On Birthdays, an Advantage of Aging

Laziness 010514I do not mind growing older. I do not believe I ever have nor do I remember wanting to return to a previous age in the belief it was the best time to be alive. As a friend said not too long ago, “it has been pretty good so far.”

And it has. This third act of my life presents new challenges—as did the other two—it seems to be a natural progression.

Do the challenges fit each act? In retrospect, the answer is yes, unequivocally.

What has been true with each act is that aging has its advantages. That assurance keeps me curious. And the handmaiden of curiosity is often celebration.

This past week I marked my 63rd birthday. It was a week of gifts–each thoughtful, unique. It is humbling, this great exchange of good feeling. The joy lasts more than a single day or week. It is what fills the years of a lifetime.

Every birthday reaffirms how fortunate I am in the life I have. The older I am, the more advantages I have. Aging is a list of gifts. Each year, some are unique to that birthday while others are forever.

Unique to the age of 63, I am now past the pregnancy test protocol for women who still have a uterus and have not had a tubal ligation. This surgery protocol may be unique to where I live. Nonetheless, it is on and off my list.

While the number of my chronic illnesses seems to have increased, I have finally accepted the great advantage they provide: I can sleep whenever I am tired, eat when I am hungry no matter the time of day or night, and write when I have sufficient energy, when my mind is clearest.At Rest 0215

What chronic illness has given me for the rest of my life is the routine of no routine. It is a lifetime gift that I finally recognized in my 63rd year.

Many people fear retirement for the lack of routine. I am here to tell you do not fear it. It is up there with the greatest gifts you ever receive. You will never be more present in your life. Mindfulness gives you all the time you need. You need not wait for retirement. 😉

As one day slides into another, the trappings of time that we have contrived—calendars, alarms, agendas– appear for what they are, our attempts to box up and label each moment.

Life is impermanent and neither boxes nor labels will hold.

Perfect Shell 0514I no longer am concerned about being awake during the dark hours that begin each day. It is a great time to listen to a recorded book. I do not disturb the dark with unnatural light. I do not disturb the day turning into itself.

These night-morning hours of opalescence are also prime “hunting” hours for feline EmmaRose. The prey is a catnip-filled “mouse” that is as easily airborne as it is grounded. The chase is a vocal one, high-pitched meows and a growl that seems much too large for a 5.5 pound cat.

The “hunt” was my birthday eve present from EmmaRose and later in the day, dear friends called and sang the birthday song. Both of these birthday eve gifts are unique to my 63rd birthday.

My birthday dawned as I sat on my favorite bench in Waverly Park, my first visit in many months. I shared the moment with three geese.

Animals, it seems, would mark my birthday in ways I could not have imagined.

Unique to this birthday was the gift of becoming a foster for an older elephant named Kora. Regular readers of this blog may remember a post on elephants reading hearts. The post featured the Sheldrick Trust in a video. Kora and I will age together.Kora older 2015

The same thoughtful friend made sure that another animal was part of my birthday, my favorite pit bull. I was treated to a video of Frisbee catching and happy birthday dancing. Ever available for viewing, it is a lifetime gift.

Also unique to this year, just before my birthday week dawned, I was given a surprise, living-room concert by my favorite local singing duo, Hot Tamale. All I had to do was sit back in my recliner and listen. For an hour, I immersed myself in their story songs, sometimes reminiscent of the ’60s, sometimes just great blues but always Hot Tamale.

Every gift I received— food, spirits, cash, and so many words of joy–was its own card, offering its unique celebration of a day. Ageless, the day resides in memory, celebrated as an advantage of aging.

27 thoughts on “On Birthdays, an Advantage of Aging

  1. Karen, I thought I’d left you birthday wishes here, but shame on me, I see I did not. I did, however, read this when you posted it, and I knew it was your birthday, and I sent wishes through the air. And now for the record, I wish you a very happy year and many more! And lucky you with a house concert. I’m listening to Hot Tamale as I type these words : )

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  2. All the very best belated wishes for your birthday, Karen! And, as always, your thoughts resonate. You are quite right: we must live in the moment – and it has always been an indictment of western society, I think, that we are so relentlessly conditioned to do otherwise, as you point out, framing every moment with plans and clocks and calendars and all the trappings of ‘modernity’. In part it is a product of recent centuries, of industrialisation – some clocks only gained minute hands, as I understand it, when it became necessary to tell the time to the minute in order to catch trains. But I think western society has always had that inclination. It takes great effort to un-learn the point.

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    1. I did not know that about the minute hands of clocks but it makes sense. With industrialization came the belief we could control the moment. How very like us. 😉

      It is not easy to ignore, as I am discovering but as I mentioned to Kay, chronic illness is a huge help here. In meeting the moment, I am more aware of what my reality is with less concern to what is not being accomplished. So far, because I take care of the immediate concern, I relieve the stress of worry and I manage to meet the responsibility. It is interesting and there will be more posts on this. As always, thanks for your support and the birthday wishes, Matthew. Much appreciated.

      Karen

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    1. I have an upcoming post on this routine of no routine (September 6). Honestly, I tried it in response to my constant juggling of myelopathy and autoimmune disease. It occurred to me that all I could really do is respond to the moment. It took off from there and so far, I am more productive than I had been but it is early days. That said, I am also finding energy in it. As always, thanks so much, Kay.

      Karen

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  3. Happy Birthday Karen… from this Birthday Girl…
    celebrating her 63rd… in the same week as you!
    I, too, delight in the advantages of being 60 something…
    thou a routine does help to keep my feet on the ground!
    Thank you for sharing Your Day with us… 🙂

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    1. How wonderful that you celebrated your 63rd in the same week. You are the second person that has told me this! It is great to connect with others who share this birthday week and birthday year. Hope your day/week were grand and that your upcoming year is just the best, Helena! 🙂

      Karen

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy birthday week Karen. 💐
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom!
    These are real pearls:
    “The handmaiden of curiosity is often celebration”
    “Mindfulness gives you all the time you need. You need not wait for retirement.”
    xo

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  5. I hope you’ll take it as a compliment that your posts often make me cry. I don’t cry easily in the presence of others but one of the gifts of my own aging is recognizing the power of tears to connect me to my heart. Thank you once again for sharing and for giving me another opportunity to feel deeply.

    And happy birthday!

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  6. There does indeed seem to be some advantages to getting older, despite so much physical evidence and media blare to the contrary. For some of us, there is a greater understanding of what life is all about, and a greater understanding of who we are. And your blog is a great example of this. And thanks for the shout out to Hot Tamale. Your patronage and enthusiasm are unique and priceless to us.

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    1. You know I love me some Hot Tamale, Craig! It meant so much that you and Adrian surprised me with such a lovely concert. Again, a birthday memory I will treasure.

      I do not know about you but I ignore the media emphasis on youth for if I have learned anything, it is that to emphasize one age as the age to be is to be stuck. As a Buddhist, I do not want to attach. 😉

      Thanks, Craig!

      Karen

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