On Birthdays and Ageing

Birthdays offer occasions to refect on time's passing.

Posted May 10, 2013

I had barely opened my eyes when my Sweetie murmured “Happy Birthday”. Oh, that. I thought about burrowing deeper into the covers and postponing the day but, of course, no matter what I did the fact was I was another year older. I have a new number with which to fill in the blanks on all future bureaucratic forms.

I would like to think that birthdays are about celebrating one’s very existence, noting annually the exact day you were born into the world and the glorious journey called Your Life. Well, they are, theoretically. But birthdays chiefly mark the passage of time and as we grow older they seem to keep coming at an alarmingly rapid rate. My granddaughter, whose age is still in single digits, still marks her half and three quarter birthdays (“What, no cake or presents?”) while I am several years into a decade I am still not used to claiming as my own.

I always laughingly say that growing older certainly beats the alternative and it does. I’m very happy that I’m alive when so many of my dear ones no longer are. None of us expected they would die so young and I never expected to be this old. How can we possibly know? But I think each of us has an imagined age we would reach when we would be “old” and a vision of some time, many many years away, when we would die…if we can imagine such an event.

I made a very important life decision on my 35th birthday based on the idea that I had already statistically lived half my life. If I only had 35 more years to live I wanted to make a major change and live differently. I have lived those 35years now and am into the bonus ones. I am happy with the decision I made 35 years ago and I am happy I was wrong about my lifespan. However I’m not making any more life expectancy predictions.

What I do – what I hope most people do most of the time – is live each day as if it were my last. I pack in as much joy as I possibly can. I take note of all the positives – the smiles, the appreciation of what is around me, the lovely moments with those I love and who love me. I try not to let any compliment go unspoken. I actively seek every occasion to let those I value know that I do. I want no regrets; very little, if anything, left unfinished.

About regrets: I decided when I was in my teens that I would live in such a way that I would not leave undone anything I wanted to do and I would not second guess my own decisions ever. I would make each in the best way I was able to and accept with good grace whatever happened afterward. In other words, I would resolve not to regret my life’s decisions. I was less than 15 when I made that resolution. At this age I realize how naïve and foolhardy a goal it was. And yet, by and large I have lived by it.

I don’t really “like” being this old. I would prefer to be in my 40’s with, naturally, all the knowledge I have accumulated in the past thirty some years. Wouldn’t we all? If not in our 40’s then in some other decade when we felt strong and powerful and healthy and at the top of our game.

But I had my 40’s and I enjoyed most of them to the hilt. Since I’ve had fairly good luck with resolutions I think I will decide to do the same with any time I have left. Regardless of the common belief age is far more than a number. It is all those years of accumulated wisdom too.

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