Beating the Alternative of Birthdays

cat-316990_1280By Shari Sachs

Each year on my birthday now, I grumble about “getting old” (or at least “older”) and not particularly liking it.  When I do more than a fair share of people make the comment  – “Well, it beats the alternative” …  

This statement leaves me feeling quite curious — Is the fact I’m just old and not dead supposed to make me feel better?

I wonder – do people who say this really feel this or do they just think its what one is supposed to say in response to people like me who complain about getting old?  Or is it that it makes them feel better about getting old?

I don’t particularly like this statement;  I find it kind of passive/aggressive. I immediately want to think of other alternatives to THE alternative (aka death).   But all I can come up with is either not getting older, or even better yet, living forever.

Now, these would be alternatives that are hard to beat.  But I don’t think anyone would argue that no matter how much physical exercise, meditating, visualizing, soul retrievals or energy “tapping” I do, neither of these is going to happen.

Not in this body anyway.

Hey, I’m smart enough to realize that being alive is preferable to being dead, or at least I think  it is so long as I am alive.
But there’s a reality to this aging thing that needs to be considered. 

Case in point:

  • I really can’t tell whether its hot or cold anymore. Or what I really should say is that I can’t tell when it’s anything but hot anymore.  My internal thermostat seems to be set at a perpetual “warm” to “toast.
  • When I was younger I couldn’t even break a sweat, not even after a one hour aerobic workout. But nowadays the simplest efforts, something as simple as say – breathing – can cause me to break out in a full blown sweat. Forget about brushing my teeth or loading the dishwasher.  These activities require a change of clothes after completing as well.

(2017 update – this has gotten better although I am just generally temperature intolerant these days, I have a very narrow range of about 70-72 at which I am comfortable – some of you ladies might be able to relate still though  🙂  )

  • I used to spend about thirty bucks and twenty minutes at my hair appointments.  Now, it costs me the equivalent of a car payment and most of my day to get my hair colored so that I can look like one of those people where 50 is the new 40 or 30 or whatever age 50 is supposed to be now.

(2017 update – shit – its almost f- in 60 now!)

  • And the worst reality of getting older is this –  You know that part of the muffin that you break off the top and eat and then leave the rest.  Yummy right?  That’s what I used to think  “muffin tops”  were.  I ate them!  I loved them.  Now I wear them and I hate them!

There are of course some upsides to getting to be this age however.  For instance you are most likely still considered “young” by 70 or 80 plus somethings, despite the fact that you are considered “old” by your kids, pretty much anyone younger than you, and most prospective employers except retail chains.  

My parents of course, still think I am their “kid”. My mom still worries about whether I brought a sweater and how many visits I make to the rest room.  And, in my Dad’s eyes I am still his “little girl”  of course.  It’s a puzzling paradox being so young and older at the same time.

I am also now old enough to have others believe I have some wisdom, even I feel I have acquired some myself, yet  I’m still young enough that people sometimes tell me (although less often than they used to) that Istill “look good for your age”.

Still – I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon about this getting older thing and birthdays are potent reminders of its inevitability.

I deafult to grumble and wallow. I was programmed that way.  But lately I’ve been catching myself. Somewhere in the midst of my grumbling another voice appears.

Why do I want to wallow instead of celebrate? Why do I want to focus on how “old” I am getting or on the number of years of my earthly inhabitance instead of on the vitality of my spirit and all it still yearns for and can be?

Why do I do that? 

When I wallow all I’m really doing is clouding joy with despair.  We all have birthdays and we all have birthrights too.  Joy is a birthright.  It was part of the deal on the day I was born, on my “birth” day.

All I have to do is let it in. Believe it is mine for the taking. Yours too.  Let the cloud that obscures it pass and have it reveal itself to me.

Wallowing does the opposite.  It is the cloud that obscures it.

My husband Michael says that our birthdays are so special because there really is only one YOU.  YOU – that never existed before and never will again.  Now that’s a reason to celebrate.

I guess I just have to go through this. Every year. Since I’m 50 or so.  First I grumble, grumble.  Mumble to myself and others if they will hear me about how old I am and just accept that people are going to buy me cards with those stupid jokes about getting older.  Either that or about drinking wine.  Or both.

Yes I am at that age now.

Then, just when I am about to succumb to fuil blown wallowing, I STOP.  It’s like the wallowing helps me see the wonder that I’d be missing out on. It’s a big red, neon flashing light that tells me to get out quick. Danger ahead.

And so, I reframe, shift, move from negativity, have gratitude, and recognize my birthright on my birthday and smile.  Instead of grumbling, I take a u-turn and head straight to gratitude instead.

 I suddenly realize that being another year older is so much more than merely “beating the alternative”. For each year we spend on Earth should not be about  simply “not being dead.”

No my friends.  Even this self-professed, long sufffering wallower who wants to hate birthdays and growing older can come to this realization.  Year after year.

Being alive is not about “not being dead.”  It’s about being alive.  Fully, furiously, passionately ALIVE.

So, Happy Birthday to me.  I don’t know if it beats the alternative or not since I really don’t know what the “alternative” is quite yet.

But so long as I’m here I’m going to enjoy it.  No matter how “old” I get.

With Grace, Shari

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