Last week, I turned 46 years old and my kids offered up a delicious home-cooked dinner, followed by a sweet dose of unexpected reality.
“I wish I was you,” my nine-year-old daughter said as we enjoyed our decadent dessert. “But I’m kind of glad that I’m not.”
“Why are you glad that you’re not?” I asked.
“Because your life is half over,” my 12-year-old son chimed in from across the table.
“It kind of is, Mom,” Daisy agreed, nodding sympathetically. “No offence.”
Sure. None taken.
Eager to know more about her first statement, I asked Daisy why she wished she were me.
“Because you have an amazing life!” she replied.
“And you look less old than you actually are,” Sam added, smiling.
I was glad they thought I looked young for 46, but the fact remained that they thought I was old. Duh. Of course they did. I remember being my daughter’s age and thinking my mom was ancient too. She was 27 at the time.
I explained to my children that I planned on living to be at least 100 and that I hadn’t reached the halfway mark quite yet.
“But you’re close,” Sam teased. “So, no wasting time, Mom.”
And there it was, just the advice I needed to hear that day: no wasting time.
Since the age of 17, I’ve spent many of my birthdays seriously reflecting on what I had yet to accomplish, rather than simply enjoying them as a wonderful celebration of life. In that moment, I realized that I had been doing it again to some extent, and it was completely unnecessary. Serious reflection could wait.
I didn’t think my children had any idea what was going on in the deep recesses of my brain, but I guess they’re more perceptive than I realize.
What they might see in me could be similar to what I saw in my parents when I was young, and that is a person who works too hard for the future and doesn’t play enough in the present.
Like most everyone I know, my life is full, my days are busy and my schedule is packed. I have ambitions and dreams that I’m working on constantly, but am I relishing the entire process or am I waiting to cross some magical finish line first?
At times, I feel like I’m loving every minute of it. There are times, though, that I become lost in the chaos and life feels like one big chore rather than the magnificent gift that it is.
I believe in dreaming big and going after my goals with fearless optimism. I also believe it’s important to remember to live every day to the fullest, because, as we all know, there are no guarantees that our life will be long.
Even though my plan is to live another 54 years or more, there’s a possibility I might not. So, if I die tomorrow, I hope to have enjoyed today — and the only person than can make that hope a reality is me.
Back when I was a brooding teenager my dad, the eternal optimist, taught me that happiness is a mindset.
“You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable,” he said when I was in one of my darker moods. “Life will keep chugging along, however you decide to feel.”
I can’t say his words completely sunk in at the time, but as the years have passed, I’ve tried to live by that motto more and more. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize that my daughter was right: I do have an amazing life.
I’m grateful that I have some incredible people in my world who remind me of that every day.
Even on my birthday.