Is Today Your “Happy Birthday”?

Gabe-birthday-part

Image via Wikipedia

Today is my ‘Happy Birthday’. For today only, I am 59 and am embarking on the last year of my 50s. The 60s scare me. *shudders*

Will I feel I’ve experienced enough by then? Will people really think I’m old? Will I become a blue-haired helmet-head like so many other elderly women? Will I automatically begin dressing like an ‘old lady’? I’ll give you the answers at the end of the post. (Note: this post was previously published on June 15, 2011.)

Most of the birthdays I celebrate with family and friends are clustered in periods of a few months but, over the course of one year I celebrate 35 birthdays…and that’s just family.    I suppose everyone, who has a few family members and a few friends, experiences that in their calendars, too. Do your own birthdays give you cause to celebrate or to hide out behind the pages of a good book?

Some people put no importance on birthdays, but I think it’s a day to celebrate the positive impact another person has on your life, not to mention celebrating the length of that person’s life. On our own birthdays, the extra loving attention focused on us and the opportunity to look at what we’ve done and where we’re going with our lives, is a great gift.

over the hill

Beautiful view from the top of the hill

Let’s say it’s the day before your 50th birthday. This is the BIG ONE. You’re at the crest of the infamous “Hill”. Are you up for the challenge? Can you master middle-age? Only on B-Day are you allowed only to stand at the very top of that hill and look down on both sides – look at the ‘you’ before 50 and the ‘coming you’ after 50. You only have one day to be 50 years old. Will you relish your view from the top of that hill and look excitedly at all that lies ahead or will you be a bit of a coward and pretend you haven’t reached the crest yet, fearful of failing to survive midlife? You may as well face it, there is no way to slide down the backside of “The Hill”. Truth be told, why would we want to?

The only survival skills you need to get through the next 20, 30, or 40 years are the right attitude and the ability to communicate with others in this age group. The right attitude means liking yourself for who are and surrounding yourself with a support system so that you are confident you can handle pretty much anything you have face. Being able to communicate with others in your age group  means reaching out and connecting to create new friendships, partners in this mid-life story we’re writing. What would you answer if a much younger person asked you how you feel about getting ‘old’? Think about that for a minute.

Mom and Aunt Esther

From left, Mom-87 and Aunt Esther-89

My Mom, who is 87 years old, saw a picture I snapped of her recently and said, “Who’s that old lady in that picture?”. My mother still thinks of herself as a much younger woman. Oh, she sometimes curses her body for not working the way she wants it to, but she doesn’t despair for long. Mom has had a long and full life. She has loved and lost, worked and traveled, pursued her artistic talents, made many wonderful friends and raised a family who cherishes her. She would say her age is a gift. She is kind to and not so critical of herself now. She doesn’t chide herself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making her bed, or for buying another fairy figurine for her collection. She’s entitled to the privilege of a delicious treat, being messy or extravagant. She knows she won’t live forever, but as long as she’s here, Mom won’t waste any time lamenting the things she didn’t do, or worrying about the future. She’s a wonderful example of a woman who wrote her second chapter of life in a positive, light-hearted prose.

As for me, at 50+, I’m much more the person I always wanted to be. There is more I want to do still. When I look back, I see people and experiences I would not trade for more money or a flatter belly. When I look ahead, I see my amazing friends and loving family standing there while I shape my future. I have never lost my desire to learn new things and that keeps me young. I hope you pursue activities that give you youthful optimism.

At 59, I’ve become my own friend. I love the freedom that comes with aging. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4 AM and sleep until noon? I will sing to myself those wonderful tunes of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s, and I now have my husband to share it all with but, not to limit in any way. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But then, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I usually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don’t question myself so much anymore and I’m okay with being wrong sometimes. I can’t yet say I like getting old, but I like the person I have become.

What would your answer to that question be? How do you feel about getting older?

Answers to the questions above, as promised: 1) I will always want to experience more. I will never have enough. 2) People will only think I’m old if I think I’m old. 3) I refuse to ever cut my hair short, let it go white and then apply a blue rinse–ugh, never! 4) You’ll never see me wearing a knit pantsuit or sweatshirts with appliques or stockings that puddle around my ankles or ever zip any article of clothing up to my chin! I guess the answer is an emphatic NO to all those questions. How about you?

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12 thoughts on “Is Today Your “Happy Birthday”?

    • You’re absolutely right, Sonia. We spend a lot of years learning to be the real “us” so, as we get older, the learning pays off! Thanks for the birthday wishes!

  1. I have known you many years and the one word I would never put in combination with your name is “FORGETFUL!” You remember everything.

    I so agree with your analysis of not worrying what others think and doing what you want to do! Life is too short NOT to. I love reading about your Mom and how she does things that make her happy – that is, what life is all about.

    Happy Birthday my friend. I can never picture you with blue hair – NEVER! But I did get such a chuckle out of it.

    • You have been such a fabulous friend over the past 24 years! You always see the greatness in people you care about and push aside the not-so-greatness. We’ve grown older together and it has been a great ride! Thank you.

  2. I’ll be 59 on my birthday in just a couple of weeks and have told my family that I’m going to start celebrating my 60th year on the day after my 59th birthday. I didn’t celebrate my 50th the way I should have but will make up for it with my 6oth. Not in a big way, though, but in lots of little ways. I want to do a better job of enjoying the moments – the moments with people I love, the moments sitting quietly with my husband, the moments working in the garden, the moments playing with my grandchildren, the moments enjoying a good meal, a good book, a good laugh. The moments gazing on something beautiful, the moments listening to beautiful music. My father lived to be 89 and I think the last 10 years of his life might have been his happiest simply because he was enjoying the moments.

    • Ginny, first thanks for commenting and just for being here. I learned alot more about myself and my blessings when I became a single woman again at 52. I began to pay more attention then to all the little things I had in my life, some of those you mentioned. It was paying attention and appreciating that stuff that lead me to the wonderful man I married last year.

  3. On my 50th I traveled to be with family and friends to a spot I wanted to be to celebrate that day…to gaze from that hill and I think I am a better person for it…my mom just turned 79 and she does not consider herself old and she will not move to some old folks home with old people because she knows she cannot be the young image she has for herself then…I get that attitude from her and act many times more like the child I loved being…I think my age and attitude from 50 on has reversed and I am actually getting younger and being the person I so long to be again…absolutely marvelous post…

    • Great attitude, Donna! You and I have that in common! Thanks to our Moms! It’s kind of scary at first looking down that hill, but I think we saw all the fun to be had and not so much of the hardships.

I love it when you tell me what you think!

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