I’m sitting in the quiet of my bedroom, the precious few moments I have each morning before the kids get up and the mayhem begins. I am not jumping on Facebook or scouring emails though, not today. Instead, I’m lying quietly, running through the calendar in my head, mentally dog-earing pages as I fast forward from my birthday last year to the one today, collecting moments big and small.
Birthdays change as you get older. The excitement of cake turns into the quiet joy of an indulgent pedicure; and seeing three good friends for dinner trumps seeing thirty okay ones. But there’s something more.
You start looking back maybe as much as you look ahead. Or at least I do.
But then, that’s not a surprise to those who know me. I’m nostalgic. I can still name every teacher I ever had, I remember details of my entire teen years without a journal, and I am increasingly unashamed to proclaim that I still like Journey without irony.
To me, this is a day of some reflection, of figuring out who you want to be when you grow up–despite the fact that, by most accounts, you are pretty much grown up. Even if you do still eat the occasional Pop-Tart for dinner.
Birthdays seem a good time to do that.
(And here’s the big secret: One of the best things of getting older? You don’t have to apologize for what you eat for dinner or for the music you like. You even get to roll your eyes behind your sunglasses at some faux-poser punk rock teenager on the street wearing a repro Clash shirt and think to yourself, I was listening to Janie Jones before your parents even thought to get it on in the back of your grandparents’ ’94 Volvo, you whippersnapper. Also, the dog collar around your high-tops? How adorably old school. Now get out of my way, I have some antacids to buy.)
When I took the time to stop and take this mental inventory (do I ever have the time to do this?) there is one theme that recurred so plainly and abundantly over the past year, that it’s like little fairies swarmed me all year long and and bonked me in the head with it to make sure I really really get it. Three words: Life is short.
Life is short.
It’s something I heard so often this year from so many sources, that when I finally recognized the meme and took it as more than mere coincidence, I am certain it changed my outlook on life profoundly and compelled me to take some huge steps to get things right.
Now that could be a factor of hitting an age where women start to be invisible to the world (ironically, also when we start to be our most powerful, or so it seems to me). Or it could simply be that various friends and counsellors and inadvertent oracles in my life conspired to send me a meaningful message and for once, I was able to listen.
Sometimes I heard the phrase uttered by a friend or relative. Sometimes I heard it in a movie. Certainly I would hear it today non-stop on the TV should I turn it on at all, which I won’t–one of the factors of having a 9/11 birthday in New York City for the last 13 years.
Most recently, it came from Paula Cole via a loudspeaker in CVS which is another thing that makes you feel like life is short–that you’re old enough to hear songs you loved from the not-so-distant past, passed off as crowd-pleasing oldies music in the aisles of a drugstore.
(And admittedly no, I didn’t even know it was the Dawson’s Creek song until I searched for the video online. I never watched that show. But I did watch the Brady Bunch, and can totally sing that theme song on demand. Just ask me. I’ll prove it and everything.)
All we have now is this very moment.
Or as I put it recently, there is only now.
(Shoot, sorry if I ripped you off, Paula Cole. It was unintentional, swear.)
When I hear “life is short” it doesn’t mean, go out and jump out of planes and what the hell, eat that fourth piece of pie. It means, take inventory. Get it together.
Make decisions now, not later. Find your bliss. Pick up the phone and call someone. Contact the friend you’ve put off contacting for way too long and make a date for coffee and actually keep it. Dust off that CD collection and listen to whatever makes you happy without apology. Pursue that business dream. Pursue that life dream. Clear your life of the energy-suckers. Spend less time being annoyed about people you don’t really know who do things that don’t really affect you. Do some good for someone else. Try to honor the moments as much as you treasure the years.
Yeah I’m feeling a little reflective today. I’m entitled. I’m forty-fucking-five.