So the day has finally come. If it’s true that today is a “milestone” birthday for me, then it means one of two things: I can either assign too much meaning to it or act as if it were no big deal. Either, I think, would be a mistake.
This urge to tell you how I feel about my “new” age never came over me when I turned 40. Nor did it happen when I turned 50. THIS birthday’s attached number, however, succeeded in hitting me over the head with a proverbial two-by-four. And while it’s always entertaining to see whether people can judge my age (I may not welcome that practice much longer), I’m a lousy liar anyway.
Simply put, I tend to err on the side of more, rather than less disclosure. I’ll readily admit when my tan isn’t real, when my jewelry IS real, that I bought my nifty little German sports car used at the price of a certified pre-owned Honda, and that yes, my feet do occasionally hurt because I wear Sex in the City heels almost all the time. Why so much honesty at a time in life most women have become mistresses of illusion? Pretty simple. I came to realize one of the most liberating gifts of growing older is the boldness that accompanies this refreshing I-don’t-have-to-give-a-crap-anymore time in life.
As I knock on wood having been blessed with good health so far, getting to this rounded number in life is beginning to signify a litany of little things to me instead of a lot of the big ones I thought I’d be dealing with. It means accepting the fact that I will use my garage door remote twice each time I leave the house – once to convince myself I am on my way and the second time when I double back to retrieve something I was supposed to take with me in the first place.
It also means I must face the idea that ‘body shapers’ are a permanent part of my lingerie wardrobe and not just some stopgap undergarments I will employ until I the 25-year-old figure that lies compressed beneath them magically reveals itself someday.
And there’s no sense in lying about age when you can tell how old I am just by an email address I continue to use — one that has not changed since AOL began squawking, “You’ve got mail.”
I’ll also have you know that my dentist and my esthetician are now doing back flips. Why? Their advice finally took root. I am suddenly flossing my teeth and using skin care products religiously. It’s as if something clicked inside me like a time bomb going off and laziness about such things is no longer an option.
Ah, but achieving this new decade also means stopping to smell the Starbucks.
I take nothing for granted these days. I lucked out having a child who turned out to be a remarkable human being and an amazing success at a ridiculously young age — just when I was fully convinced I had flunked out at parenting. On top of that, providence handed me a husband in midlife who never hesitates to make me feel beautiful at precisely the time I need it most. If I add having a lovely place to come home to, possessing the faculties to learn important life lessons, and doing what I absolutely adore for a living (it’s gift enough that YOU are reading this at this very moment!) to the mix, I know I hit the jackpot.
My conclusion? Who I am and what I offer the world around me are direct results of the numbers staring back at me from my driver’s license.
Perhaps that’s why, each time I watch the sign-of-the-times movie American Beauty, a smile comes over my face by the end of the film. Kevin Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham, has just come to some watershed life realizations at the precise moment a whacked-out neighbor takes his life from him. Camera work shows all the reactions of the people close to him at the moment they hear the shot as he sits in his kitchen alone, lovingly gazing at a photo of his wife and daughter. Spacey’s narration makes it seem as if his character were hovering over the entire scene, watching this take place. His narrative pretty much sums up how I feel right now no matter how difficult the challenges I’ve faced over the course of my existence.
“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me,” says Spacey as he speaks from another dimension in his smooth-as-silk voice.
“But it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst.
“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it.
“And then it flows through me like rain.
“And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…
“You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”