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.