I'm going to be completely honest, here: for the very first time in my life, and I mean the very first time, I approached my birthday with something less than exhilaration. This isn't something I'm proud of -- I have always been very firmly in the "age ain't nothin' but a number" camp; in fact, for most of my adult life, I've been the camp director. And to be very clear, it's not the aesthetics of aging that has me down -- I mean, sure, I'm not happy that my metabolism has slowed to that of a three-toed sloth; however, I'm actually pleased with the sudden appearance of lines around my eyes. I've always felt that crow's feet were a sign of a life well-lived, and I love that they're starting to show on my face. Lines, I'm convinced, are soulful.
But there are a few events in the past year that have shaken me. First, a minor one: although I've never worn glasses in my life and my doctor tells me that I still don't need them, I can sense my eyesight beginning to deteriorate -- you know, when reading a menu in dim lighting suddenly requires your arm to be longer than it really is? So not cool. Of course, this is disconcerting for anyone, but as a photographer, it's particularly uncomfortable. Secondly, and more seriously, this past Thanksgiving my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer -- she's fine now, they caught it early, she's already finished with her treatments and the doctors appear to have got it all -- but there's something about watching your mother fight a life-threatening illness that will really make you sit up and take notice. Needless to say, her ordeal prompted me to immediately go get my own long-overdue mammogram, and while I'm totally fine, I've had to have a series of them for "a spot that we'll continue to watch a little longer."
(Don't worry, we're watching it like a hawk. Also, ladies? Get your mammograms.)
All this to say that for the first time in my life, I've actually been confronted with getting older, in a very real way. And I'm here to tell you, while some parts of getting older are completely wonderful, some parts of it are downright scary. Age might be nothing but a number, but honey, sometimes that number is a right bitch.
... I remember my friend Pam said something to me once, something that actually ended up in The Beauty of Different, when we were discussing getting older:
... I think I've mostly come to my outlook on getting older from my parents; I was raised by people who loved life and love having fun. Still, there's probably some truth to the idea that perhaps [Eastern philosophy] has helped me have a healthy outlook on getting older -- mostly because there's the philosophy of mindfulness and living in the present that really is my core belief ... I'm always living in the present, not looking back with regrets or guilt, or to the future with any anticipation or anxiety. I mean, I still plan and have dreams and goals, but the majority of my day is spent right here, right now. I just trust God that everything is going to be fine.
She's so right, of course. And the truth is, I can't think of any age I'd rather be than the one I am right now.
I mean, I've had some amazing times in my past: my late 20s, I was spending a lot of time going to live music venues with girlfriends, having a whale of a time. When I was 33, I moved to London on my own -- that was pretty awesome. At 35, I was a newlywed, married to Marcus. At 37, I became a mom. At 41, I decided to begin practicing my passions. Good times, man. But the thing that's interesting about all of these times, without exception, is that these years were defined by the cool experiences I had, not what age I was. What's more, I really love my life right now: I love my family, and I love the work I do. And given this, even though there's always a chance of challenges ahead -- it is life, after all -- I figure I'm as well-situated to deal with them as I can possibly be. Also, even more importantly and if history is any teacher, there are also going to be some amazing experiences ahead for me as well. And that's pretty great to dream about.
As it happens, over the last few days, dreaming is exactly what I've been doing. This, coupled with an amazing lunch I had yesterday with an incredibly good, incredibly smart friend has me completely over myself, and I'm pleased to report that I'm officially in a great state of mind, making all sorts of awesome plans. So, happy birthday
to me! To celebrate, here are 45 things
that at age 45, I totally know how to do now:
1. Take a photograph
2. Make Trinidadian rum punch
3. Ride a bike
4. Roller skate. Well, I might add.
5. Juggle. Not well, mind you, but enough to impress a young child.
6. Sing alto in a choir
8. Pass the Texas bar exam
9. Write an airtight contract
10. Make a really good Trini meal
11. Tell the difference between a good rum and a poor one
12. Negotiate international air travel
13. Cuddle my kid
14. Cuddle my husband
15. Say no when I mean no
16. Say yes when I mean yes
17. Make an excellent birthday cake
18. Sing the French, U.S and Trinidad & Tobago national anthems
19. Knit a scarf
20. Speak conversational Spanish
21. Use the proper fork
22. Write a book
23. Do the Dougie
24. Braid my daughter's hair (girlie has a lot of hair)
25. Speak in front of a crowd
26. Give a good hug
27. Give a firm handshake
28. Give a withering look
29. SCUBA dive
30. Walk a runway
31. Pace myself
32. Change a diaper
33. Be happy
34. Identify good people
35. Be supportive
36. Tell the truth
37. Play the scale on a steel pan
38. Play Bach on a piano
39. Keep a secret
40. Have the conversation that needs to be had
41. Hold my tongue (I might need to do this more often)
42. Be polite
43. Be outspoken
44. Sing all the words to Copacabana
45. See your beauty
And on that note, my birthday wish: Please leave a comment telling me where you are, and what's happening right this moment where you're reading this. For kicks, feel free to share something you totally know how to do, as well. Feeling connected to all of you, right here, right now, will totally make my day.
Have a wonderful, wonderful day, good friends.