It's my birthday.
Up until this one, I've always looked forward to my birthday. It's lovely to have one day of the year that's all about you. But I haven't been looking forward to this birthday with great anticipation. This one is somehow different & I'm not entirely sure why.
Today I reached an alliterative number that, if I live to be 100 (not impossible the way human organ replacement is going), puts me in the middle of my life, with just as many alliterative birthdays behind me as there are in front of me.
Maybe it's because I have gone over that hypothetical hump and no matter how optimistic I am about my chance of living to 100, there are most certainly more years behind me than in front of me. At 50, I changed the rules about half way by making up the alliterative rule but I've run out of ways to fudge the numbers. It's time to face facts. I'm running out of time. The list of things I can do when I grow up is dwindling rapidly :-(
I embraced 50 in lycra but there's no way that super suit is going to look sexy at 60. I don't have any grey hair yet but my eyebrows are disappearing and my neck looks like motley, pink crepe paper.
Then there's the look of shock on peoples' faces when you tell them you're 55. Their eyes glaze over and you realize you've suddenly moved into that invisible wasteland that belongs to women over 50.
Perhaps it's because my body no longer reacts correctly to the messages my brain sends. I lose things and forget names and some days I can only manage to do two or three things at once instead of ten! If I join in a drill at netball training I can't walk for a week. The doctor says I have high cholesterol so now I have to feel guilty about the KFC my daughter's bringing me for my birthday dinner.
I've reached the age at which I am legally allowed to retire from teaching. If I only worked part time I would be eligible for a Senior's discount on my insurance. I've moved up an entire age bracket on the 'tick your age box'. In fact, it's the second to last box. The next one on the list is 64+ , and then what?
I should be grateful just to have made it to 55. My Dad didn't and my Mum, just barely. Genetics aren't on my side. Because of their untimely deaths I have no vision of how I should look or act as an old person. To have suddenly become older than the last image you have of your parents is a very confronting experience.
And yet, I don't feel old. Not at all. I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 25, except maybe a bit smarter and more broad minded. I think back on all the birthdays I've had and the calendar says a really long time has gone past, yet it seems like a blink since I was a kid. No one tells you that growing older will be like this. There's no warning that, bit by bit, your life changes until you realize that there are some things you will never get to do again and some that you will never do at all.
Reading back this all seems a bit depressing but birthdays are a great opportunity for reflection. I can't change the fact that I'm 55 but I can choose my attitude to it so I'm going to set myself some rules for the next 4 alliteratives.
I've spent the first half of my life reading about how you should grow old gracefully. I'm fairly sure that means I should cut my hair, stop wearing short skirts and keep my opinions to myself. What a load of crap! Why should I behave any differently now than I did 10 years ago, or 20 or 30 years ago for that matter?
- I will remain just exactly who I am and who I want to be. I will wear whatever I like & I will not cut my hair unless it becomes a convenient option.
- If I get rich/ all risk is removed/ plastic surgery gets good enough that you don't look like an alien afterwards, I'll have some. I liked the way I looked better before I got old. In the meantime, I promise myself to not wear my glasses when looking in the mirror so I can pretend I look the way I do in my own memory!
- If anything, I will become more opinionated & I will voice those opinions loudly and clearly, especially when they concern bullying, racism or other forms of ignorance.
- I will stop saving so much for a rainy day & I will spend every extra cent I find on exploring the world.
- I will work until someone tells me I'm not allowed to anymore. (Or until I get rich & then I'll just share my infinite wisdom with really well mannered children & their appreciative parents.)
- I will continue to give thanks every day for my beautiful children & I'll accept the fact that my husband actually does love me for who I am not how old I am.
- I will keep learning for the sake of learning & because it will help me retain my cognitive powers for longer.
- I will think less about what other people think about me and more about what I think of myself.
- I think I'll become more of an advocate for things that are important because I have an interest in the world still being viable for my grandchildren & their children. I won't give up on the idea of becoming famous.
- I will stop regretting the things I can't do anymore and embrace the ones I can (This is rubbish. I hate being old).
Happy Birthday to Me.