So, today is my birthday. It is an important day to me for a couple of reasons. The day itself has also sort of lost a bit of focus and importance for me in other ways.
The day is less significant because, well, I am 47. At some point we stopped making huge deals about birthdays for adults in our family and circle of friends. We still wish each other happy birthday and there is a card or two, but big parties and making a fuss have traded places with low key dinners and evenings with family. The other reason is that I have a daughter that was born two days after my birthday 20 years ago and another one was born a year and six days later. Kid birthdays are a bigger deal and the reality of it is that when they were arriving I was not interested at all in celebrating getting older. My day went on the back burner and I was happy for that.
Recently, the idea of my birthday not being a big deal has shifted in my head. No, I am not looking for big parties with over decorated cake and things like that. I just realize that, by and large, my gift on my birthday is that I keep having them.
When I was first diagnosed with all of my issues and challenges, some fifteen or 20 years ago, one of the things that kept coming up in discussions and research was life expectancy. With all of the things that I have been diagnosed with, I was told and read over and over again that the average life expectancy for my “demographic” was about 40 years of age. When you are given an expiration date, it messes with your head. When I look back I can see that this little bit of news made everything worse. It really facilitated a checked out mentality. I crawled into my cave and hid. I didn’t do much living during that time and I took a long time to shift my mentality and attitude.
So now here I am, in what could be called my seventh extra inning. I am in overtime. I can’t put my finger on the event or the moment. But at some point my attitude shifted from someone who was dying to someone who was living. It was probably after the dreaded 40 barrier, but regardless of when, I made a shift. I think that shift has made things better for everyone. I am not just waiting for things to get to a point where I check out permanently. I am trying to do things and be present for myself and for the people in my life.
I appreciate a good sunrise and a good sunset. I love driving through the countryside with my wife. I love to perform and play music. I love creating and sharing. I love doing the dishes and the chores that I am allowed to do around the house. I like my time alone and my time shared with other people. I love my family, my friends and my pets. I don’t have the time or energy to get and stay angry at people and things. There isn’t and won’t be enough time. There is only now, and I need to do something with this particular now. I don’t want to waste it being negative.
Sure I miss the mark a lot. I struggle with mood swings and anxiety still. I’m going to. It’s built in to the model. It’s there. I advocate about it. I share about it. But I try to not let it define me. There isn’t time for that.
A birthday is a thumbing of my nose to the statistics that held me back. It is a celebration that I am not done yet. There is work to be done, things to do and see, and people to meet. I am not ready yet. I don’t know when that time will be and I don’t particularly care. I am here now and today. I am having a birthday.
Today I am grateful for another birthday.