I 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.
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.
I 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.
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.