That's me, rocking the Chocolate Soup pantsuit while taking my brand-new birthday bicycle out for a spin.
I'm the baby in my family ... by a long shot. My sisters are 12 and 13 years older than me, and my brother is 10 years my senior. Which is awesome, because no matter how old I get, they are always way older. (They like to offset this inequity by saying "you realize you were an accident, right?" To which I respond "You do know Mom loves me the very best, right?" Who wants an invite to Thanksgiving?!! Anyone??)
So I know they are feeling it since I turned 41 yesterday. Forty-freaking-one. Not 29, not 29 and holding, not even 39 and holding. I've officially overshot that invisible line where you say "that only happens to old people" and officially landed in that super-inspirational place of "at this age this can and will happen." (As every medical doctor I've crossed paths with in the last 12 months has gleefully confirmed right to my face.)
Here are the cold, hard facts: I have more gray hair than I care to admit. I've ungraciously succumed to wearing reading glasses. Sometimes I think I'm being shot at first thing in the morning, then realize it's just my knees popping like guns on a battlefield.
There is a ditch between my eyebrows I'm certain would stubbornly hold form if I were brave enough to have botulism shot into my face (which I'm not.) I have scars and sunspots and take an arsenal of daily medications so my thyroid won't cause my width to surpass my height. (If I weren't married, y'all would totally want to date me right now, right??)
I forget stuff I never used to forget. I find myself saying "the word is on the tip of my tongue!" more often than I like (and is seriously frustrating when your livelihood depends on, ya know, writing down words.)
Facing the fact that no matter how vigorously you try to hang on to your youth (exercise, serums, skinny jeans & alt-rock t-shirts), your body is coasting into the great decline ... it's a humbling experience, folks.
But if given the opportunity to turn back time, even just to look 29 again, would I do it?
Not a chance.
First of all, I imagine the economic impact of keeping you all on non-stop hallucinogens (which is what it would take to trick people into thinking I look 29) would be significant. Not to mention a legal and logistical nightmare.
Second, and I hate to get all sappy on y'all here, I've learned to appreciate these days we get -- even the crappy, rainy, achy, wrinkly ones -- because there are far too many people who are robbed of their old age. Like my dad, for example. He was killed in a car accident a month after his birthday. I was 10. He was 46.
One day he was there, the next day he wasn't. Just that quick. The closer I come to the age he was on his last birthday, the more I realize how young he was when he died. So whenever I'm annoyed by a wrinkle, or bemoaning stiff joints, or grousing about picking up yet another prescription, I remind myself of all the folks who would love to be old and gray, sipping sweet tea on the porch swing while their grandkids play on the lawn -- but never had the chance. So who am I to complain about the tally of birthdays, the wrinkles and the grays?
That's my Daddy, my cousin and me at Christmas Eve. He's probably about 42 in this picture. Handsome fella, he was.
A life well-lived, by any standard, requires progress. And the only way to get from here to there is by blowing out one extra candle every year. Instead of seeing birthdays as an opportunity to bemoan our lost youth, let's see them as what they are: a gift of time, extra time to live and love. A daily opportunity to see what life brings to your doorstep, to make things happen, to get things right.
So the next time you say "that makes me feel so OLD!" (like I do every time one of my kids point out they are as tall as me), remember just how lucky you are. Your kids may be your height, and you may spend an inordinate sum on hair chemicals, and your doctors may be threatening all sorts of ridiculous procedures ... but you're still alive and kicking (unless you've had knee and hip replacement, in which case perhaps you are fist pumping in lieu of kicking) and that, in and of itself warrants an extra slice of cake.
I'll probably have two extra slices. I am Mom's favorite, after all.