Waltz In Exile

18 January 2009, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Getting Old Sucks | Tags: ,

So I’ve been thinking. (What’s that you say? Oh, yes, obviously, I have not been writing. To which I reply: you have no idea how hard it is for me to do this thinking thing. Trust me, you don’t want me behind the keyboard and trying to think at the same time. I should come with a warning, like allergy medicine. What? Oh, you can’t tell the difference? Fine. Whatever. I warned you.)

What was I saying? Oh, yes —

Mostly, I’ve been thinking about my birthday. Apparently, my birthday makes me more introspective than New Year’s. Yesterday, I realized that I’m not all that happy to be starting the last year of my life before my age moves into the “40+” bracket. There’s just no kidding myself any longer: my youth is over. I find that I spend the majority of whatever “free time” I have (HA! Free time! All 9 nonconsecutive minutes per day!) trying to figure out what to do to beat back the clock some. Yesterday’s panic transformed into economy-boosting retail therapy; I now have a really sweet new pair of New Balance running shoes.

Of course, using them only made it obvious exactly how young I am NOT. For this I paid $100? Really? What sort of masochism and self-loathing does one have to have to participate in the consumer economy and why can I not escape it? Am I not supposed to be more at home in my own skin by now? Wasn’t that the promise Olay sold me in the form of “eye cream”? Thanks to my stylist, I have the hair of a 20 year old (actually, it might even be better hair than I had at 20) — but it’s anachronistic, at best, at this point. Apparently, the only age at which a woman shouldn’t be trying to look a different age is somewhere between 23 and 25. (Which years I completely wasted. Great.)

Anyway, here I’ve been on the edge of the last birthday before Teh Big For-Oh, thrown for a loop. I look behind me, and I feel like so much of my life was spent just being too stoopid for words, and I can hear Don Henley, singing

And I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind
From wonderin’ what I left behind
And from worryin’ ’bout this wasted time*

That song’s been echoing through my head for the past month. Until yesterday. Yesterday’s mail brought my annual birthday card from my Dad. (And a check! Thanks for my new shoes, Dad!) I love getting cards from my Dad. My Dad has a knack for finding the most off-the-wall-hysterical cards ever. This year’s card was awesome, as expected. What was unexpected, though, was the fact that it was NOT a funny card. My first thought was “Since when do I get SERIOUS cards from my Dad? Crap. I really AM getting old.” But then I read it:

Sometimes I miss
the little girl you were —
her sweet ways
and innocent trust
in the wonder
of all things.
But if I were
offered a miracle,
if somehow,
by magic or by grace,
I could be given back
my little girl,
I would refuse…
(Inside) There is a woman I would miss even more.
Happy Birthday!
(C)Hallmark Cards, Inc.

And it started me thinking again. Differently, though (cue “The Heart of the Matter.”) You know what I wanted for my birthday? I wanted a big, fat, do-over. Until this morning – the actual birthday.** This morning brought Goat hugs and Goat “Happy Birthday, Mama”s and incandescent Goat smiles. Smiles that show dimples that prove I was more than just an incubator for Goat Daddy’s clones. Smiles that broadcast childlike surety in the knowledge that hugs accompanied by “Happy Birthday, Mama”s are the best presents EVER (even if they can’t be presented with paper and ribbons and tape [although I’m sure they might have tried if only they hadn’t used all of the ribbon yesterday when they were playing “Mummy War” {which Mama still preferred to them using all of the toilet paper in the house, like they did the first time they played “Mummy War.”}])***

With smiles like that in my world, the idea of a do-over is no longer appealing; it becomes abhorrent. What if changing just one thing, even something horrible or hurtful or painful, meant that my 39th birthday didn’t start with Goat smiles? Can I be the person I am, without the regrets I have? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so. Can I just let go of all the regret without losing the lessons? I don’t know for sure about that, either, but I think it might be the key.

What if I do just let go? In 365 days, I’m going to be 40, whether I like it or not. Worrying about all the wasted time is also wasting time, so that the present becomes the latest regrettably wasted time tomorrow. I don’t want that. It’s one thing to regret time spent making mistakes; having to regret time spent worrying about past mistakes, though, is just ridiculous.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m really bad about letting go of stuff. (You: Oh, REALLY. We hadn’t noticed. Me: Shut up.****) Especially when it’s stuff of my own making. So this year, the last year of my thirties, I have decided I’m going for balance. I want to use what I’ve learned in the past to inform my present, to create the future I want. I can look back with wisdom (that still comes with age, right?), instead of wallowing. I can look back without wishing to do-over or undo, and appreciate how far I’ve come. I can look back and, instead of letting that stop me completely, let it propel me forward, without (Who am I kidding, LOL) with less fear.

Who’s with me?*****

* What. Don Henley doesn’t provide the soundtrack to your life? Well all I can say is, you’re missing out. Sure, it’s a little depressing at times, and occasionally creepy in its applicability, but the man knows of what he sings.

**Still taking ideas on how best to rend the space-time continuum, mind you.

***Parenthetical Hat Trick! Yes! She’s still got it!

**** All hypothetical exchanges between reader and blogger were influenced by the spit-on-my-keyboard-when-I-read-her-blog hysterical Lesley J at Um…What??

***** Dear God, please let someone be with me.


14 Comments so far
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I can only speak for myself but 39 was easy. 40 wasn’t so bad. 41? Hard. Nine years until fifty? How can this be when inside this body I feel like I’m 28, at best. I listen to the music of a twenty something. I use the vernacular of some NOT nine years from fifty and when I go out and get carded, the bouncers ALWAYS do a double-take and compliment my youthful looks (which is still kind of an insult in a way) The point? We have to learn to make peace with age being mostly a number and what’s inside being what matters. And just as soon as I figure that out, I’ll email you 🙂

Comment by Caffeinatrix

First, happy birthday to you!

I turned 41 last November. I’m not going to lie. Turning 41 was a little more shocking to me mentally than turning 40 was. Suddenly it felt like I was going to go screaming headfirst into BIGGER, HUGER, HEAVIER, OLDER numbers.

However, in my mind, in my efforts day to to day to always at least try to be happy, I don’t feel the least bit like I’m in my 40s. Heck, I don’t even feel like I’m in my 30s.

I’m also with you. I don’t think I’d want a complete do over of my life. I see that at this point in my life, I’ve been pretty successful at raising two boys who, in their own way, keep me young, and I’ve sustained a successful marriage far longer than I sustained any dating relationships I had when I was in my 20s. We make peace with what we have and we then make the best we can with it. The reward is in enjoying it!

Comment by foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog)

Oh Happy Birthday!! I have a monumental birthday this year too and I hope that I can make myslef better because of it.

Comment by kd@abitsquirrelly

WOW. The card from your dad gave me goosebumps. What a great dad he is!

I’ve already hit the big 3-9 and am staring down the barrel of the bigger 4-0 in just three months. Oddly, 39 was way worse and I’m actually not feeling the trauma associated with 40 that I expected. (Uh huh. Ask me again on the actual day. And maybe I’ll be able to say the same thing. Or maybe I’ll be incoherent due to all my sobbing and barfing.)

I personally think everything that happens to us does shape who we are…down to what might seem like the most minute detail. I’m totally with you on the quest for growth and balance and sometimes the quest itself is half the reward! And for the record? I totally dig the person I’m learning you to be through this blog! I think you are *already* pretty damn awesome.

And woot! Thanks for the shout out! YOU ROCK!

Comment by lesleykim

AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (Which I just tweeted to you.)

Comment by lesleykim

I keep saying I can’t wait to turn 30 because they all existential crises will magically *poof* away. HAHAHAHAHA!!!

If I turn 27 tomorrow, does that mean I’m supposed to be trying to look 23?

I also am working on the “Quit dwelling on stuff! Let go already!” trick. It’s… eh, I think they need to write a Dummies manual for it. That would be an instant best-seller. Hmm… *runs off to make millions*

Comment by Cynical Nymph

First, happy birthday! Second, yeah. I’m with you.

Comment by Steph

Happy birthday, sweetness!

Comment by Jenny, Bloggess

Oh I have missed you. Happy birthday.

I understand where you are coming from with the number issue. I seem to fill out a lot of surveys, and when I turned 35 last November, that moved me up into another age category. The 35-44 group when I had loved the 25-34 group so much. Oh, I miss it. (and have been teased consistantly, not just on the age thing, but who the heck fills out so many surveys?)

I too used to think if I could have a do-over I would be in a much better place. But all the adversity in my life, and trust me, I wouldn’t wish most of it on anyone, but all that made me who I am today. A strong woman, a firm yet loving mother with a masters degree doing what I love. When I come home and the kids come running to me to tell me about their day, I wouldn’t trade a day of it for anything!

We can choose our attitude every minute of every day, it is a decision we make. Congratulations on choosing to move forward while appreciating the past!

Comment by TracyB

Ugh! I bugged the man to send you birthday wishes and then I forgot to send them myself. Happy, happy belated birthday.

Comment by Corrina

I actually think 38 was worse for me than 39. I kept dreading that it was my last year before the “OFFICIAL LAST YEAR” before the big 40. And then this year, when the HUGE 40 hit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Of course I say that now.

Seriously, I don’t think I’d want a do-ver…as bad as some of it has been, and you know what I mean when I say bad, it hasn’t been so bad that I’d want to lose what it’s taught me and what I’ve gained…in the form of what I know of myself and the blessings that are my children.

Comment by Auds at Barking Mad


Comment by Auds at Barking Mad

I totally wished you a happy birthday on time on facebook (which is kinda funny since I normally read blogs more than look at facebook) and I am glad my wish came true from the sounds of it! My mommy turned 50 in 2008, she is not too pleased with it, probably should be glad I was not in town cuz I wanted to plant fake gravestones all over the yard… What I find surreal is that I turned 25 and that is the age that she had me, I am at such a different place than she was 25 years ago!

Some of the ladies in my water aerobics class (if you want a good butt kicking workout you should try it!) discovered a way to feel good about themselves, besides of course the workout, was listening to me and this odd little undergrad discussing our health issues. Kinda depressing (especially for us broken “kids”) but they were all in better condition than us and walked out with a slightly different view on their lives/ages. At least one good thing has come out of my brokenness I guess, though I wish THEY could have gotten their boost from a card like you did instead, lol. Your daddy certainly picked out a sweet card.

And I’m definitely with you, working on getting more balance in my life, of course being a grad student does not make that easy (I can’t imagine having kids on top of it!). I would so be there by now if my boss would let me hit the trouble coworker with a rolled up newspaper like I so nicely request incessantly. Have a great year and kick 40’s butt when you get there!

Comment by Karen

Happy Birthday. It’s true what everyone is saying — 39 makes you feel all old and comtempletive, but at 40, you think hey, I’m rocking for a 40 year old.

Truly, I think all years that end in 9 are the hardest – mentally.

But you have found some Goat-given gratitude. Sounds like you are already letting go. Love your herd, enjoy your friends, eat chocolate and have a great day.

Comment by smalltownsmalltimes

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