aging gratefully.

A couple of weekends ago after an extremely trying week, I was chatting with my sister, Haley, about someone I knew who fought every birthday she was blessed with. Come her 60th birthday, she was in tears for weeks leading up to the day in utter despair at the number. Even when I was younger, I never quite understood it.

As I grew older, and myself started to see the “blessings” age can bring, both physically, mentally and emotionally, I had a somewhat clearer view of what all of her fussing was about. I don’t know too many people that would shake and shimmy in joy at the sight of a deepening wrinkle, or throw confetti at the memory of a “simpler times” type of thought. But even still, I stood by my stance in greeting every birthday with gratitude.

Life is fragile. What a miracle it is to get to meet 30. 40. 60?! It really is remarkable if you think about it. We are human beings. With human error. And a myriad of unthinkable things that could happen. Maybe all these years of birthday gifts, we’ve really been doing it all wrong. Maybe the birthday in itself is the gift. I know, trust me, I know, that not every moment or even every year may feel like it has a perfectly crafted bow on the top of it. Some of them leave you wishing for a receipt to return it for something far better-something closer to what you had wished on those flickering candles for. But even still-isn’t that perspective a bit skewed?

I am not grateful for every moment. I wish I could tell you I am. But I’d be lying. And that’s not really what community is all about. Certainly not every moment within the hardest year of my life thus far has been met with gratitude. But I do try. I don’t grin endlessly through the tear-filled days. I don’t welcome the moments that kick the floor out from underneath you. I don’t long for the days of doctor’s visits and entirely too many needle pricks. I’m not too pumped about hard conversations. I’m definitely not a fan of feeling not good enough…qualified enough…beautiful enough. And really, time spent doing laundry isn’t really my jam. However, all of it, combined with all of the very longed for and very fought for touching Heaven moments, are part of the gift of another year on Earth. It’s all part of the human experience. And good Lord does it suck sometimes. But good Lord, sometimes, really most of the time, it is too sweet to seem real.

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Pondering this thought as Luke drove us back home to The Keys from visiting family in Sarasota, I peeked at my Inbox to get my bearings on what the next day back to work might bring. One of the main focuses of my job is assisting brides & grooms in the journey to their Best Day. The first message to load was from a mother of a bride that I know. I was really enjoying working with this sweet family. They stuck out. We had just chatted that Friday morning about the bride’s menu choices for their rehearsal dinner, and giggled together about the nervous anticipation the final dress fitting brings. Devastatingly and suddenly, the groom had passed away over the weekend. My whole body went numb reading the words. I flipped my phone over and sat back, digesting the news for a moment. Once I could speak, I shared the news with Luke. I wondered aloud, “How would I even breathe? Process? Speak???” Only a couple more months until “I Do”, excitedly choosing linens and deciding on a final song choice, and now it’s all vanished. Gone.

Last week, Grandpa Slone turned 80. He rejoices every day in jubilation as if every second is the most wonderful, hilarious, once in a lifetime moments of his life. When we called to sing “Happy Birthday” to him, he hooted and hollered as if he had just won the lottery. Joy and gratitude roars through every fiber of this man’s being. It can be a little jarring to some. But really, why wouldn’t he choose to live life like that? And what is stopping us from living the very same way?

A few years ago, Grandma Gloria when turning 70 said, “I feel good. I like 70. 70 is a cool number.” I remember chuckling about it for a long time-never too sure why captured my attention and stuck with me.

Our flower girl, Laurel, the comic relief of the family, recently told my aunt that she had the best day of her whole life. The reason why? She got to ride in a golf cart. Simple as that.

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All of these are funny moments, laughed off and maybe even forgotten about. But I think these 3 are onto something here. I think those who are far older and those who are far younger have it all figured out perfectly. When you’re a child, you adore your birthday. You leap out of bed in the morning eager to see something so small as what the clouds might be shaped like that day. Then somewhere in the middle, as you grow older and things grow to be more complicated than Saturday morning cartoons, you lose sight of it. Birthdays can be grey-or even worse-dreaded. What will the difference of another year do other than only bring you more trials, more wrinkles, and more new aches and pains. You spend more time rolling over to the sound of your alarm clock, peering through work emails with half-opened eyes, rather than taking even just 10 minutes to start your day with joy and hope of what may come.

I’m not an airhead, I promise you I know that even when you try with all your might to be grateful and greet each new day, month, year with joy and hope, some just disappoint no matter what. Sometimes even so much so that you feel silly for thinking it could have been wonderful. But tomorrow is a new chance. Next month is a new one. A new chapter. As those little children stuck in adult bodies grow to be elderly, they relearn this overly complicated worldview. They have seen so much of life that they likely know by now what is really worth the dread, and what is worth celebration. They likely wake up each day early, excited to see what the clouds look like that morning. Excited to see how their morning glories have decided to greet the new day. Maybe even excited to see what’s in the lineup for Saturday morning cartoons. Grateful. Like new. Uncomplicated. Hopeful. Wise.

I’ve only been with Luke for a little over 4 years, and already we’ve been able to see very small changes in one another representing time passed; years added. And I absolutely adore it. How blessed am I to bear witness to each new wrinkle? The way his tanned sea-salty hands have aged? The little glimmer in his golden eyes glistening as the wrinkle next to them deepen? It’s an honor. It’s a miracle.

Let’s go down like that. Let’s age gratefully. And if people look at us like we are crazy when we do so? Wonderful. It means we’re being remembered. And if they think about it like I thought about Grandma Gloria when she told me 70 is a cool number, it will stick with them enough to possibly rub off on them, even just a little. It’s a choice. Each year. Each birthday. Just like every day. How will you celebrate?

 

Featured Image By: Creative Imaginations Photography

 

 

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