“IT’S JUST A NUMBER”

Another birthday has passed. Another year of life. Another rotation around the sun.

I’m grateful for the folks who send cards and emails, and birthday wishes on Facebook. It’s nice to know these people are still “in my life,” even if I just happen to be reading their silly posts, or deep posts, posts that make me laugh or cry or go, “Huh?” It’s all good. It’s all life. It all makes up a year.

The little bits and pieces may not be much when you consider them individually, but when amassed, make up life’s peaks and valleys, make up a community of friends, relatives, former lovers, new acquaintances. What would it mean without their contributions, big and small? It’s nice to be thought of, to know there are others out there sending their positive wishes my way. It all helps.

Otherwise, birthdays have become a bit of a bore. I’ve had 57 of them. It’s not that I’m not pleased to still be here, but I don’t need the fuss. The ones that end in “0” (60, 70, 80, 90 if I’m lucky), I suppose those will be fun to have some hoopla around. If someone wants to do some hoopla in three years, let me know. I hope to still be here.

Aging is not for wusses. Not that I’m even a Senior Citizen yet, although I’ll confess I often pay the senior fee at movie theaters. With a head of grey hair, one can pull this off. I’m grateful for this body and what it can still do; I’m completely ambulatory unless I’m laid up in bed because my back has gone out…again. And my health is good, unless I get the flu because my bronchial passages have never operated optimally.

But you’ll never catch me in a bikini again (too much weight), or taking a hike (my knees would rather I didn’t), or reading without glasses. If you look at me, you won’t mistake me for someone young. The grey hair which I’m DONE dyeing is a dead give-away. So are the wrinkles around my wrists which are beginning to show more. So is the way I sometimes judgmentally refer to the “younger” generation.

I know age is just a number, but I have to admit I don’t look or feel young anymore. And I’m not sure I want to. This number suits me. I’d enjoy the aging process more if I believed the experience and wisdom accumulated over decades of living, thinking, feeling, and finally knowing, were valued and respected in our culture. Those of us who are past the half-century mark know what I mean. I guess we’ll just have to admire and respect each other. I’m OK with that. There are enough of us. We’ve still got some clout. And damn it, we are wise.

In the beginning, you don’t even know what you don’t know. You are unconsciously incompetent. It’s all new and it’s a big wide world out there. How could you possibly know what you don’t know?

Later, you know what you don’t know. You are consciously incompetent. You’ve learned a bunch, but you know there is so much further to go on that learning curve.

Next, you know what you know. You are consciously competent. You are well-versed, but using your knowledge and your experience still requires concentration.

Finally, you don’t know what (and how much) you (actually) know. You are unconsciously competent and have moved into the arena of intuitive knowing. These things come easy to you, without effort, without stress or strain, without thinking.

At 57, I know I’m no longer in the first stage when it comes to most topics. At least, I hope that’s true. When it comes to photography, I sometimes feel as if I’m in that second category. When it comes to writing, I hope I’m in the third. And when it comes to being a citizen of Earth and loving my fellow citizens, well, the jury’s out, but I’m aiming for the fourth. For me, this is what adding another candle to the birthday cake is all about.

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