiving, new fabric that is most definitely six sizes smaller than the tag indicates.
- I have learned every generation gets a bad rap from the generations who have gone before. “Millennials” seem to be society’s latest negative stereotype, and yet some of the coolest, hardest-working, most caring people I know (including all three of my sons) fall into that age group.
- I have learned I can look at my watch half a dozen times within the space of two minutes and still have no idea what time it is.
- I have learned sometimes I have to don the cape, be my own hero and save myself.
- I have learned the older I get, the older “old” becomes. Right now, I believe “old” to be somewhere in the 90+ range.
- I have learned some people aren’t happy unless they’re miserable.
- I have learned someone telling me I can’t, I shouldn’t, or I won’t (especially when the justification is that I’m TOO OLD) pretty much guarantees that, by golly, I can, I shall, and I will. I may regret it later, but that certain someone will never know.
- I have learned it’s hard for me to distinguish between mind-numbing boredom and gut-wrenching hunger, so I usually grab the Cheetos anyway, just to be safe.
- I have learned there are no limits to stupidity and ignorance. I have also learned the best response to that stupidity and ignorance is silence.
- And I have learned there are no limits to kindness and compassion, either—and that sometimes those traits are exhibited by strangers who want nothing more than to spread goodwill.
- I have learned getting up early to watch the sunrise is always worth it.
- I have learned the butt blubber gained from devouring half a cheesecake for breakfast cannot be demolished by a 30-minute workout. I have also learned to eat the cheesecake anyway.
- I have learned people who ask for my opinion usually don’t really want it.
- I have learned it’s okay to follow my heart as long as my brain is riding shotgun.
- I have learned spending money on adventures is so much more rewarding than spending money on stuff.
- I have learned to tell those nagging, self-sabotaging voices in my head to shut the hell up (most of the time) because there is nothing more exhilarating than completing a difficult challenge that all those demonic voices said I could never do.
- I have learned happiness is not some grand destination but a daily choice—and that we are each responsible for making that choice for ourselves.
- I have learned some of the smartest people on the planet don’t have college degrees—and some of the dumbest people do.
- I have learned most of us are somebody else’s idol—and somebody else’s weirdo.
- I have learned to stop worrying so much about the things I can’t control, including inevitable changes in my once-young-but-not-anymore body. Not even industrial-strength, anti-gravitational tourniquets will re-create long-lost curves or force certain body parts back into their original perky positions, so I’ve learned to grudgingly accept the jiggle and the dangle and to move on.
- I have also learned Helen Mirren is considered a sex symbol at 72, Jane Fonda is considered one at 80, and Betty White at 96, so despite all that jiggling and dangling, there’s still hope for me.
- I have learned humans most likely will never destroy the entire planet, but destroying the planet’s ability to sustain us—thereby destroying the entire human race—is another matter.
- I have learned the good ol’ days were seldom as good as we romanticize them to be—and wasting time lamenting the passing of those good ol’ days prevents us from savoring how delightful the present moments can be.
- I have learned some of the worst bullies are grown-ups.
- I have learned the anticipation leading up to a trip is almost as much fun as the trip itself.
- I have learned sometimes while pursuing one dream, another dream surfaces—and it’s okay to change paths.
- I have learned always to take the stairs—and to leave the up-close parking spaces for those who truly need them.
- I have learned senior discounts rock!
- I have learned two Subway chocolate chip cookies are roughly equivalent to eight pounds of belly fat.
- I have learned even if I “earned” all those laugh lines doesn’t mean I have to like them.
- I have learned some people deserve to be smacked in the head with a shovel—and the fact that the rest of us resist the urge should earn us major cosmic brownie points.
- I have learned it’s possible to pedal my bike 250 miles from one side of the state to the other and gain weight along the way.
- I have learned after paying for gas at the pump with a debit card, it’s not necessary to go inside and pay for the same tank of gas with a personal check.
- I have learned “comfortable” trumps “cute and sexy” EVERY time. Why in the world would I need stilettos when I have hiking boots?
- I have learned I would rather have an open mind and an open heart and be taken advantage of repeatedly than to be so close-minded and cynical that I miss out on countless opportunities to share kindness and joy.
- I have learned even the ugliest of days still contain their own measure of beauty.
- I have learned to pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win. Whether the toilet seat is appropriately left in the down position definitely matters, but it’s a battle I’m never going to win. Consequently, I’ll save my arguing skills for important battles I can win (like whether the toilet paper rolls over or under).
- I have learned even the rich and famous are eventually held accountable for their wrongdoings. Usually.
- I have learned if I wait until nothing hurts, I will never, ever exercise, so I might as well swallow the Tylenol, slather on the Aspercreme, slap on the brace, and drag my lazy butt off that comfy couch.
- I have learned the mirror doesn’t lie—but sometimes it does grossly exaggerate.
- I have learned when I look at other people my age and think they look so much older than I do, they are looking at me and thinking the same thing.
- I have learned that falling off my bike at this age hurts WAY MORE than it did when I was a kid—but I have also learned that getting up, dusting off my bruised pride, and pedaling on (bloody knees and all) makes me feel like a badass.
- I have learned the less time I spend listening to the news or scrolling through Facebook, the better I feel at the end of the day.
- I have learned some of my best days are spent luxuriating in my pajamas without the benefits of a bra, a hairbrush, or a swipe of makeup. I have also learned these days will almost certainly be interrupted by unexpected visits from delivery men, religious zealots, and campaigning county officials—and I can throw on a concealing sweatshirt and ball cap in 3.5 seconds.
- I have learned that people can sometimes have their “facts” totally wrong but will state them with such confidence and conviction that others will believe them without question—and I have learned to be afraid of these unquestioning believers.
- I have learned to stop being a spectator in my own life. Like everyone else, I’m not getting any younger, and it’s long past time to stop postponing joy or passing on grand adventures just because it’s easier/cheaper/less stressful to stay on the couch eating cheesecake.
- I have learned, for the most part, not to judge others. I do not know their stories; I have not fought their battles, and until they have personally wronged me, I have no right to question or belittle their choices.
- I have learned some expensive wines are gag-worthy, and some boxed wines are actually quite good (worthy of a second glass—or maybe even a third).
- I have learned nothing tears up a yard worse than a little bitty mole—unless it’s a big ol’ dog trying to find that mole.
- I have learned even though I don’t have the courage to publicly share my “metoo” story, just knowing that so many others have had similar (and so much worse) experiences is empowering and heartbreaking at the same time.
- I have learned my quiet demeanor sometimes makes others feel uncomfortable or intimidated. But I have also learned it’s still okay to be the quiet one in the crowd—that I can learn a lot more from the words of others than from the sound of my own voice.
- I have learned I am my own worst enemy and my own biggest critic—and that when I’m spreading kindness, I need to reserve a little for myself. (I’ll bet many of you need to do the same.)
- I have learned if the recipe says it serves six, then it’s assuming those six people are two-year-olds who eat like hummingbirds.
- I have learned anyone who follows up a compliment with the qualifier “for her age” deserves to be throat punched.
- I have learned seeing my children grow into amazing adults is tremendously rewarding and cool.
- I have learned there are roughly 3,000 sides to every argument—and at least 2,995 of those sides contain some tiny element of truth and logic.
- I have learned life isn’t about avoiding the bruises—that it’s more about collecting the scars to prove I was brave enough to show up and give it my best shot.
- And I have learned that life doesn’t have to be perfect to still be pretty darn wonderful—and that some of my best days are still ahead.
According to Henry Ford (who we all know was a really smart man), “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” And since I still have a few bazillion bits of wisdom I intend to acquire, I believe that means I will remain forever young–yay, me! (Don’t let all these wrinkles, crinkles, sags, and bags convince you otherwise–there’s a young gal hiding underneath all that exterior nonsense, I swear.)
So, what are some of the truths you have learned in your many trips around the sun?
“Ultimately there is no such thing as failure. There are lessons learned in different ways.” Twyla Tharp
(photo © Karen Eubank)
“Success can be measured not only in achievements, but in lessons learned, lives touched and moments shared along the way.”
(photo © Karen Eubank)