I’m one of those weird people for whom birthdays have always been anathema. Avoided like a plague and quietly endured when forced upon me. I chalk it up to my not being a limelight personality, but rather a behind-the-scenes kinda guy. More impresario than exhibitionist and, thus, less inclined to draw attention to myself. It’s just a theory…
Of course, it could also be that some of my worst memories are from birthdays “celebrated” from the time I was old enough to understand what birthdays were, until I was maybe 25. I was made to feel pretty worthless, for the most part, by my stepfather and his vast rancorous family. Birthdays seemed to be the eagerly-awaited opportunity to pound that point home. The anniversaries that followed were still hit or miss. It takes time to overcome instilled self-loathing and crippling doubt.
This year was a little different for me. I’m just going to say it. The reason has everything to do with the gut goblin digging in and taking root inside me. The pharmaceutical mien of my medicine cabinet, the side effects of treatment, the interminable waiting for results, the rollercoaster of emotions, the way people look at me when I see them out in the real world, all of these things have made me really appreciate every single day that I’m here.
Yesterday marked my 58th birthday. I know, right? I’m a fossil, especially here on the youth obsessed Internet. I’ve been telling people I’m celebrating the first full anniversary of my 29th birthday. Still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m twice that age now. But you know what? This birthday wasn’t terrible. I didn’t shy away from it. If anything, I embraced it, because for me, it’s another milestone proving that I’m still kicking.
And living, thank you very much. I may not get out as much as I once did, except for the occasional excursion with my patient and generous husband, but I’m staying busy. I’m doing a lot of reading and writing for pleasure, something I hadn’t done in years. I’m prioritizing projects and making headway, working on scripts and preparing for the next shoot, but I’m also taking time to slow down and smell the creosote. Eventually, once it warms up, I plan on spending a lot of time in my garden, nurturing growth.
Sounds like I’m easing into my dotage, doesn’t it? Don’t count on it. If anything, I’m embracing my inner libertine. I still enjoy a good belly laugh and dancing naked with friends (so much for not being an exhibitionist!). I’m learning to enjoy every single moment as it comes. I’m cherishing the enduring friendships and letting go of those that have withered. But I’m not just existing, I’m immersing myself in the warm ebb and flow of life’s tides and offering no resistance to the directions they are taking me. All of which sounds like prosaic drivel, but it’s working for me.
This begrudging optimism really is a good thing. I’m not known for being particularly patient. I do not, as the old apostle put it, suffer fools gladly. I am, however, relearning how to find humor in their antics. I’m more likely to laugh a problem away than take it upon myself to disentangle the person responsible and absolve them of their folly. That probably makes me look like a total asshole, but whatever, it’s good for my blood pressure.
There’s something to be said for living one’s life honestly and without regret. It’s a process I’ve been working on for ages, but I’m finally making headway. The final obstacle to overcome is mortality and the fear that goes along with it. Celebrating my birthday is just a way of snubbing my nose at despair and squeezing every ounce of life I can out of the time I have left. Carpe diem, boys and girls. This old hedonist isn’t going gentle into that good night. On that, you can depend.