I’ve been 51 for almost a week, now, so I should be an expert at it.
It’s kind of nice to have a birthday that’s not a “big” number. No one teases you about turning 51. Until Puerto Rico becomes a state, it’s not a number that has much larger significance. It’s not what Douglas Adams suggested is the answer—whether or not you have life’s question.
I think in some ways I’m in better shape at age 51 then I was at 50. I’m a bit thinner (although losing weight has been a very tough up-hill battle). Perhaps it’s not entirely rational, but I have a greater sense of well being. Then again, even if you’re disappointed in some of President Obama’s policy actions—I, for one, want a single-paper healthcare system—it does feel as if there is a steadier hand at the wheel then there was last year.
On the other hand, the senses do decline with age. Maybe I just think I look better because I don’t see as well …
Politics and personal appearance aside, what do 51 years add up to? What life lessons have I learned?
1) It is critical to floss. In the past year, I maxed out dental benefits because I had two teeth that cracked in the same months. Be good to your teeth. They’re the only ones you get.
2) Aging is inevitable. I was biking home yesterday when a young person on a bike whizzed by me. I used to be the young person on the bike who was whizzing by grey-haired people. It didn’t really bother me (that 51-year-old sense of irrational well being), but it’s also true that this “young person” was a woman who, as she flashed by and disappeared, seemed to be in her 30s. You know aging is a process that is irrevocable when 30-somethings are “young people.”
3) Life is all about balance. I was going to mow the lawn on my birthday, but Audrey said “it’s your birthday.” So I didn’t. I still haven’t. Somehow, that feels good.
4) Don’t wash your cell phone. Get used to checking your pockets. Short-term memory does deteriorate over time. So much stuff gets stored in the attic of your brain that new trivia (such as, I put my cell phone in my pocket today) has trouble getting in. Except that after the laundry is underway, it ceases to be trivia that your cell phone was in your pocket.
5) It’s not yet too late to learn new things. In fact, I think there is some special joy in learning when learning itself is a bit more difficult, when you have to practice more. Time to learn is more precious, but the pleasure of learning is undiminished. Poached an egg for the first time last night—didn’t taste it, but Ben says it was good.
6) Stuff grows. I don’t just mean grass. It’s hard to keep up with the weeding. Enjoy babies while you can, they grow and change quickly.
7) Other stuff doesn’t grow. Where are my tomatoes?
8) Huh? When you get to about number 8, you start to forget what other points you were going to make. (By the way, why does WordPress interpret a return, a numer eight and a paranthetical mark as a smiley face? If you want an answer, don’t ask a 51-year-old).
Anyway, all for now. I have a meeting on a dull, bureaucratic topic in a few minutes. If by age 61 I’ve figured out a way around that, I’ll blog it for you.