So in ten days I will turn 43 years old. You know how some people get freaked out about their 40th birthday? Well for me it was 35 and I have no freakin idea why that odd number. My “freakout” wasn’t all that bad, not something one would label a “midlife crisis”. My Mom never seemed phased by birthdays either, at least until she turned 77. I assumed that it was just aging…the same reason most feel bad about birthdays. However, it was similar to that but also something very specific. She told me that when she turned 77 she had lived longer than both her mother and father had been able to. See my maternal grandmother succumbed to lung cancer at 76 and my grandfather had a massive heart attack at 73. She said it felt weird to her that by their age, they had both died.
My mom is not a particularly deep person and I mean that respectfully. She has never been the kind of person to dwell on negative thing, even when she had perfectly good cause. So to hear her express this discomfort was weird for me too. I think that turning 76 forced her to face her own mortality. I suspect the only other time in her life she was forced to deal with it head on was in her mid 60’s and she got t-boned by someone barreling through an intersection who didn’t bother to look around and notice my mother trying to make a left turn. The seatbelt failed and she was thrown into the windshield. The force of her momentum was so strong that the top part of the steering wheel was bent over toward the dash at a 90 degree angle. Just like that accident, turning 76 blindsided her with the thought that she might soon, should be or could be dead, like her parents.
I am the opposite of my mom. I worry too much, I tend to dwell on the negative, and I don’t take any guff. And I have always been preternaturally aware of the fragility and brevity of life. I have always been preoccupied with deep crap like my mortality because I can’t help myself. I don’t understand people who don’t acknowledge it and don’t change their behavior, hopefully in a positive way as a result. I always thought people who are happy all the time were lying, that they suffered but it came out in other ways or they stuff it down until it just makes them explode. I have never been ble to fully comprehend the way my mother thinks and feels as a result. And to be fair, she simply can’t understand why I “dwell” the way I do or how my depression just takes over. She thinks if she can will herself into a state of happiness, why can’t I?
Without getting into the obvious brain chemistry explanation and digressing too much, birthdays should be difficult for me but they just haven’t been. I want to celebrate them, use them in some positive way. This year I particularly feel as if I should reward myself and celebrate another year on this planet. I want to do two things for myself. First I want to get a tattoo. No, not a tramp stamp or skulls on my arms or a rose in a saggy spot–nothing very big. No, I want one on the middle top of my back, low enough to be hidden by most shirts, between the shoulders where I am still firm and probably will be for a very long time. What I want is a kind of Celtic or Viking or tribal design that shows a sun and a moon in color to represent my kids (I will explain the metaphor another time). I have been playing around with designs but I haven’t found exactly what I am looking for. I am beginning to think that I will have to work with artist first to conceive the design.
The second thing I want to try to do is a stand up comedy routine. I know, I know…you’re thinking, what? I have no idea if I would be any good and I have no idea how to go about it. Do I find an open mic night somewhere? Do they even have such a thing in Phoenix? Maybe I will do a little routine and post a video here for feedback. It’s weird I know but it’s something on my bucket list and I ain’t getting any younger. Am I doing because my birthday is coming up and I am anxious about it? I don’t think so. I know, however, that seeing the truth of this answer will be in hindsight. But thats okay with me. I want to look back and say, “I did _____” and “I tried _____” and here’s what I learned”. Age is just a number that has no meaning unless you actually dive into life in the first place.