READY TO THINK about something completely different?
OK, try this: Tomorrow is my birthday.
Please don’t remember that — I only remember it against my better judgment — nor do I expect you to be impressed by it.
We all have birthdays all the time.
Birthdays are funny things: We use them as an excuse for a party, or some manner of generally non-productive hoopla, but the main thing we seem to use them for is a way of marking time.
Now, sparing us all a useless foray into quantum physics and whether time is actually linear, the fact is that that’s how most of us experience time — as a line; a “timeline” — that we are moving along, while trying to ignore the fact that, at some point that line will end which means we will “end,” and because that’s not something that most of us care to think about too much, we don’t.
In fact, it’s one of the main things that many of us don’t like about aging: We’re another year — 365 days and nights — closer to the “end of the line.”
We don’t like getting older primarily because what it really means is that we’re that much closer to dying.
True enough, in a non-quantum kind of way, but as this particular day marks my birthday, another year older and deeper in … well, closer to the end of that line, here’s what I have to say about being one year closer to the end of that line:
It is, without a doubt, one of the best and most interesting times of my life.
Oh sure, I can whine about the things that we can all whine about.
I can decry my afflictions and my real, or perceived, loss of abilities (or degrees thereof) or aches and pains or diagnoses or debt or other people’s glaring stupidity, generally characterized as pretty much anything that doesn’t conform to my wants or expectations.
And because we also seem to use these birthdays as excuses for uninvited reminiscences — some wonderful, some not-so-much — I can surely look back and wish that this hadn’t happened or that had happened or that I had done this (or, a lot more of it! and not done that and what-the-heck-was-God-thinking-when-he-did-that and … and that this getting older thing surely sucks.
No, it doesn’t.
It’s the best time of my life, and here’s why: I am truly loved, I truly love and I’m old enough to understand and appreciate what that really means.
If this amazing blessing had been dropped in my lap 35 years ago, I doubt that I would have had the sense to know it: Too full of the world, too full of myself and too full of … well, you know.
Busy and busy and faster and faster and consumed by the details of the all-important today; besides, because I’m going to live forever, I have things to do and arrange and accomplish and change.
I am … me.
Old enough to know better and young enough not to care.
Lucky for all of us, especially me, that God is patient.
Because I probably don’t deserve what I have, but here I am, and I have it: Love.
Too often, it seems, we’re embarrassed to say that out loud: I’m in love and I’m loved back.
Absolutely, utterly, overwhelmingly and undeservedly amazing.
What do I want for my birthday?
Nothing. I already have it.
But I wouldn’t have known that 35 years ago because I couldn’t have known it 35 years ago.
Maybe you did; that wouldn’t surprise me, as I’m painfully aware that I’m not the brightest light in the valley, but I have to leave those ruminations behind with a lot of the rest of my childish stuff: I’m old enough to know better and young enough to care — deeply.
And unabashedly grateful — thank you.
It’s my birthday and I love it because I’m in love.
And I’m loved.
What else is there?
Yeah, I know: It would be lovely to be able to rewind the tape.
To walk backward along that timeline.
And have then what I have now and know that I’m going to live forever.
Or, would it?
Would I be able to appreciate and understand and revel gloriously in this love thing?
Somehow, I doubt it.
Somehow, I don’t care.
Gratitude, I think, is learned.
The hard way.
So, yes: Tomorrow is my birthday. Thank you.
Chocolate chip cookies would be nice, but today, I’m going to give myself the best birthday present that I’ve ever had …
… And all I have to do is go home.
Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].