every day a gift

I wished a friend of mine a Happy Birthday this morning, via text, with emojis. He’s one of two other December birthday friends. (The other shares my day! A very unusual thing, as it is a Christmas holiday birthday, but more on that later.)

My early December buddy is a relic of another age, like me. We both lived well and enthusiastically. He actually surfed until a couple years ago. We met through the South Carolina film industry back in the early 90s, and he and his wife have been two of my favorite people ever since. We have all logged some serious living, survived it, raised kids of roughly the same age, and we still are glad for each other.

We are glad to see each other, glad we’re all still here.

(C) Carol Joy Shannon 2019

Others in our circle are gone. So every birthday is a blessing. Every day is a blessing, for that matter.

A few years back, my son, who knows many of the more colorful aspects of my earlier life, and who realizes I am part of the group who once said, “Don’t trust anyone over 30” — asked me, “Mom, did you ever think you’d live to be 60?”

We both had to laugh at that. There were probably times when he didn’t think I’d live to be 60, and I’m now looking at that milestone in the rearview for over a decade.

We didn’t live as if we expected to be 60, much less septuagenarians. And considering that, I come up with two sides to the hindsight, as always. 1) If I had known I’d live this long, I might have lived more cautiously — I’d at least have been more careful of my health and physical excess. But that would allow that 2) it would not have been the same life at all – so what would I have missed?

I learned not to second guess myself with “what ifs” many many moons ago, fortunately long enough ago that I’ve nearly always claimed to “have no regrets.” I continue to maintain that, and I rarely “what if,” because at this point, following a “what if” down a rabbit hole of possibilities only results in not being where I am now, which I like very much, and wouldn’t change….

…well, I wish the Lowcountry were closer to my son and grandon, but….

Birthdays have always been wrapped up in Christmas for me, mine being a day away. When I was a child my family always tried to set it apart, wrapping gifts in birthday wrap — when they put them under the tree. My sister still sends me those — in her box of family Christmas gifts — and I love her for it. That, and it’s one of the few gifts I get! LOL.

My other December friend shares my day, and she is the only person I’ve known to do so. I used to love our weekly conversations because she often saw things like I did, but she described them differently.

I can’t vouch for people who aren’t painters, but I think most of us are always looking at the world as if through a camera. Seeking to deconstruct some images and recreate others. Perhaps everyone is like that — now that we photograph every aspect of life with our phones!

(Although, I’m pretty sure my husband analyzes life with diagrams…just saying.)

So birthdays….they are touchstones, milestones, days to take reckonings, plan for the future, enjoy remembering the past, taking note of how this age “feels,” compared to another.

Remember being a child and wanting to “be older?” Years seemed like centuries to a 6 year old.

Now they feel like weeks.

Some older people may wish to be younger, but I never have. Except considering that do-over thing, which we’ve already decided is useless. But add this element to the hypothetical do-over: at what age would you start over? From birth? From elementary school? From just after the first disappointment? When? That’s the whole problem with “what ifs.”

It’s a waste of time to “what if” yourself, especially if you’ve lived to be a ripe old septuagenarian. Better to look at the past as a source of knowledge, see the patterns, and share them with your grandchildren as “suggestions.” You know if you give them “advice” it will be tossed as “old people stuff.” And heaven forbid you start a sentence with “when I was your age.” Because their age is different. Very different.

Think back on some of the things in your childhood that have changed and disappeared entirely. Imagine what the world will be like in 60 years to a person who’s 10 now. We can’t. And neither can they. And any “advice” we have to give them may have no more bearing on their reality going forward than “take it easy,” would have had on me at 15. Or you.

The best birthday wish we can give anyone of any age is to enjoy every minute and be their best selves. Because living to an unexpectedly old age is a gift none of us can count on, and no amount of wishes will get us there.

1 comment

  1. This is absolutely beautiful and your observations have captured a truth we are honored to share. I felt every word.

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