I recently had a birthday. It wasn’t a cultural milestone, but it was another year gone by, and not-so-oddly enough, each year the number is bigger.
On the morning of my birthday, I realized that I never love the number from the year before with the unmitigated intensity that I do the day that it changes.
The day that the previous year’s number rolls off the end of my personal life counter and drops into my past, I love it. I mean I really love it. I want to grab it with both of my hands and wrestle it onto the couch with me to snuggle and never let it go.
It is the best number I have ever seen.
It feels so right, so me.
It is young and vibrant and exactly the age I want to be.
And it is in that moment, that I lose it.
It is gone.
I look askance at the new number. It’s cold and harsh and so not me. Yet it waltzes into my life and sidles up next to me like we are supposed to be besties. I look at it a little sideways, and I kind of want to let tell it where to go, but it just sits there like an annoyingly friendly puppy.
It is not going anywhere.
It knows more than I am willing to hear.
It knows that it is so me.
It knows that in only 365 days, I will love it.
It knows that it will take me months to get used to it, and then I will reach for it with eager hands, and it too will slip away.
It is tempting to hate getting older. It is a challenge to not live in the past and romanticize the years we have already lived. They are a known entity. We can reflect on their joys as their hurts fade into our memories.
And we are constantly and not-so-subtly taught that younger is better, more desirable, that youth is wasted on the young, that old is old, that with less time before us, less will happen for us.
We have a systematic cultural attack on the birthday, the celebration of our life, the reminder that we are alive and living a miracle.
We dread moving toward the ends of our lives.
And I think that in one sense, it is only natural.
Most of us do not want to think about the limitations of aging or not being here anymore.
But with this cultural bias, we miss the opportunity to really rejoice in what we have. We miss the feeling of delighting and dancing in the moment that we are living. We have the tendency to replace the beauty of our moment with dread of what will be. And we risk living less fully and less beautifully and less freely. So this year, I am trying to choose to live outside what our culture teaches us.
I know that someday I will love this number.
I know that I will eventually embrace it wholeheartedly.
So I am going to try to choose to do it now, at the beginning, before it packs its bag and heads out the door with me pining for it.
I say it to myself. Out loud. I am this number. Hi this number. You are beautiful. And so am I. And this year, like all the others, will probably be textured with the fantastic and the painful and the surprising and the mundane, but it is my year. A gift.
Even as I write this, there is a twinge of the sad. I am still reckoning with not being who I thought I would be or where I thought I would be, and even then I realize that I have weighted my life down with both dread of the future and expectations that my younger self layered onto the years I am now living.
And I almost laugh to myself.
We are trying so hard to live.
Planning where we are supposed to be.
Hesitant about where we are heading.
Sad about what is behind us.
Nervous about what lies ahead.
Almost never living exactly what is before us.
Honestly, I don’t know how to do this, but I do know that I don’t want to burden down or dread or pine for or miss my own life.
So this year I am going to try to love the number I am.
Right now. While it is me. While I am it.
Come on over here, number. Crawl under this blanket with me. Let’s snuggle.
And maybe as I embrace it, it will embrace me, and we will dance together in the beauty and create a life I could never have imagined.