The milestones don’t change us


I recently celebrated one of THOSE birthdays. A milestone birthday.

And the question I got most often, being a woman of a certain age, was: “Does this one bother you?”

My surprising answer, as a divorced woman “of a certain age” was “No.”

Because it didn’t, really. And the answer to that conundrum has everything and nothing to do with me.

My ex and I are the same age—just a month apart. I am acutely aware that he stills wears a chemo port months after chemo was “done” and that his monthly scans are not for kicks. And that, despite my boys’ fervent prayers, his eventual prognosis is not great unless he is one of the lucky few.

A friend’s husband was killed by a drunk driver just days ago while on an out-of-state trip. He was also my age. And she battles cancer while living life as a true steel magnolia. He leaves two children exactly my kids’ ages.

Neither of these men is me. But they remind me of everything essentially human about me.

They remind me that I am fallible and fragile in this human body. They remind me that I am so very lucky to be healthy. That if I’m still here, it’s for a reason and I better continue to get to it because life turns on a dime.

I did not dread this birthday because the milestones are not what change us. It is the life leading up to the milestone that changes us. And if I’m getting that life “right,” messy as it may seem, then age is simply a number.

What changed me was watching a man I thought would be my forever partner suffer. What changed me is the brutality of a friend who had more than enough to deal with being served up what feels like an unfair blow.

And, on the flip side of that equation, what changed me was watching two boys try to figure out life while not letting on that they heard any of my lectures or paid attention to my example. Except they did. And they threw in a few hugs and an “I love you, Mom” along the way.

And if I’m completely honest, what has changed me makes it harder to put up with a few people I used to hang out with. I see them now at social affairs, downing way too much booze and full of self-important stories. And they talk of how we “must get together soon,” a completely empty promise. I edge nearer to the table where a genuine conversation is going on about life, or new adventures, or figuring things out.

It is my moment-to-moment choices, trending upward (hopefully) over time that change me. I’ll end with my friend’s words: “Today, a day like no other–a day I never wish to relive what happened & we survived. Mike’s body finally made it back to Iowa & the kids & I got to see him one last time & face the fact that this nightmare is really true. My kids are amazing strong young people & together in our own special way we got through this day.”

You cannot read those words and feel bad about your day today, can you?

If you’re still here, regardless of the number society attaches to you, you’re here to do some remarkable things.

Let’s get kicking. Because I’m not waiting for any more milestones. They’re just the side dish to a full life.





62 Comments Add yours

  1. Well said, K. We are fortunate to reach these milestone birthdays. So many others don’t.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh so true and something too of mind with this week’s events.

  2. I had a cousin who was killed on his 21st birthday and so I always treasure the milestone birthdays when I get there … because I got there.
    Great post. .

    1. candidkay says:

      That puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it? We worry about the fine lines around our mouth or looking our age-when really, we should be thankful for the years within us.

  3. Happy belated birthday!! May you keep inspiring others each and every day. You always inspire me.

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, thank you! Very sweet words and much appreciated;).

  4. Belated Happy Birthday Kay. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! It was filled with lovely people and lots of laughter:).

  5. I turned (shriek) 60 on June 6…and gave myself the gift of a long European vacation, most of it solo. I returned to NY this week, to learn of the death, at 46, after 1.5 months of illness, of a local writer — leaving 3 kids and a husband.

    We are guaranteed NOTHING in this life. It is deeply sobering to be able to celebrate another birthday when so many are denied that privilege.

    Happy birthday!!!!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I agree–the older I get, the more I realize every moment counts. I have lots left on my bucket list but all of the truly important things–being with my boys, fulfilling creative dreams–are done:). And continuing!

      1. Good for you! I feel the same way. I’ve punched all my tickets — but still have many ideas left. 🙂

  6. Garfield Hug says:

    Happy birthday🎂

  7. George says:

    Emotional, insightful, raw and brutally honest. I don’t know why it takes life changing events to help us understand what’s important, who’s fake and how we should live our lives. But unfortunately, it does. Your line about moving away from superficial people who just don’t get it is spot on and your desire to put it in gear regardless of a number should be in full swing right now.
    Great post, Kay!

    1. candidkay says:

      I think Kahlil Gibran got it right when he talked about how we are pruned. Life events do help us cut away the superficial. Thanks, as always, for the kind words!

  8. shunpwrites says:

    Insightful as always, I echo your sentiments, this harkens back to an epiphany I had when I finally resolved to stop lying to myself. Sadly, we envelope ourselves in this faux robe of naviete refusing to acknowledge the obvious, that we are here on borrowed time – and that we are compelled to pay our loan back with interest.

    1. candidkay says:

      We are indeed. And that is something I think most of us struggle to acknowledge.

  9. Ninasusan says:

    Everything you say is so true!! Great post!

  10. Perspective. This post made my day. Maybe my month. Happy happy days ahead for you.

    1. candidkay says:

      So glad it did! You’ve done the same for me so many times :-).

  11. I turned 60 recently, a tough age for women. But I feel good and still strangely…young. Happy birthday to you! Trust me, you’re always younger than you think you are.

    1. candidkay says:

      I remember my grandmother saying she felt like a perpetual 19. Now I get it:). Happy belated bday to you–and keep that youthful spirit!

  12. Cindy Frank says:

    You are here to do some remarkable things indeed. I have a feeling you are only at the beginning of what you’ll accomplish. Thanks for the excellent piece and I am so terribly sorry for the difficulties those you care for are suffering.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, those are sweet, inspiring words. And just what I needed to hear tonight:). Thanks for being my angel.

  13. I love that attitude that it’s what leads up to the milestones that change us, of course it is and we often worry about the milestones because they remind us whether we’ve lived those years well.

    1. candidkay says:

      So right! If we focused more on our day to day choices, we’d have less angst over the milestones, I believe.

  14. where we are says:

    Thanks for writing this! I’ve had a rough few weeks (and am staring down the barrel of another long couple weeks)… I want (and need) to go, go, go, but my body has forced me to stop and rest. (who gets a cold in the summer?) I’ve been hating and stressing over every minute that I’ve been laid up, which I’m sure isn’t helping me recover. So thanks for the reminder that even the hard stuff is worthwhile. Also, every birthday is worth celebrating. Even at my age, people around me are starting to tiptoe around asking others’ ages. I choose to wear my years with pride.

    1. candidkay says:

      So, I can relate. In my 20s, I worked at a high-stress job. And when I would plan a vacation, I would generally get sick the moment I slowed down to take it :-).

  15. Kat says:

    Yeah that common phrase “we must get together soon” or “hey, we must catch up”. Years ago, I responded to this person, “Sure, can you plan our next meet?” Silence. That was when I knew that that phrase has little meaning nowadays. Thanks for sharing this post because it’s a reminder to me that milestones are side dishes to a full life. I’ll cheers to that! 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Wow. Bold, clear-eyed move. And I bet you weren’t surprised by the silence:).

  16. This doesn’t help but leave me full. You’ve had plenty to wear you down, trying hard to help keep those precious boys of yours afloat. And your friend — . No words. Except I need add nothing to this tribute to loved ones and life.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). My boys still seem to have life vests intact, thank God. During the daily grind, I often think that my example doesn’t seem to matter. But as I look at the long term and who they are becoming, I am humbled by how much my example has mattered. Brings tears to my eyes :-).

      1. Noted.

        ~ Fellow Boy Trainer

  17. Amy says:

    While reading this powerful essay, I was reminded of Frederick Buechner:

    “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. ”

    Your fearlessness –in writing, and in life– is magnificent, simply beautiful to behold. I so appreciate this clear-eyed assessment of what is important, and what is not. Thank you. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      You are always introducing me to new inspiration. The Buechner quote is new to me–but I love it. Thank you, friend:). Always an inspiration.💕

  18. Like you Kristine, I have had beautiful young friends die of cancer and so if we are still here, vibrant healthy and alive, then out of respect for my beautiful friends who didn’t get the opportunity to get to this number, I’m gonna live it fully for them! Well done to you for the same attitude 👏💕

    1. candidkay says:

      So true. Who knows why some of us remain while others go early-but I am determined not to squander my time here :-). And you certainly aren’t squandering yours!

  19. Kristine, you better stop or I’m going to have to anoint you as my Guru.

    Not only do I find wisdom here, but the word resilience keeps coming to mind. This is probably a factor of where I’m at right now in life, but I draw a whole lot of hope and resolve when I read your posts. Thanks

    Thanks also for letting me play along here, even though I’m a lowly househusband who would much rather be reading (and occasionally writing) blogs than doing dishes…

    And I’ve never been a believer in milestones either. Milestones are helpful if you know how far away your destination is, or if you’re interested in how far you’ve come. I have no idea how much farther I’ll be going on this bumpy Life trip, and I don’t need any more prompts to remind me about where I’ve been or what I’ve been through thus far.

    1. candidkay says:

      Ooh, Gabe! Guru is one of my favorite words:). I’ll take it, even if an unearned title just because I love the way it rolls off the tongue. And it warms my heart/makes it all worthwhile when any reader tells me they take hope and resolve from my words. You have made me laugh and cry with yours, both of which are therapeutic as hell:). I think if the world had more “lowly” househusbands like you, we might all be far better off . . .

  20. Happy Birthday! I love your attitude and how your life is rolling along. A few years ago, I turned the big 5-0, and I felt like I was beginning again. Like a baby crone, just starting to feel like I had some serious wisdom to share. I’m realizing that the longer we make it on the planet, the more varied our lives and outlooks end up, and yet underneath it all, we share so very many things in common.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree on the wisdom piece especially. All those years of living are finally paying off:). Here’s to beginning again . . .

  21. Thank you for this sobering reminder that what matters is this moment, the one we have right now. And that we have a choice to make, to waste it or extract every possible blessing from it that we can. Life can be so cruel, and today my heart goes out to all of you as you bear this unimaginable pain. Your perspective and wisdom are very much appreciated because you have once again inspired me to enjoy every moment.

    1. candidkay says:

      We all inspire each other, right? When we get it right:). Thank you, as always, for the kind comments–and wishing you a day in which you see all the good, all the joy.

  22. suemclaren24 says:

    “They remind me that I am fallible and fragile in this human body. They remind me that I am so very lucky to be healthy. That if I’m still here, it’s for a reason and I better continue to get to it because life turns on a dime.” You are SO right!! Every morning when I awaken, I think, “OH! Another day…..” because at 76 I don’t expect to awaken every morning. Every day presents new opportunities.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that attitude! And at 76, you have the wisdom of your years to bring to bear.

  23. Judy says:

    Milestones are merely markers, and we give them the significance or not. Yes, life turns on a dime. What powerful examples. If we don’t live life this moment, we never will because all we ever have is this moment. Thanks for the much needed reminder.

    1. candidkay says:

      Here’s to living in the moment today. You’re on:).

  24. Barbara says:

    I’d guess I passed your milestone some time ago, but hey ho, those milestones do not define who we are. Life can be rough, life can be tough but so much joy in between all that living we have faced. This is a wonderful post, my hear breaks for your friend, and your Ex.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. I think of the milestones as lookout points, so we can see how far we’ve traveled:).

  25. Very powerful words ‘young’ lady, because all those events create a youth that has nothing to do with age but the wisdom they create, and that love we so desperately seek all through our lives. Our love ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, youth and wisdom. Now that’s a beautiful thing:).

    1. candidkay says:

      A resounding yes:).

  26. Tourang says:

    As always an inspirational read.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). Kind words from an inspirational lady!

  27. Moment to moment, heartache to heartache. And along the way, enough special people in our lives and wonderful experiences to make it all worthwhile. It’s a journey — long, sometimes extremely rough, and at times amazingly beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for your inspiring perspective.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words. And yes, sometimes rough, but sometimes so beautiful and joyous. Wishing you that latter bit in spades . . .

  28. Absolutely. My next “milestone” is next year – and I’ve never felt better about life. No serious regrets and lots of lessons learned along the way. Bring on the next decade! Oh…and happy birthday Kris xx

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, friend! I am so happy you’re approaching that milestone with joy . . . and what a wonderful attitude!

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