Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taking stock

I don't know how it happened, but today is my birthday.  (I mean, I do know how it happened - birds and bees and all - I just can't figure out where the heck January went.  If anyone finds it, could you send it my way?  I'd meant to use some of those days to get things done...)  It's one of those birthdays that people call a "big" birthday, and big birthdays, like New Year's Day, somehow seem to call for taking stock.

In many ways, it's a funny sort of birthday, because I keep getting questions which are all variants of "Aren't you bummed/freaked out/sad to be getting this old?"  I feel like I'm disappointing people, because I'm really not feeling any of those things.  (I will, however, freely own up right now that the fact that Older Daughter is starting high school next year is sort of freaking me out, but that's because she's getting so old, not because I am.)(It just occurred to me to ask: Mom, does this mean that you're finding my big birthday more thought-provoking than your last big birthday?).  So I've been trying to figure out why I'm not feeling those things (I'm all about analyzing data).  It seems like as good a way as any to step back and assess.  There is, of course, no single reason, but there are a lot of things that add up to me feeling, far from upset, actually pretty damn good.

My usual response to the variants of the EEEK comment, which seems flip but isn't, is to say, "it's better than the alternative".  But I'll tell you, I mean it with all my heart.  I sat at two deathbeds this year, and while both women had lived full lives and were ready to let go, I was utterly aware in both cases of all the people I know and know of who were not, and who would have given anything for more time with the people they love.  I have friends who have faced and are facing life-threatening diagnoses, and I am grateful beyond belief that I am not.  And I am fully aware that the only reason why I am not is the luck of the draw.  It could be me, and it might be me, so I appreciate that it is not.

I think it also helps that almost every single one of my close friends has already hit this milestone (and the rest are coming up right behind me in the next few months).  Some of them are more than a decade ahead of me, in fact (which means I'm already not dreading the next big birthday - thanks, guys!).  I have trailblazers, and they are blazing some pretty impressive trails.  What is there to be afraid of, or regretful of, when I can see just how great it is on the other side of this one day?  (In fact, the woman in the office next to me just came in to confide that she found this birthday liberating.  I'm with her all the way.)

In fact, those friends, the trailblazers and cheerleaders in my life, are a huge part of why this birthday is a good day.  I am lucky to have friends (including so many of you whom I met right here on the blog - you know who you are) of rare ability, thoughtfulness, and skill, and I find myself inspired by all of the amazing things that they do - I have tried so many things, and become better at so many things, and thought carefully about so many things, because of that inspiration.  I feel like I should be taking all my friends out to a great big birthday dinner and toasting every one of them and saying, thank you!

When I look back at the last couple of big birthdays and assess where I was then and where I am now, I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.  I am healthier, both physically and (much more importantly) emotionally.  My relationships are better.  I am more confident in myself.  I have walked through some pretty big fires and I find that, far from lamenting my scars, they seem to me to be badges of courage.  I have a lot more faith in myself now.  I've got a lot of growing left to do, of course, and I know (past performance in this case being a perfect indicator of future returns) that life isn't going to stop throwing curveballs.  I think what I'm saying is that I trust myself to be able to deal - not without some kicking and screaming here and there, but a bit more gracefully each year.  That is the gift of time. 

If I had to describe, in two words or less, how I feel about the next year and the years after, I think they would be:

Joyful anticipation.

And I can live with that.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday! My sister, too, has a big birthday this year, so at Thanksgiving we were talking about those birthdays-that-end-in-zero. My grandmother expressed a similar feeling--it's not that she's eighty-cough-something years old that makes her feel old, it's that her younger child is 60. For my mom it's that her older child is going to be 40. I, on the other hand, don't know how old I am and just gave my age as the one I will turn on my next birthday, rather than how old I am now. (My birthday IS in only 2 weeks, so it wasn't COMPLETELY out of the blue to give my wrong age.)

Rachel said...

Mazal tov!

Here to a many more big happy birthdays :)

Wanderingcatstudio said...

Happy birthday - may you have many, many more!

Willow said...

Oh Happy Happy Birthday! I love your words of the year: joyful anticipation. Perfect!

I celebrated the three score last year and I would have to agree that I have found the recent decade liberating too.

Onward and upward to the next milestone. I'm looking forward to your post in ten years recounting all the joy and anticipation.

twinsetellen said...

Oh, joyous birthday to you! I'm with rebkatz, often not remembering how old I am. I'm glad you aren't counting the years anxiously either, though I'm not at all surprised that you aren't.

That said, are you SURE your eldest is entering high school? That time flew by surprisingly fast!

Bea said...

Happy Birthday!! If it makes you feel better I don't know where January went either. Or December or November for that matter.

I'm also with you on the "its better than the alternative" idea. Sometimes we just have to appreciate what we have. If its more years to celebrate then why not celebrate that? Celebrate for older daughter too. Isn't it exciting to reach a milestone even if it means another year is gone?

I really do hope you've had a happy birthday and that you've gotten some lovely fibery gifts to go with it.

Jane said...

Hope you have a lovely day.
Getting older has never worried me either. How fast the time has gone always surprises me

Dawn in NL said...

Dear Jocelyn,

Happy Birthday. This is as good a time as any to say thank you for your blog. Your thoughtful posts are always a pleasure to read (whatever the topic).

I am considerably older than you, and can only add that life mostly just gets better.

Enjoy your health, family, job and friends.

All the best,

lazykaty said...

very well put, I particularly like that last paragraph, exactly my sentiments, and something to be grateful for, I agree. Your posts very often make me think, thank you!

A very happy birthday to you, with lots of cake and hugs!

Anonymous said...

amen to all that. i look forward to hearing your thoughts on the NEXT giant birthday, because (having celebrated it a couple of years ago) I know it's even better if you can imagine that.

but you know what's extremely bizarre and hard to reconcile? you touched on it with older's your kids getting older. my oldest daughter will be 30 next year. i find that much more impossible than the fact that I'm 52.

i'm glad you had time on your birthday to reflect and feel happy, and wish you a joyous celebration this weekend!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! I read and enjoy your blog regularly, though I don't comment often. But this post really touched me. The only "big birthday" that I didn't enjoy was turning 30, and not for the traditional, "30 is Over-the-Hill" reasons. I turned 30 when I was 9 months pregnant in a very hot month, and chasing the toddler around was almost more than I could deal with... did NOT enjoy that birthday!

But 40 was fine, 50 was lovely and 60 was delightful! Actually, my favorite birthday was 59, as both my Mom and her mother died at 58. I was really grateful to be another year older that year!

Thank you for all the interesting ideas you've written about..... and may you enjoy many more happy birthdays!

Barbara M.

India said...

Happy birthday! Lovely, thoughtful piece. 40 didn't bother me at all; 50 made me a bit contemplative--in that same year I also celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary and my older child graduated from high school and left for college, which gave me much to think on! But, despite being a bit creakier than I'd like, being at this stage in my life has many rewards and much to celebrate. Here's to joyful anticipation!

elizabeth said...

Happy birthday! What a wonderful, contemplative post! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Gwen said...

Happy Birthday! And many more, with joyful anticipation.

scienceprincess said...

Happy Birthday! I'm glad you're happy with your life. I, too, am finding that I get happier as I get older. Enjoy this year, and happy knitting :-)

Best wishes,

marit said...

Happy Birthday!

It IS strange- we don't get any older at all- but the kids...all of a sudden they are all grown up!

Joan said...

What a gracious, and graceful post. I am glad you are in such a good place on this "milestone" birthday. Wishing you many happy returns-- and thank you for the gift of your blog!

Carrie K said...

Joyful anticipation! I love that.

Happy birthday! And many many more.

Nana Sadie said...

I believe that the b'day you're facing is the one I was happy to get to, myself - and yes, liberating is a good choice of words for that one. The next BIG b'day was also liberating...but I'm not facing a 1/2 BIG birthday. Oddly enough? THIS one is a bit...gloomy.
Probably due to hitting a new notch on the insurance charts - everything goes UP UP UP at this 1/2 big b'day.
I'm late commenting, but you know I wasn't late with my wishes. I hope your joyful anticipation is EXACTLY what continues to happen for you!

(I think it's the perfect 2-word phrase for you!)

Teri S. said...

Happy (belated) birthday! I've always approached the big birthdays with anticipation. Most of my friends were freaked out by 30; I threw myself a big party. 40 was particularly liberating and 50 was the year my running peaked. I think that looking forward to the coming year with joyful anticipation, as you said, is key to ensuring that life gets better as you get older.

Anonymous said...

Hope you had a marvelous birthday full of good memories.
Ha, we boldly look each advancing year straight on; no groveling or quaking, instead with humor and appreciation of gaining more bits of wisdom. You're right the climbing numbers of years of our children are gathering are more staggering to our minds than our age.

Love your motto for the year!!!

EGunn said...

I'm glad you're not worrying about your age at your birthday. It's always struck me as a little silly, to be honest. I'm with you; I don't really notice myself getting older, but then every once in a while I see someone else getting older than I expect, and then it hits me. Guess that just means I don't "feel" old.

Joyful anticipation sounds like a wonderful start to a new decade!

Laurie said...

Happy belated birthday!! I think we should try to face every day with joyful anticipation.

When I think back on birthdays, the hardest one for me was 25. At the time, everyone I knew who was over 30 was pretty cool and fun to be around, as was everyone I knew who was under 25. The 25-30 people were all boring, stick-in-the-mud types. I remember thinking, "My god...I'm going to be boring for the next five years!" LOL!

Of course, becoming a grandparent two weeks ago was a big milestone for hubby and me, as will be that new baby's mother's 30th birthday coming up in June. :-)

Lynne said...

Happy birthday (belated but still truly meant). I wish you many more to come!