This is a time of reflection during which I focus on everything I didn’t accomplish during the year. I bemoan all the stills: I still don’t have my dream job. I am still struggling financially. I am still not my ideal weight. And on top of it all, I am slowly, gradually, invisibly to kind friends but quite visibly to me, aging. I recently got bangs so I am sometimes caught off guard when I pull my hair back and see the otherwise hidden horizontal line that runs across my forehead. I am noticing softness in my face; deepening lines around my eyes, even when I’m not smiling; sleep wrinkles on my chest when I wake up. I am beginning to understand the title of Nora Ephron’s book of essays on aging, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I really care about angles and lighting when being photographed. I now legitimately can’t read small print on bottles and boxes. Last year, squinting still helped. This year, it just doesn’t.
True, I can read just swell using readers of the lowest possible strength purchased from the dollar store; I can pass for, let’s say, five to eight years younger than I really am; boys still think I’m cute. I get it. I’m not saying I’m ready for the nursing home. But still, I see it coming. I’ve been seeing it coming since I was nine and experienced my first birthday funk.
My birthday is in less than a week. I’m still swimming in Thanksgiving leftovers so I decided to go for a run. Running has become meditational for me. It clears my head, helps me to solve problems—-or at least feel better about them—-and often makes me feel inspired, powerful, and most of all, grateful. I am so appreciative to be of healthy body and mind. In the spirit of this recent Thanksgiving and considering how fortunate I am in so many ways compared to so many others, how can I possibly be depressed about the privilege of getting older?
Of course, I get that logically, but the birthday depression is out of my control. Or is it? What I’m reminded of when I run is that I CAN control a lot and one thing I want to control is this: I want to turn my funk into funky. I want to change my story. Instead of focusing on the negative-—what I haven’t accomplished and the many ways I have failed—-I am going to follow the advice tattooed on my ankle and be grateful for this past year and what I have accomplished and how I have succeeded. And next year at this time, I want there to be even greater gratitude for even greater accomplishments and successes. So here we go:
1. I am grateful for family. You don’t have to have the best relationship in the world or talk to each other as much as you’d like or never disagree about things in order to love and cherish your family. My parents are alive and healthy, as are all my sisters, niece and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins. I love them all deeply.
2. I am grateful for friends. Again, it’s okay that we don’t always see each other as much as we may like. I’m lucky to have a great circle of guys and gals, and a really special guy in particular, that I can depend on for love, support, fun, and general life enrichment.
3. I may not have my dream job or the robust financial health I’d like, but I have a job, a good one, even, that I enjoy for the most part, and I can afford a safe and pleasant place to live. I have plenty of clothes, plenty of food, electricity, a reliable car, and good credit. I am doing better than so many people in the world. This alone makes it impossible to complain.
4. I haven’t experienced any major losses lately, or in my life in general. I got divorced in 2008 and lost my job in 2012, but since then, there haven’t been any major upheavals and for that I am grateful. Even though I am job-searching right now, I am gainfully employed.
5. I am healthy. This is a luxury that I never want to take for granted. I ran a half marathon this year, for crying out loud. Two years ago, I could barely run three miles. I have all my limbs, digits, senses, and faculties.
I’ve been considering history a lot over the past couple of weeks. The week before Thanksgiving, the beau and I went to Connecticut, Salem, and Boston. How fortunate we are to live in less troubled times 400 years after some pretty nasty stuff, and have things we take for granted easily accessible. But we are not only more fortunate than people during those times; we are more fortunate than people during these times.
As I sit here with two warm kitties in my lap and everything I could possibly need, I am blessed. In the coming year, I will strive for more: creative productivity, financial stability, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The opportunity to do so is truly the funkiest birthday gift of all.