There’s a big birthday on my horizon this month. It’s one that has a zero. Yikes!
It’s interesting to watch myself cling to the decade before this new one. Somehow, aging up to a new set of numbers is loaded with all kinds of feelings. It’s so arbitrary after all, just a number, but our society has put such a price on aging, and it’s difficult to not feel the pressure.
Part of me feels like I’m really old. The guy at the water store says he looks at our hands, (“It’s a dead giveaway”) to charge the senior price and not embarrass us. The numbers are heavy with implications, and yes, many of us my age do have our bodies in disrepair, our minds confused and/or are just not living our lives fully and with passion. Just look at all the people in an airport – it’s a real cosmos of the young, the old, the healthy, the ill, etc. I think we desperately don’t want to be typical of the age group we’re in. It’s not because of our egos but because we want to live to our fullest for many more years.
Another part of me feels proud that it’s my birthday. This is what aging looks like. How we live our lives shows up in our bodies, minds, spirits and hearts. I’ve certainly had my share of illnesses and spare parts, but generally, I think many of us here are doing quite well for our age. I have many friends much older than me, and I look to them as models for this aging life.
How to celebrate? Regular birthdays are no big deal. But the ones with a zero are times when I’ve done things on my bucket list. It is a time to celebrate ourselves and enjoy things that we wouldn’t normally do, while we still can. Then there’s the question, what’s holding us back from living these all-out experiences and adventures in our normal lives? Why does it take a birthday?
It’s also time of letting go for me. The real benefit of aging is not what we cling tight to but what we get to let go of. I’m done saying, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t who you wanted and needed me to be” to various people and situations in my life. We’re moving closer to our own authenticity.
Birthdays are also big, in-your-face reminders that nothing in this life is permanent, not even life itself. Things change all the time: our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, our situations. Let’s try to accept it all and open to whatever is happening in the moment. Now.
Happy birthday to all of us, especially those of us on the forefront of this wave of baby boomers, it’s our year for the big zero.
Martha McClellan has been a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus now to the other end of life, and has written the book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at email@example.com.