Welcome to Midlife Ramblings. I'm not new around here, but this column is. My editors decided I had a lot to say about the midlife experience and gave me a column in which to say it. The "ramblings" part? Well, you can be the judge of my ability to walk -- write? --a straight line. My editors also suggested that I start by telling you about myself and since what I am is principally a story-teller, I thought I'd tell you a story about how I spent my recent birthday.
To begin with, I love having birthdays. I think most midlifers do, even when there are enough candles on the cake to make it visible from outer space. What's not to love about people fussing over you and giving yourself permission to self-indulge once a year? For the record, I don't know anyone who lies about how old they are, except for maybe this one divorced guy who chases young women his daughter's age. He thinks he'll get luckier if he tells them he's 45 instead of 55. I'd point out that he chases, but never catches -- and he's the only one I know who tries. The rest of us are comfortable being the age we are. I don't think I travel in rarefied circles as much as that being older just stopped being such a bad thing.
Aging, for most of us, certainly isn't what it was for our parents. I'm not sure about "60 being the new 40," but it certainly isn't the "old 60" either. I turned 63 on Jan. 25 and get a kick out of people who tell me I don't "look 63." Folks, if I'm 63, this is what 63 looks like. I don't believe in plastic surgery, never had a unit of Botox and wash my face with over-the-counter stuff from the drugstore. I am blessed with good genes, so I have my parents to thank, not a doctor sticking needles in my face.
So how did this kid from the 1960s celebrate her 63rd birthday? With my family, of course. It began at 5:30 a.m. -- as all my days do -- with first one kid, then the other, and then the two dogs all jumping on my sleeping body with good morning and birthday wishes. I love when everyone piles on me like this, although a couple of years ago, I realized that this little family ritual was less about the giddy sweetness of a new day and more about the fact that when everyone sat on my back all at once, it made my back feel better. I call it my morning physical therapy, the family back stretch. More to the left please.
My birthday is a day for a double celebration in our household because it's also the anniversary of the day that we brought our now 15-year-old daughter home from China. She was five at the time. Her brother came two years later when he was four. When people look at our family, they frequently say things like "God bless you," acting as if we performed some kind of charitable act. Let me assure you, we did not. While God has indeed blessed us with these two precious children, our choice to build our family through adoption was an entirely selfish act. I wanted kids and knew in my heart that my two babies were waiting for me in China. My daughter sometimes asks me why it took me so long to come get her. I tell her that flight delays occur in life too, not just in airlines.
Anyway, after shoving the collective 180 pounds of kid and dog weight off, on my birthday morn I went downstairs to the kitchen where my husband had left me a birthday card on top of my coffee cup. Vic makes the coffee every morning and while he never touches a drop -- hates the very smell of it -- he knows how to make it just the way I like it. He's been my husband for several centuries now and I always have to think and do the math in my head when people ask how long we've been together. While I worship the wisdom of Nora Ephron, I think she was wrong when she said "marriages end but divorce is forever." Not always. Once you quit looking for the escape hatch and commit to the idea of marriage -- the institution as much as the person -- it gets easier.
Those who know him, as you will likely if you're a faithful reader, know that Vic is a man of few words. A few choice words. I spent several years trying to get him to express himself more until I realized that I always knew what he was thinking anyway, so why bother? The card on my coffee cup, addressed "To my wife," opens to this message: "I don't need a lot of words to say what's always in my heart ... I love you. Happy Birthday."
What can I say? I prefer living with understatement. It's drama that kills you, not understatement.
So how did I spend the rest of my birthday? I stole away from the office a few hours and did a little shopping, had lunch with a good friend, and came home expecting to watch my kid's soccer game only to learn it was rained out. For my birthday dinner, I ate my favorite forbidden fruit -- thin-crusted New York-style cheese pizza -- and popped open a bottle of wine sent by my Huffington Post New York editors, my extended family.
Sure I have worries and stress and angst and rush around most days like a headless chicken as I try to juggle two kids, a house, a full-time job and a commute that entitles me to a lifetime achievement award from AAA. But on my birthday? Color me content. And may we all build on that, one rambling column at a time.