The questions and comments started a few months ago. From What have you planned? and Have you started going to bed at 10pm yet?, to It’s all downhill from here! and Better not eat that, you’ll never lose the weight now! And the closer it gets to my birthday – which is in March – the more the exclamation marks continue to roll in.
It was the same thing in the months leading up to my 30th birthday. My reaction is the same now that is was then. It’s *a* birthday. I refuse to have a panic attack every five years just because an ancient mathematician decided to base our numerical system on units of 10.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts about past decisions, worries about growing older or fears about coming change. It just means that I don’t wish to participate in the widespread panic and hand-wringing that seems to break out as someone nears their 40th birthday.
I want my birthdays to be about celebration and renewal.
Birthdays are a great time to reflect on the year gone by and (inevitably) think about your goals for the coming year, but some people – more often than not, women – throw themselves into the task with an alarming amount of self-destructive gusto. Some allow their regrets and sadness to seep into the other 364 days of the year, and others still deal with it by trying to make others despair about aging and regrets. Sharing the misery, if you will.
Consequently, it’s not surprising that there is such a chorus of warnings and sighs following me about lately. The truth is, I don’t feel as if I have wasted my life or made too many wrong decisions. The last four decades have been busy and inspiring, sometimes dark and scary, other times joyful and radiating light. They haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been real and mine.
Every step of the way, I’ve been surrounded by friends who loved me and gave me the support I needed. I wanted to work freelance, I quit my job. I wanted to take yoga teacher training, I asked my boss for a month off. I had some stellar and some not-so-stellar romantic relationships. My body’s going to fall apart? That may be true, but I’ve never felt – or looked – so good. There’s nothing there to regret. Why would I waste my energies mourning the eventual loss of this beauty and deprive myself of the pleasure of enjoying it now?
Also, why would I spend my energies being upset about things I cannot change, when I can devote that energy to future projects and goals?
The only thing that does sadden me every year is how little time I make for creative writing. That’s the disappointment that always hits me in the chest. But considering that Alice Munro and Maya Angelou didn’t start writing until they were 39-40 years of age, I feel like I’m still on track.
When I do get sensitive about getting older, I intend to laugh. Laugh until the thought of growing older immediately releases a bubbling of joy. And if I have to focus on numbers, I’ve decided to adopt the Hindu sacred number of 108 instead. Not only is it the product of nine dozen and a hyperfactorial of three (three and nine being my favourite numbers), but it also gives me 68 more years of bliss to look forward to.