It’s my birthday tomorrow, another year older.
And I’m glad.
I don’t have to go to work; I have a lovely day planned. Cards have already arrived, yet to be opened; and if I am lucky I may even get some gifts.
But it is not for those reasons I am glad it’s my birthday tomorrow: I am glad because I have lived another year, and I am growing older.
I am not going to pretend to be 21 again. Instead, I’m proud to be just two years shy of the big 4-0.
Why this gratitude and pride to be growing older?
Because it is a privilege, a gift denied to so many. An occasion to celebrate.
My last birthday felt like it was just another day: the pain of Hugo’s death still raw, I did not feel like celebrating, nor did I feel like I had anything worth celebrating. My son had died in my arms just a couple of months previously; my pregnancy had ended prematurely in a very traumatic fashion; my life had gone so very awry.
Last year, I felt incapable of feeling happy, or even that I should ever allow myself to feel joy.
Fast forward a year, and some things have shifted. My heart remains broken, the trauma remains, my life still has gone awry. But those things now feel different, and I have a different perception of life.
This year, I feel more capable of feeling happy, and that I am allowed to feel joy. Indeed, I need to feel joy – and I find it in the small things like nature, the seaside, a cuddle.
It’s an irony of life that when as children we are eager to be older, to be an adult with responsibilities and to make our own decisions. Yet when we are an adult we wish we could liberate ourselves from those wished-for responsibilities, slow down the clock against ageing.
A decade ago, I was dreading my 30th birthday. It felt so old! Of course, when I reached the milestone I felt no different. In fact, if anything there are ways in which my thirties have been my best decade from the point of view that I am comfortable in my own skin, feel better able to be myself, and I have a direction in life. I wouldn’t like to repeat my twenties (and my teens? Don’t go there), even considering the benefits of a body that has not been ravaged by ten or more years of ageing….and life.
And life is what is all about, isn’t it?
Yes I have grey roots. I visit my hairdresser every two months to get them covered up and to be honest, they start being visible again after two to three weeks – I don’t stress about it.
I have wrinkles around my eyes, despite using eye cream. Again, not worth worrying about: they are a sign of ageing – and of laughter and tears.
Those tears have helped me find a balance in life:
I don’t spend time worrying about what I can’t change – with myself, and with others.
I don’t get involved in gossip, or other people’s dramas.
I recognise that I am me, I am enough.
The balance helps me find more time for laughter. Laughing loudly, not worrying what others think of me.
Instead of criticising what I see in the mirror, I reflect that I am fortunate to have what I do. Instead of wasting time worrying about things that I can’t change, I try to make the most of what I have.
I know life is too short to not indulge in a little of what I fancy – we do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. That said, while tomorrows are not guaranteed I strive towards achieving a healthy balance to make sure I can enjoy the tomorrows I am blessed to receive.
And tomorrows are what birthdays are all about. The traditional salutation for birthdays is “Many happy returns of the day”.
I hope my birthdays return many more times in the coming years and decades.
I hope I have to visit my hairdresser more regularly to cover my ever-increasing grey roots, and that I have even more lines around my eyes from laughter. I cannot say I hope to not add to those lines through tears, because that is something I cannot control.
Another year older tomorrow, and I am glad.
I hope for many happy returns of the day.